Would Ol’ Blue Eyes have been proud? Hmmm. “American Idol” gave itself over to Frank Sinatra on Tuesday night (May 4) with decidedly mixed results. While Michael Lynche and Lee Dewyze blew the judges away with their jazzy stylings, Crystal Bowersox, Casey James and Aaron Kelly failed to impress — or, worse, simply failed.
Kelly, who avoided the bottom three last week with a respectable take on Shania Twain’s “You’ve Got a Way,” kicked off the evening and veered away from the slow-tempo tunes that have proved to be his relative strong suit all season long. Mentor Harry Connick Jr., meanwhile, kicked the evening off with a zinger, welcoming the diminutive 17-year-old into the rehearsal space with an effusive “Big Mike!”
Of course, Michael Lynche wouldn’t take the stage until later in the hour. To begin, it was Kelly and “Fly Me to the Moon.” His shaky vocals and tentative physicality seemed to be overtaken by the horns and strings of the big band swinging along behind him. Though Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres thought he pulled off a stellar performance, Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell were less impressed. “Compared to last week, I think it wasn’t as strong,” DioGuardi said.
Next up came Casey James — without his ever-present guitar — for a straightforward take on “Blue Skies.” During his pre-performance video, James confessed to feeling nervous, and nervous is exactly how he both looked and sounded. Connick was kind enough to say James did a heck of a lot better during rehearsal, but it remains to be seen if the mentor’s assurances will be enough to prove Cowell’s half-joking, half-serious suggestion wrong: The 27-year-old singer might not be around next week.
Jackson pulled no punches, declaring it James’ worst performance of the season. DioGuardi was no kinder, comparing his singing style to the bleating of a lamb. Ouch. DeGeneres was most succinct — and least mean — when she said simply, “That felt very stiff to me.”
By the time Crystal Bowersox took the stage for “Summer Wind,” it was clear that Connick’s role as the arbiter of arrangement and orchestration was pushing the “Idol” contestants into areas that were not always comfortable nor organic to the types of artists they’re striving to become. Without her guitar and wearing an elegant, strapless dress, Bowersox sounded lovely as always.
But Jackson nailed it when he said the performance was “subdued and sleepy.” DioGuardi saw it too, saying MamaSox was simply “out of [her] element.” Cowell gave her the bottom line: “I think you’ve had two OK weeks. If you survive next week, it’s about being in it to win it.”
Sinatra Night was a much better fit for the real Big Mike Lynche, who chose the standard “The Way You Look Tonight.” He ditched the R&B vibe that has served him well and went for a more jazzy feel to his song, but it didn’t seem to matter to the judges, who all feted his performance.
“You seem to, of everyone else, have the most comfort onstage,” DeGeneres said. “You seem to have more experience, and you just move easier than everyone else.”
“This has been a tricky night,” Cowell said. “If I’m being honest with you, the first three performances have been OK, and now it’s all changed.”
Lee Dewyze kept the positive change coming for the night’s final performance, taking “That’s Life” on a trip through the smoky back alleys of New Orleans. Connick stood up to play organ as Dewyze, with a goofy smile on his face, hit more notes than he had in past weeks and generally looked like he was up there having a grand old time.
DioGuardi did her best to convince Dewyze that he really can win “American Idol” if only he’d start to believe in himself. DeGeneres went one step further: “I think if this was the last night of performances, you would have just won this whole thing,” she said.
Who had your favorite performances? Who is in trouble? Let us know in the comments!
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