This week American Idol featured country superstar Shania Twain. Known for her rare ability to succeed in multiple genres, the singer-songwriter seemed a good fit to mentor the final six. I’ve been a Shania Twain fan since early in her career. So I was especially interested in this episode.
This week’s elimination night had Soibhan, Michael and Casey in the bottom three. In the end, it was Soibhan who had to say goodbye. It was an emotional end to the evening for her, but she did pull it together for her final song.
To be honest, I was less than impressed by this week’s performances. I’m sure there are plenty of viewers that would disagree with me, but I was surprised at some of the positive comments given by the judges.
Crystal Gets Mixed Reviews With “No One Needs to Know”
Crystal showed a different side singing Shania’s hit “No One Needs to Know.” The 24 year old mom said she chose it in part to give her boyfriend a hint. Later Ryan Seacrest introduced Crystal’s boyfriend (who was in the audience) and joked, “No pressure now, right?”
All four judges said Crystal is always good, but this wasn’t their favorite performance from her. Randy liked seeing her try new things and Ellen said, “It wasn’t my favorite either, but that’s like telling me to pick my least favorite color of the rainbow. You’re brilliant and always going to be good.” Simon, however, likened it to a coffee house performance. Still, Crystal remains head and shoulders above the rest no matter what she sings.
Lee DeWyze Makes “You’re Still The One” His Own
Lee, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, did well at making this song believable from a guy’s perspective. Randy said Lee found his “sweet spot.” Ellen loved it and commended his ability to make each song sound like his own, which I think is valid. Kara praised the performance as well. She said she wasn’t sure if he really connected to the “love” part of the song, but that it was good to see him crack a few more smiles. Simon said he chose “the perfect song.”
Michael Lynche Shows Emotion With “It Only Hurts When I Breathe”
After Michael’s emotional ballad, the camera on Shania revealed misty eyes from the proud songwriter. Randy thought Michael was “in the zone.” Ellen compared the performance to Luther Vandross. Kara praised his ability to connect and feel the emotion. Simon thought Ellen’s comparison was spot on but then gave the confusing critique that the performance was “a bit wet.” He later explained it was a little too “musical theater and feminine” for him.
Personally, I thought he did really well. The vocals may have been spotty at times, but the emotion added a lot to the performance. Viewers, however, gave mixed reviews.
Casey James Goes Acoustic With “Don’t”
Casey went with an acoustic guitar and focused more on the singing portion rather than the guitar licks we usually see from him. In rehearsal Shania felt he was missing some confidence, which makes sense after the rough reviews last week and landing in the bottom three.
Randy called it “one of the best Casey James performances ever.” Simon said it seems like “last week was a much-needed wake up call” and that it was his best performance. I don’t know if I would call it his best performance. But I liked seeing this new side of him.
Aaron Kelly Takes On “You’ve Got a Way”
Shania worked with Aaron on his confidence, and it seemed to help. This is a very difficult song for any 17 year old to take on both vocally and emotionally. Randy called it a “really good” performance and said Aaron fits well in the country genre. Kara commended the fact that he changed the words “when we make love”, a choice that did make it more suitable for his age. Simon said after struggling for the last few weeks, tonight Aaron “was like a different artist and did really well.”
Soibhan Magnus Sings “Any Man of Mine”
I was surprised by the judges’ comments for this performance. Randy loved the whole thing and Ellen called it “fantastic.” Kara said, “Soibhan’s back!” Simon said the song choice was perfect but the screaming at the end was a little much and sounded like she “was giving birth” but that overall it was great.
For me, several things were off, the first being timing and tempo. When you add extra inflection to the lyrics it takes longer to get the words out, so you have to slow the music down a bit in order for the singer and band to match up. It seemed like Soibhan’s tempo was always a little behind the band and it sounded odd to me.
She looked like she was having fun but seemed to struggle as well. And I’m starting to agree with Simon. I get that those loud, high notes are her trademark. But it didn’t seem to fit this particular song very well. I like Soibhan but it seems her performances have fallen off, so I wasn’t surprised when she ended up going home.
Elimination night was pretty lackluster in my opinion. But that’s usually the case when Idol is trying to fill time while dragging out the elimination reveal as long as possible. Guest performers included Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Shakira and Sons of Sylvia, along with visits from Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas. By the way, was the whole vampire thing just downright creepy to anyone else?
With the exception of Crystal (and maybe Lee on a really good night) this season’s top group of finalists just doesn’t stand out all that much to me. As much as I hate to say it, I’m starting agree with Entertainment Weekly writer Michael Slezak when he said season 9 has “too much style and not enough substance.” Speaking of which, too bad Tim Urban is gone. It would have at least been entertaining to see him try a Shania Twain song.
American Idol, 20th Century Fox
Entertainment Weekly, Michael Slezak