‘American Idol’ Top 10 Men’s Report Card

Michael Lynche, Alex Lambert lead the pack in a week that showed much-needed improvement.

The top 10 “American Idol” men could only improve after last week’s string of uninspiring, borderline panic-inducing, “Hoo boy, this season is looking weak” musical performances. On Tuesday night’s show , improve is exactly what they did … most of them, anyway.

The evening was still pocked with pitchy renditions, poor song choices and “How is this dude still around?” confusion, but overall the men stepped up in their second week of live shows. Who surprised us, who disappointed us and who’s in danger of going home? Let’s take a look at the top 10 men’s report card. (And don’t miss Jim Cantiello’s review in the Newsroom.)

Excellent

Michael Lynche: Not to toot our own horn, but before last night’s show, we urged Big Mike to ditch the guitar and show us what kind of artist he truly wants to be, because we weren’t sure. Jason Mraz? James Brown? On Tuesday the new daddy delivered, busting out a soulful take on Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” What’s more, during his post-performance banter with Ryan Seacrest, he cemented his reputation as the season’s most engaging personality. While we wouldn’t go so far as to give him a standing ovation, as Randy Jackson did, Lynche still deserves much credit and the chance to keep singing for weeks to come.

Alex Lambert: You could see this one coming, since the kid was torn apart last week. Nothing’s better on reality TV than the rise of the underdog, and that’s exactly what happened to Lambert during his performance of John Legend’s “Everybody Knows.” Who knew the Mulleted One had soul? His pre-performance package displayed a winning vulnerability — I was so nervous! I just love to sing sooo much! — that only augmented Lambert’s comeback-kid-of-the-week status.

Satisfactory

Casey James :
We’d been hoping to see James’ rock and roll side, and we got what we asked for — but we’re just not sure we were asking for the right thing from James, a realization that became clear during his southern-fried rock rendition of Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.” His electric guitar noodling felt a bit like amateur hour and the whole song sounded like the work of a bar band, but you know what? It was a bar band that’d have you doing a sweaty group boogie and ordering another pitcher. Even though Kara DioGuardi finally found the opportunity to criticize the guy, James ain’t going away this week.

Andrew Garcia : Garcia followed the pleas of the judges to stop futzing with tunes and just step up to the mic and wail. Well, he went with a straightforward arrangement in James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something.” He just didn’t seem to have the vocal fortitude to blow us away. Is it possible that behind all that technical wizardry lays a mediocre singer? We don’t think so, and Garcia is going to have to pull himself together next week to convince the rest of America.

Tim Urban: The brothers, the sisters, the prayers! Urban might be as brilliant a tactician as he is middling a singer. His take on “Come on Get Higher” by Matt Nathanson reeked of high school talent show blandness, which honestly doesn’t matter after Urban established himself as a God-fearing family boy from Texas. Simon Cowell made a savvy decision to fete Urban for his work ethic and ability to listen to criticism, rather than focus on his singing. The judge knows better than anyone: Urban is safe this week.

Lee DeWyze: The judges implored DeWyze to drop the coffehouse singer-songwriter vibe last week and indulge his rock instincts. That’s exactly what he did with “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder. Was it as ethereal a performance as Simon wanted us to believe? Is DeWyze really one of this season’s frontrunners? We’re not willing to go there yet, but after two solid weeks of live shows, the 23-year-old is one of the most comfortable contestants up on stage. It should only get better for him in the coming weeks.

Unsatisfactory

John Park: Dude, what is going on? Simon nailed it when he said Park put on a so-what performance. We’ve been rooting for this kid for a while, but it might be time to give up on him. His song choice was at least something written in the 21st century (“Gravity” by John Mayer), but the delivery was still reminiscent of something you might hear at a retirement home soiree. His sweet story about growing up in a bilingual Korean-American home might win him enough votes to make it through to next week, but we’re fairly certain he doesn’t deserve it.

Todrick Hall: We’ve actually enjoyed Hall’s risky song choices: Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” last week, Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” on Tuesday. Whereas his twisted take on Clarkson was oddly amusing, his butchering of Tina was sacrilegious. Two straight eviscerations from the judges do not bode well for Hall. The guy’s in trouble this week.

Jermaine Sellers: Was it that the judges were cutthroat last week or that Hall just plain stunk up the joint? For two straight weeks, the church singer has ditched the soulfulness we loved and amped up his cheeseball ’70s lounge singer impulses. The guy can still nail a high note, as evidenced with “What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye, but many of the others made our ears hurt. Jesus may be his homeboy, but the viewers at home hold his fate in their cell phones. To quote Randy, “Ah man, it’s like urrrggggh!”

Aaron Kelly: Pardon us while we head for another cup of coffee, because even thinking about Kelly’s insipid performance of the Temptations’ “My Girl” makes us drowsy. In the 16-year-old’s defense, that song was no worse than last week’s rendition of “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts. The only difference was that Simon and Ellen seemed to have tired of, um, whatever it was they liked about him in the first place. We’d say Kelly is in serious trouble this week, but that was our opinion last week and look what happened. With praise from Randy and Ellen DeGeneres, expect the oldest teenager in the history of the world is stick around the “Idol” stage.

How do you think the guys did this week? Let us know in the comments below!

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