‘American Idol’: The Top 8 Girls Play It Safe

Becky Bain | March 10, 2010 7:06 am

The warm reception that greeted the ladies’ performances last week must have led American Idol’s Top 8 females to the assumption that they could take this week off. Tsk, tsk ladies! Competing on AI is like dieting – more progress you make, the more you have to push yourself to see results.

Almost all the girls played it safe this week — they must have decided not to take on anything too ambitious for fear of blowing it all just when they felt certain of their arrival in the Top 12. But aversion to risks instead meant that they sacrificed any real chance at a powerhouse “moment” (such as last week’s note-heard-round-the-Web by Siobhan Magnus during “Think”). And instead, many of the girls appeared to be playing it too safe to be engaging. Two gals have to go, and we’re pretty sure to whom we’ll be waving buh-bye on Thursday night. Take the jump to read our recap of the Top 8 Girls, and find out which woman disappointed us the most.

Katie Stevens – “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson With her wobbly take on Kelly’s smash single, Katie at least showed that she can follow some of the directions given by the judges. Yes, she finally picked a younger song, but she still didn’t make it her own. We have no hope for Katie in this competition anymore – much like the judges, we think she’s too young to know who she is as an artist. (This goes for Aaron Kelly, too. Sorry, not everyone can be Jordin Sparks or David Archuleta.) Hey, the 17-year old still has another 11 seasons where she can come back to audition — that is, if Idol isn’t canceled by then. But let’s not think of such scary possibilities.

Siobhan Magnus – “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals Siobhan again showed terrific control, and displayed real courage by performing a capella. (If nothing else, she finally put to rest our what-if thoughts about both Andrew Fenlon and Janell Wheeler.) We do wish she had wailed a little more, as she did in her game-changing performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Think.” In fact, is there a song that’s all belting? She should just do that week after week. Still, there’s no doubt she’s sailing through to the Top 12, despite her being placed in the troublesome 2nd performance slot. What’s more interesting about Siobhan’s Idol journey is her wardrobe — the show’s stylists are putting her in heels and sexy frocks instead of the Mary Jane shoes and alterna-garb she sported when she first entered the competition. By the Top 5 (if she makes it that long, which we’re betting she will) we can expect that nose ring to be gone and her hair styled with extensions. Is that the real Siobhan? Probably not, but it’s the one that will probably get people to look at her as a sexy pop singer instead of a glass blower.

Lacey Brown – “The Story” by Brandi CarlileHere’s the good news: Lacey finally isn’t a giant trainwreck. Yay! Her sweet, high-pitched country cooing reminds us of Dolly Parton, actually. Now the bad news: Too little too late, Lacey. A merely  competent performance isn’t enough to get America to vote for you. We never invested too much in Lacey, anyway — must be because Idol producers barely edited her into the earlier segments of the show.

Katelyn Epperly – “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole KingOh, Katelyn. We like you and your big, bouncy hair, and your bright-and-shiny personality, and you did sing the song with all due care. But your take on this upbeat classic made us feel like we were watching a tiresome wedding band that had all but given up on getting people to actually shake it on the dancefloor. Basically, we were bored. Katelyn soared last week by singing an elegent, ethereal version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” (a left-of-field choice that totally worked). So why take a step backwards now?

Didi Benami – “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood MacWelcome back, Didi! Her acoustic arrangement of the Fleetwood Mac song was gorgeous, a huge improvement over last week’s “Lean On Me,” and Didi really shows off her distinct voice and unique phrasing. Well done. However — Didi really has to develop a more three-dimensional personality than that of “The Crying Girl,” since that was totally Brooke White’s thing during Season 7, and the two blonde singer/musicians share enough of a resemblance to be considered doppelgangers as it is. Plus, crying every week, whether you’re pleased with your performance or not, gets really irritating.

Paige Miles – “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin Paige, honey… is something going on at home? You okay? After confidently attempting to win over the crowd with Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away” last week, she tried to go torchy this week, and delivered a dreary, shaky performance of “Smile.” Paige looked terrified, as if a loony stage mom was holding a gun to her head and telling her to project. Beyond her streak of poor performances, Paige never fully developed a distinct personality on the show, so we feel like we’ll be saying goodbye to somebody we never really got to know. Her fault, or the producers’? Like Lacey, probably both factors are to blame.

Crystal Bowersox – “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman The frontrunner of Season 9 didn’t disappoint anyone (particularly not #1 fan Simon) with her bluesy, electric-guitar-aided performance. Although Crystal is a shoe-in for the Top 12, we’re a little worried how she’ll fare once contestants are forced to adhere to a theme (what on Earth would she sing on Broadway night? Or Big Band night?). But it’s about time Idol had an indie rocker girl as a winner, since so many other genres on the musical spectrum have had their day(s) with past Idol champs. The best thing about Crystal is that her style is so understated, too – she doesn’t have to be dressed to the nines or change her look to sway people into rooting for her. Is it too late for her to be added to the Lilith Fair lineup?

Lilly Scott – “I Fall To Pieces” by Patsy Cline: Lilly plays with a mandolin and gives an adequate performance. Not much else going on. Her unusual voice is the main selling point. We really want to see Lilly shake things up a bit in the following rounds, because the quirky-cute thing might get old. And as with Crystal, we’re curious to see how she handles themed nights.

Best of the Night: Crystal Bowersox

Worst of the Night: Paige Miles and Katelyn Epperly….though we think Paige and Lacey Brown are gonna be given the boot.

Final Thoughts: We were moderately satisfied with the girls tonight — besides Paige, no one was a complete disaster — but mostly it was a snooze of an evening. Can they bring out “The General” Larry Platt to “gong” contestants when we’re getting bored with their performances? It would certainly be more entertaining and straight-up funny than Ellen’s been the last few weeks.

Yes, it’s Ellen who was our biggest disappointment the past few rounds. We’re truly starting to tire of her cheesy little quips (did she really say “Didi, to that I say yes indeedy, Didi” with a straight face?) and where we at first welcomed some levity and a fresh voice to the show, we now find ourselves rolling our eyes whenever it’s the comedian’s turn to judge. Ellen, unless you’ve got something exceptionally clever to say, let’s just keep it to the critiques, ‘kay?