‘American Idol’: The Top 9 Bring The Beatles To Life With Bizarre Instruments
American Idol’s theme last night was songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but it turned into What Random Instrument Can We Bring Up On Stage? Instead of having a mentor, the Idols were on their own this week, and it appears a few of the Top 9 contestants took free range to come up with some kooky additions to their performances. Plus, the extra screen time usually reserved for the mentor to dole out advice was instead dedicated to the Idols talking about one another—a change of pace that pleasantly resulted in one of the most quote-worthy episodes of the season thus far.
After the jump, find out who did John and Paul proud, who made us hang our heads in shame, and which Scottish and Australian instruments made their TV debut on American Idol.
Aaron Kelly – “The Long And Winding Road” Could Aaron possibly come anywhere close to Paul McCartney’s vocals or emotion on this gorgeous song? His take was competent, but there was just nothing interesting about his performance. We think the teenager (known as “Yoda” for some reason among his Idol peers), has reached his vocal ceiling—we just can’t see him getting any better. Aaron teases that he has something different planned for next week, and yes, we’re pretty sure he’ll be around, singing proficiently once more, but doing nothing spectacular with whatever song he chooses.
Katie Stevens – “Let It Be” What did we learn about Katie in her pre-performance clip? That she’s like everybody with a YouTube account and knows how to do the “Single Ladies” dance. Katie—who’s apparently using Idol as a platform to score a prom date—finally manages to impress us with a powerful and controlled take on “Let It Be.” She switches up notes and adds her own original riffs that don’t feel forced or sound like she’s desperately seeking attention. It just may be the best performance she’s given on the Idol stage. (Even Kara’s impromptu attempt at singing—again—couldn’t steal Katie’s thunder.)
Andrew Garcia – “Can’t Buy Me Love” Andrew turned this playful ditty into an over-the-top funk jam that sounded straight out of a wedding band’s reprotoire. Or maybe it’s something Marty McFly would play while performing at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future. In any case, let’s just say we wouldn’t download it on iTunes. Despite Andrew’s return-to-form last week with Chris Brown’s “Forever,” we suspect Andrew’s luck is running out.
Michael Lynche – “Eleanor Rigby” We still have a soft spot for David Cook’s angsty rock version of “Eleanor Rigby” from Season 7—because it was brilliant and relevant and fresh—but Big Mike turned the song into his own tortured, heartfelt R&B track (which the judges drooled over, besides Simon finding it too Broadway-ish). The man is on a roll! Is it too early to predict a Michael/Crystal finale?
Crystal Bowersox – “Come Together” Carly Smithson sang a pretty rockin’ version of this song in Season 7, but “Mama Sox” gets mad points for incorporating the first bizarre instrument of the night—a didgeridoo! And it really works. Every week we are astonished Crystal is even on this show—why hasn’t she nabbed a recording contract by this point? We guess that’s why shows like Idol exist, so that we can find true talents like Bowersox.
Tim Urban – “All My Loving” For somebody who’s this season’s “Sanjaya”, Tim did a pretty decent job. His take on the love song didn’t really go anywhere, but not flat-out embarrassing himself on stage is good enough for Tim to slide on by. Even Simon had to compliment him for “taking the criticism like a man… I’m very, very proud of you.” Which is why Tim is so much fun to poke fun of, because we know our jabs are not really hurting him. Dude knows how lucky he is to have lasted this far, and rest assured, Tim will be smiling through to next week, especially with that uber-trendy Bieber bowl cut. (Randy thinks it’s more Beatles-esque, but we definitely see Bieber.)
Casey James – “Jealous Guy” “Our little Playboy… a soap opera star,” says Michael Lynche of Casey. (Personally, we prefer “Goldilocks” as a nickname.) Despite sounding a bit shaky or mildly off-pitch, Mr. Goldilocks gave a star-making performance, full of true, raw emotion. He switched up the electric guitar for an acoustic, and took his time delivering his sensitive take on the Lennon song. We really think Casey could leave the show ttomorrow and have a good shot at having a successful career post-Idol.
Siobhan Magnus – “Across the Universe” Siobhan looks like she’s auditioning for a role in the remake of Steel Magnolias with that hair and poofy dress. We expected something a bit more upbeat from Siobhan… and this performance just puts us to sleep. What’s more, surprise surprise, she’s still finding a way to belt out that money note near the end of the song. Many people have covered this song over the years, from Fiona Apple to Rufus Wainwright to Season 7’s Michael Johns, but her version came off like something that would be sung at a piano bar while people have drinks and ignore the performer, but apparently Siobhan feels differently—she starts crying while explaining her song choice, and as touching as it is hearing her talk about her love for her sister, Simon’s sarcastic puppy dog face while she teared up almost caused us to do a spit take from our imaginary gigantic Coca-Cola cups. Oh, Simon, we’ll miss how much you don’t care about people.
Lee Dwyze – “Hey Jude” Lee’s take on the Beatles’ classic sing-a-long song is predictably raspy, country rock. If Crystal’s decision to use a didgeridoo wasn’t oddball enough, Lee brings out a man in a kilt playing bagpipes. (No, really, he did.) We find it hard to get excited about Lee, mostly because his voice sounds like absolutely every singer currently playing on college radio. But adding bagpipes to The Beatles? It’s so… weird… we love it. More of these left-of-center choices, please! Not just from Lee, but from everyone (including Siobhan, who saves all her creative energy for her outfits). We’re seriously thirsty for more watercooler moments this season. Can you believe we’re at the Top 9 and we’re still humming “Pants on the Ground”? That’s not a good sign.
Best of the Night: Although Katie Stevens showed the most improvement this week, Casey James gave his best performance yet.
Worst of the Night: We think it’s time for Andrew Garcia to head on back home.
Quote of the Night: Michael Lynche’s description of Siobhan (“Siobhan is amazing….ly… weird”) is hard to top, but Crystal Bowersox beats it when discussing Andrew and Lee’s superclose friendship: “I’m so glad those two can be together and get married and have lots of Danny Gokey babies.” Katie agrees: “They’re like brothers. Or dating.”
Final Thoughts: Who knew The Beatles theme night would result in such a great night for almost all the Idol hopefuls? It goes to show that Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting is so timeless and extraordinary, even a mediocrre batch of contestants could still come out shining. Also, next week, we fully expect Michael Lynche to rock out on the glockenspiel and Aaron Kelly to jam with a theramin.