Michael Becker / FOX
Michael Becker / FOX
Usher had his work cut out for him this week.
With the remaining American Idol finalists coming off one of the roughest themed performance shows ever, fans were looking to R&B night for that much-needed spark to get them excited—finally—about this season's top 10.
In case you hadn't noticed, however, only a few members of this year's group are particularly versatile, so we were already prepared for a real mixed bag with only sporadic signs of greatness by the time the first contestant stepped into the spotlight.
Sure enough, the Moments were indeed sporadic. The surprising part was where they came from...
Siobhan Magnus: It seemed as if Siobhan was back in business with Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," until a few horrible notes torched the whole thing. At times the tone of her voice was just lovely, but more often than not, she was shrieking. (Which is not to be confused with her signature scream— regrettably, there was plenty of that, too.) "By far your weakest performance so far," Simon Cowell redundantly judged it, and Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres couldn't do much more than agree. On a bright note, she didn't kill the song. "I'm going to call it manslaughter," Simon said.
Casey James: It was already music to our ears when Ryan Seacrest said Casey was singing a song never before done on the Idol stage. Hats off to that! And then, to top it off, he did a great job with Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'." More like, "Watch out, other contestants. Casey's coming." And he's bringing saxophones, stubble and an electric guitar with him! "I'm really, really impressed with you this week," Simon said. Randy thought it was hot. So wouldn’t you know, Kara and Ellen still want to see more range from the 27-year-old. "They do mean musically," Ryan reminded him.
Michael Lynche:Personally, we thought Big Mike's performance tonight of India.Arie's "Ready for Love" was way better than that Maxwell cover of "This Woman's Work" the judges went all gaga for. Slowing things down with an acoustic guitar, Michael sounded really great. "That was beautiful, I loved it," Ellen said. "You did an incredible job with it," Kara added. And with that, Michael finally became a believable artist in Simon's eyes.
Didi Benami: What was with that weird demanding-sounding "Tell me!" part at the end of "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," originally sung by Jimmy Ruffin? Regardless, it was a very boring arrangement, her glamour girl look didn't match the tune and she sounded completely flat. Then she went and talked back to Ryan, who asked why the song made her tear up while rehearsing with Usher. "You make me answer these uncomfortable questions!" she scolded him, prompting Simon of all people to step in on her behalf. "Didi, we need to talk," the Brit said knowingly, moments after comparing her performance to "swimming in jelly."
Tim Urban: Oy. Like a sad little wedding singer, Tim was tonight, warbling Anita Baker's "Sweet Love." Aside from the fact that he lacks Ms. Baker's heady depth and velvet-coated pipes, Tim just doesn't have what the kids today call swagger—which Usher has in spades, but he obviously didn't have the time to impart his knowledge, Bieber-style, to young Mr. Urban. The usually low-key Randy was compelled to give a lesson in vibrato, and Kara lamented how "uncommercial and young" he sounded. Simon could only laugh at how futile it was to criticize him. "Nobody cares and you'll be here next week, so well done!"
Andrew Garcia: Simon may have been right last week, when he said Andrew's big "Straight Up" moment was overrated all along. Otherwise, a strings-and-guitar version of Chris Brown's "Forever" should have suited him perfectly—but it was still just alright. It was worlds better than "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," of course, but almost anything would have been. "One giant leap in the right direction," Kara called it, saying, "If he can do that next week, he's back in the game."
Katie Stevens: After Siobhan's big misfire, Katie won the night as far as mellifluous rich vocals go. Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" is one of those classic you take for granted, meaning you rarely stop to appreciate how flawless a singer Franklin is on that particular record. So obviously 17-year-old Katie wasn't going to have a Moment trying to copy Aretha's style, but she did give a pretty pleasant performance. Kara is convinced that Katie's an R&B-pop artist. Simon is still convinced that Katie is country. He advised her, when faced with the option, to take his advice.
Lee Dewyze: Lee did major justice to the Eddie Cornelius-penned "Treat Her Like a Lady," propelling himself back to the top of the heap after weeks of languishing in So-So-Ville. His raspy, powerful vocals blew Randy and Ellen away ("Unbelievable," they both called it) and Kara thought he was "amazing." And Simon said, simply, "This was the night your life may have changed forever."
Crystal Bowersox: Note for note, tone for tone, Crystal always has this thing down. And though the first few bars of Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" sounded a wee bit timid, with the big-voiced onetime street performer sitting behind the piano instead of wielding a guitar, the rest was first-class. "I'm so glad you took that risk," Kara complimented her. But Simon, a big fan of that guitar, warned, "Do not let this process suck the identity out of you." Which prompted a bit of a squabble, with Crystal insisting that she was not out of her comfort zone and perfectly cool with tickling the ivories for a change. "OK, great," Simon said.
Aaron Kelly: Once again, if you just listen to Aaron singing Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," you forget there's a wee 16-year-old at the microphone. His voice was on pitch the whole way through, although his was definitely a vanilla version of the R&B classic. In fact, Simon said it was "a little like a cupcake" compared to a performance like Lee's.
In case you were busy watching Idol, check out who was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars right here! (Hint: It's not who you think it was...)