Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goldilocks (aka Casey James) lets his hair down

American Idol’s Top 9 renditions of Beatles’ songs looked like a replay of the Top 12’s Rolling Stones’ music. Some contestants simply chose the wrong song. Considering the diversity in the repertoire of Paul McCartney and John Lennon songs, not finding the right song was a poor excuse.

A didgeridoo and bagpipes too
In a season long touted as the year of the women, it appeared to be the men coming on as the strongest challenges to the Simon-anointed leader, Crystal Bowersox. Lee Dewyze followed his breakout Top 10 night with a crazy fun performance, while off-and-on contender Casey James shot straight into an uncharted level for the Texas native. If not for Bowersox nailing impressive songs every time she hits the stage, her unique take on “Come Together” would probably rate as the best of the best performances, but her unassuming style and natural ability seems to allow the judges to occasionally take her for granted. Simon tabbed James as the best of the night with kudos for Dewyze and Bowersox. “Big Mike” aka Michael Lynch grabbed praises from the judges, but some of that love blends with his lovable Teddy bear person. He’s still getting mileage from his my-wife-had-a-baby story during Hollywood Week as well. He did give it his all but a closer look should show he fell just short of ranking with the top 3.

Top 3 performances in top 9
Casey James- "virgin to the top spot, just call me Goldilocks"
Song choice provided a big plus for Casey James with his tender version of Lennon’s “Jealous Man”. Known for his gritty country-rock-bluesy style, he took a risk showing his vulnerable side for the first time in this competition. Once again, he proved his guitar mastery, but this time he toned down his style with a softer acoustic version as a great choice to frame the emotion in his voice. Whether James waited too long to pull out this showstopper to be seriously considered as the Season 9 American Idol will be up to the viewers.

Lee Dewyze- "Ha, ha I do have a personality, along with a fetish for bagpipes"
Adding to an unusual rendition of “Hey Jude” this gravelly voiced rocker owned the stage showing confidence for the second consecutive week. Personally requesting the not-so-discreet descent of a bagpipe player on the stage behind stamped his performance as one of a kind. Based on his awesome voice and newly found stage presence, Dewyze should slide into the final four.

Crystal Bowersox- "Whataya want from me cuz I am not gonna kiss yer fat a**es"
Really, from a vocal perspective, Bowersox mastered the competition. After taking advice from Ellen and Kara to “change it up” she went back to her true-to-herself moniker of jeans and boots. Adding the Australian didgeridoo gave a mysterious element to her sound. She took a well know song, “Come Together”, and somehow created her own original cover of the often covered tune. Once again she showed great range on vocals with her honest style serving to endorse her credibility to make the finals.
Middle 3 performances in top 9

Michael Lynche- “I know how to play to the camera, bring on those pity votes”
Give Lynche credit for working the audience and the cameras, but his over-the-top take on “Eleanor Rigby” felt more in-your-face preaching than singing. He’s a natural on the stage and definitely has the charm, but his outgoing personality and sense of style can’t replace vocal talent. His tends to sound the same every time. He’ll stay on the wild Idol ride. It might not be for the right reasons, but he will perform again.

Katie Stevens- “I’m still annoying but at least my singing improved a little”
Yes, this 17 year old owns a stunning voice but she can’t seem to manage to stay on key. Her “Let it Be” performance probably rates as one of her best due to the song choice, arrangement and not trying to do too much. She kept her performance center stage with just the microphone and her full throaty voice. It worked. Stevens’ performance was solid, but not enough to get where she wants to go. With more age and experience, she could be phenomenal.

Siobhan Magnus “I gave up screaming for one night, but had to keep the boots”
This Massachusetts girl remains as the drama queen of all the top 9 contestants. Her quirkiness either works for her or against her and tonight it helped created a wispy element in her performance. Finally giving up on the screaming notes, Magnus offered up a softer side of herself in “Across the Universe”. The filmy white fluffs layered in her dress gave an impression of angels or some serene place, until the camera zoomed in on the contrasting image of her sturdy white boots. She seems sincere in her originality and in her version of the Beatles’ song. If she expects to get past her competitors she needs to go back to the level of performance she mastered with the Stones’ “Paint it Black”. Since that spectacular outing, she’s been all over the place. She keeps the competition interesting in an Adam Lambert way. She just doesn’t deliver the same consistent high quality to match the high drama.

Bottom 3 performances in top 9
Andrew Garcia –“I don’t know how I made it this far, but thank God for Paula songs”
Andrew Garcia added another piece to the puzzle of “Where is the guy who sang that Paula song?” His version of “Can’t Buy Me Love” was less than mediocre. Considering the unique quality of his voice and potential Beatles’ songs to showcase that voice, his performance really fell short. Based on his top 9 lack luster performance, instead of fizzling out he might be completely fizzled. For such a likeable guy it’s a pitiful way to go.

Aaron Kelly -“Just let me go back to high school and be a Justin B. wannabe”
He took on the “Long and Winding Road” as his Beatles’ pick. Unfortunately, the usually polite Ellen got it right when she said it felt like a “long and winding song”. Kelly has shown some sparks, but his vocals have not been consistent enough to be serious Idol material. His Beatles’ cover reinforced his lower rank. Of course, looking at Aaron Kelly and Tim Urban serves to remind viewers they survived to make the Top 12 when more talented singers like Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert got booted.

Tim Urban - “It must be the tweeners calling in cuz it sure as heck isn’t the voice”
Tim Urban’s performance of “All My Loving” ranks as one of his better outings. Sadly, that still doesn’t mean it was very good. The judges finally laid off attack mode and gave him a little love and encouragement. He does seem like a good buy and a definite contender with the tweener group, but his vocal range and tone doesn’t match up with any of the other 8 singers. For the most part, his voice was on key on Beatles’ night, making his performance okay.

To recap Top 9 performances: Rising to the top: James, Bowersox, Dewyze. Floating in the middle: Lynche, Magnus, Stevens. Sinking to the bottom: Garcia, Kelly, Urban.