Eight girls. Our most talented group ever, for the forty-sixth consecutive year... which is why we're cramming them into one hour instead of going for 90 minutes. That, and we hate ad revenue. THIS.... is American Idol!
Ellen is nuzzling Simon, continuing the earlier gag where he allegedly came on to her during Hollywood Week. And during these shows, Kara has been leaning against him as if he were Casey James. Poor Randy, not getting any Cowell-lovin'. He shouldn't boo every time Ryan introduces Simon if he wants a turn. Not fooling anyone, dawg.
With all the distinctive voices on the ladies' side this year, it's going to be tough on Katie, Paige, and Katelyn, who have much more traditional voices and are thus competing against each other. The weakest performance from those three is going to wind up putting her out on her ear; perhaps two of them if none can step up. The good news is, if one of them gets there she's almost guaranteed to get in. Of the other five, I think Didi is in the shakiest spot coming in, because she was savaged (unfiarly, IMHO) last week and was bottom three.
Katie Stevens is first, with Kelly Clarkson's "Break Away." The vocals are decent, that's not her problem, but it's all very "whatever yourself." I keep waiting for her to really take off on the "make a wish, take a chance" part, but she just putters along, 45 mph in the passing lane, blinker still on. Should have done better. Judges aren't feeling it. Simon in particular says that she's gotten so much advice that she tried to take, "10 out of 10 for eh-fourt," but that she "sucked all the energy out of it."
Siobhan "Ally Sheedy" Magnus, with "House of the Rising Sun." Nice a capella start, she's changing the melody here and there as well, to good effect. Liking this a lot. Band joins in and we get a big strong finish. Gorgeous. Vote-worthy. Judges? Three of four, but Simon thought it was nothing special or different. Maybe he couldn't dig Katie's performance out of his ears.
Lacey Brown, the flame-haired Leigh Nash soundalike, is singing a song I don't recognize, because I'm not one of the cool kids, and that's why we can't have nice things. She is very good. I'm even getting hints of Blossom Dearie in the vocal, I'm digging whatever-song-this-is. Hitting notes all up and down the register. If you just sing well, and connect to the song, you don't necessarily need to break out the fireworks. She gets uniform praise for the judges. Simon is somewhat reserved, says Lacey risks sounding forgettable. He's taking the "final cut before the final 12" thing very seriously, trying to see who will raise their game to get in.
Katelyn Epperly is standing at the keyboard, singing "I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King. That makes one of her. This is the sleepiest earth-moving I've ever heard. It takes her half the song to finally start moving around a bit back there - not that she needs to writhe around like Ray Charles or something, but at least bob your head. Maybe all that hair is too heavy to move. Booooooorrrrrrring. And she looks like one of the Weird Sisters. I expect her to tell Ryan that he can kill Simon and be King of the Judges' Table. Aside from the classic 60's keyboard, there was almost nothing to like about this. Very Muzak. Randy liked the keyboard, Ellen thought there was no wow to the song, Kara thought she didn't compete, and Simon says she sang it "quite well" but it was like request night at a restaurant.
That's 0-2 from the traditional voices. If Paige steps up she's sailing in.
Didi Benami is singing "Rhiannon," by Fleetwood Mac. Tough song to take on. She's going singer-songwriter with it, just a guitar and vocal. Very stripped down. She sounds wonderful, very ethereal, it fits the song well. Big plus - I can finally understand the lyrics.
Stevie Nicks: Auhwl yrLIIIIIIIIIII, you nevuh seen a wumaunn, takn blytheblinnnnn
Didi Benami: All your life, you've never seen a woman taken by the wind
This is brilliant. She really helped herself tonight. Randy was lukewarm, but the other judges, having paid attention, give Didi her due, with Simon calling the whole performance a "wow moment" and Kara saying it was one of her favorite moments of the season.
Ohhhh.... "Dreams unwind, love's a state of mind." Ohhhh!
Now it's Paige Miles, with a huge chance to step up. Singing a tune called "Smile." She is, however, not smiling. Nor is she on key. Wow, she's only hitting about two-thirds of the notes. This is a turgid performance. Arrangement is horrid, too. Oh, no. Oh... oh me oh my, we are in trouble, aren't we? She gave up and shut down. Randy calls it "bossa nova." (She would have been better off singing "Bossa Nova Baby" than what she actually did.) Ellen called it sad and heavy, not uplifiting. Simon calls it "Holiday Inn, 1974." I call it a swan song. She's done. Offbeat voices 3, Traditionalists 0, and it's not as close as the score suggests.
Crystal Bowersox takes on Tracey Chapman's "Gimme One Reason." Blows it right out of the water. Tremendous. What's more impressive is that she followed up last week's star-making performance with another hgih-water mark. Fantastic. Easily your leader in the clubhouse. Judges agree. Simon even breaks out his Carl Sagan impression by saying she's "one million billion percent" in the top 12.
So now it's poor Lilly Scott's job to follow up Crystal. She will use the power of her superfluous "L" to wow America - well, no, she's just singing "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline. Nice mandolin. Same relative size to her as the regular guitar to Michael Lynche. (ba-DUM pum! Thanks, I'll be here at the '74 Holiday Inn all week! Try the veal!) I do like this. She sounds nothing like Patsy Cline, so just by singing well, she sounds original, despite the straight-up country arrangement. And she is singing quite well. Like it a lot. On the downside, it looks like she emptied her dryer vents before coming on, and she's wearing the giant lint balls as earrings.
Top Three - Crystal by a mile, Didi, Siobhan. Bottom three - Katie, Katelyn, Paige. One of the three will eke it out, but I have trouble saying which. Katie has the youth vote and the sick gammie sympathy vote, so I'm kind of thinking she stays... It's tough, because going first didn't help her, but Paige went last and left such a terrible impression that it may not matter. And Katelyn, I'm done done done with. Out, out, brief candle.