After last week’s results, expectations coming into this week were low. However… it’s almost like our embattled Top 12 took all those brickbats and used it as motivation. The end result? The best episode of the season. A trainwreck-free one, to boot. (Not that everyone was good, mind, just that the bad ones escaped trainwreck territory.)
Let’s do worst to best this time around. Worst was Tim Urban. By Tim’s (low) standards, the vocals were actually not a disaster. The arrangement, however…. who knew it was even possible to put a reggae twist on the Stones? In short: what were they thinking? And “not a disaster” doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad. It was. It was just more of a headscratcher than an utter disaster. Oh, and has anyone in the Idol finals had less range than Tim? You could almost count the number of notes the range had on one hand.
Andrew Garcia tried to “rock out” with Gimme Shelter. Unfortunately, Andrew really doesn’t have the vocal punch to pull that style off. He tried hard – if anything, too hard, with the result that his vocals became something of a mess. It was a respectable effort, but not much else.
Lacey Brown didn’t have a good day either. Honestly, though, there wasn’t much she could do. That quirky style and unique voice was a spectacularly poor fit for the Rolling Stones. A more experienced singer would have been able to rearrange something to fit their strengths, but Lacey doesn’t really have the background to pull that off. It was so-so, really, but Lacey was essentially screwed from the start.
Give Katie Stevens points for sucking up to Simon. Singing a song covered by Susan Boyle? Not a coincidence. Whether it was her or someone else… it’s hard to say. As for the performance… it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good either. It was too much of a beauty pageant performance – the lighting, the looks, the slow tempo, the glory notes – and honestly, that’s not what I expect from an Idol finalist.
With all the medical issues that Paige Miles had to deal with this week, she can be excused for not having much energy to attack the song. Overall, though… it was a decent effort, but somewhat forgettable and average.
Aaron Kelly turned in a performance only a tweener could love. On its own merits, though, it was somewhat better than Paige – Aaron did work within his vocal limits. Unfortunately, though, those are some pretty strong limits.
We learned a few things about Michael Lynche. Even with a lousy arrangement and so-so vocals… Big Mike has enough charisma and moves to be at least decent. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as I can go in praising his act. This is going to sound like a contradiction, but truth be told it was a well-sung mess. This was a huge wasted opportunity. Yes, the theme didn’t exactly suit Big Mike, but surely there was something better, right?
Casey James had one of those good, but unremarkable performances. I don’t know how faithful his version of It’s All Over Now was to the original, but Casey’s version fit his usual style well enough. However, it didn’t feel particularly special. It was just there, and Casey isn’t quite the vocalist that a Siobhan or Crystal is. Some contestants whose “average” performances are well above average; Casey isn’t in that league. (As for Lee DeWyze? For all intents and purposes, everything we said about Casey applies to him too. Very, very, safe performance. Oh, and Kara, not being pitchy is something praiseworthy for a finalist? Really? Talk about grading on the curve.)
By her lofty standards, Crystal Bowersox had something of an off night. It wasn’t a bad performance, not by any means. The song choice was good, the vocals were there… there was just that missing spark that turns a good performance into a great one. It was all quite well executed, but there wasn’t that moment that could make it really exceptional.
Didi Benami got off to a very good start – right up with what Crystal and Siobhan can produce. Unfortunately, she stumbled vocally somewhere in the middle and didn’t really fully regain her footing. Still, even that was only able to knock what should have been an excellent, five-star performance into a merely very good one. It’s the best we’ve seen from Didi so far.
Best of the night: Siobhan Magnus. Boy, she just doesn’t know the meaning of “safe”, does she? I agree with Kara – this version of Paint It, Black reminded me of something Adam Lambert would do in that it was as much a theatrical performance as much as a song. I didn’t quite love the vocals as much as everyone else – that very, very, very long glory note sounded shrieky at the very end – but for the night you couldn’t top the overall impact. You couldn’t. If I were in Siobhan’s place, though, I’d be very careful about embracing the Lambert “strategy” too much. After all, Adam won last year, right? Oh, wait, he didn’t…
TIG Picks: Calling boots for this year really depends on if you buy that last week was some sort of perfect storm of circumstances that don’t say anything about the rest of the season, or if it reflects longer-term trends about the voting this year.
Happily, though, there’s one person that fits in both categories. Our pick to go is Lacey Brown. She didn’t really sing all that well, but she did just enough to perhaps not be perceived as in the cellar. The Sesame Street Effect might be in play here. If you believe that the fanbases have hardened this early, then you’d put Lacey going home ahead of power-voter favorites like Tim Urban, Katie Stevens, or Andrew Garcia. (If voters have any sense, though, at least one of those three should be in the bottom group as well.)
Let’s face it: Lacey got here because she did surprisingly well on The Story last week. Without something like that in the bag… it’s harder to think she’s safe.
TIG pick: Lacey Brown to go home.