Last night for Lennon/McCartney Week, Sir Paul himself appeared in a taped message to send his best wishes out to the finalists. I know he’s been busy touring (did anyone see him at the Hollywood Bowl?) but I have a feeling that maybe he hasn’t been tuning in this season. The tip-off? He mentioned that he was “very pleased” (not “appalled”) to have the Idols do his songs.
I was positive that the Idols would make a mockery of the Lennon/McCartney songbook; surely Lennon would be rolling over in his grave! This certainty had less to do with the general “suckiness” of the season and more to do with how beloved The Beatles are. Even seasoned pros take a risk when treading on such hallowed ground. After all, as Kara said, theses are arguably some of the best melodies ever created.
I have to say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised. Last night’s episode proved to be the best live show of the season. Heck, even Tim Urban stepped up (instead of sliding down … the stage). The Idols did quite well overall, especially since it’s impossible to know what the judges want. Simon mentioned that certain songs shouldn’t be changed up, while other songs allow it. Translation: “I don’t really know what I’m looking for … I’ll just know it when I hear it.”
The one thing missing from this week? The guest mentor. I realize that Paul McCartney may have been too busy (or embarrassed) to appear on “American Idol,” so that kind of limits our options. (Update: I have not received a response to my multiple requests to feature Ringo Starr as a mentor; I’ll keep you posted.)
But surely there was a better time filler than “getting to know” the Idols more. Katie Stevens likes to dance to “Single Ladies!” Andrew Garcia actually has a personality! Snore. I’d rather learn about the thought processes (or drugs?) that result in singing alongside a didgeridoo or set of bagpipes.
AARON KELLY — “The Long and Winding Road”
I hate to say this about a fellow Kelly, but I think that little Aaron may be in trouble this time around. His was the weakest performance of the night and the fact that he sang at the top of the show doesn’t help matters. While I agree that Aaron is amazingly talented, especially for his age, I think that he needs to develop more as a singer (and as a person). Randy said that he should’ve put a country twist on it “a la Rascal Flatts.” Hello? Does no one remember how Simon ripped Kristy Lee Cook apart a couple of years ago for doing a country version of “Eight Days a Week?” Again, it’s a case of “we’ll know it when we hear it.” Kara was right when she said that Kelly gives the same performance week after week; it’s the same vibrato, the same hip sway and the same boredom. Perhaps his army of tween fans will save him this week but now that we’re getting down to the end it could be anybody’s game.
KATIE STEVENS — “Let It Be”
This was, by far, Katie Steven’s best performance of the season. In fact, the judges continually said that she was “blossoming.” It was simple — just her and a mic stand — but it worked. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been her strongest supporter but she really impressed me with her stage presence. You could tell that she was really connected to the song. In fact, Simon felt that she was singing to somebody. My guess is the Alzheimer’s grandma. Not only did she sound and look fabulous, but she took the stage with a confidence that was beyond her years. This was a feat in itself, seeing as she’s been in the Bottom Three for the past two weeks. This newfound maturity will no doubt come in handy when she goes to the prom with one of the five fans who’ve asked her (as you know there is about a 90 percent chance that at least half of them are over the age of 25.) Blossoming indeed.
ANDREW GARCIA — “Can’t Buy Me Love”
I actually liked this rendition but I don’t know if it was because I was dying to hear something upbeat or because “Can’t Buy Me Love” is my favorite 80s movie. Either way, it had me tapping my foot. Though the judges thought it was kind of corny, I think that Garcia found a good balance between doing something new with the song and respecting the original version. While I think he has a fabulous voice, I’m still not clear on what kind of artist he would be after “Idol.” What kind of album would he release? R&B? Rock? Right now I just see him as a guy who does unexpected covers. (“Genie In A Bottle,” anyone?)
MICHAEL LYNCHE — “Eleanor Rigby”
I love Michael but does anyone else think it’s oddly inappropriate and disturbing that he and his family performed in a group called “The Lynche Mob” growing up? Regardless, Lynche was the night’s first example of using the backup musicians in an interesting way. I mean, how many times have you seen a stage full of string musicians (or, as we call them in Alabama, “fiddlers”) appear on the “American Idol” stage? Not many. It made an impact because it sounded lovely and presented a beautiful stage picture. Plus, fiddlers just always make everything seem so classy! I agree with Ellen’s assessment that Big Mike has so many different sides but he handles them all well. Do I know what type of album to expect from Lynche? No. But unlike Garcia, it doesn’t matter because I know it will be unmistakably “Michael Lynche,” regardless of the genre it falls into (and I’m guessing it would cross over into many).
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX — “Come Together”
Once again, Bowersox knocked it out of the park. Does this girl ever have an off night or get nervous? Apparently not, because a nervous person would not have the balls to invite a didgeridoo player to accompany her. This, Simon says, is the very reason that she is so appealing. She’s not trying to be anything that she’s not. Granted, she DID wear heels again tonight but the dreads and the piercings have stayed intact. As Ellen mentioned, there is only so many ways to say that she’s an amazing singer, so … She’s great. I can’t even fathom the possibility that she won’t make it to the finale.
TIM URBAN — “All My Lovin’”
I’ve gotta admit that I admire Tim’s attitude. He never stops smiling. (Maybe because he knows how good looking he is?) He sees this as a once in a lifetime experience and tries to enjoy himself every time he goes on stage. Well, last night may have been his most enjoyable night yet, as it was, by far, his best performance. Sporting a Beatles moptop, he accompanied himself on the electric guitar. The liberties he took with the melody actually worked and — bonus! — they were in tune. (Most importantly, there was no sliding involved.) The judges gave him great feedback and even commended him for taking their criticism like a man. He proved that there was a reason they chose him in the first place. Let’s hope that he gets it right next week too.
CASEY JAMES — “Jealous Guy”
This performance was the first time I really felt connected to James as an artist. His stiff perma-grin has always bothered me but it was nonexistent on this number. Instead, he seemed to lose himself in the song and you could hear the Eddie Vedder-like pain in his voice. This, of course, is a formula for success (Pain + Angelic Good Looks = Sexy). I think the pared-down arrangement with cello and acoustic guitar helped, as did the fact that he didn’t choose to sing something obvious or too popular. Like Stevens and Urban before him, this proved to be Casey’s strongest performance to date. In fact, Simon called it the best performance of the night. I haven’t been a fan up until now but if he continues to sing from the heart like this, I could get on board.
SIOBHAN MAGNUS — “Across the Universe”
I have so many questions for the enigma that is Siobhan Magnus. Did her breath support come from blowing glass? Does she ever get mistaken for Anna Paquin? And, most importantly, where did she get that amazing lip gloss that she sports on the show? Though her cover of “Across the Universe” almost lulled me to sleep, there was nothing technically wrong with it. And she didn’t scream, which was nice for a change. I think that she was just trying to show the judges a softer side of her voice but it was just a little too … soft. Regardless, I love her and will continue to vote for her until she ends up in the finals against Crystal (or Teflon Tim). It’s not just Siobhan’s voice that makes her so unique; it’s her personality. She could be the Cyndi Lauper of the new millennium (and appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” in about 20 years).
LEE DEWYZE — “Hey Jude”
Lee took what is arguably the most popular Beatles song ever and made it, um, his own, to say the least. Seeming more approachable and comfortable than in weeks past, DeWyze almost looked a little like Paul, with his big eyes and coat and tie. The vocal was great but it’s very difficult to fit this song into two minutes because there is so much build up to the big finish. Well, Lee’s version definitely built up to something … I just never expected it to be a bagpipe player. That’s right, at the climax of the song (right before the “Na Na Na’s”) a bagpiper in full bagpiper regalia descended the “Idol” stairs and accompanied DeWyze. Weird? Yes. Entertaining? Absolutely. I can’t wait to see how these Idols outdo themselves next week. I suggest a harpsichord or perhaps a kazoo.