We’re whittling down the contestants as we approach the final weeks of American Idol Season 9. Only four contestants remain and we’re down to the last three weeks of Simon Cowell’s straight-forward brutality on the show that made him a household name. What will we do without him?
Jamie Fox reprised his role as mentor this week as the final four choose movie songs to solidify their spot in the final showdown. So, how did they do? Let’s take a look…
Lee Dewyze opened up the show with “Kissed by a Rose” from Batman Returns made famous by Seal. I was very surprised to hear nothing spectacular from this soulful rocker who’s been wowing us for weeks. He had come so far in the competition, garnering new confidence with each week’s performance. But this week’s performance was very lackluster. Even Simon brought back the word, “karaoke” which hadn’t been uttered in a while. It was a huge step backwards with this lazy, boring performance. He was even, dare I say, “pitchy” in several spots. It might have helped him if he had done a slightly slower version, giving him a chance to keep up with the song. But alas, he didn’t. And it was just not there.
Big Mike Lynche was having trouble with his song choice even while Jamie Fox was mentoring. He couldn’t remember words, he was getting bogged down with pressures of staying in the competition and who knows what all else was going through his mind (maybe Jamie Fox’s face being mere inches away from his could have been on his mind.) But when Mike hit the stage with his version of Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There?” from the Free Willy soundtrack, he delivered…a boring, “predictable” performance. Randy said it best, “I don’t know what’s really going on here tonight…” and neither did anyone else. With the first two contestants already through their solo performances, it was looking to be one really weak night.
And the fact that Simon seems to have already checked out of the show, offering very little actual advice to the contestants, wasn’t making things look much better. Instead of critiquing the young artists, he ventured off on some weird tangents about the movies the songs were taken from, like the very awkward discussion of “willies” after Mike’s performance and why everyone everyone was referencing Kara after Casey’s serenade from The Graduate.
But then, the duets began and the whole night changed. First up on duet night were Lee and Crystal performing “Falling Slowly” from the musical Once. The two brandished their acoustic guitars and strummed an amazing duet, their voices blending perfectly onstage. They performed facing each other instead of the audience which created an extra benefit – it added a connection between them while also making it more honest to the listener. The judges all praised their performance of this sweet love song that hit home with just the perfect harmony. As a matter of fact, the duets were the pinnacle of the night, saving us all from an otherwise dreary night of Idol doldrums.
Casey James’ version of “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate was actually really nice and well-chosen. He sat strumming a mandolin and gently delivered a slower, groovier version of the song and it was like he was serenading lonely, dreamy housewives all across America. With all the hub-bub afterwards, projected from Randy especially, it’s was pretty obvious to everyone Casey was reaching out to those who love him…the older women, including Kara. She took a few jibes from the other judges, but it looks like Casey’s desperately trying to fight his way into the final showdown at this point. The judges weren’t excited about his performance, but I bet there are a lot of women out there who were.
That brings us to the show-stopper of the night – MamaSox herself. Crystal broke a little more out of her comfort zone this week and decided, surprisingly, on the Caddyshack theme from Kenny Loggins, “I’m Alright.” She added a snazzy percussion group and half way through the song broke it down to halftime, which gave it a wonderful new groove. She took the song, claimed it and made it her own, as is in her very nature to do. As Ellen and Kara noted, Crystal “took the song and made it better.” I agree. I love that song, but I really dug Crystal’s retooling of it, too. Not only was the arrangement fun and exciting, but she belted out the lyrics as if they were, as Jamie Fox convinced her, “a testimony.” She wasn’t just singing this song, she was letting everyone know that she’s just fine and she’s alright. She testified.
The last of the duets came from Casey and Mike performing Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” from the movie, Don Juan DeMarco. I absolutely love this song – it’s one of my favorite Bryan Adams songs of all time. One of the things I love most about it is the beautiful Spanish-influenced guitar strumming in it. And these two gentlemen were definitely up to the guitar-strumming task. Kudos to Casey for his exceptional skills on the strings. These two men with their soft, soulful conviction and balladry really took this song to the level it deserved. The bluesy style of Casey with the soulful sound of Mike’s voice, melted beautifully together. This was definitely a highlight in the evening. And Kara exclaimed, “The duets tonight were incredible – they were better than all of the solo performances,” which was dead on. Simon agreed that the duets definitely stole the show.
And that’s the way the night ended. With only four contestants, all of whom could probably go on to have brilliant careers it’s hard to pick which one will go home. Unfortunately, I think it will be Big Mike. Though he’s been stronger performance-wise in the competition, I think Casey’s got those housewives right where he wants them – on the phone voting. As we saw last week, Casey can have a total nose-dive bomber of a performance and still not end up in the bottom two. How else can you explain that? So, tune in tomorrow to see if I’ve predicted correctly.