American Idols, we’re not angry. We’re just disappointed … and, OK, a little angry too. You’re doing the homework, you’re showing up to class each week — there’s just … something missing. How fondly we remember last year’s graduating class, represented on Tuesday night by mentor Adam Lambert! In contrast to his ever-original “Idol” performances in 2009, Tuesday evening’s Elvis-themed “Idol” delivered few highs, few lows and just a bunch of ho-hum performances that have swollen the meaty part of our grading curve into something resembling the King’s booze-and-donut-heavy gut.
Let’s not delay any longer. It’s time to dole out some grades with our “American Idol” report card. (And don’t miss Jim Cantiello’s “Idol” recap in the MTV Newsroom).
Tim Urban: An MTV News colleague who shall remain nameless has been arguing for weeks that Urban is going to win “Idol,” not just despite, but because of, his middling vocal talents (and, of course, those mom-approved dimples). And guess what happened last night? He actually sounded like someone who might, in this weak-sauce season, sneak into the top three. Tim gave Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” a Plain White T’s makeover, and the result was simple, clean and by far the finest performance of the kid’s reality-show career.
Crystal Bowersox: A month ago, during her rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” we declared that Bowersox sounded like “a ’70s-era Bonnie Raitt … up on the stage busting out some countrified power blues.” That impression is starting to catch on, as Mama Sox’s take on “Saved” moved Randy Jackson to invoke Raitt’s name last night. Crystal went for an electrified, hillbilly roll that was tons of fun but that didn’t showcase her vocals nearly enough. No doubt, she’s got soul. We already knew that. We’re waiting to see more from the contestant who’s been the only reason to watch the show for too long.
Lee Dewyze: “A Little Less Conversation” got Chris Daughtry booted off the show in season five, so it was more than a little risky for Dewyze to attempt the same tune. Thankfully, he avoided an arrangement that nodded toward that tiresome JXL remix and took the song for a growly ride. It was a welcome return to form after the bagpipe-assisted mess that was last week’s “Hey Jude.”
Michael Lynche: Singing for his life after being blessed with last weeks’ judges’ save, Big Mike sat down with his guitar and showed off his expressive side, building from delicate to powerful notes. Taylor Hicks rode “In the Ghetto” to a win in season five, and Lynche’s slower, acoustic version was no less critically lauded. We’ll have to see if voters decide to stand up to the judges and once again vote off Big Mike, despite his delivering one of the night’s stronger performances.
Siobhan Magnus: While the 20-year-old’s “Suspicious Minds” was, as Simon Cowell suggested, erratic and screechy, her comments to the judges were A+ work. As they lambasted her for a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like singing voice, she spoke up for every driven, yet self-doubting, nonconformist in the country when she said she takes pride in being unable to pinpoint exactly who she is at this point in her life. That may not be enough to win “Idol,” but it might save her from landing in the bottom three this week. Because let’s be honest, that performance was the pits.
Katie Stevens: Stevens has apparently decided that the solution to her utter lack of youthful energy is to snap her fingers, narrow her eyes and wag her neck to and fro, hoping viewers mistake these contrivances for actual soul. Color us unconvinced. Which is not to say the 17-year-old didn’t sound perfectly fine during “Baby, What You Want Me to Do?” We heard a country-blues flavor to her voice that we hadn’t before. There’s simply something disingenuous about Stevens’ stage presence. She’s play-acting. And what’s more, the tone of her post-performance question directed at Simon — “What do you want me to do?” — may have been an attempt at wit, but it came off as premeditated and whiny. She could easily land in the bottom three once again.
Casey James: James followed up last week’s slow acoustic jam, “Jealous Guy,” with a raw, funky take on “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Hate to say it, but every time James plugs in and rocks out, he veers into bar band territory. Is it possible he’s actually a bluesier Jack Johnson, rather than a Southern rock throwback? Casey’s not going anywhere — the judges barely had time to comment on the performance as Ryan Seacrest rushed to wrap things up before the start of “Glee” — and we look forward to the singer bringing back the mellow acoustic tuneage next week.
Andrew Garcia: Does the 24-year-old even want to be on “Idol” anymore? He’s been struggling for weeks, but during “Hound Dog” he was uncomfortable in a way he never was before. It was an energy-free, paint-by-numbers performance that surely had mentor Adam Lambert asking, “Why didn’t that dude take my advice?” Then again, Garcia might be ready to go, even if he couldn’t admit as much to Seacrest, who openly wondered if the singer felt any sense of urgency. Perhaps he does: the urgency to go home and see his kid. He’ll likely get that chance after Wednesday’s elimination.
Aaron Kelly: Kelly’s awkwardness knows no bounds. His take on “Blue Suede Shoes” had the teen bopping around the stage with an even-I-don’t-want-to-be-doing-this look frozen on his mug. And it only got worse, as the arrangement broke down into a slow blues and the performance descended into car-crash-gawking territory. Were the vocals OK? Sure. But who could pay attention to the singing when the sight of Kelly convulsing onstage was so uncomfortable? He’s probably headed back to the bottom three. And, once again, he’s somehow probably not going to be sent home.
Who would you crown king or queen on Elvis night? Grade the contestants in the comments!
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