Review: The Top 10 Reveal Their Soul
The Top 10 finalists took the stage for Soul Night under the guidance of multi-platinum superstar Usher, who has sent nine singles to –1 on the R&B charts in only twelve years. Our mentor seemed ever-so-slightly full of himself, so I was quite amused when Ryan decided to poke fun at his whole “sunglasses indoors” thing, which really wears me out. But putting that aside, I thought Usher did a fine job of guiding the contestants and encouraging them to make connections with the audience. Something must have had a magical effect on these singers because this week’s show was nothing less than 100% better than last week’s best-forgotten disaster. Here are my reviews, going from best to worst:
LEE DeWYZE - Treat Her Like a Lady - Best of the night, and a personal high for Lee, whose confidence is quietly growing with each passing performance. He took an amazing song (which I don’t ever remember being sung on “Idol” before), changed up the melody enough to make it interesting, and delivered passionate, contemporary-sounding vocals. If he would have held his final note a little longer, I would have considered everything perfect. Grade: A
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX - Midnight Train To Georgia - Bravo to Crystal for being brave enough to take a risk and move out of her comfort zone. And although it was obvious she wasn’t nearly as self-assured behind the piano (or getting up from it), her singing was still nearly flawless, as usual. But I agree with Simon: what she was doing before was fantastic and I’m totally fine if she sticks with that. Grade: A-
MICHAEL LYNCHE - Ready For Love - Like Kara, I too was unfamiliar with this India.Arie song, but acoustic soul as a genre is clearly a home run for Big Mike, and I really loved him for the very first time last night. Gone was the showboating of previous weeks, replaced with an understated performance that revealed a quiet and gentle power. Ellen said it best: “That was beautiful.” Grade: A-
CASEY JAMES - Hold On, I’m Coming – Strongest showing so far for Casey, who was obviously in his element and having the time of his life. Could that smile be any more infectious? He may not have done anything truly fresh or original with the song, but vocally he was in the zone and his guitar work was also stellar. Grade: A-
AARON KELLY - Ain’t No Sunshine - Kris Allen’s version of the Bill Withers classic is still fairly fresh in my mind, so Aaron had a bit of an obstacle to overcome here. And while I don’t think he outdid last year’s champion, this was nevertheless another solid performance from our youngest contestant. Grade: B
ANDREW GARCIA - Forever - I’m so happy that Andrew (who seems like a genuinely nice guy) finally gave us something that was almost as good as The Song That Will Not Be Mentioned Again from Hollywood Week. Also, I think he’s much stronger with his acoustic guitar. Grade: B
KATIE STEVENS - Chain of Fools - I won’t deny that Katie sounded better last night than she has all season, but she selected a song that has been done to death on “Idol” and she was back to her slightly pageant-y, overly mature style of singing. Improved vocals…I just want her to be young again. Grade: B-
TIM URBAN - Sweet Love - I know I’m probably alone on this one, but I disagree with judges…I didn’t think this was so bad! Okay, maybe there was something squeaky clean and slightly corny about his delivery, but he certainly didn’t hit any bad notes and he sounded every bit as strong as someone like Nick Lachey, for instance. Also, I love the way it seems to drive the judges crazy that Teflon Tim just keeps on smiling through their criticism. Grade: B-
SIOBHAN MAGNUS - Through the Fire - Ouch. What a difference a week makes. It sounded as if former frontrunner Siobhan strangely chose to sing the softer parts through her nose, and the louder parts were all shrieky and sharp. Kara was correct in pointing out that every great performer is entitled to an off night, but she’ll need to shine brightly again next week in order to erase this misstep from our memory. Grade: C
DIDI BENAMI - What Becomes of the Brokenhearted - Two weeks in a row of really old-fashioned performances prompted Simon to inform Didi that she has lost her way. I’d have to agree…her season-best “Rhiannon” is fading in the rearview mirror, and although I’m not an insensitive person, I’m growing tired of her tears. Plus, she doesn’t have the right to be irritated with Ryan for encouraging her to reveal the reason behind her raw emotions…if she’s going to hint around at a sad story, she should be prepared to tell it. Grade: C-
BOTTOM 3 PREDICTION: Although Siobhan probably deserves to be here based on this one performance, I think she’ll avoid the silver stools based on overall goodwill. I expect Tim Urban and Katie Stevens to repeat their appearances from last week, and they will likely be joined for the first time by Didi Benami…although it wouldn’t be shocking to see Andrew Garcia instead.
GOING HOME: I find this very tough to call. Although Didi was the weakest of the night, she’s never been in the Bottom 3 before, so I have a feeling she’s likely safe. I think maybe Tim Urban’s luck has finally run out.
What did you think of last night’s show? And how do you feel about this group overall? A lot of recent press has been proclaiming “worst season ever”, but I can’t say that I agree. There’s definitely no Sanjaya in this bunch, and I don’t feel that contestants from last year’s Top 10 (like Michael Sarver, Megan Joy, and Scott MacIntyre) are any better than the worst of this year’s finalists. What’s your opinion? Vote in our poll on the right, and sound off below with a comment!