The top four of season nine’s American Idol performed songs from the movies, with help from mentor Jamie Foxx, who mentored last year during Rat Pack week. He hit upon a new way to assess their performances, giving them either a “contestant” or an “artist” T-shirt. Those who managed to do something beyond a standard performance would receive an “artist” shirt.
This week, the Idols would also be pairing up for duets, a tradition which started last year as a way to fill up an hour. I guess it’s easier to squeeze six songs into an hour than it would be eight, with each contestant singing a second song.
Starting off the evening was Lee Dewyze, doing “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal from Batman 4. During rehearsal, Jamie got right in his face but ended up giving him the “artist” shirt. In the initial verse, wearing a plaid shirt and faded jeans, Lee was off on some notes. In addition to his guitar (which again was mixed so you could barely hear it), he was accompanied by the band. Either the trumpet was off or he was during the bridge. I thought it was strange he chose this song, because Seal is a very different singer from what Lee normally does well.
Randy Jackson, like Jamie, said he’s also looking for an artist. “For me, you did nothing with that song.” He said it was just OK and pitchy in spots. He told Lee, “You’re the rocker; be who you are.” Ellen DeGeneres agreed that there could have been more done with the song. She said, though, “You’re so good, and you sang that so well. I love it.” Kara DioGuardi said that this is one of the most difficult songs to sing, and with the arrangement the way it was, he got lost and “had some out of tune issues.” She still thought he’s great. Simon Cowell agreed with Randy, “That was verging on… karaoke, i.e. trying too hard to sound like the original. If you’re choosing the T-shirt, it’s got to be a ‘contestant’ that time.”
Afterward, host Ryan Seacrest asked Lee how he felt about his song choice. Lee said he feels good about it.
Michael Lynche told Ryan in an interview that he’s had a goal of getting into the top three since last year. He had chosen “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson from Free Willy. During rehearsal, Jamie said that Michael seemed a little worried about whether he should be here. To loosen him up, he had him dance. He tried to give Mike the “contestant” shirt, because he didn’t know the song yet, but Big Mike refused to take it. He began standing on stage, bathed in blue light and wearing a black leather jacket, black T-shirt, dark jeans, and his dog tags. The song started out too low for him, but it was a soulful song, right in his wheelhouse. Background singers, who accompanied him onstage, came down the steps. He was better after the key change, with a very good sustained note. If viewers were only comparing vocal performances, they would side with him over Lee’s performance.
Randy said this song is a cool song by the late, great Michael Jackson, but he “didn’t love it for you,” because “you’re an R&B dude.” Um… Michael Jackson’s not R&B enough? He thought Mike’s rendition “didn’t really take off.” Ellen said, “You can’t go wrong with the sound of a choir behind you” but said that “your goal should be to win, not to get into the top 3.” She said that he’s consistently good but it was “a little predictable.” Kara compared it to two better performances by Michael this season, saying, “I want goosebumps again.” She thought he played it safe. Simon said he has no idea what Free Willy is, and after being told, he said he can’t connect a whale called Willy and what you just did.” He tacked on a compliment: “At least you gave it 100 percent.”
For the first duet of the evening, Lee and Crystal Bowersox performed “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová from the film Once, both of them playing guitar. Lee wore a chocolate brown leather jacket and jeans while Crystal wore a black tank top and jeans. They had good chemistry onstage, looking at each other fondly as they sang, their voices blending very well (although listening to it again this morning, not as well as it seemed live the night before; Lee is certainly benefitting from this duo). Lee seemed to come alive more than he normally does onstage, and Crystal was smiling brightly. This version of the song will probably be compared to Kris Allen’s rendition last year, but I think it holds up.
Randy said it was “a great song by two great singers” and “could be a hit right now.” Ellen gushed, “You’re like the new Captain and Tennille. That was great.” Kara called it “one of my favorite moments of the entire season.” She loved the way they interacted, “the chemistry and support.” The performance, she thought, “brought out the best in both of you.” Simon said, succinctly, “I don’t know if I’d call that a good song. I would call that a fantastic song.”
Ryan asked them what was it like looking into each other’s eyes while they were singing. Crystal said that, at first, they were just trying not to chuckle. Lee added that, after they practiced, it got easier. Then, Crystal volunteered the information that “Lee is my musical crush.” She had told him this at the Chicago auditions. And thus, Crystal might have singlehandedly put Lee in the top three.
Casey James had selected “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkle from The Graduate. Jamie told him to seduce him, because he thought Casey wasn’t focusing, but he still gave him an “artist” shirt. Casey performed on a small stage in the audience, sitting down and playing a mandolin, clad in a light blue denim shirt with his hair down. Hmm. Trying to channel season 7 finalist Jason Castro? After Jamie’s advice to seduce the audience, I thought it was odd that Casey didn’t look at the camera, where his potential voters were watching. His voice is pretty, but I’m not sure this was the right choice for him.
Randy asked Casey why he chose that song, and when Casey simply answered, “A lot of things,” Randy cleared his throat and pointed at Kara, who has been picked on by the other judges ever since admitting that she thought Casey was cute. Randy thought that Casey sounded cool but thought he should have changed more with the arrangement. Ellen joked that she wished “they would have given you a big-boy guitar.” Casey said, “This is what a guitar looks like on Mike.” Ellen also wished he would have gone further in changing it up. “I’ll turn it over to Mrs. Robinson,” she said. Kara said that she felt “this is you fighting to stay in the competition. This is where you’re not comfortable, up front, connecting to the song. For me, this was actually a good choice.” Simon asked what the film is about. (Maybe for the younger viewers’ benefit?) Kara told him it’s about an older woman with a younger guy. Simon didn’t think “the song or the performance had the substance required on this important night for you.” He called it a little bit lazy and thought Casey could have made more of an impact.
Taking the stage with the last solo performance of the evening was Crystal Bowersox, who went with “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins from Caddyshack. Jamie said that Crystal has to not be intimidated: “Raise those blue eyes up and let people see that you’re all right. It’s not just a song; it’s a testimony.” He gave her the artist shirt. Wearing a black dress with short black boots (a tribute to Siobhan Magnus?), Crystal played guitar and was joined onstage by a percussionist. The lyrics seemed to fit her very well, especially the line, “I do what I like.” It was a great song for her, which she infused with a little gospel/blues quality. It was also more upbeat than previous offerings by her fellow Top 4, which made it stand out.
Randy said, “You are definitely an artist.” He loved that she switched it up. It “wasn’t my favorite performance,” but he thought she did a nice job. Ellen joked, “That performance, I would say, just got Crystalized.” She thought Crystal took the song and made it better. Kara agreed with Ellen about the arrangement and agreed with Randy that Crystal is an artist. Simon decided not to ask what that movie’s about (Seriously? Has he never watched a movie?) He declared, “After that performance, you, Crystal, are back in the game.”
Ryan said his only issue with the performance was Tony’s rhythm, referring to Crystal’s boyfriend, who had apparently been dancing in the audience. Crystal said that Tony “has amazing pants” (American flag pants). Cute.
The final performance of the evening was a duet, with Casey and Mike singing “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” by Bryan Adams from Don Juan De Marco, both wearing black suits with black shirts, Casey’s hair pulled back. They also both played guitar. For the first part of the song, they each sang solos, and then they finally looked at each other when they started to harmonize. They were much better together than when they were singing separately, but their harmony on the high note sounded off.
Randy thought the guitar playing was excellent but the vocals started off rough. Ellen’s only response: “Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I have loved a woman.” Kara thought “the duets tonight were incredible,” better than all of the solo performances. Simon agreed: “I think we should give Jamie’s ‘artist’ T-shirts to the duets tonight,” which he thought were a million times better then the solo performances.
Ryan asked Jamie what he thought of the night, and Jamie said it was a great night. He wished them all luck and advised them that next week was the time to turn from a caterpillar to a butterfly.
Kudos to Crystal for her solo performance and to Crystal and Lee for their duet. A nod to Michael and Casey for their duet.
We’re down to only four, so who will be in the bottom two and who will be heading home? I believe that Lee deserves to be in the bottom two, but I think that his duet with Crystal will render him safe, producing a bottom two of Casey and Mike. Which one of them will go home? Will viewers prefer Casey’s relatively bland but sweet performance of “Mrs. Robinson” or Mike’s gospel-tinged Michael Jackson tune? Will Casey earn extra points for his exceptional guitar work on their duet? Or will viewers try to give Mike his wish of making it into the top three? If it were my choice, they’d both be there and Lee would go home, but if America doesn’t side with me, I think that Big Mike is probably in the most danger.