Finally. After weeks of semi-final sweet dreams and beautiful nightmares, the real competition kicked in on season 9 of American Idol with America’s top 12 best undiscovered talents (ahem) taking the big stage for the first time.
The top 12 singers were afforded the opportunity to perform hits by the legendary Rolling Stones for their first theme night of the season. And had the group been stronger in the talent department, we would have been in for a world of awesome. Instead, we had a few so-so performances, one or two great ones, and one OMG-incredible one courtesy of the quirky darkhorse, Siobhan Magnus.
Here’s a rundown of how the top 12 guys and gals did:
Michael Lynche – Miss You: Last week’s stunning performance of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” would be hard to forget, but Big Mike was determined to keep raising the bar. It wasn’t his best performance, but Mike is definitely on a roll. He showed off his wide vocal range — dipping for low notes and gliding into a falsetto — and even channeled Michael Jackson at times with his dance moves. Randy thought Mike “slayed it,” while Simon thought it verged on “corny” for the dancing.
Didi Benami – Play With Fire: Didi played with fire and didn’t get burned. Instead, she scorched the stage with an intense performance that wasn’t always technically perfect, but showed her emotion and connection with what she was singing. “You’re on fire tonight,” Randy praised. The other judges agreed, and finally, it looks like Didi is getting the respect she deserves. Team Didi FTW!
Casey James – It’s All Over Now: First, can we talk about how much Casey’s mom looked like Peggy Bundy in Casey’s pre-performance package!? Now that we got that out of the way… Casey whipped out his electric guitar again for a blues-and-country-styled performance that allowed him to play rock star, while staying true to his roots. Unlike last time with he brought out the axe, Casey focused more on the vocals, and less on showing off for the girls (and Kara). Three out of four judges positively swooned with delight. “Tonight you were a rock star,” cougar Kara said. But Simon was less thrilled. “There’s gotta be more,” he added.
Lacey Brown – Ruby Tuesday: Even when Lacey is good, she’s still painfully boring. She delivered a pleasant rendition of “Ruby Tuesday” with beautiful violins accompanying her, but instead of relaxing into the performance, everything was calculated, right down to each flirt with the camera, resulting in a world of yawns. The judges agreed. “You could have put more into it,” Kara said. “Stop over-thinking this,” Simon warned. Too late. Lacey could be in trouble.
Andrew Garcia – Gimme Shelter: Oh, Andrew. He continued to prove he peaked in Hollywood. Thankfully, we were spared another one of Andrew’s lackluster takes on a female diva tune, but we were left with the same inconsistent warbling. By the end, Andrew had gotten himself together and belted some pretty amazing notes, but it was too late to save the performance. Randy didn’t like it, saying “it was pitchy everywhere.” Ellen disagreed, adding it was his “best performance yet.” Kara, again, didn’t feel his connection to the lyrics. Simon called BS on Kara’s critique and hopes Andrew makes it through to improve next week.
Katie Stevens – Wild Horses: Katie, who has had a hard time finding her inner young performer, said she had no choice but to be old this week given the catalog she was given to choose from. And old is something people might think of seeing how Susan Boyle’s cover of “Wild Horses” is the most notable in recent years (though, I think maybe Katie picked up Alicia Keys and Adam Levine’s version for tips). Katie’s sultry voice was in great form and she only slipped out of the zone a few times. The judges praised her vocal performance. Simon liked the vocal and noted it was first time since making it into the top 24 that Katie “connected with a song.”
Tim Urban – Under My Thumb: Positives: Tim got creative by injecting a little reggae flare into the Stones tune. Negatives: everything else. Tim just can’t sing. The entire performance was pitchy, weak, and the ending was anti-climatic. None of the judges understood it or liked it. Ellen compared it to something you could hear at a resort (ouch! Simon much!?), while chimed in with “it just didn’t work.”
Siobhan Magnus – Paint It Black: And this is when the show really begins! Siobhan’s been steadily increasing in popularity and her performance of “Paint It Black” proved why. Even when she’s not great, she gives you everything you want in a performer in terms of excitement. Her performances are never dull. In this one, she’s dressed a bit gothic, singing in a haunting full voice, jumps into a crystal clear falsetto, and wails with an eardrum-busting scream. Some of it could have been terrible, but all of the elements together made for one OMG, kick ass awesome performance. The judges couldn’t have been more thrilled. Randy dubbed it hot. Ellen had the best critique: “Like Snooki’s poof, you just stand out!” Kara gets “flashbacks of Adam Lambert” and his brilliance with arrangements. Simon says half will either love it or hate it (that’s what he constantly told Adam Lambert last season), but it’s a great place to be.
Lee Dewyze – Beast of Burden: Burden, indeed! Lee had the unfortunate position of following behind Siobhan. The flames from her hot performances were barely out before Lee gave his sensitive, singer/songwriter rendition of “Beast of Burden.” Nerves still own Lee’s soul, but his gutsy voice finally lived up to Simon’s hype. Kara hailed his “tremendous growth,” but Simon still fears he didn’t shine.
Paige Miles – Honky Tonk Woman: Paige shook off her nerves long enough to give her best performance yet. But that’s not saying a lot. It was still dull, boring, and forgettable. All of the judges praised her vocals. “You sounded amazing,” Ellen said. But connecting is still an issue that might be too big to conquer.
Aaron Kelly – Angie: Rolling Stones night should have swallowed Aaron and his love of country music alive, but the youngin’ came through with one of the night’s brightest performances. Despite having his hair styled like Astro Boy, Aaron delivered a quiet, tender performance that was easily one of his best. The judges agree. Simon admitted to be afraid for him with the theme, but said that “Angie” was “absolutely, 100% the right song” for him.
Crystal Bowersox – You Can’t Always Get What You Want: And who else would get the showstopping closing spot but the clear frontrunner? You can immediately see why. With her guitar in hand, Crystal hypnotized with an honest, drama-less bluesy rendition of the Stones classic. She gets showered with well-deserved praise. Simon was a fan, too, but felt, for the first time this season, Crystal was “beat” by someone, “and that was Siobhan,” he said.
Predictions: We start losing only one singer at a time now. The bottom three will probably come down to Andrew, Paige, and Lacey. Paige will go home.
Check in tonight to find out if we’re right on the results show, with performances from Orianthi and Ke$ha.