It’s R n’ B night tonight, and nobody’s more excited about this than Randy, who gets to pretend like he knows what he’s talking about, and perhaps say the word “wheelhouse” at least once tonight. They’ve got camera’s backstage tonight. That’s the gimmick, and it’s just weird. Like…I don’t want to see the contestants talking to themselves, eating melons, or hugging it out. I don’t care enough.
Anyway, our guest for tonight is Usher, who is actually a good singer. Ryan puts on sunglasses and looks like a depressed Jeff Winger as he tries to coax Confessions Part V out of Usher, and his bodyguard looks ready to disembowel Ryan, so that doesn’t last particularly long.
We get an early look at everybody’s clothing tonight. Siobhan’s doing cosplay apparently, Andrew looks like your grandpa, Crystal is dressed like a girl, which is a whole different kind of cosplay, and Randy Jackson is dressed in a five year old’s sweater. Simon tries to get Ellen to play along with some weird sex talk, but it goes right over her head and he’s just left babbling to himself. This…Is American Idol!
(Idol Drinking Game for Tonight: Drink every time Siobhan uses her weird and mysterious powers to sabotage the other contestants somehow.)
Siobhan Magnus The Song: “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan Usher Says: This girl is too strange. Even for me. The Performance: Siobhan’s dressed in a slutty space suit, which earns points from me, but I’m not sure about the rest of America. Maybe she should be dancing with Buzz Aldrin. I’m sort of digging the backup singers all up in our business, though. They should be dressed up as hilarious aliens.
So apparently this is the Kermit the Frog cover of this song. I mean, she hits her big note, but her voice doesn’t suit this style of music at all. You can’t trust Siobhan to carry the low verses, y’all. She’s more of a rock power ballad kind of girl. She’s going to get murdered in country week. But whatever, she’s still going to be safe. Now check out the weird “look backstage” camera as Siobhan is attacked by Big Mike while she’s crying and eating cantaloupe. What? The Judges Say: You sound like you’re out of breath. I Say: She’s got enough catalog thus far to coast, but it’s a bumpy ride right now. Score:+2 Change: -1
Casey James The Song: “Hold on I‘m Comin‘” by Sam and Dave Usher Says: He can hide behind his guitar. Amateur. The Performance: It’s not all guitar this week, which is ok. It’s like they dialed it way the hell down for some reason until his big solo at the end. I kind of think he didn’t make that decision, because his whole thing right now is that he’s “Guitar Guy.” I mean, he’s ok as a skinnier less drug-addled Bo Bice, but he’s not going to win.
But in terms of overall performance, this was just fine. Like bland Southern rock. Ellen is probably right (?), in that he’s playing it way too safe. He’s just kind of middle of the road. He’s the Nickleback of American Idol. Kara asks to see him naked, and Ryan has a titter fest about it. The Judges Say: Boring, but that’s good enough for now. I Say: He’s got a good thing going here. For now. Score: +2 Change: +1
Mike Lynche The Song: “Ready for Love” by India Arie Usher Says: I want you to be kind of creepy. The Performance: Mike’s got the bomber jacket and acoustic guitar and a spotlight that makes it look like he’s about to be abducted by Siobhan any second here. That’s her revenge for interrupting her cantaloupe therapy session early. He’s also taken the risky position of performing behind the judges so they can’t see him.
It…is what it is. Kind of weird, like he’s on the public access channels playing in front of one of those church recitals. It’s kind of sleepy and amateurish, but it’s really actually pretty good. It’s not fun, charismatic Big Mike. They throw to Usher to pat Mike on the back some more. Usher is sitting amongst Mike’s family which is…awkward. Unless they move all the families down there every performance. The Judges Say: That was exactly the kind of performance you needed. I Say: A little too slow and light for my tastes, but it was pretty damn good. Score: +2 Change: +1
Didi Benami The Song: “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin Usher Says: Get out of here crying lady. The Performance: Seriously, Didi. Even Brooke didn’t fall apart over song choice. She should’ve sang “Yeah.” I dare her. I still like her hair though. And her dress. I think my parents have a couch with that same pattern! Only a little less bedazzled.
Her voice sounds weird with this song. She’s got that weird vibrato that sounds dumb when she’s singing anything than songs that are constructed for that. She does hit a Siobhan note at the end for no reason. Other than Siobhan and her cantaloupe are haunting the whole night. This was all kind of weird. Simon takes an awesome potshot by calling her a “Dancing with the Stars” caliber singer. Zing! Ryan gets all up in her grill and wants her to air all her dirty laundry on TV, but she freaks out and Simon saves her. The Judges Say: You’re going completely downhill. I Say: This was not exactly her week, you know? Score: -1 Change: -1
Tim Urban The Song: “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker Usher Says: Make me the person you‘re in love with. The Performance: Tim Urban is enveloped in the crowd. It’s kind of funny, because if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t be able to pick him out at all. It’s like AI Where’s Waldo! Tim and Usher’s practice session is awesome. Usher’s giving him dating advice more than singing advice. Usher would make a great date coach. Use this time to get laid, Tim!
Tim really is like a dollar store Michael Buble, who is still voting for Antonella Barba somewhere. He should’ve gone for the untied bowtie look. I should really be directing wardrobe for these kids. First rule? No bomber jackets or moon boots. More upholstery. Tim sings the entire song to his bangs, which isn’t what Usher was talking about. Unless he really loves his bangs, which…I wouldn’t doubt. Randy has a hilarious elephant patch on his sweater. More of those too! Simon legitimately almost starts filming X Factor right there. The Judges Say: Look, Sanjaya, we don’t give a shit anymore. I Say: He’s not quite the hilarious disaster Sanjaya was. Yet. Score: -3 Change: -2
Andrew Garcia The Song: “Forever” by Chris Brown Usher Says: Dude is too nervous for me to properly advise. The Performance: Andrew goes into the break waving like a nerd. Ellen is wearing the tie that Tim should’ve been wearing. Chris Brown…an interesting choice. Hopefully he doesn’t punch anybody in the middle of the song. He’s got the bass and…guy playing a box on stage with him, which is kind of awesome.
Vocally, it’s better than he’s been in a while. It’s a nice, smooth vocal. Simon is right, of course, that there’s no way he’s going to get votes with this. Because, it was a technically good performance, the fact is that Andrew has no personality and has already fallen off that particular table. Good vocals, but boring, yes. Andrew’s mother comes up and attacks Simon, which is waaaay more interesting. Can she perform with him every week? The Judges Say: We won‘t even mention “Straight Up!” Wait…we just did! I Say: He’s magically avoided the curse of Siobhan tonight! Score: -1 Change: +1 Katie Stevens The Song: “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin Usher Says: Oh great, you tried to harass me at Disney World one time. The Performance: Oh, Katie. You’re ignoring two of the Golden Rules of American Idol. Golden Rule Three (Thou Shalt Not Cover Mariah, Whitney, or Aretha, Unless You’re a “Soul Diva” or a Goofy Guy), and Golden Rule Four (Thou Shalt Not Cover a Song Older Than Your Parents, Especially When You’re Already Being Called “Too Old Fashioned”). You can almost feel Simon and Randy blowing their stacks. At least she looks nice.
And actually, her vocals are just fine. It works in a weird way. Her weird, sassy choreography doesn’t really do anything for her, but her voice fits the song really well. She doesn’t have the range of some of the people in here, but when she hits the notes, it’s really solid. Everybody is complimentary, except Simon who takes a shot at Star Search and Kara and strikes her down for daring to mess with the Idol Gods, and the judges are fighting instead of critiquing, and Ryan just wants to get drunk. The Judges Say: Good, but way too old and boring. And Kara’s a stupid head. I Say: Call me crazy, but that was a million times better than what I thought it would be. Score: +2 Change: +1
Lee DeWyze The Song: “Treat Her Like a Lady” by The Cornelius Brothers Usher Says: Lee is a Treat. See what I did there? The Performance: Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol! No? His shirt has buttons and zippers, which is great. Apparently he has pneumonia too. Everybody’s dying this season. He probably just got struck down when he was looking at Siobhan’s cantaloupe funny. I don’t even know if I meant that to be innuendo or not.
It’s not really surprising that this is really good. This is in that Lee DeWyze/Elliot Yamin wheelhouse of “Music that sounds good but nobody would buy.” Randy wastes no time in calling him “The Bomb.” I can’t wait until Dave Matthews week. Even Simon is gushing all over the place to put him in second place. Siobhan’s going to kill him now. The Judges Say: This is the night that’s going to change your life. I Say: I don’t know about that, but it was really, really good. Score: +1 Change: +2
Crystal Bowersox The Song: “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips Usher Says: I’m psychic too. See? Watch. The Performance: Ryan’s in the Tim Urban position in the crowd, but thankfully for him, he doesn’t look like a ten year old girl, so he’s easy to spot. Does this mean Aaron Kelly’s closing the show? Ha! Somehow I doubt that Crystal’s shocking swerve is the fact that she’s actually wearing women’s clothing tonight. Her huge swerve? She’s playing the piano. Laaaame. I was hoping she was going sing doing a headstand or while on fire or something.
She stops playing halfway through anyway, which is lame. But then she busts into crazy white girl swaying, which is hilarious. The vocals are just fine, as per usual. She has a false start on her first Siobhan note, which is crazy bad, and doesn’t quite hit the second go-round. So no marks for the power notes, but overall this was fine. The Judges Say: Good job taking the big risk and hitting it! I Say: Playing a different instrument isn’t exactly a “big shocker.” Score: +3 Change: +1
Aaron Kelly The Song: “Ain‘t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers Usher Says: I know. I know. I know! Geez. The Performance: Wind chimes! Hell yes! No wonder they wanted him to close the show. You can’t top wind chimes. Aaron looks like he just got pulled away from the bus stop to do this performance. What’s with the giant hoodie? Stay tuned for more of Aaron’s hilarious dance moves and baby tiger faces though!
This…is not really working for me. We’ve returned to “mumbling” as a means of singing, and he does the looping “I knows” that Usher told him not to. How sad is it that Miley Cyrus might be the only one to make this kid sing halfway decently? The weird affections that he’s doing are hilarious though. I can’t hate him for that. And more wind chimes. I demand a theme week! The Judges Say: Mediocre, but whatever. It’s not going to change your position. I Say: So boring that I’ve already forgotten everything but the wind chimes. Score: +2 Change: +/- 0
Bottom Three: Andrew Garcia, Siobhan Magnus, Didi Benami
It’s about time that we had a “shocking” elimination. Tim should be the one to go, but it’s not going to happen this week, because America has this weird fetish for keeping people like him around until the last minute and then bailing on him. Aaron also probably deserves to be down here, but he won’t be.
Siobhan will get sent to the bottom three, cry, eat some cantaloupe, and be the first one sent back to the chairs. Of the two left, then Didi had the rougher week. I don’t know what has been going on with her song choices the past few weeks, but she’s been crazy awful, and I don’t see an Ingrid Michaelson week coming up any time soon.
But, despite his good performance tonight, I think Andrew Garcia’s the one who is going home. And here’s the thing. Pre-season favorites who start off with strong followings usually see them nosedive after their first genuinely good performance, because people assume that they’ll be getting votes anyway. Andrew’s not polarizing enough to pull this off.
Good start for the season, and I like how many smaller threads this plot has. Nothing quite had the punch of the double murders that opened up last season, but I don't know how you could have recreated that.