'American Idol' tackles Lennon & McCartney tunes
[Note from Lisa: Siobhan's song-name mistake corrected. It was a long night -- that's my story and I'm sticking with it.]
Another John Lennon-Paul McCartney night on "American Idol."
After the traditional verbal brawl between show host Ryan Seacrest and outgoing judge Simon Cowell -- this time in re whether the Idolettes should change up their Beatles tunes or stick to the script -- teen Aaron Kelly kicks things off, singing a "Long and Winding Road" that's more like "Fighting to Stay Awake on this Long and Winding Road.' And yet, the Mosh Pit Chicks feel compelled to do The Wave. Aaron apparently has taken the judges' advice to believe in the lyrics too literally. He says he picked this tune because the whole 'Idol' thing has been a long and winding road for him, and we're getting the strong impression that at this stage in the competition Aaron's mostly ready for a long nap. The four judges recite various versions of "Every week it's the same performance/you've got to become young and relevant" speech and put him to bed.
After explaining to Seasbiscuit that five guys have asked her to be their prom date and she's going with whichever can prove he has texted in the most votes for her in the singing competition, Katie Stevens sings the no-worries anthem, "Let It Be" but with a little country twist on it. Her performance is calm and controlled. Smart girl: Katie has grasped two of the bedrock principles of success on 'Idol': 1) give the judges a story arc they can peg you with, and 2) Listen to Simon. Judge Kara DioGuardi fills in the story arc, saying Katie is "blossoming on that stage" right before our very eyes. Judge Simon Cowell notes she's fought he way back from a run in the Bottom 3. He also points out that she listened to his advice to go "country" instead of pop/R&B like Kara and judge Randy Jackson advised her. Against all evidence, Kara and Randy shout out that Katie did do the tune R&B. No growth for those two, thank you very much.
Andrew Garcia's arrangements are always like Siobhan Magnus's outfits: mismatched - but not in the daft, loveable Siobhan way. Here it is again: a bluesy/folksy rendition but fronting a very loud big band on "Can't Buy Me Love." On the bright side, the band drowns out a lot of his vocals. Judge Ellen The Generous loves it but we suspect she's in a good mood mainly because she gets to let fly one of the jokes she's prepared in advance for the night: "First of all, you can buy love ... Right, Simon?" The other judges nick the performance. "You and the band together kind of got this all wrong tonight," Simon says, summing things up nicely.
Michael Lynche says he is going to sing "Eleanor Rigby" because it's a tune he performed back in the day when he was part of his family band. His family band, he says, was called The Lynche Mob. Nobody bats an eye. It's an interesting performance: "Eleanor Rigby" in the style of Tom Jones. The Judges Minus Simon love it. Kara insists he made the tune "commercial today." But Simon says it sounded like a performance from a musical -- the opposite of contemporary. Then we're treated to a rare instance of Randy verbally outmaneuvering Simon: Randy says musicals ARE contemporary just look at 'Idol'-network Fox's other musical show, "Glee." Simon begins to tap dance backwards, with "We're saying the same thing," and, later, seconding Randy's " 'Glee's' big. We like 'Glee'." Team player! Seabiscuit delivers his stock Idolette question: "How do you make sense of this conflicting advice?" But Mike fails to deliver the stock answer: "I just try to be me," and forges off in a brave new direction: "I'm thinking Simon wants to challenge me to a pec contest!"
Crystal Bowersox may have a cold but she's still coming on like a young Bonnie Raitt. Okay, maybe not that interesting a voice, but still like Raitt's good story-telling voice. She's paired with a man playing a didgeridoo, the giant flute-like instrument of the Australian aborigines. You can only hear it at the start of the song before it gets drowned out, though the musician gamely keeps blowing his lung out on it. The judges love the performance, love the didgeridoo. Simon says Crystal is "true to yourself ... that's why it's working". Then she goes into bonus overtime: They call out the didgeridoo player and Crystal gets to pose arms around this grandfatherly-but-cool guy while we learn that he's a freelancer who picked up the instrument for the first time just for this show. Yes, Crystal got somebody a job!
"All My Lovin'" is a good song choice for Tim Urban -- an uncomplicated 60s-style pop ditty, and if there's anything Tim should stick to, it's uncomplicated. In fact, his performance is just barely good enough to trigger a gusher of remorse from the judging table for making him their whipping boy these many weeks. Kara says this performance "feels more honest" and he "should be commended" for putting up with barbs and sincerely trying to take their advice. Simon goes way over the top, saying "it actually sounds very current, what you just did," which is transparently untrue and makes you think the judges had huddled and game-planned this whole thing in advance. "I like that you take the criticism like a man, there's no whining ...You've handled yourself really well," Simon coos. The weekly Tim beat-down has been a cornerstone of this season of "Idol," raising concern that if they're going soft on him, the whole structure may collapse from an overload of niceness. We blame Ellen.
It's a breakout night for Casey James doing "Jealous Guy," a John Lennon tune from his "Imagine" era. A little gravely, a little sweet, a pause for some emotion -- Casey's got some range under that hair! He's knocking down two major 'Idol' point-getters tonight: authenticity and growth. Ellen The Generous calls it his best performance to date. Kara reminds him how she and Ellen told him to push himself last week and this week he did! Simon says that the difference from two weeks ago "has been absolutely ginormous," which we think is a new "growth" superlative for "Idol" -- certainly for Simon. And Seabiscuit wraps it up by giving the text-message number "if you want to vote for Casey and his authenticity."
Siobhan Magnus takes the stage with her Rubik's cube approach to fashion. What is this? A 16th century tavern wench taking ballet lessons in boxing shoes? We give up. She sings "Across the Universe" in a manner that's almost Bjork-kind of weird, yet sweet and pure. The Judges Minus Simon seem kinda befuddled by the whole thing and fall back on various iterations of "you should always honor who you are." Simon winds up Siobhan's time up with one of his I'll-let-you-hang-yourself gambits, asking Siobhan for her personal connection to the song, but the conversation takes a surprise turn, as she explains tearfully that the song was a message for her sisters that no matter what happens on 'Idol,' she remains true to her family. Simon, who was expecting some muddled response to his question, has to quickly rearrange his opinion in the face of the depth of her emotion. "What's great about you is that you are unpredictable," he says.
Lee Dewyze doing "Hey, Jude" starts off really pitchy. But he looks happier than we've ever seen him before. He invites the audience to sing the "na na na" bits with him. Yes, Lee is coming out of his shell -- 'Idol' therapy is showing results! Then major distraction hits: a Scots bagpiper comes down the American Idol Stairway to Paradise. Was there some 'Idol' espionage going on last week? Did Lee spot the didgeridoo player and run out to get his own ethnic wind player? The Judges Minus Simon love it. Ellen The Generous praises him for "the confidence you showed." Why are Lee's interviews with the judges starting to feel like a panel of shrinks setting him up for release from the sanitarium? "I don't know what you lot are drinking in the ['Idol'] house" to come up with a digierdoo and a bagpipe in the same evening, " says Simon, adding, "I wouldn't have done that. You were doing great, then the bagpipe player came down the stair case ... like he turned up on the wrong show."
"Was it your idea?" Simon asks Lee. Lee says confidently
"Yeah, 100 percent," Lee smiles, confidently.
We think our boy is cured.
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Lisa de Moraes
April 7, 2010; 7:01 AM ET
Categories: "American Idol"
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