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Harry Connick Jr. steals 'American Idol' Sinatra night

Frank Sinatra Night on "American Idol" starts with a rundown of what Tweener Girls hath wrought with their text message voting:


Lee Dewyze impresses the judges with "That's Life." (Michael Becker -- Fox) Click on image to see a gallery of performance highlights.

Lee DeWyze
Casey James
Aaron Kelly
Mike Lynche
and Crystal Bowersox.

Anthony Hopkins is in the audience, in support of his new arthouse film, "The City of Your Final Destination"? Obscure! And Meathead! Apparently, in support of his tweener daughter nearby.

Unlike this season's other 'Idol' drive-by mentor- Usher you know who you are - this week's mentor, Harry Connick Jr. is going to not only mentor the Idolettes but he's going to do their arrangements, sparing them the usual hit-or-miss orchestrations, and will play backup on stage. This man treats an "Idol" gig as seriously as jury duty.

"What I'm trying to do is feature the contestants by writing a supportive arrangement," Harry says during a taped bit of him at the piano working out one of the arrangements for tonight's show. "I should be lying by the pool. Do you think Shania Twain was up here doing this?" he said, in re last week's mentor. Props to Harry Connick Jr. for first cross-mentor ding in "Idol" history.

Frank Sinatra's daughters, Tina and Nancy are in the audience. They present 'Idol' judge Simon Cowell with one of Dad's hankies - it's monogrammed.

"For me?!" Simon says, touched. He kisses Tina because Nancy looks scary. We wonder how many Frank Sinatra monogrammed hankies there are out there. Are they like Salvador Dali prints?

"Big Mike!" Harry shouts when Little Aaron walks into the rehearsal room for mentoring during Aaron's taped bit.

Aaron sings "Fly Me To the Moon" with his hair parted to the side in honor of Ol' Blue eyes, but his performance is more Frankie Avalon than Frank Sinatra, after which the judges begin madly grading him on a curve. Randy Jackson calls it "a really good job." Ellen The Generous thinks (canned joke alert!) Harry's piano playing was "a little pitchy," but Aaron achieved "beautiful vocals." Kara DioGuardi notes Frank Sinatra was as short as Aaron but "filled everything up" on stage when he performed, unlike Aaron, adding severely: "This is constructive criticism."

"If he was a lion you were a mouse," Simon tells Aaron in regards to Sinatra, but adds, "People like you after you perform and you do try hard." What's happened to you, Simon? You were lion and now you are a mouse.

Casey James got a phone call from a pal, who neither watches TV nor, apparently, reads celebrity suck-up magazines, watches celebrity suck-up shows, or listens to "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest's radio program. This pals offered to get Casey in on a gig he'd lined up that would pay them each $50, with a free meal tossed in. "Actually I'm a little bit busy, I'm playing on national TV," Casey says he told the pal, and the pal was, like "Really?" We are overwhelmed with envy that there is some guy out there who has never seen Seabiscuit.

"I've been listening to Harry Connick Jr. for my whole life," says Casey, giving the traditional Idolette-to-Mentor Unconsciously Wince-Inducing Compliment.

Harry pretends to like that Casey isn't bothering much with the lyrics of "Blue Skies". "It's almost like the song is a device to create this bluesy vibe. Sometimes it's not about the lyrics - sometimes it's about the groove."

Casey has no groove. Just nerves - lots of nerves. He has no guitar to hide behind and Harry's arrangement calls for him to hold notes a long time. But Casey's technique is holding notes for a nano-second. The performance cuts major chinks in Casey's too-cool-to-live image. At the end of the performance, Harry is not wearing a happy face. Randy calls it Casey's worst performance ever; Ellen The Generous says (canned joke alert!) she thought it was a bad idea to have Harry at the piano on stage. Kara notes that Casey looked very stiff without his guitar and that when he tried to hold those long notes he sounded like a wee baby lamb, baa-ing. "This is really uncomfortable," Simon says, adding a cringe-making joke about Casey taking that gig for free food and 50 bucks next week by way of mocking Casey, not to mention his pal -- who, to reiterate, is not watching!

"Yeah, I was," Casey says, when Seabiscuit wonders whether he really was uncomfortable on stage. Seabiscuit then deputizes Harry as the fifth judge: " I think you sang it better in rehearsal, to be honest. You killed it about two hours ago - but that's not going to help you now!" Harry says. Let's start a campaign to have Harry replace Simon next season.

Crystal says she's picked the tune "Summer Wind" because it has a lot of personal meaning for her, which she declines to share. We really do not care. Dressed in one of Mae West's old costumes, she delivers a tasteful interpretation of this low-key love song but it sails right over the judges' heads. Randy calls it "a little sleepy," Ellen The Generous accuses her of swallowing the lyrics, Kara says she can't see Crystal singing this kind of music (note to Kara: Crystal doesn't get to choose the genre), and Simon calls the first half too "jazzy" and "small nightclub." Crystal takes up where Siobhan Magnus - last week's booted Idolette, leaves off in the Sass-Back department, telling the judges "I just don't feel I should sing really big notes just because I'm on 'American Idol' - I think it should be about the music." Tweener girls of America are dead to us if they don't give Crystal this season's win this season, just for showing more music sense than all the judges put together.

Harry advises Michael Lynche to stop messing with the melody on "Just the Way You Look Tonight" and sing it as though he was telling his girl, "You look frickin' gorgeous!" Watching Mike sing this intimate tune is like watching The Hulk eat a very little shrimp. But he follows Harry's advice and checks his natural impulse to riff everything to the ground. Randy declares Mike "in it to win it." Ellen The Generous calls it very smooth. "I know who that is - that's Big Mike!" Kara marvels of the performance, and Simon is equally gushy.

Harry's wife thinks Lee DeWyze is "really cute." "He looks like a new and improved version of me," Harry jokes. "I'm not saying you're hot," he tells Lee.

After Lee gets mentored, Harry says to him "That was awesome, man!" and hugs Lee. "Not really!" he mouths to the camera.

Lee's performance of "That's Life" is okay, but more Ray Charles than Sinatra. Even so, Randy loves it, Ellen The Generous says if it was the last night of performances Lee would have just won the competition, then takes a canned joke detour about Harry's "organ" playing. "Stop it - stop it now!" Harry snaps back at her.

Kara demands Lee go home and write 100 times that he can win this thing. Simon, after praising Harry's mentor-ship, notes that Lee was working at a paint shop when he auditioned for "Idol" and "had some issues with shyness" and Harry managed to bring out his personality and his confidence and it was by far the night's best performance. The judges just can't take their little paws off the You've Overcome Such Odds story they've concocted for Lee - it's the magnanimous way they want to think of themselves on 'Idol.'

"Stop smiling - no more smiling!" Harry snaps at Lee, in a final note of non-pretense. Thank you Idolettes for not choosing to sing "My Way."

See performance highlights from Tuesday night's show here.

Never miss another "American Idol" after-show analysis. Text "IDOL"
to 98999 to have a link to Lisa de Moraes's blog post sent directly to
your phone.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  May 5, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

Did anyone else sense that the judges have turned on Crystal? Suddenly she can do no right.

Posted by: faywray | May 5, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

PS- another great column Lisa!

Posted by: faywray | May 5, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

My opinion, nobody was good last night. none of them delivered Frank a tiny bit. it was really bad night. I was really disapointed.

Posted by: JaneJing | May 5, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Lisa,

You are correct in your assessment. Also faywray you are correct in oyur observaton about the judges turning on Crystal. The are so disingenuous with thets. I guess they have been reading all the good press that Crystal has been getting and feel they need to knock her down,even when it's not justfied, to make the competiton more even, evenb thougfh it's not.

Crystal's song was fne as was her Shania Twan song last week. The performances of the contestants this week was what one can expect from 17 to 28 year olds trying to make Snatra relevant to today's generation. Lee and Mike were no better than Crystal on these songs and the voting will prove this out.

If this AL competiton is on pure singng talent, then Crystal will win in a landslade. If they judge it on something other htan talent then it's a farce.

Posted by: jerseybob | May 5, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Yes I think the judges are lining up against Crystal...but I also feel she pushed them into it with too much self-serving attitude from her in the past.
The whole Sinatra theme was a lame idea. This season's finalists are weak compared to past years... and to add 50+ year old classics to the mix is just asking too much from them. I thought Aaron put the most effort into it and he sounded pretty good. Lee was good, but an Idol? Not quite. Crystal was good. Big Mike was good, but boring...and Casey (poor Casey) was just sad...sad...sad.

Posted by: doctgo5 | May 5, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Jerseybob is right. Suddenly, Crystal can do no right.

I thought her performance rocked. She didn't over sing the song, the interpretation was original, and she was superb.

Maybe I'm naive, but for the first time last night, I got the big feeling that these judges are gaming for ratings sake. Or might it be that they've stopped caring. Or they're stupid. But canning Crystal with ever so faint praise while calling Lee the performance of the night, simply made no sense at all.

As for Lee, the next time you hear him sing, close your eyes and listen to his voice like an Ipod moment. Would you buy a song much less an entire CD made by this guy?

Posted by: kim4 | May 5, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Totally agree with the others that the judges are dumping on Crystal and are pimping Lee to the max. I can't believe they actually think Lee is better or that he has a chance for a better career than Crystal (given that he's basically a perfect blend of David Cook and Kris Allen, both of whom are disappearing into the mist even as we speak). I'm wondering if they're just trying to fiddle with the voting in some way with their comments.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 5, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of being "relevant" as in "you are not relevant" - the familar and loathsome Kara and Simon refrain, just exactly what is relevant about Sinatra Idol night. That was a boring show and a big gigantic snoozefest. If I hadn't been staying up to watch Glee, I would not have tuned in to Idol last night. I have to say, however, that Harry Connick Jr.is aging very well! He's much more hot than he used to be and he would be a fine judge indeed! Harry, Ellen and . . . I am not a fan of Randy or Kara.

Posted by: MrsKirby | May 5, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I can't decide what's really going on--did the judges finally realize that heaping on praise at this point in the competition can actually backfire (causing people not to vote for someone good because they think that person's already safe); or have the judges decided that if Crystal wins, even though she's clearly the best singer, her look/sound/whatever won't sell CDs, but Lee's will? Hmmm......

Posted by: lsg123 | May 5, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

JaneJing, did you really think any of the Idols would perform good on Sinatra night? Last week when Seacrest announced it would be Sinatra week, I cringed and thought it was the worst theme possible for the remaining Idols. The judges knew this going into it and graded on a curve with the exception of Casey's horrendous performance. I'm still hoping Mike or Aaron goes home tonight...

Posted by: MasonNation | May 5, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone that Sinatra was a poor choice for a theme, given the respective styles of the remaining contestants. However, there is some value in picking a theme that is not comfortable to the contestants. It tends to separate the truly talented from the "one genre only" singers. I only wish they'd done this theme earlier in the season. I think Katie Stevens would have knocked this one out of the park.

Back to the theme: I'm guessing they chose it because Sinatra is apparently Simon's favorite singer, and he's leaving the show after this season. For all we know, he's been asking for this theme for nine seasons.

Posted by: pfallsgirl | May 5, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

JaneJing,me too. I didn't care for anybody last night. However, I did vote for Lee because I liked the song and the tone of his voice. I agree with the judges on Crystal, though. Her last two performances had a few issues. I still think she's great overall. She's beautiful inside and out. (But she does talk back to the judges way too much. She's defensive.)

Posted by: forgetthis | May 5, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

there is something I just don't really get about Idol this year - constantly,t he judges make comments about being "contemporary" and "relevant" to today's music.

Well, as much as I love Frank, and yes his songs are timeless, there is nothing about his songs that are "contemporary" and "relevant".

Asking these KIDS to constantly go back to older music (including the Beatles)is just ridiculous. And to judge them on it is even more ridiculous.

If they REALLY want a competition, they should let each contestant pick the songs that THEY want to sing.

Posted by: Snowdog | May 5, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Moraes - "Thank you Idolettes for not choosing to sing "My Way."'

Except what was to be sometimes might be better than what actually was...Had eliminations gone differently, "My Way" would have been sung and been the talk of the night, for good or bad.

You know? Lee did OK, and the Velveeta Fog crooned well (I don't like the guy or his type of music) - but the other 3 were abysmal. And boring. So boring I have to take other people's word for how abysmal they were because I wasn't paying much attention. I was paying attention to everything Harry Connick Jr did..he is charismatic and worth it.

The song? In her exit interview, Siobhan said she wanted to sing "My Way" for her ailing grandfather. My eyes rolled, she was nuts and going cheesy and chanelling Katie "I sing for my ailing grandmother!" Then Magnus explained. She wanted to start with the Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistol's version. Make it a power vocal post-punk cut. Grandad appreciated punk because Siobhan's dad was a punk rocker.
Unsaid was what Siobhan would have done with the Beyond Vulgar NSFW lyrics of Vicious's rewrite, or what visual fashion and look Siobhan was going to create to go with her performance. But I'd have expected a OMG! as formal big band attire met updated female punk.

While it "twas never to be", a success or failure...perhaps on an epic scale...Magnus would have been delighting some and having others throw stuff at their TV. Not boring.

(It doesn't help Siobhan's fans regrets that she has been on fire in her post-Idol media appearances, going over big with hosts and audiences. And Idol execs are delaying her return to Cape Cod to honor requests for more bookings in NYC.)

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | May 5, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Last night was all bad, but Casey was the worst of the worst. I don't think his smile and girl hair will save him this time...

Posted by: ozpunk | May 5, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Lisa missed the point of Ellen's final joke. It was not a canned joke about Harry's "organ" playing. She said she was distracted by Harry's organ.

Posted by: bigguy4 | May 5, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Add a note. Magnus was on BET on the Wendy Williams show this morning, show taped yesterday. On U-tube. Williams really clicked with Magnus in chat then had a "Holy Smokes" look on her face as Magnus hammered out a R&B "Summertime" performance and owned the room. Worth seeing. Host and audience reactions added to the peformance, and it didn't matter Siobhan had trouble in one transition spot..she was in a zone.
Williams said Magnus is on her way to being a significant performer.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | May 5, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Here's the "Crystal problem". The judges are being too opaque and she's not reading the subtext. It's not really the "arguing" - it's that after she makes her point - they don't address it.

Dressed like a torch singer, and with the voice to be able to sing a torch song, she chooses . . . almost a ditty. Several weeks in a row.

On an LP you have space for ditties. She's right that there - every song doesn't have to be a powerhouse song.

However she misses the point that (a) she's on a very big stage (b) that's a very big orchestra (c) there's a very large audience and (d) she's only got 2 minutes - not an entire album side.

Siobhan chose to go from 0 to 60 in those 2 minutes - from almost whisper in the lower register to shriek. And it was too much.

Crystal chooses songs that have her starting at 0 and only getting up to about 30 at the end of 2 minutes. Poor song choice.

Find the happy medium, Crystal. Choose a song that starts you at 30 and moves you to 60 in those 2 minutes. It will showcase your arguably best voice better and will not give the audience auditory bends.

I think she doesn't have the confidence in her own voice for those bigger notes - she's indicated at much in the past. But on a big stage with a big orchestra and a large audience - she's got to get over that. She's got the voice to do it - she just needs the confidence.

The song she chose was wistful and wispy - and would have worked great in a piano bar/cabaret lounge dressed in a cocktail dress and not a full length gown. Linda Ronstadt is a divine torch singer. Crystal actually could be - but she has to be more willing to gut it out and belt it out. No need to be will-o'-the whispery Oliva Newton John - not on that stage.

Posted by: jqw3827 | May 5, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Lisa, Nancy Sinatra is sooo scary. She should sue her plastic surgeon. I became curious about her age, so googled her - she is about to turn 60.

My google search led to her website, www.nancysinatra.com

Check out the animated version of Nancy prancing around the website. But if you're at work, turn off the sound before you click on the link!

Posted by: newengland1 | May 5, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Simon wasn't showing much reverence for Sinatra's hankie. I was waiting for him to start wiping down the table with it, while Tina and Nancy grimaced in the background.

Speaking of Nancy grimacing, does anybody else think she now looks just like Dyan Cannon? Or Beverly D'Angelo? Or Mickey Rourke?

Who knew Edward Scissorhands went on to become a plastic surgeon?

I agree with pfallsgirl that choosing the big band genre was an effective way to gauge the most diversely talented singer. And personally, I thought the arrangements rocked!Unfortunately, there was no performance equal to the band's.

What a charmer that Harrick Connick, Jr., is! Such a nice man, he did a yeoman's job mentoring and arranging. Okay, I was also distracted by his organ.

Kara offers some good advice sometimes, but her Casey-ya-sing-like-a-lamb comment seemed especially caustic. Unfortunately, also correct. Casey's not a crooner, he's a rocker. But I think he might have blown it with that performance. Baaaaa-bye, Casey. I've truly enjoyed watching you. And also listening.

Some fairly decent performances, but I gotta go with Big Mike last night.

And his song selection is profound evidence that Lady Gaga is no Jerome Kern.

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | May 5, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, my previous post appears not to be making it, must have said something the content filter didn't like.

Maybe that Nancy Sinatra now looks like Mickey Rourke?

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | May 5, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Nancy Sinatra was born in 1940 so that would make her 70 or almost 70.
I love the old songs that part was fun, but at best they all sounded like a really good lounge singer which can be fun but not really an idol.
I didn't get the whole Lee thing he kind of butchered that song. I mean who ever has heard Frank's version would have to agree.
As for poor Casey it was song selection, I wish he would have sung "One for my baby" with his ax.

Posted by: mmalewitz | May 5, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

ILoveToSinga: Yep, I think you pretty much have it covered today. I noticed Casey was bleating, too, before Kara made the lamb remark. Also, I thought Crystal was maybe not great, but certainly very, very, good. Still, she could stand to notch it up.

I've heard Nancy Sinatra interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, and she sounded like a cool lady, and I am the proud owner of the "These Boots" 45 from my own tweener days. (Though back then we were called teeny-boppers.) Therefore, the quick glimpse of her last night was a shock, especially the strangely formed lips. As my late grandma would have said, "Oy! What she looks like!"

Posted by: owingsmills | May 5, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Oy - what they all look like (Nancy S., Mickey R., and now even Meg Ryan) is that there is only one mold - and all their faces have been poured into it. That list seems to get longer every day. I have to look at credits because I no longer recognize certain actors. Patsy Kensit is another one; and Lara Flynn Boyle. In the 21st Century the former "Beautiful People" have become the Hideous People.

Posted by: jqw3827 | May 5, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The nutso thing is they're still making the Beautiful People lists. I'm starting to wonder if "V" is really a documentary.

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | May 5, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for giving me my last laugh of the day. If you see any "Entertainment Tonight" snippets of one of the aforementioned facially altered people eyeing a guinea pig - be afraid. Be very afraid.

Posted by: jqw3827 | May 5, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Best review I've read. I concur. And you're funny too.
Funniest: Watching Mike sing this intimate tune is like watching The Hulk eat a very little shrimp.
(I like Big Mike just fine, but he's not always very exciting, somehow.)

Posted by: Lois04 | May 5, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Aaron.

I was RIGHT.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | May 5, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

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