'American Idol' tackles Shania Twain tunes
Shania Twain guest stars on Tuesday's episode of "Crystal Bowersox & Friends." Show host Ryan Seacrest introduces the Crystal Bowersox Repertory Theatre cast members according to their occupation. There's:
The Paint Salesman, played by Lee DeWyze
The High School Student, played by Aaron Kelly
The Glassblower, played by Siobhan Magnus
The Mother, played by this year's presumed "American Idol" winner Crystal Bowersox
The Father, played by Michael Lynche
The Construction Worker, played by Casey James.
Seabiscuit notes last week's "Idol Gives Back" raised more than $45 million.
First out on stage: Lee DeWyze, who has picked "You're Still the One" to sing. It's a good tune choice for Lee because the judges are sure to love its "looks like we made it" bits, what with those lyrics reinforcing the storyline the judges have created for Lee about his working on overcoming his inner inhibitions. Sure enough, judge Kara DioGuardi tells Lee, " 'Look how far we've come' -- look how far YOU'VE come!" She also notes that Lee actually smiled once or twice during his performance. But Simon Cowell believes that when Lee watches back his performance, he will realize he was making some kind of "weird faces" but it wasn't a smile. But Kara insists it was a nice smile. Cut to Lee, who is smiling in a pained sort of way. "Keep that face!" demands Kara, who is wearing a large lump of anthracite coal on her chest tonight in a show of support for American energy independence.
During her time at-bat, Ellen The Generous looks so darned pleased you know she's about to let fly with one of her prepared jokes. "Every song you take, you make it your own," she tells Lee, adding "you couldn't look cuter...and I say, 'All aboard the Shania Twain!'." Ellen makes a train whistle-tooting gesture and looks around to see the audience's reaction while the rest of us attempt to overcome a nauseous feeling.
Michael Lynche has decided to sing the Twain tune about how it only hurts when he's breathing. In his current state of gigantic-ness, we believe him entirely. Twain warns Michael that though he is one of those people who can sing the phone book and make women melt, he must not take that power for granted. Too late -- Michael begins to touch all the bases in a by-the-book heart-tugging performance. It starts with Michael sitting emotionally on the American Idol Stairway to Paradise, which helps him look less scary. He sings and sighs the first bits. Twain is in the audience, rocking back and forth, her little hands clasped together earnestly while the Idol Mosh Pit Swaybots try to figure out when their arms should be swung to the left and when to the right. Michael has a hard time standing up right as he gets to the fireworks of the tune, but he manages and finishes his performance with big-but-sensitive-guy falsetto notes. It works like gangbusters on the judges. Randy thinks Michael has found his zone as an R &B singer of sweet little love songs and says he hopes Michael stays there because there is "a big wide open space" for him in that tiny little niche. Ellen The Generous compares him to Luther Vandross. Kara, who says Michael goes to "that place that relates to you" is making even less sense than usual tonight. Simon thinks Michael's performance sounded " a little bit wet" which, when pressed, he explains means "the opposite of dry" or "a bit girly."
Casey James is the New Lee. That's the storyline the producers are pushing, anyway: he's got to overcome the drubbing the judges gave him last week. During the taped rehearsal bit, Twain say she senses Casey is missing a little bit of inner confidence, and Casey, who has picked the tune "Don't," explains his agenda thusly: "It's a singing song. I don't think I've sang yet." Dang -- he's more country than Twain! Casey plays it well, sitting in a chair, behind the judges, playing an acoustic guitar with the camera in tight, which screams "Vulnerable." And, he has the good sense to keep his eyes closed for the duration of the song, to show his deep feelings. This brings a big thumbs-up from the judges, including Kara whose praise is so passionate she once again appears to be overlaying her own fantasies on Casey's performance. "Artists do not hide the good, the bad, the ugly...and that's what you did - you were vulnerable; you were raw," she says. We rest our case. Simon tries to stage a Harlequin Romance moment, suggesting Casey come down off stage and lay a big wet one -- on Twain, instead of the panting Kara. Casey obediently comes down off stage, but Twain has to settle for a hug.
Talk about a personal connection. Crystal let's us know that her song choice, "No One Needs to Know," "is a message to my boyfriend" who is in the audience. "I'm dropping hints here and there -- he'll man up one of these days," she says of the guy - on national TV. She tries out a straight-ahead country approach to the song, and, all in all, it comes off a cheery little ditty. But the judges dis her in various very respectful ways. Except for Simon, who seems to have recovered his balance as the judge who says what must be said: "Shocker: We don't like Crystal this week, that's the story," he says, adding " It was limp. " Then, for good measure, he turns and says "sorry, Shania, it was a little bit forgettable compared to the other songs." Crystal's having none of it, telling the judges that bigger isn't necessarily better, but we are focused on the newly minted America's Most Crummy Boyfriend, who's in the audience waving sheepishly like, well, a man who's been told to man-up in front of about 20 million people. Presumably when she wins this thing, gets her recording contract, and starts making all that money, he will man up and marry her -- which we presume is what's at stake here.
Aaron Kelly's performance of "You've Got a Way" is a breakthrough for him, having finally figured out that the way to sound sincere singing grownup is to sing a love song - to his mother. It all started when Kara commends his having de-sexed the lyrics by taking out the "It's in the way we make love" bit, which she says in so many words she thought was appropriate because she presumes he's a virgin though she can't be sure. Aaron says he changed that lyric because he was singing the tune to his mother. We're totally creeped out, but Kara -- who is getting more hunched over by the minute under the weight of that boulder of coal on her chest -- gushes that it is so sweet. Just when we think Simon has got his groove back, making an ominous gotta-level-with-you start, he starts heaping praise on Aaron for being "sincere and believable" for the "first time in weeks," while we mourn the loss of the Simon who would have savaged an Idolette for singing a love song to his own mother.
Siobhan Magnus is convincing as a country singer from the neck up. From the neck down she's modeling Betsey Johnson's gym wear line. But she's got that rich mid-range country chick voice thing going as she belts out "Any Man of Mine." Her walk off the stage, into the audience and back again is about as spontaneous as a security guard making the rounds, but, on the bright side, she makes it through without a break in the singing. Fortunately, she's finally figured out that viewers are in complete disagreement with the judges in re belting out glory notes and she winds up this tune with one of her best belting jags yet, while Simon works up a new batch of derogatory adjectives. Ellen The Generous, apparently thinking this show has not been about her enough, lets it pass so she can instead uncork her prepared "way to pull the Shania Twain into the station!" gag, after which she turns around, and looks back to bask in the audience reaction, though no big laugh is forthcoming. "Guess who's back?!" says Siobhan non-fan Kara, apparently knowing when she's licked. And Simon has indeed had time to gather his thoughts and lets go with "the screaming at the end...was almost like you were giving birth up there," though he's otherwise tepidly complimentary. Sadly, because the show is already running a couple minutes late and they still need to re-play each singer's numbers for voting purposes, Siobhan is denied the opportunity to respond, which is what she does best. Too bad.
See performance highlights from Tuesday night's show here.
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