'American Idol' 9's Top 11 is bound to go down in 'Idol' history as one of the worst nights of 'Idol' performances EVER -- from the lame and generic song choices to the trainwreck performances to the teenaged mentor, Miley Cyrus, speed-talking as she offered up super-obvious performance tips to the kids.
The kids who make the cut this week get to go on the financially lucrative Idol summer tour. It was the worst night possible to have a bad performance.
The week got off to a strange start when the previously announced theme, "Teen Idols," was mysteriously changed to the generic "Billboard #1 Hits" over the weekend. Next, 'Idol' fans were shocked to find out that the kids' mentor this week was a teenager -- Miley Cyrus.
The contestants had no clue Miley was their mentor until they met her at the mentoring session. Poor kids probably thought they were getting somebody really special like a Paul McCartney, Madonna or a Bruce Springsteen.
Instead, they got 17 year-old Miley, whose advice wasn't terrible, but mostly consisted of banal tips like, "make eye contact with your audience," or "add an extra note or two to your performance" -- the kind of generic stuff they probably hear every day from their vocal coaches. When Andrew Garcia had trouble remembering the words of his song choice, 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine', Miley told him to put down his guitar. It didn't help him.
But back to that odd theme change. This week's results show features musical performances from Miley, Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato, all of them teen idols. So why did the theme change?
A couple of conspiracy theories, courtesy of the comments section of my blog: Maybe the kids -- the front-runners in particular -- had problems finding suitable songs. Or, Miley, who's in the midst of transitioning out of the teen scene, balked at the theme. It's also been suggested that the kids picked their songs so late in the week, they were forced to choose from a list of already cleared songs. And that list of possible song choices iTunes is set to release every week was mysteriously absent this week. Something hinky was definitely afoot. Hm.
If the contestants were forced to pick songs at the last minute from a short list, with little rehearsal time, that could explain why this week's performances were so heinous. Where do I begin? How about with the worst? Paige Miles? Just no, no, no, no, no. First of all, never choose the overplayed song 'Against All Odds,' unless you are actively trying to sabatoge your 'Idol' run. It's been sung on 'Idol' too many times to mention -- mostly badly. But Paige's performance was the worst yet. Pitchy, breathy, and unsure, it was a total trainwreck from beginning to end. It was so bad, and it was so thoroughly trashed by the judges, she might ride into the Top 10 on pity votes.
Also in danger this week is Andrew Garcia. How much longer can this dude run on the fumes of a Hollywood week performance (an acoustic, gender-flipped, cover of Paula Abdul's 'Straight Up', in case you missed the zillionth time Kara mentioned it) that wasn't all that to begin with? Thank you, Simon Cowell, for pointing out the elephant in the living room. "It wasn't like listening to Beethoven for the first time," said Simon. "It was a cute version of a Paula song." Andrew's guitar-free version of 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' was, like all of his performances on the 'Idol' stage, bland and monotonous. Not knowing what to do with his hands without the guitar, he resorted to goofy literal interpretations of the song, pointing to his ear and tracing tears down his face. Andrew hasn't had one good performance since the live shows began. I won't be surprised if he finally goes this week.
Who I'd REALLY love to see hit the road, but won't, because his tween fans are going to keep him in it, is Tim Urban. After last week's WTF performance of 'Under My Thumb,' it's tempting to assume he's not serious about the competition. At first glance, Tim's whacked-out performance of Queen's campy 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love,' complete with floor-sliding dance moves, seemed ill-advised. That is, until you checked out the screaming girls in the mosh pit. His corny dance moves and over-the-top pandering to the audience is just the type of thing his tween voters will love. Tim, much to my chagrin, is sooo on the tour.
Teen contestants Aaron Kelly and Katie Stevens continue to get love from the judges, despite less than compelling performances.
Katie has yet to sing a song in tune, and her aimless performances are not very interesting to watch. Tonight, she tackled Fergie's 'Big Girls Don't Cry,' younging it up at the suggestion of the judges. Afterward, I expected them to compare Katie unfavorably to Fergie -- but instead, Randy was so happy she followed the judges' advice that he barely critiqued her pitchy vocals, Ellen thought it was her best performance yet (!), Kara believed Katie has found her niche (pop/R&B, maybe Kara can write 'Open Toes' part 2 for her) and Simon, bound and determined to find another Taylor Swift, still thought she should go country. (Honestly, I'd be surprised if Katie knew any country songs). None of these critiques will help Katie sort out who she really is as an artist.
Aaron knows he's a country boy, so I wonder why he chose Aerosmith's 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing' to sing, instead of plucking a country tune out of the broad theme. Aaron told the audience straight away that he's got tonsillitis. The heads up was smart, because he'll get votes even if the vocal is terrible. And the singing was pretty bad -- lots of off-key and missed notes. The pitchiness isn't the only reason I disliked it. Ellen and Kara think it's the perfect song choice, but I didn't believe a word he sang.
With the judges championing the teenagers, I think we are stuck with them for a while.
It's funny that Simon is calling Mike Lynche old-fashioned now. Funny, because Mike came into the competition as a guitar-strumming, Mraz-loving, neo-soul singer. But after the judges' lukewarm response to him initially, Mike switched up to a more traditional R&B. The judges were so pleased, Mike made retro R&B his thing. The performance of 'When a Man Loves a Woman' was old-fashioned, but you can't deny Big Mike's got some decent vocal chops. Simon and Kara called him out on his vocal runs, but I found Mike's performance less indulgent than some of his recent outings.
Just like Mike, Casey James transcended his retro song choice with some great vocals on Huey Lewis's 'Power of Love.' The judges harped on Casey's stage presence and guitar playing. While I agree that he could loosen up a bit on stage, there is no denying the boy has some mighty fine vocals. I dig his country growl. He's a dark horse worth nurturing.
Another contestant the judges underestimate, or in tonight's case, over-criticize, is Didi Benami. Her slinky, sexy, Peggy Lee-inspired take on Linda Ronstadt's 'You're No Good' didn't work entirely, but it had its moments. Instead, Simon mocked her: "It's ironic that you're singing 'You're No good, you're no Good, you're no good,'" he said. Oh, Simon. If Didi is eliminated, you are going to be sorry. She's got some interesting musical instincts, and I think the performance was gutsy. At least she changed it up. Which brings me to our two presumed front-runners.
Crystal Bowersox delivered another terrific performance this week. Her 'Me and Bobby McGee' was fabulous, effortless ... and predictable. Even if Simon thinks she doesn't need to change a thing, Crystal knows better. She promised to lose the guitar and surprise us next week, if she's still around. In order to make it to the bitter end, Crystal has to show some versatility and some growth. I'm looking forward to next week.
Turning into a one-trick pony -- or one note, as it were -- is Siobhan Magnus. The faux-hawked Siobhan began her performance of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' with a powerful, soulful vocal, and just for a minute, I thought I was gonna finally like this girl, and then ... she did it. It began with a little scatting, and then came the off-key screeching -- out of nowhere, and for no good reason. See, that's the problem. It feels less like an artistic choice and more of an indulgence. Simon finally called her out on the gimmick this week, although I think his criticism of Siobhan was part of a larger strategy to set up a rivalry between her and Crystal.
Simon is right. AMERICA will get bored with Siobhan's screechy ways. She's got to change it up. Even Adam Lambert saved his (always on pitch) rock wail for just the right moments.
Finally, I wonder if Lee Dewyze, who performed 'The Letter,' knew that the original artist died very recently? Alex Chilton was only 16 when the Boxtops recorded 'The Letter' in 1967. Chilton went on to form Big Star, a band that influenced a pile of indie rock bands that came later. It would be cool if Lee picked the song as an homage to Chilton, who passed away just last week. In any case, Lee chose the perfect song for his gruff rock vocals. He did improve this week, although his nervous energy came across as a little manic at times.
Simon warned the contestants that other than Crystal, they all needed to push themselves, find better songs and somehow make themselves relevant. "Tonight, for me, was not a good night," said Simon. He's not alone.
Crystal will win unless for some off reason the producers decide to Daughtry her but i don't see the point in that.
Siobhan is now starting to annoy me sfm. we get if you are a werido who probably loves to play magic the gathering and pokemon and likes to do those live action roleplaying stuff but stop it already and just SING. the screeching needs to stop cuz it's fucking annoying. The screeching was annoying when Glambert did it and it's still annoying.
the girls sucking is just making the guys look better and they aren't that bad. I like Michael, Lee and Casey. they all can sing and i hope that they make it to the top 5.
let's be honest Didi and Katie won't have singing careers. they aren;t that good and they are forgetable. plus i hate Katie she comes off as a fake bitch. i just get that vibe from her.
I dunno what to say about Tim. he's the token troll for the season.
imo the bottom 3 will be Andrew, Paige and Tim with Paige going home for being an idiot with her song choice that's been done a million times on the show. But i do hope for a double elimination and Andrew goes home too