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:
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.
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