Oh, you crazy "American Idol" kids! We'd been worried all day for you. Was the songbook of '90s country queen Shania Twain the type of "Idol" classroom material that would sink every single one of you? Were we in for a live performance on Tuesday night that would have us harkening back to those ear-bleedingly awful top-24 shows in late February?
No and no. Collectively, this was the finest group of performances of the year, and we're pleased to announce that for the first time, not one contestant notched a failing grade on our weekly "Idol" report. That doesn't mean we've got a bunch of honor students on our hands. In fact, the ranks of the Average Idols have swelled — which is to say that while no one crashed and burned, almost no one soared. Considering how worried we were, though, let's just be happy with how the whole thing turned out. On to the grades!
Casey James: On Tuesday afternoon, we went ahead and suggested Casey sing "You're Still the One," and when Lee went first and busted out that tune, we were worried for Goldilocks. Would he once again try on his rocker hat, even though it has clearly not been fitting for weeks? Nope! Casey has learned his lesson well, because he went slow and acoustic with "Don't." From "Heaven" to "Jealous Guy" to last night's cover, Casey's wheelhouse really is the smoldering ballad. We think he understands that now.
Lee Dewyze: One of the hardest things to do on "Idol" is sustain momentum, to follow up one killer performance with another and keep the judges' praise — those American votes — coming. That Dewyze has followed up last week's first-rate take on the "Boxer" with a fine, contemporary cover of "You're Still the One" is cause for applause (even if we did think that song was a better fit for Casey James). The kid has found his niche with an acoustic-guitar-driven, lite indie-rock sound. It's working well for him.
Mike Lynche: While Big Mike's rendition of "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" didn't go as far in an R&B direction as we might have hoped, at least he indulged that side of his artistic personality. It was no "This Woman's Work," but we'll take it. For the sake of Mike's future, let's hope he's finally ditched that weak-sauce indie-rocker shtick and embraced his R&B soul. Last night's performance was hardly the stuff of Luther Vandross, as Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell maintained, but it's a comparison that Mike should take to heart.
Crystal Bowersox: Remember what we were saying just before about sustaining momentum? It ain't easy! And perhaps it's asking a little much to expect MamaSox to equal her best-of-the-season performance last week during "People Get Ready." But actually, we feel kind of guilty. We suggested Crystal perform "No One Needs to Know Right Now," and that's exactly what she did. Unfortunately, she didn't follow our advice to ditch the song's country flavor. We warned that Tuesday night would be all about the arrangement. On this front, Bowersox didn't make the grade.
Aaron Kelly: You could see it in Kelly's eyes: He knew before he even stepped onto the stage that he's in trouble this week. And after a so-so performance of "You've Got a Way," you could really see that the kid doesn't want to go home. Who could blame him? Last night, Kelly was as strong as he's been in the competition, but "Idol" is just that, a competition. If there's any justice in the reality-show universe, he'll not only land in the bottom three; this will be the end of the line for this sweet 17-year-old.
Siobhan Magnus: We have an idea what Siobhan was thinking when she decided to tramp around the "Idol" auditorium during "Any Man of Mine," from stage to crowd to stairs and back again: Engage the audience! Have some fun! Her heart may have been in the right place, but what happened in the moment was a young singer struggling to breathe, walk and sing all at the same time. She simply did not look comfortable, and it showed — both on her face and in her pitch. The judges seemed to think Siobhan was back, baby! We have a feeling she's headed to the bottom three.
How would you rate last night's "Idol" performances? Share your grades in the comments.
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