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Usher mentors R&B Week on 'American Idol'

It's R&B Week on "American Idol" and this week's mentor, Usher, asks the 10 remaining Idolettes for "permission" to be brutally honest with them in order to help them become all they can be.

"Tonight is very important. They made it here but this isn't the finish line," Usher explains to the camera, for those viewers who still count on their fingers and toes.

Despite his slip up, will Casey James's "swag" get him through to the next round? (Michael Becker -- Fox) Click on image to see highlights from last night's show.

"This is their time to shine and this is the stage to do it on," adds Usher, who we think is getting his best material off Hallmark cards.

Usher follows Miley Cyrus in 'Idol' mentoring. Isn't it great how, now that the show is super-safe and, some might say, with its best days behind it, the "contemporary" artists are turning out to mentor the Idolettes? No Rod Stewarts or Wayne Newtons this season, pookie!

Siobhan is led to Usher in the evening's first Mentored By Usher taped bit. She is wicked nervous because, she tells Usher, "I've been a big fan since I was, like, six years old." Ooh snap! Yes, Siobhan has just knocked Usher down a peg, and we like her the better for it.

"Have you chosen your wardrobe?" Usher asks her, explaining "you want to make sure you don't have too much going on." Siobhan's total disregard for any known fashion styles results in an outfit that is On My Way to Senior Prom from the waist up, and I Just Got Out of the Shower from the waist down. The look is finished off with silver lace-up boots. Siobhan's performance is also a mess and judge Randy Jackson pronounces it "all over the place" though he then goes on to say he likes the outfit so he disqualifies himself. Judge Ellen The Generous likens Siobhan's singing to hiking on a trail and getting really lost; judge Kara DioGuardi agrees. Judge Simon Cowell, who has had it in for Siobhan since the first week of competition, tells her it's her worst yet.

Usher likes when Casey James forgets the lyrics to "Hold On" (aka "Hold On, I'm Coming"), because he has "a swag" that says "I belong here." Casey predicts this is going to be a great week for him because he's good at singing blues and "you're not going to get any closer to blues than R&B."

Unless, of course, they do a Blues Week.

There are about four notes to Casey's version of the tune and he's in complete control of those four notes. Randy gushes about it being another hot night for Casey. Ellen The Generous thinks it generic. Usher, who is in the audience, raises his eyebrows dismissively. Kara says she thinks Casey's got more and she wants to see it. Simon thought it showed a "completely different side" of Casey. Seabiscuit asks Kara if she wants to see more of Casey's singing or more of Casey. "Are you kidding?" she snorts. Casey tells Kara "you're going to get exactly what you asked for" next week. The American Idol Decency Police unpack the teargas.

"Chicks dig a guy who can actually play a guitar AND sing," Usher advises Mike Lynche. He also wants Mike to play to the back of the room and make love to the camera like he, Usher, is going to demonstrate -- right now! "See what I'm doing right now?" Usher says as he makes eyes at the camera -- except he just winds up looking like a guy watching TV.

Mike is seated behind the judges when he performs "Ready for Love" and the show director does him no favor when he pulls the camera back to those shots of the Idol judges with their backs to Mike, creating this "you're dead to me now" undertone that's uncomfortable. Mike's tune is so slow and dull, but we zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

When we wake up, Randy is saying something about how exciting it was - not - and that Mike has this whole sensitive thing going on that Randy doesn't seem to entirely approve of. Ellen The Generous, however, loves it. Kara thinks he "mastered the intention of the tune." Simon says it's the first time he's taken Mike seriously.

Seabiscuit sends us to a commercial break with a promise that Didi Benami's meeting with Usher was like a Barbara Walters big-get celebrity confessional. Will Usher make Didi cry? After the break, we see the tape of Didi meeting Usher. She sings "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted," and then starts to cry. Usher advises her to cry DURING the song because the audience will lap it up.

"I wanted to pick something that moved me," Didi explains to the camera. Now I'm worried it might be too much."

Save us, please.

Didi sings the tune. She is awful. Breathtakingly awful. Her voice is emotionally flat, though she tries to cue us to her great depth of feeling by wrinkling her forehead and finally bursting out with a Broadway-esque big finish. But she does not cry. Randy says she flatlined. "Way dramatic," Ellen The Generous calls it. "It's overdone, girl," Kara chimes in. Simon likens it to "one of those dancing shows that always have a singer murdering a song on it." Seabiscuit wants his Barbara Walters moment and begins to poke at the festering wound that is Didi, demanding she explain "Why were you in tears with Usher?" Didi dodges the question, whining, "You make me answer these uncomfortable questions!"

"I think it's important people know why," Seabiscuit insists.

The judges tell him to knock it off.

Seabiscuit reminds the audience Didi had auditioned for "Idol" in memory of her dead girlfriend adding, "we'll leave it at that." Yes, Seabiscuit, plays the Dead Friend Card for Didi.

"They're calling you Teflon Tim," Seabiscuit tells Tim Urban -- because, of course, he's so very bad and yet, little girls and middle-aged women keep voting him into the next round of competition because they think he's dreamy thanks to those photos of him showing off his abs and pecs that are floating around the Web. Usher tries -- he really tries -- to break through Mr. Abs-Fab's thick skull. No luck. The love Tim's feeling has all the strength of a man's love for a bowl of cornflakes first thing in the morning. Once again Tim butchers his tune, "Sweet Love," with his trademark wide-eyed "Who, me?!" look, and his head cocked to the side to denote sincerity.

"At least you sang in tune, mostly," says Randy. Ellen The Generous calls him "adorable" twice for all those participating in this year's "American Idol" Drinking Game, and also notes he was mostly in key, though she takes issue with his having slunk towards the judges while singing, like he was trying to sneak into someone's bedroom. Kara pronounces it "Broadway at times, Vegas at times" and wonders why he keep making himself so non-commercial, non-young and non-current. Tim laughs. "Why are you laughing?" Kara snaps. "I'll tell you why," Simon jumps in. "Because I don't think it makes any difference whatsoever what we say. It was a completely in appropriate song -- like a mouse picking a fight with an elephant. But it doesn't matter because you're going to smile, the audience is going to vote for you and you'll be here next week - so, well done!"

Andrew Garcia puts on a sharp suit, gets out his guitar, sits on a stool, and performs an acoustic version of "Forever," in his Playing Guitar Alone in My Bedroom way. No eye contact with the camera, like Usher had suggested -- sorry Usher. But Andrew pushes his envelope a foot or two which sends the judges into ecstasies, though Simon can't resist adding that his problem with Andrew now is that he's boring as a person. Somewhere in there the judges have discerned an artist and they are very proud of their accomplishment. The producers give Andrew an extra push by bringing in an Audience Moment: Andrew's mother is asked to come on stage, to chide Simon. Mama has an excess of personality and rushes the stage. "That's my mama -- she's crazy," Andrew says. Instant back story -- thank you producers.

Katie Stevens tells Usher they've already met -- at Epcot. She says she walked up to him and asked: "Are you Usher?" when his bodyguard unfortunately intervened, cutting off their budding relationship.

"You don't get any point cause we've met," Usher says. Snap! Usher then refrains from warning her off an Aretha Franklin tune, by way of paying her back for having had the effrontery to approach him at Epcot. When she performs "Chain of Fools"for the judges, Randy pronounces it "disconnected," while Ellen The Generous dodges the performance entirely, focusing on her Snookie Pouff. Kara thinks it made her look old and Simon says she sounded like someone on "Star Search." The judges argue for a longish spell as to whether Katie is a country singer, or R&B. But Katie tells Seabiscuit she's not listening to any of them anyway -- spoken like a true child beauty-pageant queen.

"You have an incredible voice, man," Usher tells Lee Dewyze after Lee confesses his self-doubt to Usher. He also confesses his self-doubt in his video clip. But then his performance of "Treat Her Like a Lady" is his best in a while and the judges effusive. "This is the night your life may have changed forever," Simon says. What will Lee's story be next week?

Coffee-house singer Crystal Bowersox has promised she's going to really shake things up this week as she sings "Midnight Train to Georgia." By "shaking things up" she means "playing the piano." Only she hasn't played in ages, so she keeps looking at the keys like she's taking a lesson. When she gets up from the piano we're relieved until we get a good look at the horrifying short, tight dress, black leggings, stiletto heels, and heavy makeup. Randy, Ellen. Kara praise her but Simon warns Crystal she has, until tonight, been an artist "who knows what she should be doing," and that she should not "change into something which you're not." Crystal sticks her chin out and insists she is a multi-faceted person and artist, and enjoyed wearing the stilettos. Nobody enjoys wearing stilettos. She's become a fake and a fraud. 'Idol' has done this to her. Sigh.

Usher makes Aaron Kelly practice the "I know, I know, I know, I know" bits to "Ain't No Sunshine," to get the "theatrics" right, during the mentoring process. Which Aaron then ignores when he sings it for the judges on the show. Instead, Aaron sings it like, "I know, don't tell me, stop nagging." Nonetheless, the judges who pronounce his performance okay, except Simon who likens it to a cupcake.

"People like cupcakes," Seabiscuit whispers lovingly into Aaron's ear.

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See a photo gallery of performance highlights from Tuesday night's show.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 31, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: Didi out, Diddy sings on 'American Idol'


Lisa! You forgot to describe the exact hot mess that was the "just after you perform cam" that followed Idolettes back to the green room. Especially the Siobhan cam which was either horribly acted or just plain horrible. Plus Ryan became a grade A TOOL last night. First he was his new uber aggressive self but then he kept trying to give excuses as to why the idols might have issues. Lee has walking pneumonia, of course the true torture of making us watch him try to drag Didi's personal information out of her. It was jaw-dropping how horrid that little man has become. Sigh... If it hadn't jumped the shark before, it DEFINITELY did last night.

Posted by: too_through | March 31, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I have to say, I enjoyed the singing much more last night than I have in weeks. That being said, Tim or Didi needs to go. I thought the funniest moment was when Simon went on and on about Tim and ended with "so, well done!". Score one for Simon. Btw, I'm a "middle aged woman" and I sure don't vote for Tim just because he's nice looking - my votes go to who I think can sing and that ain't Tim. I enjoyed Andrew for once and I really liked Crystal. Siobhan really, really, really picked the wrong song. Wow, I never heard her sound so bad!

Posted by: MrsKirby | March 31, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Although it was more obvious last night, Ryan has always attempts to add drama after a bad contestant performance by asking pesky questions. Occasionally the questions allow the judges to further dress down a contestant. Many times these questions are difficult to answer because the obvious truth can not be stated. "Yes my performance stunk, and the fans have no business voting for me". Or, "I thought the judges criticisms were totally off base. Kara in particular is full of it". So they have to dance around the truth.

Posted by: niceshoes1 | March 31, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Used to be a Crystal fan, but her b-list celebrity moment last night (Randy plugs his Gladys Knight producing job and Crystal says "say hello to Gladys for me"), preceded by her asking Miley to sign her guitar last week has me deeply troubled.

Posted by: DC2LA | March 31, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I really enjoyed how Tim Urban handled the judges last night.

a) Listening to the judges critiques on Tim is funny because Tim's performances are awful.

b) There is no rule that states you have to sulk and be dreary when the judges are displeased with your performance. They aren't Gods on high to be worshiped. As Simon sometimes says, they are only there to give an opinion.

c) The fact of the matter is that Tim is not a good enough. Most anything he does is not going to please the judges.

d) Some of the time, the judging advice is bad and not worth listening too.

Posted by: niceshoes1 | March 31, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"ut her b-list celebrity moment last night (Randy plugs his Gladys Knight producing job and Crystal says "say hello to Gladys for me"), preceded by her asking Miley to sign her guitar last week has me deeply troubled."

The Gladys Knight thing was a joke.

The Miley bit, I agree, was troubling. She certainly won't lose my vote over it though.

Posted by: niceshoes1 | March 31, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Been a big fan of Siobhan but she was way off last night, Mike was boring, Andrew was better, Aaron was ok. I haven't been a big Crystal fan but liked her more soulful sound last night. Lee is growing on me, but I still think he is a copy of Elliot Yamin but not as good as Elliot. Didi will probably go after last night, cause I think the vote for the worst people are keeping Tim in. I wish they would be honest about that on the show, and not ignore it.

Posted by: sivwiz | March 31, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Someone please tell Siobhan that her weekly wails are like finishing every sentence with an exclamation point. (I mean, !!!) But I do love the new kiss and cry feature.

Posted by: jd121 | March 31, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Lisa, your column is my favorite part of American Idol. And how about Usher saying he was going to be so tough and hurt their feelings and all I hueard was "amazing" "great voice". Who knew Usher was a marshmellow? Keep them coming.

Posted by: janehowze | March 31, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I really enjoyed Andrew last night. I have always thought he has a unique voice, but what I liked about his performance last night was that it was laid back and more subtle than all the others. It was nice to be sung to rather than blasted.

Posted by: nthwoods | March 31, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Teflon Tim? No doubt. He still has a week left after DiDi gets the old heave ho tonight, but he sure as heck better not make it to the top 5. It was nice to see Lee finally get some praise from the judges seeing as he has been the best male vocalist since Hollywood... Andrew did pretty good and of course Simon's favorite Targon was great as usual. Oh and calling that one kid cupcake was super duper creepy.

Posted by: ozpunk | March 31, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The Siobhan dilemma: [You have crazy good potential. You know it. So you feel you have to push it and take on the toughest stuff because you think it is on the brink of all coming together.]
Others see it. And also feel you should push it because you have true star potential.
But that, whether in a sport or performing art means risk-taking. More spectacular crash and burns than a mediocre performer playing it safe. And in a young performer, it also opens up more "opportunities" to display bad judgement (over screaming, the star snowboarder who does one stunt too many). Which is why we have coaches and directors and so on to guide such young people pushing their talent to the limit to avoid mistakes...recognize where the pushing is going too far.

I understand it. So I voted for Siobhan again and hope she is not made to pay too much for risk-taking.
A reviewer notes that even Chaka Khan has had a tough time doing her song "Into the Fire" live. And I note the buzz is Siobhan nailed it in an earlier practice session.

But crash and burns have consequences. No medal for Lindsey Vonn in the Slalom. On AI Siobhan loses her clear #2 and Rising status. And poor judgement to throw in another high note scream in a song already going badly makes MORE fans think her judgment is suspect - and there is no coach to straighten her out.

Now it is all about how Siobhan Magnus will handle this, what she learned, how well she can regroup.

Many of us have been in the space she is now - after a bad performance in some other field we were competing in. We know how it is. To get better, you have to push it. And how good dealing with the set-backs is every bit as important as the successes.
In Siobhan Magnus's career, and I think she will have a true career as a singer or stage performer - times like this are how you grow and are tested. If you are up to it. I think she is.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | March 31, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Siobhan has been over-hyped to her detriment. Crystal's good, but not exceptional - just on this program. Didi, please go (and take Katie with you). That leaves the Tim the Unbelievable, and assorted other guys. Some good voices there, but flatish performances. Have no horse in this race.

Posted by: rraustin1 | March 31, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"...little girls and middle-aged women keep voting [Tim] into the next round of competition because they think he's dreamy..."

No, Lisa, gotta take exception to that.

Middle-aged women are not enticed by Tim's Tiger Beat looks, floppy hair, "aw gosh" facial expressions.

It's totally the little girls. Believe it.

Posted by: haveaheart | March 31, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I second "haveaheart" and said it myself. It's not middle aged women voting for the Brady Bunch boy. Oh, and 'the vote for the worst' jerks.

Posted by: MILWI | March 31, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

An April Fool's Day story came out claiming Simon Cowell quit American Idol due to viewers ousting Didi Benami over Tim Urban.
Though truly an Urban myth, Lord Cowell should leave the show for having shown himself unworthy of even holding court at a Karoake singoff.
The London Looney-Tune, it seems, has tainted himself as a bit of a bully, and thus, a coward.
With his fear of a fellow troubadour being crowned American Idol 2010 instead of Crystal Bowersox, Cowbell has disqualified himself as a judge of any caliber with his attempts to cause Siobhan Magnus to cower before his monkey-minded comments. Crystal "Powersox" holds her own with her definitive style, but Siobhan sails just as sweet and smooth on the Sea of Song and shouldn't let Simple Simon the Bi-man scuttle her ship of sound.
Cowell realizes Siobhan strides the stage as well as Crystal, but instead of encouraging the two artists-in-arms to wow us with their unique approaches to music, ol' Harry Chest has chosen to make Siobhan kowtow to his limpwristed opinions. Deriding the way she looks, calling her "quirky", scoffing at her so-called "screams" as tiresome, downplaying her performances with his high-nosed shortsights that they will be half-loved, half-hated by an ambivalent America, Cowardly Cowell took it on himself to get into the mind of Magnus and cause her to stumble in the competition.
And, unfortunately, Simon the Snipper's constant slights seemed to bring a bit of self-doubt to Siobhan as seen with her Shaka setback. Hopefully, she'll shake Simon off and truly go through the fire of a jerky judge who has taken it upon himself to burn an artist at the stake for no other reason than to promote his own preferences.
Even more hopefully, Simon will banish himself from the judges' table sooner rather than later and allow Siobhan and the other singers to blossom instead of wither under his cockamamie critiques and inane prattle.
Don't boo, Simon, you know it's true. Hurry on now, the cruise ships await you.

Posted by: eaburden | April 1, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

What of Usher's performance?

I can't say that I know much of Usher's playlist, but if his performance on Idol is any indication ... ugh.

The worst lyrics, worst vocals, worst music, and worst choreography I have ever witnessed. Abysmal. Absolutely Awful.

At least, his mentoring advice was intelligent and insightful.

Posted by: burtonpaul | April 2, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

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