Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Idol Recap :: "Soul Sucking"

Last Wednesday's Idol started all comic book cover blurby - with big red letters that read "ANOTHER IDOL MUST FALL." Dramatic much? And why only one? Cuz I would totally back up "Four Idols Must Fall."

This "Crisis of Infinite Idols" began with a group sing of Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go, Go," which managed the nigh impossible task of being even cornier than the original video. It's also auto-tuned within an inch of its life, betraying any notion that this is happening in the now. And the Idolers mouths match the words less than Speed Racer ever did.

Paige gets the lowest votes, and in a move that is simultaneously merciful and insulting, Simon dashes any hope that they will use "The Judge's Save" - before Paige even sings a note. “I don’t want to give you any false hope here," Simon sniffs, "It’s the end.” If only, Simon, We have like 10 weeks to go. Or, as Reality Blurred summarized, "Paige Miles out, but American Idol 9 still sucks."

This week's theme is Soul and R&B. During the week, I had nightmares of Andrew Garcia reimagining Rihanna's "Umbrella." Usher is the guest mentor, taking precious time in between his albums and porn tapes.

Siobhan Magnus "Through The Fire"
Siobhan meets Usher looking like Carol Seaver thrown into a blender and set to "anime." Her rendition of "Through The Fire" is a bit of an uneven mix, all in preparation to deliver yet another “Siobhan Shriek.” The judges didn't much care for it and Simon was like, stop screaming already.

Casey James "Hold On I'm Coming"
Usher describes Casey's voice, saying he has a great tool. Meanwhile, Kara gets the squishees thinking of Casey's tool. Me? I just think Casey is a tool. He sings "Hold On, I'm Coming" with a bluesy authority, but it's still a sort of "really good bar band" performance. The judges like it, because relativity is everything this season.

Michael Lynche "Ready For Love"
You just knew, with R&B week, that Big Mike was gonna sing some song about sweetly sexing up some fine lady, right? Usher tells him to sell it to the back row, and shows him how by date raping the camera. Mike is thankfully less loungey this week, and actually gives a solid lactose-free performance, although it lasts 100 years and a day. The judges like it, and Simon even thinks Mike had a moment. (Really now, Cowell?)

Didi Benami "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted"
Didi gets mushy during practice sessions with Usher, because the song is meaningful to her. It probably reminds her of her dead friend she mentioned during auditions. Unfortunately, this kills her performance, turning it into a sad, warbly dirge. Apparently, what becomes of the broken hearted, is that they sing badly on nationally televised talent shows. The judges didn't like. Ryan tries to get Didi to tell the "dead friend" story, but she refuses to go there. Props to her for that.

Tim Urban "Sweet Love"
Ryan interviews Tim on the pimp stool, where they talk about how the press has dubbed him "Teflon Tim," due to his staying power and, y'know, marginal talent. Usher encourages Tim to imagine him as a woman he's loved... or something. What? Is Usher now busting moves originated by Season Seven's pick-up artist, Andrew Llyod Weber? Careful, Tim, or you'll end up in Usher's next video. Home video, if you know what I mean.

Tim starts the song sitting pensively on the Idol stairs, as if to say, "take me seriously, bitches." But we can't, as Tim quickly devolves into a cruise ship style performance, with pleading puppy dog eyes. It's rather mild and inoffensive, but also, notsogood. No wonder Vote For The Worst is backing Teflon Timmy. The judges don't like it, and Simon sums up the whole situation by saying,
"I don't think it makes any difference whatsoever what we say to you Tim. It was completely an inappropriate song, it was like a mouse picking a fight with an elephant, you're not going to win. But it doesn't matter because you're going to smile, the audience is going to vote for you. Nobody cares, you're going to be here next week, so well done."

Andrew Garcia "Forever"
Thankfully, this week, Andrew doesn't try and reinvent a song by mercilessly massacring it. Nor does he give us a weird Telemundo cover version. Instead, he sings a song actually suited for him. The judges are just grateful he didn't suck. Because, that's enough this season. Simon says it was good, but Andrew runs the risk of being "boring." At this, Andrew's mama emerges from the crowd, having apparently slain a zebra on the way over to the studio, now wearing its skin as a prize. She's delivering a sassy melange of "Oh no you di'int" and "I'm on TV and talking to Simon."

Katie Stevens "Chain of Fools"
Katie taking on Aretha Franklin is like Heidi Montag trying to be like, a super-serious actress and stuff. Which is to say, "Darlin', this shit won't stand." It's basically a big song delivered by a little girl - as Katie struts the stage like a Hooker Muppet.

Lee Dewyze "Treat Her Like A Lady"
Lee talk to Ryan on the pimp stool, all nervous. Lee rehearses with Usher, all nervous. Lee's biggest issue? The dude is nervous. The good news is that he sings "Treat Her Like A Lady" quite well, giving it a rough edge that suits his voice. The judges rightfully like it. Me? I'm hoping for a Dewylsox finale.

Crystal Bowersox "Midnight Train To Georgia"
Crystal drops the guitar in favor of the piano this week. Not her best performance, but against the Redial Idols, it's like Celine Dion pounding her chest at the Oscars. S'all good. Judges like it, but Simon advises her, “Don’t let this competition turn you into something you’re not.” On this show? Hello, irony. Nice to see you again. Thanks for dropping by.

Aaron Kelly "Ain't No Sunshine"
Also memorably sung by Kris Allen last season. Archie 2.0 tackles the song, and while it's ok, it's also rather bland and boring. Put him back in the oven, the boy ain't fully baked yet. EW.com puts it best, "And even though none of the judges could be bothered to mention his name, it needs to be said that when it comes to the Idol stage, “Ain’t No Sunshine” belongs to season 8 champ Kris Allen. And it was not fun to watch a child scribble over his legacy with a magic marker, thank you very much."

So tonight's episode wasn't as horrible as last week, but remained maddeningly middling. It's perhaps a worse offense, as I prefer either "so bad it's entertaining" or "actually good." Le sigh.

So who's going home? I think Teflon Tim might have another week in him, so I'm guessing it's bye-bye to Didi.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Idol Recap :: "The Worst Of All Worlds"

Last Wednesday's results show was a strange cocktail indeed.

First, Season Seven Winner David Cook returned to the Idol stage. He showed these Remedial Idols how to do a Rolling Stone song - with a confident cover of “Jumping Jack Flash."

Next, Orianthi performs, who Ryan introduces - without a whit of irony - as one of music's "newest pioneers." If by pioneer, you mean Taylor Swift wannabe, then, yeah.

Orianthi sings "According To You," which tells the tale of a girl berated by her current boyfriend, while another guy puts her on a pedestal. Sample lyric? "According to you / I’m stupid / I’m useless / I can’t do anything right." By the end of the song, she's still with this neanderthal, while nice guy remains on the hook (just ask Ted Mosby's friends). Throw in a pick-up truck and this woulda been a perfect country song. And the lesson to tween girls everywhere is: Stay in verbally abusive relationships, but complain about them. Bravo, recording industry.

We also meet an entity known only as Ke$ha. I'm irked just typing that pretentious dollar sign; She's even managed to be annoying via punctuation. Her performance? Take a genetic sample of the vapid Sharpay from "High School Musical." Now splice it with the DNA of Pizzazz, evil music rival of Jem and the Holograms. Finally, remove the talent genome. The result is this 'Lil Lady Gaga's "Blah, Blah, Blah," which simultaneously offends television sets, Native Americans and anyone with working eardrums.

Oh, and one of this season's Red Shirts, Lacey Brown, got the lowest votes. She was forced to sing for her life to get the coveted "Judge's Save," still one of the show's cruelest twists. Who are we kidding? They are reserving that for Crystal Bowersox this season. All the others? All those sing-monkeys are missing is a pair of cymbals or an organ grinder. As a result, Lacey's performance is the musical version of Spider's short-lived bar tending gig in Goodfellas. Only with less dignity. She's out.

Tonight's ep begins with another Family Feud style opening. Judges enter and engage in tomfoolery. Simon patronizes Kara. Ryan goes faux-butch on Simon again. Randy, as usual, atrophies in his chair. Rinse, lather, repeat.

This week, the sucktitude of this season is underlined by tonight's guest judge:
Miley Cyrus. Who better to give advice than a marginally-talented singer who owes her entire career to a string-pulling father? Well, at least Miley's singing skills are twice as good as her acting skills. And that means everything it implies. "The Best Of Both Worlds," my ass. Taking musical advice from Miley Cyrus is tantamount to soliciting dating tips from Jennifer Aniston. Is The Show officially mocking the contestants now?

The top 11 theme is Billboard #1 Hits. And I'm at least thankful the Idolers aren't choosing from Hannah Montana's Greatest Hits collection. Miley wants people to take her seriously, and goes on to say, nuzzled in her leopard skin chair, "I know that what I think is what my art feels." No, that's not a typo. The girl is either deep or moronic, you decide (hint: she's not deep). She then talks about this season's contestants, "I know how talented they are. I was like, how am I going to go here and tell them what they're doing wrong? I don't see it. I don't see that they're doing anything wrong." That whooshing sound is what's left of Miley's credibility flying out the window.

Suddenly Avril Lavigne as a guest judge - devil horn sweat jacket hoodie and all -seems like Aretha Franklin by comparison.

Lee Dewyze "The Letter"
Lee practices with Miley, dressed like an actor playing a thug on the CW's "Smallville." Talks about his nerves and problems with onstage presence, which has been his main problem. The horns and back-up singers provide a nice complement to Lee's gravely voice. It's a bit of a jazzier, bluesier version, but overall, this works. (Although Lee is still a clumsy performer.) The judges like it, but Ellen uses up what seems like half the show's running time with a dull pen analogy. Simon didn't think it was great, and even was a "little corny," and still wants a "moment" from Lee. I fear Lee is still a few weeks off from a moment. I also fear that this season, asking for a "moment" is a wish you need to make on wee Ryan's Pot o' Gold.

Paige Miles "Against All Odds"
Paige gets the pimp stool this week (they must sorta like her; just wait, Show, just wait). Paige was starstruck over Miley, so we know she's an idiot in addition to being a murderer of Michael Jackson songs. Remember a few weeks ago, when Paige manslaughtered Jackson's "Smile"? Well, that's just a minor misdemeanor compared to what she does to Phil Collins' "Against All Odds." The atrocities she commits.... it's like "The Last House On The Left" set to music. Brutal, yo. Paige's "singing" is thin, warbly, off-key and uneven. I can't tell if her voice is still suffering, or if the girl done plain massacred another song. The judges rightfully hate it, with Ellen mustering up a feeble "you didn't fall down" as the only compliment. And the audience cheers at Paige NOT falling down, because they are dumb asshats. Sadly, it may be the only thing to cheer about tonight.

Tim Urban "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
When Ryan announced that Tim Urban was going to sing Queen, I thought this entire season had to be one big episode of "Punk'd." But he's only singing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," which is probably the easiest Queen song to sing. Miley is encouraging Tim to switch it up, and he goes into some weird ragtime version of the song in auditions. Miley's encouraging words "mean a lot" to Tim. Which makes Tim either a liar or a fool.

Tim's version is strictly karaoke, punctuated by some elementary choreography. It's like the Las Vegas Junior High School Musical. Tim slides (literally!) into the Aryan Mosh Pit of Estrogen, where the swaybots give Tim emotional support. They are saving everything else for marriage. The whole thing is vocally so-so and grossly amateur hour. The judges think it was "High School Musical"-ish, but why needlessly insult "High School Musical" like that? Hate the player, not the game, Show. Tim, only your shirtless internet photos on "Vote For The Worst" can save you now.

Aaron Kelly "I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing"
Aaron has a little crush on Miley, and he gets all squishy that Miley liked his audition of "The Climb." Um, is Aaron 16 years old, or 6 years old? He probably has Hannah Montana bedsheets. Aaron is creeping on Miley all through practice sessions. He finally scores a hug and gets his very first semi. Idol does indeed give back.

Aaron is singing Aerosmith's overplayed "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." Aaron almost considers goin' a little bit country mid-song, then reconsiders. It's OK-ish, but pretty vanilla overall. The judges like it, and like his song choice. Aaron also gets a partial-pass based on the fact that he's sick this week.

Crystal Bowersox "Me and Bobby McGee"
Like Crystal needs Miley's advice. Crystal says she's having "powerful, beautiful women sign her guitar." But then she asks Miley to sign it, too.

Janis Joplin is the perfect artist for Crystal. "It's right in her pocket," as Paula might say between meds. Ironically, in singing a song from the boozy mess that is Janis Joplin, Crystal looks like she's actually combed her hair and changed her dirty granny panties. Oh yeah, it's secret makeover week, where all the Idolers are primped and preened to look Top 10 ready. The performance is, of course, very solid. Judges love. Mamasox is clearly light years ahead of her fellow Idolers.

Michael Lynche "When a Man Loves a Woman"
On the results show, Big Mike seemed nonplussed at the critiques of his performance. He said "my people" enjoyed it. Apparently, he has people now. And while Big Mike is indeed a good singer, it comes with a grande helping of fromage. We get a rendition of "When a Man Loves a Woman" that drips or orange-hued Velveeta. Randy and Ellen like it, but Kara and Simon thought it was a little "loungey."

Andrew Garcia "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"
On meeting Miley, Andrew skillfully describes it as "being cool to meet someone on that level." "Level." Ably dodged, Garcia. You get to leave with your dignity... for the moment.

Oh, sadly, that dignity flits away once Andrew hit the stage. Continuing the painful parade of reinvented songs, Andrew somehow gives "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" a soul-ectomy. All the smooth Motown groove is replaced with a tuneless sing-speak Telemundo version. Watch for this performance on Clippos Magnifico! It's the totally wrong song choice. The judges didn't like it, and Simon agrees with me, noting that Andrew "sucked the soul out of that song [...] and tortured it." Andrew, maybe your dad was right about those custodian keys.

Katie Stevens "Big Girls Don’t Cry"
Katie is singing Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry," the damnably infectious pop song. Katie is a good-ish singer for being 16 years, but girlfriend needs more time to hone her skills. Her performance is full of bum notes and pitch problems. In short, it's a big song for a little girl. The judges mostly think it's an improvement over last week, although Kara does call it "mad pitchy." Okay, now they're just grading on the curve.

Casey James "Power of Love"
Casey meets Miley and tell her he's a huge fan.... of her dad! Ooooh, Snap! As Liz Lemon would say, "spit take!" Casey is singing Huey Lewis' "Power of Love." I think he's made a poor song choice, as this song and arrangement is a departure from his bluesy success last week. This performance is bland-bar-band, and does nothing to impress. The judges shockingly like it, except Simon, who says it was like "an 80s cover band" with "nothing original" about it. Simon is apparently the only judge who hasn't been tainted by the sucktitude of the lesser Top Twelvers.

Didi Benami "You’re No Good"
Didi is one of the Top Twelvers that actually almost gets it... sometimes. We just never know if we are going to get "Good Didi" or "Bad Didi." Will we get nice Didi or Mirror Universe Didi? Bender-Didi or Flexo-Didi? Phoebe-Didi or Ursula-Didi? Samantha-Didi or Serena-Didi? Jamie Summer Didi or Lisa Galloway Didi? Give yourself a cookie if you get all those references.

We get mostly "Good Didi," although it's never anything great. The judges all hate on it, which is rather unfair. There were worse performances tonight - and Didi - although not great - didn't deserve this much venom. Simon even dubs her the "new Lacey." Didi, wear the Red Shirt in good health. Until the alien spores get you, that is.

Siobhan Magnus "Superstition"
Siobhan practices with Miley looking like Violet, Screech's nerdy paramour from "Save By The Bell." Siobhan is apparently a level-12 freak, if you read between the lines of Didi Benami's comments. Or, as Vote For The Worst would say, "You know you're weird when rooming with Crystal Bowersox, who looks like she hasn't had a bath in 6 months and has a family of squirrels living in her hair, is a better option than living with the freakiness that is Siobhan Magnus."

Siobhan struts on stage looking like Crocket's wife, Sheena Easton, from the withering 1987-1988 season of "Miami Vice." It's mostly good, but Siobhan gives us a screech mid-song. Unfortunately, it's more like last season's Gokey-like "Scream On" than an Adam Lambert stylized wail. The judges like (relativity is Siobhan's friend) - but Simon cautions them all to step it up.

Simon's sage words that sum up this entire episode: "it was not a good night." This was, to be blunt, the worst episode in American Idol history, with the worst set of Top Twelvers I think the Show has ever seen.

So who's going home? Damn, I'd send 'em all home except for Lee, Siobhan and Crystal. But if I have to choose only one, I'd have to say I'd lay "Odds" that Paige is gone. So take a look at her now. 'Cuz next week, I expect an empty space.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Idol Recap :: Satisfaction Not A Guarantee

America, this is your Top Twelve. Did someone change the definition of the word "top" when I wasn't looking? Because I still see the likes of Aaron Kelly, Katie Stevens, Paige Mills and Tim Urban. Meanwhile, the quirky and interesting Lilly Scott was criminally eliminated, along with talented but awkward Alex Lambert (who was getting better every week). Alas, those bananas will not ripen on this stage (don't ask, it was an Ellen joke. And when I say "Ellen" and "joke," I do feel like I need to put the word "joke" in quotes).

I fear with all these sad singers, we're in for a boring season (despite Ryan
Seacrest's assertions of every season being comprised of the "most talented group ever"). Instead of season five's sublime mix of Chris Daughtry, Elliot Yamin, Katherine McPhee, Madisa, Paris Bennett and Bucky Covington - we get a strange melange of like-quality Idolers such as Matt Rogers, NikkiMcKibbin, John Stevens, Dian DeGarmo, Haley Scarnato and Kristy Lee Cook. Who, you say? Exactly. The musical equivalents of Zima, the Edsel, and Cop Rock. Only less successful.

Part of it stems from a crop of contestants now reared on American Idol. whose first season launched many moons ago, when Brian Dunkleman walked the stage and Justin still texted Kelly (They would now Skype, if Justin could afford such luxuries on a Taco Bell salary). As such, contestants seem to think good singing means ridiculous runs that last 'til Thursday (Hi,Jermaine Sellers). Or that a hipster hat or a tussled hairstyle can imbue you with the musical talents of a Justin Timberlake or Carole King (Hello, Katelyn Epperly). Or "making a song your own" consists of removing all its energy and melody (Hey, Todrick Hall's unrecognizable Bobby Brown-like “Since U Been Gone”). Or that "being a throwback" is great until the Judges decide it's not (Sorry,poor Tyler Grady). Dear Idol, what have you wrought?

In other Idol season shockers, this will be Simon's last season. We've also welcomed the nice but painfully unfunny Ellen as the
NuPaula. Meanwhile, Kara has caught something from Paula's toilet seat, creeping on Casey James while blubbering over Big Mike. But some things remain comfortably the same: Randy is still useless. Dawg.

The show begins with a Family Feud inspired opening, introducing the judges. Then the contestants emerge all shiny and new for Top 12 TV. In the immortal words of Richard Dawson, "Let's play the Feud!"

In tonight's two-hour (!) musical massacre, we're treated (?) to songs from the Rolling Stones catalog. Because nothing says "contemporary" better than a bunch of drugged-up preening mummies. Tonight, expect less "
Satisfaction" (the Rolling Stones famous rock ballad) and more "Satisfaction" (Justine Bateman's tepid teen opus to girl rockers). Click on that second link. I dare you.

Michael Lynche "Miss You"
"Big Mike" is one of the season's favorites, according to the Judges. I see the appeal, only relative to the rest of these sorry sisters. It's like being the thinnest kid at Fat Camp. Or having the best teeth in all of England.

Michael's background reel reveals family ties and inappropriate use of scarves. Big Mike gives the song a sorta R&B swagger. It's OK, but the performance is a little cheesy. Like, Big Mike may sing at your wedding in a Vegas chapel. The judges like it enough, although Simon thought it was "kind of corny." And yeah, I can't disagree.

Didi Benami "Play With Fire"
Didi Benami is one of those inconsistent Idol contestants. It's sometimes good, and sometimes not so good. Her rendition of "Play With Fire" falls somewhere in the middle. It's a little sharp in spots. Plus, she keeps saying Fi-YUR instead of fire. The judges all like it, even Simon. They call it "dark." Didi says that's due to living in L.A. And watching the entire American Idol season nine on an endless loop.

Casey James "It's All Over Now"
Casey James is the guitar
strummer that Kara almost Corey Clarked, before her clearer head prevailed. Now she just creeps on him from afar. Casey was raised by the waitress mom from "True Blood", by all appearances. More family smooshies.

Casey goes full-tilt country blues with this one. It's pretty good, I suppose. Ellen says, "For most women, their hearts are going to start racing just looking at you. But then for people like me... [pause]" And the judges all laugh uproariously because if she said the word "ho-mo-sexual" on this show, the universe would apparently collapse upon itself. Tee-Hee. The judges like, but Simon think "it needs to be more than that." And, I've been saying that about this whole season so far.

Lacey Brown "Ruby Tuesday"
One of this season's
Red Shirts, Lacey is not long for this show. In Lacey's clip reel her life changed when she heard someone say, "If you remain shy, you will miss your destiny." Did "Lost"'s Jacob touch her too? Hey Lacey, tell us the meaning of the four-toed statue!

Lacey's version of "Ruby Tuesday" is mildly OK in spots, partly playing to her little girl vocals. Randy thought it was so-so, Ellen gives stage direction, Kara had issues with the notes and Simon thinks she's in danger of doing the same thing every week. Lacey, those weird alien space flowers are preparing their poisonous pollen as we speak.

Andrew Garcia "Gimme Shelter"
Poor Andrew Garcia peaked early - all Leif Garrett like - with
his surprisingly fresh spin on Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." The Judges (and viewers) loved it. Since then, that song has hung over each of his subsequent performances like a spectre-bitch. Nothing has measured up. Neither his wrong-headed remake of Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle", nor his strangely-stripped-down (and for Andrew, ironically-named) "Sugar We're Going Down." I picture Andrew holed up in his room - Norma Desmond style - repeatedly watching his old "Straight Up" performance, as he bitterly recalls that faded glory. Someone stop him before he sings an A cappella version of Miley Cyrus' "Party In The USA."

Clip reel reveals Andrew and his parents' gang-banger past. And when Andrew's dad saw him playing with keys, he thought his son would grow up to be a custodian. That's thinking small. I mean, McDonald's managers have lots of keys, too. Andrew's version of "Gimme Shelter" is OK, but lacks the power of Mick Jagger's original version. Randy didn't like it much. Kara has a good point about it lacking "passion." Simon thought it was OK, and gives Andrew a pass for all the mixed criticism he's received.

Katie Stevens "Wild Horses"
This, instead of Lilly Scott. The kitten, instead of the tiger. Katie's clip reel. She lives in
Middlebury Connecticut where she claims "there's not a lot to do" and she is absolutely, totally, beyond "1000% right", as my father would say, damning all mathmatical correctness. Footage of Katie and her brother singing at a wedding. And Randy not there to say, "It was a little pitchy,dawg." Cuz he woulda been right.

Katie sings the song technically fine. She hits a glory note at the end that may keep her in the running. It's actually a good song for her. The judges mostly like, even Simon.

Tim Urban "Under My Thumb"
It's like American Idol's version of Justin
Bieber - but with less talent. I will pause as that dark thought swirls around in your head. The joke will be on me when Tim Urban sings the first note of "We Are The World" version 3.0 in the year 2035. And that future will be worse than the entirety of "Terminator: Salvation."

We get a UB-40 version of "Under My Thumb" by Tim. It's a weird choice, and it mighta been sold by a Jason Mraz. But owning a version like this -- it's a little out of Tim's league. The judges didn't like it, but they applauded Tim's try at originality. Simon sums it up, "It just didn't work." Tim, only your "Tiger Beat" looks will save you now.

Siobhan Magnus "Paint It Black"
Magnus - despite possessing a name that sound like she should be battling the X-Men - tends to surprise. Especially in this lackluster season.

Siobhan gives a classic, solid, early-season Idol performance. It starts slow. It builds. She hits a crazy note (and doesn't quite hit it but "shhh"). Ends somber. The camera swings around with 360 spin. The rocker lights flash and blink as if to say, "this rocks, bitches." The judges like. Kara is hyp-no-tized by the rocker lights into thinking it was Adam Lambert level. Simon thinks it's the best of the night. I tend to agree. But this season, it's not saying much.

Lee Dewyze: “Beast of Burden”
Lee has the potential to be a dark horse in this competition. He's definitely got the commercially-viable voice. It's just everything else he's lacking. Like, confidence, consistency and stage presence.

Lee gives us a cool-guitar slowed down version of "Beast of Burden." Of all the performances, I think it's the most contemporary and relevant song interpretation. It's like something Rob Thomas or even Rascal Flatts might do with the song. His vocals need a little fine tuning, but the overall gestalt of the thing works. Lee might actually be the guy to back this season. The judges like it, but Simon thinks Lee needs "a moment" and asserts Lee is a great singer. I think he'll get that moment at some point.

Paige Miles: “Honky Tonk Women”
Paige Mills somehow escaped criminal charges from last week's brutal massacre of Michael Jackson's "Smile". Investigations are ongoing. The good news, this week, is that Paige proves she can actually sing. She gives the song a bit of a bluesy edge, with a touch of smoke in her voice. Overall, it works. The judges mostly like (especially since Paige has laryngitis).

Aaron Kelly: “Angie”
Or, as I like to call him, David Archuleta 2.0. Aaron essentially took the Alex Lambert chair, which is a shame because Alex had more overall potential. Aaron sings the boring "Angie" well enough, as the Swaybots wave their arms in uniform approval. It was a good song choice for Aaron, and the judges all like it.

Crystal Bowersox: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

Crystal is the clear
frontrunner in this (very) little race. And while technically good, I can't shake the feeling that we've seen and heard many wannabes in her same league. She's like one of those very, very good singers you see in a blues club. She's also showed up all "fully baked", which can sometimes be the kiss of death on this show. Case in point: The bespeckled Danny Gokey, who flatlined while he got overconfident. And kids, the lesson is: Don't be a douche like Danny Gokey.

Crystal takes the stage confidently, with guitar in hand. It all sounds good and right. Crystal knows exactly how to work the song, changing it up when needed and riffing with conviction. As Ellen mentions, "it's effortless." And Simon mentions she's the "clear favorite", although "Siobhan did her one better," Simon sniffs.

Crystal is wearing a Lily Scott memorial feather earring in her hair, and I have to love her a little for that. Also, I think Simon may be backing Crystal, but unleashing a little psychological warfare. After, you know, last season's entire pimping of Adam Lambert resulted in a massive upset.

So who's going home?

Katie and Tim are two of the weakest, but the tweens kept them in this far. I'm gonna guess that Paige won't have much to "Smile" about.