If ever there was a feared theme on American Idol, it was country music night. But this year, under the guidance of country superstar Shania Twain as guest mentor, the theme brought out the best in the contestants.
Well, most of them. The six remaining singers chose songs from Shania’s catalog that includes country hits and crossover gems, each trying their best to make them their own.
Michael Lynche stayed true to his soulful stylings and was loved for it, while Crystal Bowersox stayed true to the genre and was slammed for it. Siobhan Magnus, on the other hand, found herself finally getting back in the good graces of the judges with her sassy punk-meets-country rendition of “Any Man of Mine.”
Here’s a rundown of how the top 6 did:
Lee DeWyze – Still The One: Country music? Not really Lee’s things. He’s proven himself to be more of a rocker with a hint of soul. The good news is Lee chose possibly the best Shania Twain song to sing. The other contestants had to be a little jealous. The bad news? Lee started the ballad off pretty rough. It took him awhile to get his footing. But after a few off-key notes, Lee kinda worked it out — or at least enough for the judges to become confused enough to swoon all over him. “Every song you take, you make it your own,” Ellen told him. “That was absolutely the perfect song out of Shania’s catalog to choose,” Simon said.
Michael Lynche – It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing: Connection. Connection. Connection. That was the task Shania put in front of Big Mike to tackle. And judging by the swaying audience (and Shania’s sways) Mike accomplished it. Mike turned the country song into a soaring R&B ballad, one that he could probably put on his very own album. “You are really in the zone of who you are,” Randy told Mike. Ellen topped things off by paying Mike the biggest compliment you could give a budding male soul crooner: “It felt like Luther Vandross was singing that song.”
Casey James – Don’t: Casey really needed to come back from the — gasp! — bad feedback he received last week. His goal this week was to give the judges and audience something different and something new from what he’s already delivered week after week. And it was different. Casey is normally the bluesy rocker showing off on his guitar and letting his voice take a backseat. This week, he was a tender crooner who let his vocals shine and used his guitar to compliment it. The judges picked up on the much needed change and showered him in praise for it. Randy and Simon both said it might have been his best performance on the show yet.
Crystal Bowersox – No One Needs To Know: Crystal was the first up to this point to actually embrace the country music theme with a true-to-the-genre rendition of her Shania Twain pick. The problem with that is Crystal is not a country singer. It was fun to watch in the moment, but it’s wasn’t one of her more memorable performances. The judges squirmed their way out of actually judging the performance by saying they like her, but it wasn’t their favorite. Well, everyone but Simon. He laid it out, saying “I thought it was limp,” before comparing it to a unwanted coffee house performance.
Aaron Kelly – You’ve Got A Way: Aaron is season 9’s resident country kid, so the theme should be no problemo for him to tackle. And it wasn’t. His performance was nowhere near perfect — it had more than a few pitch problems — but for once Aaron looked comfortable-ish on stage and with what he was singing. We later learned the connection with the song came from it being a dedication to his mom. All together now: aaaaaawwww!!! The judges were all impressed with his performance. Simon noted Aaron’s struggles over the last couple week and said with this performance he was “like a different artist.” “This is the kind of record that, if you’re going to make records, is the kind you should make.”
Siobhan Magnus – Any Man of Mine: It’s been a rough few weeks for Siobhan and it didn’t get better this week. From the very start, Siobhan was pitchy. When she wasn’t pitchy, she was off key. The saving grace (???) was her signature high note/scream, but even that was flawed. Perhaps afraid if they continued to be brutally honest their only interesting contestant would get the boot, the judges totally went easy on Siobhan. “I loved it,” Randy said. “Guess who’s back…Siobhan!” Kara added. Simon praised her song choice, but said the scream almost sounded like she was giving birth.
Predictions: Tough! Bottom three will probably be Aaron, Mike, and Casey. Aaron will probably go home.