Review: Songs of the Rolling Stones!
The twelve Idol hopefuls graduated to the big stage this week and took on The Songs of the Rolling Stones, with fantastic results. This was easily Season 9′s most entertaining week yet; one of those nights when everything just seemed to go right. And it arrived just in the nick of time, as some were beginning to whisper “worst season ever,” a proclamation I maintain is incredibly premature with more than two months to go. Every year, some of these contestants evolve and grow in confidence as the competition progresses, as we saw in last night’s standout performance:
SIOBHAN MAGNUS - Paint it Black – Kara said exactly what I was thinking: “flashbacks of Adam Lambert”, and that’s a good thing. Whether Siobhan’s style of singing is your cup of tea or not, she certainly brings excitement, drama, and the big glory notes (even if that final one was just a tad screechy). Her styling was a major step forward, her hair looked amazing, and she just seemed like a star….did she remind anyone else of Anna Paquin from HBO’s “True Blood”? Grade: A
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX - You Can’t Always Get What You Want - Anyone expecting to see an image overhaul (a la Siobhan) probably shouldn’t hold their breath, as I suspect that Crystal doesn’t enjoy playing dress-up or makeover…nor should she. This artist knows exactly who she is and seems entirely focused on her singing and playing. Thankfully, we also finally got to see some personality and real humility last night, as Crystal admitted to Simon that Siobhan had outperformed her. Grade: A-
AARON KELLY - Angie - Why was Aaron so under-praised by the judges last night? I didn’t detect a single bum note in his emotional reading of the perfect song selection, and he seemed much more relaxed on stage this week. Regardless of how far he goes in the competition, I feel confident that Aaron could have hits at country radio…as long as he eventually discovers a better hairstyle. Grade: B
DIDI BENAMI - Play With Fire – Simon has been giving Kara too much grief over her focus on the singers’ connections to the lyrics they’re delivering, but for the most part I agree with her, and Didi is an example of how that can work really well. Ms. Benami seems like one of the sweetest contestants of the bunch this year, but for this darker, more dangerous song, she brought intensity and the appropriate facial expressions to go with the words she sang (even if she got slightly lost at one point). Grade: B
LEE DeWYZE - Beast of Burden - This may have been Lee’s most on-key vocal to date, but as Simon pointed out, he’s yet to have a real “moment.” He was powerful on the choruses but a little boring in the verses, prompting Ellen’s best joke of the night: “Like a hospital gown, it almost didn’t come together.” Grade: B
CASEY JAMES - It’s All Over Now – The guy has certainly found a bluesy, southern rock niche that works for him, and his vocals continue to remind me of Bob Seger at times. But if Casey is going to play the electric guitar, I feel like we should be able to see the band behind him. Like Simon said, “This needs to be more than just a guy standing on a stage with a guitar.” (P.S. – Is Kathy Griffin Casey’s mother?) Grade: B
MICHAEL LYNCHE - Miss You – Big Mike earns points for giving his song an r&b spin, but I felt like the arrangement stripped away too much of the melody, robbing him of the chance to show off his vocals. Kara thought he brought the right swagger, but Simon found it kind of corny. I’d have to agree with Simon. Grade: B-
KATIE STEVENS - Wild Horses – This was definitely Katie’s best performance to date. So why am I still not excited? It doesn’t matter…the speed-dialing, texting tweens will probably keep her safe for a while longer. Grade: C
LACEY BROWN Ruby Tuesday - Her vocals were okay for the most part, but Lacey just isn’t “the whole package.” She seems like a very sincere girl, but she desperately needs a different hairstyle and a more interesting personality. Grade: C
ANDREW GARCIA - Gimme Shelter - His strongest vocal in weeks, although that’s not really saying a lot. Simon is correct in noting that Andrew gave it 100%, but his stage presence was a little awkward without the guitar and he kept going off-key in the choruses. Still, a major step up from his unfortunate “Genie in a Bottle.” (P.S. – Someone needs to place Simon in “time out” for mentioning Andrew’s “Straight Up” for the millionth time.) Grade: C
PAIGE MILES Honky Tonk Women – Another massive improvement over last week, but a big question lingers for me: where’s the star power? There’s no doubt she earned props for solid vocals while battling laryngitis, but I remain unexcited by her as an Idol finalist. Grade: C
TIM URBAN - Under My Thumb - Although I thought his reggae arrangement had a certain Jason Mraz charm to it, I felt it was a weak song choice for Tim, who seemed more nervous this week for some odd reason. Grade: C
BOTTOM THREE: Since no contestant was given a grade lower than a “C”, you can tell that I didn’t think anyone was truly awful last night, which makes predicting this week’s Bottom 3 a bit challenging. Andrew Garcia, Paige Miles, and Tim Urban are probably most vulnerable, although I wouldn’t be shocked and upset to find Lacey Brown or Katie Stevens there.
GOING HOME - I realize that lots of easily-excited teen girls are probably still staring at their pictures of a shirtless Tim Urban, but I think he’s lucky to have made it this far.
What do you think? Who’s going home tonight? And who is your favorite? (Vote in our poll on the right.) Sound off below!