RESULTS SHOW: Siobhan Magnus, the quirky, punkish contestant who could shatter glass with her high notes was sent home tonight. Though she'd never been in the bottom three, Siobhan found herself there Wednesday with Michael Lynche (who had been in danger of going home til the judges used their save) and Casey James (who was in the bottom three for two weeks running). She was composed and gracious, hugging her family and then belting out Aretha Franklin's "Think" at the finale. With industry supporters like producer Steve Lillywhite and a passionate fanbase, Siobhan will definitely have a recording deal and a chance to prove her outsider attitude can translate into art. If singing were an Olympic event -- whoever hits the highest note and holds it the longest wins -- then Siobhan would be a gold medalist. I've been puzzled by her passionate fans and "Think" exemplified that: it was utterly bland and indistinct, with everyone just waiting till she wailed at the end. But perhaps writing her own songs and collaborating with others will bring out her true talent.
The show was packed with filler, from a very forced (and long) plug for Shrek Forever After to an extended look at the Ford ad (this one centering on vampires) and final hugs all around. Rascal Flatts were ok on their own and with Shakira, who performed "Gypsy." Lady Antebellum were good with their massive hit "Need You Now." And I was most excited to see Sons Of Sylvia, which sounds like a klezmer band but is actually the Clark Brothers reincarnated. They won the blink and you missed it summer reality series The Next Great American Band and were really good. I kept looking for their album but they got lost in the shuffle of collapsing record labels. Now they've morphed from a wholesome Christian country band into moody all-black wearing rockers opening for Carrie Underwood (who came on the show to introduce them). Their album just came out and I can't wait to hear it but I'm certain they're fun live no matter what.
Next week is Sinatra Week with Harry Connick Jr. serving as mentor. I'll keep looking to see which of the thousands of songs he recorded is up for grabs and pray no one does "New York, New York."
So here's a question: do you think the Save was wasted on Michael Lynche and should have been used for Siobhan?
PERFORMANCE REVIEW: On Shania Twain night, all the contestants shined...except for perennial front-runner Crystal Bowersox who deservedly got poor reviews from all the judges. I was worried when country night limited the singers just to Shania Twain songs, even if she is one of the best selling country artists of all time. It just seemed too narrow and small a songbook -- heck, she's only got four albums and 26 hits on the country charts. But in fact there were enough decent songs to go around.
LEE DEWYZE -- Sang "You're Still The One," a #1 hit from Come On Over, the best-selling album of all time by a female artist. Shania proved a capable mentor and encouraged Lee to start the song with just piano and then add in guitar so it would have somewhere to go. He had a so-so beginning and end but was pretty strong on the chorus, even though his phrasing proves he is singing the melody and not the words. And every moment when he's not singing, Lee looks lost and anonymous. That's just not a good sign as far as star power is concerned. Surprisingly, all four judges praise him.
MICHAEL LYNCHE -- Sang "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing," a great title for a ballad. Sporting a horrible jacket with a turned up collar, Michael was colorless throughout the song until he delivered a lovely falsetto moment at the finale. Sure, he's in the Luther Vandross vein but as Simon pointed out, not in the same league. Wet is indeed the opposite of dry and Simon meant Michael's performance was more melodramatic than emotionally convincing. I don't quite agree; I didn't think it had much impact at all, though his voice is nice. Forgettable and that could send him home.
CASEY JAMES -- Sang "Don't," a bonus track on Twain's greatest hits album that came and went. After a few weeks of being a competent front man for a bar band, Casey concentrated on his singing. Shania was right that he might lack confidence but at least tonight he showed more personality than he has in a while. And Kara's necklace is gigantic. Sorry, but I just noticed it.
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX -- Sang "No One Needs To Know," another #1 hit from Twain when they were coming fast and furious. For an artist sometimes criticized as barely country at all, it was also a notably country sounding tune for Twain. And Crystals' arrangement reflected that. (Though it hardly had the bluegrass sound of Nickel Creek as Randy suggested.) Nothing clicked here. The arrangement sounded thin and awkward and Crystal was out of sync with the band and the backup singers. Her voice was in a higher range where it has less personality and she only sounded like herself right towards the end. Should she avoid happy songs? No, but she should avoid being defensive and challenging the judges. Crystal kept talking back when she should have taken her weak reviews humbly. The problem was not that the tone was smaller and lighter; that was a welcome change. The problem was that her singing wasn't very good. After finally shedding the aura of above-it-ness, Crystal takes a step back. (Mind you, she's still the best and going to win.)
AARON KELLY -- Sang "You've Got A Way," a power ballad Billboard once properly called "wedding ready." This is Aaron's strong suit of course and he righted the ship once and for all. He built the song very nicely and had a big finale of the sort Idol fans love. It won't get any better for him, so if he's in the bottom three again, we know his days are numbered. Saying he sang the song to his mom was the perfect capper. Ellen was very funny when she complimented his maturity at 16 and he said he was now 17 and she said forget it, she's not impressed any more. Simon and Kara both picked up on comments of hers during the night and Simon complimented her Luther Vandross reference. Ellen is still a bit vague at times, but she's casually funny (even when the lines are prepared) and finally relaxed into the cheerleading sort of judge we expected from the beginning.
SIOBHAN MAGNUS -- Sang "Any Man Of Mine," Twain's first #1 country hit in the US and a template for Gretchen Wilson and many others. I spent the night just listening to the performances and then rewinding and playing it again while watching the visuals as well. With just the audio, Siobhan was far and away the worst of the night. She was running out of breath throughout the tune and just sort of getting through the words. The only purpose of the performance was the finale, where she brought out her patented yowlp and wowed 'em all. To be honest, it may have been the only good moment of the song but it was very effective and actually worked perfectly with the tune, as opposed to other times when it felt like more of a stunt. Since she's never been in the bottom three and gave the people exactly what they want, I assume she'll be safe again.
My personal bottom three would be Lee, Crystal and Siobhan (with Michael right in there) and Siobhan going home. And it would be great for Crystal to be in the bottom three once so that fans won't take her for granted. But while I usually just choose the three weakest performances, I doubt it will pan out that way this week. I'm gonna say Lee Dewyze, Michael Lynche and Aaron Kelly in the bottom three, with Michael Lynche going home. Who did you like or dislike last night? And what did you think of Shania as a mentor?
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