Tuesday’s ‘American Idol‘ paid homage to songs that reached No. 1 on the pop charts, with the singers being mentored by a teenaged starlet who has never achieved that feat. (Oh, ‘American Idol,’ your logic this season continues to be impeccable!)
‘Hannah Montana‘ star Miley Cyrus helped the 11 remaining contestants navigate their way through songs that were more often than not older than everyone involved, and the results were, to put it kindly, not all that great.
Missed notes and odd song choices dominated, and at the end of the night, the feeling that this season would inevitably come down to a showdown between the two singers who have led the pack for weeks now — the unpredictable Siobhan Magnus and the earth mother Crystal Bowersox — continued to loom over the proceedings.
Maura Keeps Her ‘EYE ON IDOL‘ Here
The choice of Miley-as-Mentor was one aspect of the show that caused much head-scratching on this viewer’s part. Another: Why were so many of the songs’ arrangements dependent on the house band’s horn section? Was this a mystery constraint devised by the producers because they’re bored by this pretty-poorly-balanced season? Was it a union thing? Were the horn players hoping to collectively use this episode as an audition for possible future openings in the Dap-Kings? The brass certainly didn’t make the singers seem “current,” despite Simon Cowell’s constant protestations that the contestants need to present themselves in such a manner.
Was Miley Cyrus a Worthy Mentor?
1. Siobhan Magnus. Once again, the spitfire from Cape Cod proved to those watching at home that she was definitely the most dynamic contestant among this year’s remaining finalists with her blistering cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Miley loved her; Simon wasn’t so sure, calling out her “big note at the end” trademark arrangement as something resembling gimmickry. Wait, didn’t he like that tactic back when Adam Lambert tried it?
2. Crystal Bowersox. Crystal took on the bluesy “Me and Bobby McGee” with a version that felt right at home, although there was something going on at the beginning of the song that made me wonder just how connected to tonight’s goings-on she actually was. But about halfway through her performance, something in her brain seemed to kick in and she settled into what I am now referring to as The Bowersox Groove. She really does know how to perform, doesn’t she? If only she could just get a record deal and a recurring slot on those awfully filler-stuffed results shows, then she wouldn’t have to defend her decision to play guitar week in and week out. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?)
3. Casey James. Casey scores high in my book for both telling Miley that he was a fan of her dad, the “Achy Breaky Heart” singer Billy Ray, and picking Huey Lewis & The News’ “The Power Of Love.” Which, despite Simon’s assertions, a) is an awesome song that b) worked well with the limitations of his voice. Points off for not including the song’s key-changing bridge in his arrangement, though.
4. Michael Lynche. A restrained take on “When A Man Loves A Woman” that had me nodding my head along with it, although a large part of that agreement was probably borne from relief that he avoided the many potholes laid out by Michael Bolton’s all-emoting-all-the-time version of the track from 1991. Both Bolton’s version and the Percy Sledge original hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, so it was a possibility!
5. Didi Benami. It would appear that after last week’s Stones cover, Didi is still trying to prove her “edginess”; this time she snarled her way through “You’re No Good,” although the overall effect was a bit more campy than she probably would have liked. Still, she hit most of her notes, which on this fairly dire night of performances put her head and shoulders above much of the competition.
6. Lee Dewyze. Lee passed muster with a decent, if sometimes too flourish-filled, take on the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” It was hard not to wish that someone involved with either the performance or its pre-song package had paid some sort of homage to Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, who passed away last week at the age of 59. (A comprehensive obit of Chilton, who was also the force behind the influential powerpop band Big Star, is here.)
7. Andrew Garcia. A note to any aspiring ‘Idol’ types: When you do “I heard It Through the Grapevine” and you make the viewers at home miss the relative vocal stylings of the California Raisins, you’ve probably got problems. At least Simon admitted that Andrew’s gimmicky dorm-room version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” might have been overrated by everyone, and that said enthusiasm might have set the bar too high for Andrew’s later performances. (Hey, I did it too! I admit it.)
8. Aaron Kelly. I thought Aaron’s professed crush on Miley Cyrus would make the perpetually old-seeming 16-year-old embrace his youth. Instead, he decided to prematurely age himself again by singing Aerosmith’s late-period tear-jerker “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” a hoary old ballad that did him zero favors. Maybe he’s just an old soul?
9. Katie Stevens. Sure, picking Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” sorta broke her out of the pageant-contestant mode, but man, did her version have a lot of issues. Most of them were centered on her performance of the song; “A little sharp, all over the place,” Randy proclaimed once she was done. Gee, you think? She was atonal enough to make me think fondly of the relative vocal prowess of Fergie, which is something of a feat.
10. Tim Urban. Wearing a blazer that made me wonder if some evil wardrobe stylist had raided a stash of vintage prom outfits for the purposes of having a little fun tonight, the resident Cute Boy of This Season’s ‘Idol’ mugged and gyrated his way through Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in a manner that rivaled Sanjaya Malakar’s also-blazer-assisted, also-silly Kinks cover from Top 11 week in 2006. Unfortunately for his teen idol bona fides, there was no sobbing Ashley Ferl to be found this time. Unfortunately for those viewing at home, there wasn’t much charisma, either.
11. Paige Miles. What is left to say about Paige at this point? She’s still all potential and no follow-through, although at least the judges were being honest about the shortcomings revealed by her awkward, off-key performance of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” (When Randy Jackson is throwing out the adjective “terrible,” you seriously have gone wrong.) I’m counting at least six people who deserve her Top 11 spot, including — and perhaps especially? — the Top 24 reject Angela Martin.
WHO I VOTED FOR: Casey. I’m a sucker for Huey.
WHO SHOULD GO HOME: Both Paige and Tim need to be put out of their respective miseries at this point, but at least Tim is having a little bit of fun with song choice — especially since Freddie Mercury was the inspiration behind the song that sent Todrick Hall packing two weeks ago.
WHO VERY WELL MIGHT GO HOME: “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” has proven to be kryptonite for ‘Idol’ contestants in the past, and it could be what sends Aaron home this week.
JUDGING THE JUDGES: Stop the presses: Randy Jackson showed a bit of backbone tonight! Could he be waking up from the slumber he seemingly endured over the past three weeks and realizing the horror that his wan judging and vague proclamations of people being “dawgs” had caused?
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Miley, Demi, and a Jonas perform, and one singer gets sent home. And in between, we have about 47 minutes of filler and commercials!
Miley Cyrus Talks Boys, Bad Country and Twitter: