‘American Idol’: Usher Attempts To Give The Top 10 Some Rhythm And Blues
Who better to usher in R&B week on American Idol this season than, er, Usher. The man has a brand new album out, and so to promote it he took on the daunting task of coaxing a little soul out of the Top 10 contestants by acting as their mentor. The hopefuls took on songs by big belters (Aretha, Chaka, Anita), though not always to the best results. We’ll just say this once more—Idol, please get some new theme nights! (Think they heard us that time?) Alright, on with the recap.
Siobhan Magnus — “Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan Siobhan has had a crush on Usher since she was six years old, which makes us start picturing her as a tyke skipping around while singing “You Make Me Wanna…” Anyway, it’s too bad Siobhan wasn’t a Chaka Khan fan for that long, because then she might have tackled “Through The Fire” with a bit more expertise. Instead, she is out of key, sharp and pitchy. The whole performance is a mess, and it marks Siobhan’s worst song choice so far. The judges all agree, but Kara points out that she’s entitled to an off night, since “at the end of the day you’re still a great singer.”
Casey James — “Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave Casey is excited this week because, as he points out, his roots are playing blues. He gets an extra confidence boost when Usher asks him to take his shirt off. Oh, we kid—Usher tells him, “You’re already a rock star.” And so Casey, decked out in a nice jacket, belts out a blue-eyed-soul-infused, Daryl Hall-esque version of “Hold On, I’m Coming” that’s actually pretty awesome. The two males judges agree, but it’s the ladies who take issue with it. Ellen says it felt a little generic and Kara thinks he has more range than what he displayed.
Michael Lynche — “Ready For Love” by India.Arie Michael is eager to get back to playing guitar this week because “the guitar is about honesty.” Usher tells Big Mike that projection is everything when trying to give the crowd your energy as a performer. But did anyone else notice that Michael’s eyes were closed most of the time he was on stage? We hardly think that’s what Mr. Raymond was talking about, Mike! Either way, it doesn’t matter. The judges heap praise upon him for what Kara calls a “tasteful” and “lovely” performance.
Didi Benami — “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin Let’s just cut to the chase: this was not super. Didi has resorted back to the crying game (she bawls in front of Usher), and chose this song because it apparently reminds her of her best friend who passed away. She actually comes alive at the end of her performance and hits a couple of decent notes—well, okay, maybe just one—but it’s very much a case of too little, too late. Kara sums it up best when she says,”It’s overdone, girl. You’ve changed. You lost your vision.” And we have a feeling Didi might just know what becomes of the brokenhearted after tonight’s results show.
Tim Urban — “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker Strangely, Tim’s performance this week isn’t as bad as Siobhan’s. And, no—we can’t believe we just put that sentence online, either. His singing is okay, and he hits the high notes without going sharp, but it’s still just “kind of pedestrian,” as Randy points out. The funny part comes when Usher gives Tim the note to envision that the woman he’s singing about is right in front of him—because then Tim just ends up staring maniacally into the camera once he’s on stage. Weirdo.
Andrew Garcia — “Forever” by Chris Brown Andrew’s been beaten up by the judges so much week after week, we’re actually surprised that he still bothers showing up. That said, Usher zeroes in on Andrew’s nervousness and (keep in mind, this is a big gesture) takes his shades off so Andrew can connect with him. Whatever confidence voodoo Usher gives him works, because suddenly Andrew pulls off a soulful, stripped-down version of “Forever” that even Rihanna wouldn’t be able to resist. Looks like someone’s back in the game! Well, almost. Simon tells Andrew, “As a person you come over as very boring.” Cut to Randy bringing the contestant’s mother on stage, who shrieks at Simon while he folds his arms in boredom.
Katie Stevens — “Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin This is a big song for 17-year-old Katie to tackle. And when she sings the line “For five long years, I thought you were my man,” well, let’s just say the thought of her entering into a long-term relationship at age 12 is a bit creepy. She pulls the song off ably enough, but there’s just no “wow” factor, which has been Katie’s problem for several weeks now.
Lee Dewyze — “Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers Lee gives what turns out to be the best male performance of the night. Usher tells him he has an incredible voice, and he just needs to own it. “If you don’t believe you, they won’t,” this week’s mentor says. Lee’s take on the funky soul jam is more rock than R&B, but it completely works and he makes the song his own. Simon tells him that he wants Lee to go home, watch the tape and understand this is the night his life may have changed forever. That said, we still have a hard time believing a guitar-wielding rocker dude will be crowned the Idol champ for a third year in a row.
Crystal Bowersox — “Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips This week Crystal pulls the rug out from her perceived hippie chick image by not only donning a red dress and stiletto heels, but by ditching her guitar and playing piano. There’s a powerful moment when she stands up from the piano and really starts belting out the emotional parts of the song. Lee Dewyze’s life may have changed tonight, but Crystal’s has been on one steady path from the get-go. Needless to say, she provides the best female vocal performance this week.
Aaron Kelly — “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers Usher tries to help Aaron with the “I know, I know, I know” line of Bill Withers’ 1971 hit “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The 16-year-old doesn’t really nail it or the rest of the song on stage, and the judges seem to be getting a bit bored with the youngster at this point. Still, he’s got a loyal fan base, and we’d venture to guess he’ll at least outlast Tim and Andrew.
Best Of The Night: Sigh. Crystal Bowersox. Again. Worst Of The Night: Siobhan Magnus. Those notes on the chorus were painful, girl. Chaka’s eyes probably popped out of her head when she heard that. Diss Of The Night: When Simon tells Siobhan, “It sounded to me as if you’d run a marathon and you were singing while you’d run out of breath… It was by far your weakest performance so far.” Tweet Of The Night: “Crystal Bowersox you are my favorite!! Keep it up!!” from none other than Kelly Clarkson.