The solo performances Tuesday night on American Idol’s homage to songs from the Cinema were a mixed bag, to be sure. The rigors of the competition are really starting to bear, and some contestants managed to “up the ante” as admonished by mentor Jaimie Foxx, who made them earn either Artist or Contestant T-shirts based on their efforts, while others fell into cruise control. Two stellar duets, though, proved once and for all that every finalist left on the Idol stage is truly an artist.
I was worried for Lee Dewyze this week before he ever sang a note. First, his song choice, Seal’s Kiss From a Rose from Batman Forever, takes any singer up and down the scale and round and round, and I wasn’t certain the earnest rocker could tackle it. When Jaimie Foxx requested that Lee sing the song ” into his eyes, yet over him”, validly demonstrating that a true performer does both, Dewyze was visibly shaken. To his credit, he gave the performance all he had, but for once, his voice could not deliver at those top ranges, and the nerves returned a bit as he ventured so far away from his familiar.
Michael Lynche took a delicate gospel turn with Michael Jackson’s Will You Be There from Free Willy. Quite honestly, I felt sorry for Michael because of the movie featuring the song. Simon Cowell lost it when he was told it was a story about a whale, and I don’t think Michael would have been so critiqued if the song had been featured in a Oscar-winning love story with human leads! Michael feels every note he sings, and while this may not have been his best night, he still deserves to be around.
Then came the first duet, Falling Slowly, from the film Once. Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze sang with absolute ease and artistry, feeling each other, taking cues from one another’s inflections and glances, as though they had performed the song a thousand times! Their chemistry was evident and completely unforced, and I not only wanted to vote for the song, I wanted to vote for both of them, and go out and buy the song tomorrow! Instincts like that cannot be taught, and seeing performances like theirs is a wonder.
Casey James impressed me, too, with his bold twist to Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate. The original version became something of an anthem against upper-class mentalities and values, but Casey’s quiet accompaniment on mandolin, surrounding subdued vocals, made the song personal, sang to someone, and created something uniquely different! Of course, the song choice was dissected mercilessly by Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, but Kara Dioguardi and Casey managed to stay focused on the performance!
Crystal Bowersox indisputably put herself back on the pinnacle of the competition with her stripped down rendition of I’m Alright, Kenny Loggins timeless, quirky tune from Caddyshack. She might have looked a little more like a torch singer in her short black dress, but her passion and raspy inflection took her right back to barefoot and jeans ala Janice or Bonnie Raitt. She did something I thought was impossible, She took that fun, rompy song everyone thinks he or she knows and made the words matter, so that you realize the song has something to say beyond making Gophers dance! Jaime Foxx told her that when her eyes looked out, she went from singing to testifying. She testified again to her artistry, and the judges caught the fire!
Think two guys with guitars can’t be romantic? Casey James and Michael Lynche ended the night with another masterful duet, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, from Don Juan DiMarco. The vocals were rich, sultry, and still subtle, and backed with impeccable Latin touches on James’ guitar interludes. Another stunning duet that could make it on charts next week if it was out there.
Someone will have to leave the show’s stage after tomorrow night, but careers are just beginning!
Sources: American Idol telecast, May 11, 2010.