Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: casey james

Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox Will Be in “American Idol” Finals

images41“American Idol” on Wednesday, May 19, 2010, gave Casey James his walking papers and promoted the class of 2010: Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze. The strike-out took 47 million votes, a season record. Watching the strike-out from seats in the front row of the audience were the other contestants, including Andrew Garcia, Big Mike Lynche, Tim Urban and Katie Stevens.

Contestants, in pre-results interviews, pronounced the experience of visiting their hometowns “surreal,” Lee said the experience had “made me a better person.” Crystal (who was hospitalized once during the show’s run with problems from her diabetes) thanked the program for medical monitoring that had made her the healthiest  she’s ever been. “Thank the Lord for this show.  I would never have the kind of care that I have now,” without her participation on “American Idol.” Crystal also said,  “It’s being pushed to work harder than you ever have in your life.” All three contestants bemoaned the loss of a private life in the non-stop madcap rush that is “American Idol.”

Crystal said, “I’m cool with whatever happens, but I would love to win.”  Casey commented on the 150 text messages daily that he cannot respond to because of the busy schedule on “Idol.” Words like “awesome” and “helpful” were bandied about.

There was film from the visits to the contestants’ hometowns. Casey revisited Millsap High School in Cool, Texas and said, “It’s a dream come true for me. For my hometown, to be able to share it with me is unbelievable.” Casey also visited Texas Health Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, including Dr. Correye Culligan, the orthopedic surgeon who, he said, saved his life after he was in an accident. Richardson, Texas, with mother Debra James in tow was next.

Blogger celebrity wannabe Perez Hilton talked to Ryan Seacrest and introduced a performer named Travis Garland, someone he found on the Internet,  who subsequently performed and was underwhelming.

Following Casey’s visit home, Crystal visited northwest Ohio, an area that has had unemployment as high as 19%.  We didn’t get to see the new sign that her hometown of 80 has put up, which proclaims “Home of Crystal Bowersox,” but we saw her father, clad in a leather vest with multiple buttons. Crystal was shown driving down the highway to Toledo, where she performed.

Lee’s visit to Mt. Prospect, Illinois showed a doting middle-class Mom and Dad as he revisited the paint store where he used to work and teared up a lot. At one point, Lee said, “This is the best day of my life.  This is the absolute best day of my life.” He also said, in an almost Rocky-esque tone of voice, “I’m gonna’ try to win this thing, all right.” He proclaimed the experience of going home, “It’s amazing. Insane. Crazy. Awesome.”

Justin Bieber, the YouTube-driven sensation from Canada, performed next (“You smile/I smile”) and took over the drums at one point. Bieber is not much of a drummer. His almost-feminine look (especially the hair) is probably no different than the androgynous days of the young (pre nose jobs) Michael Jackson and Leif Garrett. Young girls like singers who present no overt sexual threat. A young Elvis was sexy. A young Justin Bieber is not. He is just “cute” and non-threatening and seems to have a very high opinion of himself, buoyed by adoring female fans. It will be interesting to see what happens when he outgrows the haircut.

Following the performance by new teen sensation Justin Bieber, the announcement was made that Lee was safe, and then that Crystal was safe, as well. (She kept asking Ryan Seacrest, “Am I safe?” to the point of reminding me of that old movie “Marathon Man.”) After the two best singers were promoted to the Finale we all hoped would emerge, Crystal jumped on Lee in happiness, while Casey reprised his performance of the John Mayer song with the refrain “Fathers be good to your daughters.” Film followed of Casey’s journey through “American Idol,” complete with his early removal of his shirt at Kara’s suggestion during try-outs, Simon’s calling him “Goldilocks” and the appellations “eye candy and ear candy” during judging.

America did the right thing on “American Idol” this year. The two best singers, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, compete for the “American Idol” crown next week. Momentum seems to be swinging Lee’s way, but Crystal (like Melinda Dolittle before her) has been reliable, dependable and downright outstanding every time she steps onstage, so stay tuned for further developments.

“American Idol:” May 18, 2010 with Three Left

images4Tuesday night’s “American Idol” show highlighted what most discerning viewers have known for some time: the 2 best contestants are Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox. This does not come as a News Flash for anyone who has been reading my opinions since January. (At one point, I suggested a cage match with the 5 best singers locked together in mortal combat).

I have said for some time that Casey James was (probably) going to make it to the top three, which he has, but not because he’s such a great singer. He’s not. He’s cute. He plays a mean guitar. He’s tall, blonde and handsome. He’s charming. The best singer? You have your favorite; I have mine. But there’s little dispute that it’s either Lee or Crystal and most of us have known it for months.

So, how did tonight’s hometown visits go? There was precious little film to really know, but it’s safe to say that the best singing this night was still by the 2 leaders. The judges seemed to think that Lee had bested Crystal as the contestants sang one song they had chosen and one that had been chosen for them by one of the judges.

Casey started off the night and the reaction to his choice, “It’s All Right By Me” was lukewarm. Randy said it best, “That song was just kind of all right.  It didn’t quite work for me.” Ellen agreed with Randy, pointing out that tonight was “Do or die” and saying, “I wish you would have brought it.”  Kara felt that picking a song no one knew was a mistake. By the time they got to Simon, at the end of the judges’ table, he said, “This isn’t going great, is it, Casey?” Simon went on to say, “That song will leave no lasting impression.  I think that was a dud song choice.” He also compared the performance to busking on a subway platform.

Contestant number two was Crystal Bowersox, who chose “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge.  Randy said, “I did not love the arrangement. What I did like was your vocal.  It all worked in the end.”  Ellen said, “Good song choice.  Melissa would be very proud of you.   Kara, while hoping for “a moment” that she hadn’t heard said, “It was still a good vocal.”  Simon said, “From the very first, you haven’t compromised yourself as an artist, and I think you probably made the right choice (with that song.).”

Lee’s first song selection, singing third, was “A Simple Man.” Randy found it to be a brilliant song choice, saying that he had been waiting for one of the contestants to “throw it down.”  Ellen said, “You took this thing seriously,” and commented that he had gone from a lamb to a gazelle throughout the competition.  Kara said, “You showed us everything you’ve got.  Round one goes to Lee.”  Simon, after asking why Lee had selected the song, said, “You were absolutely on the money with that song choice.  You just crushed the other two.”

The second song the contestants sang was picked for them and Casey was assigned to sing John Mayer’s “Daughters.” Randy said, “This fits you like a glove.”  Ellen said, “I thought that was beautiful for you.”  Kara said, “This showed the more artistic side of you.”  Simon, while acknowledging that it was ‘a much, much better song choice” than the first one that Casey had selected for himself thought that it was “ a bit of a limp arrangement.  You sounded very very good on it.  That song didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor.”  There was a bit of a discussion, at this point, amongst Simon, Kara and Randy about the sort of song that Casey had been assigned, with Randy and Kara pointing out that the song is a quiet sort of song.

Crystal sang next, singing “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney, which was selected for her by Ellen.  Her rendition was Janis Joplin-ish, as she looked the best she has all season in black boots and a cleverly designed black outfit with a silver slimming design at the waist. She did a great job.  I agreed with the sign that said, “Crystal:  You Shine.”  Randy said, “Great song. Great vocals.” Ellen said, “I couldn’t have asked for more.  You did it.”  Kara said, “You really pushed.  You did a lot of risky things and I think it paid off.”  Simon thought that Crystal had shown “soul” and said, “You may be thanking Ellen next week for putting you in the finals.”

Last up was Lee DeWyze singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, a song that was song earlier in the season by Tim Urban.  The song was picked for Lee by Simon.  Randy said, “I’ve been waiting all season to see who’s in it to win it.” He called the song, “Your biggest moment,” saying “That was unbelievable, dude.”  Ellen said, “That was stunning.”   Kara said, “You are what this show is all about.  You just owned the entire night.”  Simon said he was, “Very, very very proud of you.  Most important, tonight, with that performance, you proved that you are a fantastic singer and a great person.”

Stay tuned for the final two to be announced on tomorrow night’s show.

Big Mike Lynche Is Going Home to Florida After May 12th Elimination on “American Idol”

He didn’t quite make it into Win, Place or Show. He finished fourth, but, considering that rumors abounded, early on, that he was going to be kicked off because his dad spilled the beans to the press (his mom works for the Orlando newspaper) that he was in the Top 24, (when all contestants sign agreements not to disclose such things), and considering the fact that 5 weeks ago the viewers voted him off but the judges saved him, Michael Lynche did pretty well….better than his brother, who finished high in the pack one previous year, I’m told. Big Mike almost made it into the Top Three, the ones whose home towns are visited by the “American Idol” cameras, and he was definitely a far better singer than Casey James, who was kept, instead.

Five weeks ago Big Mike Lynche was saved from elimination on “American Idol” by the one-time use of the Judges’ save. Was it any wonder, then, that he was the one eliminated on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by the audience? Yes and no.

 I’ve predicted for some time that American Idol’s Top Three were likely to be Crystal, Lee and Casey, but I also felt that Mighty Casey Had Struck Out after Sinatra night. It was not his singing prowess that kept him in the competition past that fateful night (Aaron Kelly was eliminated, instead).  It was his “total package” good looks, guitar playing prowess, and the teen-aged girls voting from home.

 This night Ryan Seacrest announced that a season high of 37 million votes was cast. Fantasia sang (wearing what appeared to be tights that you could go scuba diving in.) There was a Ford Fiesta commercial involving the remaining four contestants. (The pushing of the Prius-like start button on the car was repeated at least three times in the short commercial.)  The contestants were all asked about their desires, at this point, and Big Mike said that he wanted to get home to his puppy, while Crystal said she would like to go home to Ohio to play with Frankie May, her bass player.  Lee said, “I want that to be me,” of winning and Casey said, “Hearin’ a bunch of people saying my name would be nice.” (If so, Lee had a chorus of “I love you, Lee” girls in the crowd, so he realized Casey’s dream.)

 Daughtry performed their song “September” and mused on his success, despite not winning the crown the year he appeared on “Idol” (Kat won).  He said, of performing with his own band, “Daughtry,” “It doesn’t get old.  It’s an amazing feeling every night.”  Of the song “September” that his band performed he said it had to do with his childhood.  “I grew up in a small town of 100 people.  It’s about the simplicity of my childhood and how it made me who I am.”  Randy commented, “I see that Chris is livin’ the dream.  It feels good for us (the judges). I love it.” Chris Daughtry’s advice to the remaining contestants?  “Stay hungry and stick with what’s true to you.”

 After Daughtry, Bon Jovi took the stage and performed a song “Superman Tonight.” (Who’s gonna’ love you when you turn out the light. I wish that I could be your Superman tonight.”) The song sounded like a hit, to me, and I was particularly glad, since I have tickets to see Bon Jovi at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 30th.  When asked about their longevity and success, Jon Bon Jovi said, “Hard work and good luck.  We’ve crossed the generations now, at this point.” (Anyone who has seen the old posters of Jon Bon Jovi with the big hair of the ‘80s can testify to that.)

 And then there were 3:  Crystal, Lee and Casey.  Michael Lynche said, “It’s been unbelievable.  I just sit here right now and I think, I wasn’t even supposed to be here (referencing his “save” by the judges 5 weeks ago).  “I came to ‘American Idol’ to take my family’s life to another level.”

Then it was time for Big Mike to sing his last song (which he performed brilliantly) and for the selected film clips, in which Simon said, “The best performance we’ve had on these live shows so far,” and Kara urged him, “Do not stop.  Keep going.  Write great songs.  Record great songs.  Go out and keep gigging, ‘because you’ve got it in you.”

 Next week, the show will visit the hometowns of Crystal, Lee and Casey, which, if memory serves, are a town so small (80 people) in Ohio that it had no town sign until Crystal made it this far on “American Idol.” (Now, the sign says, “Home of Crystal Bowersox”); Mt. Prospect, a Chicago suburb; and Cool, TX.

“American Idol,” May 11th: Duets Are Dynamite!

Simon Cowell commented on Tuesday, May 11th’s “American Idol” that the duets were “one million times better than the solo performances.” Simon, who is British, knew very few of the movies, which was unfortunate, as the songs this night were from the movies and apparently Simon is either not that great a movie fan or has seen only British films. The other amusing part of tonight’s singing competition was Ellen DeGeneres’ response to the song “Have You Ever Really, Really Loved A Woman?” (from Don Juan DeMarco), which elicited guffaws from Simon and laughs from all others.

Considering how far along in the competition “American Idol” is, the performances, by and large, were really lackluster. Some of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of fairly lame song selections…or, in Lee DeWyze’s case, really difficult ones.

Lee started the evening off on Songs from the Movies night singing Seal’s Kiss from a Rose, which is a tough song to sing well under any circumstances.

Randy said, “For me, you did nothing with that song. It was just okay.  It didn’t work for me.” Randy suggested that a better song choice might have been something like Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” Ellen said, “You’re so good. I loved it,” but she, too, seemed underwhelmed.  Kara, after talking about some out-of-tune issues, said, “You are still great.” Simon agreed with Randy, called the song “verging on karaoke” and said, “If you’re choosing the T-shirts, you’ve gotta’ take the one that says ‘Contestant.’”

That last remark was a reference to the night’s mentor, Jamie Foxx, who had brought black tee shirts, some of which said “Artist” and some of which said “Contestant.”

Following Lee came Big Michael Lynche of St. Petersburg, Florida.  Prior to his performance, Jamie Foxx said, “Once he lets go, I think that’s when he’s really gonna’ shine.” Earlier, Jamie had said, “Music is everything.  It really is the soundtrack of our lives.” Big Mike’s remarks from the judges were: Randy – “Once again, I didn’t love this. You’re a rhythm and blues kind of guy, but it was just all right. It started out kind of wrong.”  Ellen said, of Mike’s performance, “You are consistently good but a little bit predictable.”  Kara said, “I want to have goosebumps. I didn’t feel that from you.” Simon became very confused about the movie from which the song was taken (Free Willy) and finally commented, “At least you gave it 100% and I kind of felt that you meant it.”

After Mike’s performance, Crystal and Lee sang together. All the judges loved the duets. Randy said, “A great song by two great singers.  That’s how you do it!”  Ellen said, “You’re like the new Captain and Tennille. God, that was great!”  Kara called it, “One of my favorite moments of the season.”  Simon said, “Not a good song: a fantastic song.”

Casey James performed next and selected the theme song from The Graduate, “Mrs. Robinson.” It was an odd choice. Randy called it “curious.”  Ellen made a humorous comment about the small guitar Casey accompanied himself with saying that she wished they had given him “ a big boy guitar.”   Simon said, “That song was not the substance I expected from you. It was a little bit lazy.  I think you could have made more of an impact.  I think there have been some very strange song choice tonight and that was one of them.” (Hear! Hear!)

Since none of the first three  had done that well, Crystal Bowersox’s rendition of “I’m All Right” was a better performance than any sung by the men.  Randy said, “You are definitely an artist.  Nice job.” Ellen said that she had “taken that song and made it better,” something she called “crystallizing it.”  Kara echoed Randy’s comments about Crystal’s being an “artist.”  Simon said, “You, Crystal, are back in the game after that performance.”

The final performance of the night was the duet by Big Mike and Casey and the song’s title (“Have You Ever Really, Really Loved A Woman?”) brought the funny remark, from Ellen, “As a matter of fact, yes, I have loved a woman.”  Randy said, “Loved the guitar playing. You guys sounded really good.”  Kara said, “The duets were better than the solo performances.”  Simon agreed and was the one articulating the idea that the duets were “one million times better than the solo performances.”

Jamie Foxx urged all the contestants to change from “caterpillar to butterfly” as they face the elimination of one contestant tomorrow night. Big Mike and Casey are the most vulnerable, as they have been all along. Stay tuned for further developments tomorrow night.

Aaron Kelly Sent Home; Casey James Escapes “A.I.” Elimination

Aaron-KellyAt the top of the “American Idol” elimination show of May 4, 2010, Harry Connick, Jr., said, “Music has to be truthful, to me, and that’s what this show is about.” Connick was the mentor this week, and he did a great job. He also sang “And I Love Her” on this night’s show, nattily attired in a black-on-black ensemble, after mugging for the cameras and saying, “It’s not about them, it’s about me.”  At one point, still horsing around, Connick said, “Try to keep it on me.” A funny guy. He also worked in a joke, saying, “It’s been a great honor to be a part of ‘American Idol’ and to work with the judges, with the exception of Ellen.”

Another amusing piece of film showed Connick chatting with young Aaron Kelly and asking him how he liked singing with a three-piece combo, including a clarinet, backing him. Aaron, of course, liked it and Connick said, “Well, don’t get used to it. I can afford it. Why? Because I’m extremely famous.”

Lady Gaga did one of her characteristic outrageous performances, with many half-dressed writhing male dancers in a sort of “Eve in the Garden of Eden” motif and then the top and bottom groups were announced, with Aaron Kelly and Mike Lynche the lowest vote-getters.

In light of the horrific performance turned in by Casey James on Tuesday night, it was surprising to see 17-year-old Aaron Kelly—a very likeable young performer who had done well on Tuesday night—be the one sent home this night. It was also surprising that Big Mike Lynche, who, arguably, performed better than anyone on Tuesday night (The judges were more sold on Lee DeWyze, but I would say it was very close.) was in the bottom two.

Having said that, I’ve been predicting that the good-looking Casey “had it all” as the package that “American Idol” likes to promote. Big Mike is…well…too big. Aaron was too young. Lee and Crystal remain the front-runners, and, apparently, my earlier predictions that Casey had the best chance of finishing in the Top Three was not that far off the mark.
But, for the record, based on his performance on Tuesday night, I still think that Mighty Casey struck out.

Siobhan Magnus, the “Quirky” One, Exits on “American Idol” on April 28, 2010

The elimination show of Wednesday, April 28, 2010, eliminated the only other female contestant still in the competition. This seems particularly odd, since, at the beginning of this year’s season of “American Idol,” the girls definitely seemed to be stronger than the boys. Siobhan Magnus was the voters’ victim this week, and the other two in the bottom three were Mike Lynche and, surprisingly, Casey James.

Siobhan has been one of the consistently most unusual contestants. Her singing style, her dress, her seeming indifference to Simon’s constant criticism of her final high notes—Siobhan just did not seem to care. She marched to a different drummer, and even her father said, in a quick video clip, that she was a very “different” girl. Simon said to her, early on, “You’re a funny little thing, aren’t you?” He was right, and it may have been this edginess that doomed Siobhan amongst mainstream America. After all, if you had to vote between a 17-year-old cutie who had just sung a hymn of praise to his Mom or for Siobhan, who hit a high note that made Simon say it “sounded as though someone were giving birth up there,” which would you pick?

I expressed concern for Big Mike and Siobhan in my Tuesday night comments, indicating that it was anybody’s guess who might go home on Wednesday. Unfortunately for the extremely talented tattooed lady, it was Siobhan of the big voice who bit the dust. Thirty-three million votes were cast, and Siobhan did not get enough of them.

The biggest surprise, to me, was that Casey James placed in the bottom three. He did his best job of the competition on Tuesday, and he seems to have the rock star persona and good looks that young girls would vote for. I was much more worried that Mike Lynche (who was already the lowest vote-getter on another night) would be sent home this time, with no judges’ “save” to rescue him.

The remaining contestants are Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, Casey James, Aaron Kelly and Mike Lynche, and that is the order I see them leaving in, more or less. It was gratifying that America did not penalize Crystal for her mediocre song choice, and Ellen DeGeneres, when asked, predicted that voters would forgive her the only “OK” choice she sang during country and western night.

Other performers on the show this night were Sons of Sylvia, who tour with Carrie Underwood and were introduced by her. The Sons of Sylvia (“Love Left to Lose”) were a group of dark-haired, think-faced, small, ferret-like young men, some with teased hair. Carrie Underwood has been touring with them since leaving “Idol” 5 years ago.

Also performing twice were Rascal Flatts, who performed solo once and then sang a song with Shakira, which seemed an odd pairing. The song Shakira sang and played harmonica on was her new one, “Gypsy.” She wore a long dress with a gold bodice and a long red skirt. Behind her, two shapely dancer/singers danced barefoot in form-fitting black dresses. Her advice for the “American Idol” contestants? “Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” (A presidential quote, she said).

Another performer this night with a big hit was Lady Antebellum singing their big hit ‘Need You Now.” They scored big on April 18 at the Country Music Awards

Notable quotes:  From Siobhan, before she delivered a spot-on rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “You Better Think:” “My baby sisters are my whole world.”(Odd, that. Siobhan’s of an age where you would think she would be thinking boyfriend or career or any of a number of other subjects as being “her whole world.”)  Randy said to her, as she exited the competition, “I think you have an amazing career in front of you. Do it!” Siobhan even hugged her nemesis, Simon, at the urging of Ryan Seacrest.

Some interesting bits in the show that didn’t involve singing were a behind-the-scenes tour of the recording studio where the new (and final) “Shrek” movie is being shot and the in-person appearances of two voices from that film series, Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz. (Ryan Seacrest has a small part in the latest film.)

Also, the obligatory commercial took the 6 remaining contestants into the woods and cast 5 of the 6 as vampires, with Big Mike Lynche their intended victim, who fends them off with a pizza that has “extra garlic.” The best vampire of the bunch was Siobhan, and now she’s gone.

Somehow, with that voice and her quirkiness, I think we’ll be hearing more from Siobhan Magnus in the years to come.

Next week, Aaron, Big Mike and Casey will be holding their breath, and I’m sure that neither Lee DeWyze nor Crystal Bowersox is feeling all that “safe.” The guest host next week for the songs of Sinatra is Harry Connick, Jr. With the remaining contestants, the best “fit” for Sinatra might be Lee DeWyze, but all will give his songs a shot.
Stay tuned for the final weeks of American Idol, with only 5 remaining contestants.

April 27, 2010 “American Idol” Reveals A Close Contest

images42“American Idol” night, Tuesday, April 27, 2010:  The show opens with Ryan Seacrest labeling the 6 remaining contestants as (variously) “a paint salesman,” “a glass blower,” “a high school student,” “a mother,” “a father,” and “a construction worker.” I wondered, as he branded Big Mike and Crystal as the father and mother, respectively, “Didn’t these people have jobs before this?” I’m pretty sure that Big Mike was referenced as being “a trainer” and one would think that Crystal also worked to support her son.

Seacrest next shared the amount raised by “Idol Gives Back” in its last show: “more than $45 million.” Some of you may remember that I decried the use of video footage of a dying pregnant woman (malaria) to elicit those donations. I guess the Powers-that-Be know their marketing ploys. Still bothers me, but whatever.

The mentor this night was Shania Twain and she was identified as, “She’s the one who made country pop” and “the biggest cross-over artist in history.” The additional nugget of information shared was that Shania’s song “Come On Over” was “the biggest seller by a woman in history.”  One of the Idol contestants was seen saying, “Shania’s the Queen of country music. She’s an icon.”

Shania Twain (whose birth name was Eilleen Regina Edwards, and who only changed her name to Shania in 1993-1994 after the Ojibwa word for “on my way”) also helped judge Idol auditions in Chicago, so she had met both Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox at that time.

The problem with tonight’s program was that everyone did a great job. The least well-received song was probably Crystal Bowersox’s, but Crystal has consistently been one of the two best performers. There was also a criticism (by Simon) of Big Mike Lynche’s rendering of the song he selected as “too feminine,” but I noticed what Ellen DeGeneres commented on. I’d left the room to get something from the refrigerator. When Michael Lynche sang “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing,” at first I thought I was listening to Luther Vandross, which is a huge compliment.

First performer of the night was Lee DeWyze and he sang “You’re Still the One.” It was the perfect song for Lee, as Simon noted during his remarks (“Absolutely the perfect song out of Shania’s catalogue.”) and Lee did well with it. Ellen also commented, “Every song you take, you make it your own. You couldn’t look cuter.”  Randy called the song, “One of my favorite songs of all time. Midway through, you found a way to make it your own.”  Ellen said, “Every song you take, you make it your own.”  So, Lee did quite well and looked as good as I’ve seen him look at any time, wearing a suit jacket and eschewing the “woodsman-fell-that-tree” look he sometimes adopts. His decision to sing quietly at the beginning with only piano back up was lauded by both Shania Twain and, the judges and the audience. For one, he didn’t seem to be hiding behind his guitar.

Second up was Michael Lynche and he, too, did a great job. Randy said, “You’re one of those guys who could sign the phone book and everybody would melt, but don’t take it for granted.” I was struck (as I mentioned above) at how much he sounded like Luther Vandross, if you were not looking at the screen while he sang. Randy said, “I think you’ve really found your zone.  You are really in the zone of who you are.  Very good,” Ellen said, “I felt like Luther Vandross was singing that song.  I thought it was beautiful.”  Kara felt that Mike had “connected” with the lyrics and called it a “great job.”  Simon was the only naysayer, commenting that it felt “a little bit girly for you,” and calling it “wet” and, “As though you were in a musical.” I understand Simon’s “girly” comment, but it is a comment that has applied throughout Big Mike’s time in the competition. I mean: come on…”Eleanor Rigby”?  Mike has primarily focused on singing sensitive songs that do display a softer, more feminine side. He can get away with this because…well, because he’s Big Mike. I really liked his performance this night, but I fear that, ultimately, Big Mike may lose out in this competition because he is not physically what the show seems to want to package. However, having said that, let’s not forget Reuben Stoddard. Only time (and America’s votes) will tell. It is a fact that, were it not for the judges’ save, Big Mike would have been gone a couple weeks back, so keep that in mind when trying to figure out who America is not voting for.

Next up was Casey James, who sang “Don’t”, which he described as “a singing song.”  All were unanimous in their praise of his efforts to give the audience something different.  Randy called it, “For me, this was one of the best Casey James performances ever.”  Ellen said, “You sang that like that’s really where you belong.  Your best to date.”  Kara said, “Good artists show it all. They show it all.  Vulnerable. Raw.  If you keep doing this, you’ll be at the front of this competition.”  Simon said, “I think this is probably your best performance to date.”  No way is the cute Casey going home. He should make it to at least the final three, especially if he continues to display this new sensitive Casey.

Crystal Bowersox followed Casey and sang a very country sounding song (“No One Needs to Know”) that had Randy comment, “I love you, and I’m happy someone is doing more of a country version of a song.”  Ellen said, “There’s nothin’ you can’t do.  It wasn’t my favorite performance.” (Translation: bad song choice.)  Kara said, “It’s impossible for you not to be good.  Bigger isn’t always better.” This caused some sly cracks by Simon to the effect, “Oh, I could get in so much trouble.”  What Simon did say was, “I thought it was limp.  It’s like when you’re in a coffee shop where they pay someone to sing to you and you don’t particularly want them to sing to you.  I didn’t feel any connection to the song.” And, with apologies to Shania sitting behind him in the audience, he said, “A forgettable song.” Unfortunately, all were right. I’m reminded of the season when, week after week, Melinda Dolittle delivered, but, ultimately, she did not win. Is Crystal the best-looking contestant? No. Is Crystal the most talented contestant? Arguably, yes. Was Melinda Dolittle the most talented and the most consistent during her year of competition? Again, arguably yes, but she did not win. I’m hoping that America remembers all the great weeks that Crystal has given us and doesn’t penalize her for one mediocre song choice.

Aaron Kelly came out and sang ‘You Got A Way.” Shania advised,” Aaron to “end where you know you feel safe and good.” She said, “It’s almost as though he is preoccupied,” which may well be attributable to Aaron’s extreme youth.  Shania said, “I wanted him (Aaron) to know that he’s here already.  We already love him.  Now just give us what you love.” Aaron is fond of “big finishes” and no time did he give a bigger one than tonight.  Randy said, “You’re our country artist and dude, I think you really did a great job.”  Ellen commented on Aaron’s emotional depth for a sixteen-year-old and was quickly corrected by Aaron, who said he was now 17.  She ended, “Good job.”  Kara said, “I completely agree with those words.”  Simon said, “I think the last 2 or 3 weeks you’ve really struggled.   You were a totally different artist tonight.  You didn’t get it at all.  For the first time in weeks, you were believable.  I think you did really well tonight.”

The final performer of the night, Siobhan Magnus, sang “Any Man of Mine.” This song was Shania’s first top 10 song and her first Number One Hit Single.  As always, Siobhan was attired in a mysterious garment from another galaxy.  It consisted of a very short skirt with a flouncy thing going on at the hip, bared arms to reveal black tattoos on her left shoulder, and weird white boots. Randy commented, “I loved it” and the outfit was part of his “I loved it.” (Of course, we’ve all seen how Randy dresses.)  Ellen said, “Way to pull the Shania Twain into the station.  Way to end the show.”  Kara said, “Guess who’s back!”  Simon said, “It was fun. It was good. I really like that song,” but, once again, commented on her really high powerful notes at the end, saying it sounded like someone was “giving birth.”

So, who is going home out of this group on Wednesday?

I’ve said for weeks that the best 2 were Lee and Crystal, and I think that Casey has the “overall package” of looks and talent that the show wants to promote as their next “American Idol.” I fear for Aaron because he’s so young, and for Mike because his song choices are (always) so “girly” and for Siobhan because she’s so weird. (And I mean that in a good way.)
Your guess is as good as mine. I’m still betting on the top 3 mentioned above to hang around the longest.

Boys’ Night on “American Idol:” A “Meh” Experience

What to say about “American Idol” boys’ night? Another “meh” set of performances.

Let’s categorize them as we did with the girls: The Good, The Bad, and the Okay.


My favorites: Lee DeWyze, 23, of Chicago sang Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars’ and he has a unique quality in his voice. He accompanied himself on guitar and has a raspy edge that is very unique. Comments were made by the judges that were “so-so” but Simon seemed to get it: “I thought this was the best performance you’ve given so far. This guy is a naturally good singer.” I think Lee did well.

Casey James: The blonde 24-year-old sang “Here’s Heaven” and, despite all the goofing-around, which included Randy grabbing Kara’s arms and having her wave them to and fro and Kara’s comment, “I don’t recognize you with your shirt on,” (he removed it at her suggestion during auditions) I thought he gave a good performance. Ellen said, “I could feel Kara undressing you with her eyes. You were great.” Even Simon got into the act, commenting that they were both “cursed with good looks.” Simon called Casey’s performance “Honest. Sincere. Likeable,” and added, “This was the best performance I’ve heard from you, so you did great.” I agree.

Joe Munoz, 20, of Huntington Park, California:  He sang the Jason Mraz song “You and I Both Hear It.” Ellen said, “You’re so comfortable. Great stage presence. “ Randy commented, “You’ve got a great voice. I think you did a great job with it, Dawg. You worked it out.” Kara called him “up front and center. The best so far in terms of the singing.” Simon was the only dissenter calling him “okay, safe, a bit forgettable, a bit limp.” I think the 3 to 1 who thought he did a good job were right.

Michael Lynche, 26 sang “This Love” by “Maroon 5” accompanying himself on guitar. He did not get much support from Simon, who said, “You’re sort of like the support act before the main act, kind of like a vague, jazzy performance.” Ellen disagreed, saying, “I think people are gonna’ love him.” Michael has been given so much extra airtime because of the birth of his daughter while he was auditioning that people feel like they know him. Big Daddy will still be here for a while.

Todrick Hall did appear to be what Simon accused him of: “I think you came over as a dancer trying to sing.” Yes, he did. The next part of Simon’s critique I disagree with, “What you did was completely verging on stupid.” What he did was dance around a lot, since he has danced and sung on Broadway with Fantasia in “The Color Purple.” He moved around a lot and, as Ellen said, “The chorus was a little rough,” I had no idea what he was singing, to begin with. Randy said, “I didn’t know what song it was. I still want to see you sing.  You’ve got mad chops vocally.” I think that Todrick needs to NOT change the song as much as he did (he said he heard it this way in his head) but I liked his acrobatic touches. Not everyone can both sing and dance well. Needs to sing something we all know and love.

Jermaine Sellers, 27, from Joliet, Illinois, sang “Get Here” while wearing his trademark hat. I actually liked his light voice, with the lilting quality, although it took him a long time to slide up to the right pitch on the last note. Ellen declared herself “A huge fan” and said, “I love your look. More a performance than feeling it, though. A couple of times you went off or out as though you were trying too hard.” Randy wants him to sing something more contemporary like Neo or Maxwell and added, “You’re trying to do too much vocally, Dawg,” referencing some of Jermaine’s runs. He wanted them to be meaningful runs. Simon was brutal: “It’s the kind of song that, if you were playing piano in a piano bar, people in their 50s would request it. I think you’ve totally blown your opportunity with that (song choice).”  {*Note: he is not in the “BAD” category, for me, but it was just okay.)

Aaron Kelly, 16, from Sonestown, Pennsylvania, a high school student: Simon was kind to Aaron, saying, “Bearing in mind that that was your first live appearance, that was very good.” All of the rest told him, “Dude, believe in yourself.” Randy added, “16. What a voice! Wow!” Ellen said, “I think you’re gonna be here a long time. You’re just gonna’ get better and better.”

John Park, 21, of Northbrook, Illinois sang “God Bless The Child” and that was universally panned as a song choice. Simon immediately kicked his chair back and began to look bored, before John had even sung 3 notes. After the performance, he said, “You have got to have an incredible voice to take that one on and you don’t. It was flat, zero emotion. A pointless performance,” which he compared to a copycat knock-off of Michael Buble. I didn’t like the choice of songs, either, but I’ll share my theory about that at the end of this list. Randy said, “It made you feel old,” and Ellen agreed that “A different song would show us who you are. I like you a lot.” John has real talent and can come back.

Andrew Garcia, 24, of Moreno Valley, California sang “Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down.” Simon said he was disappointed…that the song was “too serious, too indulgent.” Kara thought it was “a really strange rendition, but a risk, and added, “You’re great.” Everyone kept referencing his earlier rendition of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” Ellen said, “I’m one of the fans, but this was too closed, too indulgent. I think you’re gonna’ stick around. We like you.” Agreed.

Alex Lambert, of North Richland Hills, Texas, was the 19-year-old who sang “It’s A Wonderful World” by James Morrison. Simon was so mean to him that I think he will get sympathy votes. Simon said, “I don’t know who was the happiest for that performance to end, you or us. It was the most uncomfortable performance of the night.” Ellen hit the nail on the head when she talked about a banana and how Alex “just needs to ripen” (like a banana). He had only sung publicly 3 times, previously, in coffee shops. He’s a very cute young man. I think he will make it through and people will forgive him his first-night jitters and his relative inexperience, when compared to a performer from Broadway like Todrick Hall.


Tyler Grady, for me, was by far the worst. He sang “American Woman,” but he is a poseur, a Jim Morrison wannabee. It’s getting old. That pretty much sums up the judges comments, as they said he needed to find some new schtick, rather than continuing to mimic rock singers from the past that he has admired.  Simon put it this way, “You come over as someone who has gone to ‘Pretend to be a rock star school.” Agreed. Kara referenced his obsession with the seventies (although Jim Morrison was the sixties,) and randy criticized his “style over substance.” Ellen said, ‘You’re copying. Work on the singing. Be an original.” Good advice.

Tim Urban, 20, of Duncanville, Texas, DID get cut previously. I knew I remembered he had been cut after group week, but then he was back. (Reason was said to be that Chris Golightly did not reveal a previous record contract and got cut, so there was an opening.) Tim sang “Apologize” by One Republic, and he is very cute. He looks like the Lost Jonas Brother, but his voice was weak. Simon said, “There was nothing to take from that. I just don’t think your voice is good enough.” Kara said, “The music overpowered you and swallowed it up. Here you were just buried under the arrangement.” Randy told Tim it was “just the wrong song. Honestly, I personally think you are better than this.” (So do I).  Ellen said, “If the sound was down, just looking at you, because you’re adorable.” Ellen has hit on what may keep Tim Urban around: he IS adorable. (Remember Sanjaya?) Nevertheless, Simon said that he felt the judges had made the right choice when they cut him the first time, and I can’t argue with that after hearing him tonight. Now, if he only sang as good as he looks…..

On the previous night, when the girls sang, all the songs were dreary. There were no “up-tempo” performances, really. The only one this night was the “American Woman” attempt, but we’re getting tired of seeing Tyler Morrison…err Grady. Honestly, he’s NOT that adorable or sexy, despite the long mane of hair and the possible pleather pants. Why don’t the producers insist that so many songs be “up tempo” and so many be slower? I’m sure this could be arranged. It is just common sense. All bands, when putting together their play lists, make room for a slow song every once in a while, but if the entire concert is slow, dirgy music, it gets pretty boring. I think what is bringing this year’s performances down are the song choices, which, so far, have been less-than-stimulating. Makes you long for Adam Lambert and company of last year. I want some fast and some slow, but no more Jim Morrison wanna-bees need apply.

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