American Idol: Week #6, The Top 9

Well, Didi Benami is gone, which means, of course, that Ryan Seacrest can now formerly ask her out. American Idol has long been about ill-kept secrets, but Ryan’s crush on Didi was so obvious that I kept waiting for Simon to tell the two of them to get a room. Ryan’s frantic plea, “Sing for your life!” while the judges deliberated saving her with the special once-only grace card was telling enough, but when the judges let her elimination stand, Ryan looked like he himself had just been canned. “You are one brave woman”, he told Didi, and I thought he was going to propose right then and there.

Anyway, with Didi gone, the show got even more boy-heavy—just three girls left, and one of them, Katie, has been hanging by a thread the last couple of weeks. On Tuesday, the Top Nine had the Lennon-McCartney songbook to choose from, a treasure trove just asking to be screwed up. You likely remember Season 7 when they had contestants singing Beatles songs for two straight weeks, largely viewed at the time as a disaster. This time, they figured they’d have more success if they cut George’s songs, I suppose, since Beatles Night became Lennon/McCartney Night, with Sir Paul himself taping a good-luck message in his legendary winky, thumbs-up delivery. As it turned out, it was a night, like last week’s, that ratcheted up the competition with mostly solid performances. Let’s go to the board.

Aaron Kelly. Yoda sang “The Long and Winding Road”. He looked slightly more grown up last night in his double-breasted rain-slicker, but then again when you haven’t been alive that long, a couple of months makes a big difference. How about Simon’s eye-rolling scoff at Aaron’s response that the competition has indeed been a long, winding road? Aaron’s performance was boring and pitch-plagued, and Kara begged him to sing something lively next week. He may have to perform that song back in Pennsylvania.

Katie Stevens. Katie looked great on Tuesday night, with her pretty-in-pink dress and high, fake ponytail. Did she get thinner this week? If not, her look was a great optical illusion. She chose “Let It Be”, one of the several overplayed Beatles leviathans of the night, but it really was an assured, relaxed, meaningful rendition. Katie seems to have gone from bottom-three hell to legitimate contention with that performance, as Ellen promised her that she wouldn’t be in the bottom three on Wednesday. But with only nine left to choose from, will voters in fact rally that hard behind Katie?

Andrew Garcia. He sang “Can’t Buy Me Love” like Tom Jones at the MGM Grand. Andrew’s hokey tendency for schmaltzy rewrites reached an all-time low just as his pompadour reached an all-time high. The four-eyed frailer lost a bit of the momentum he gained last week and now finds himself among the week’s most vulnerable. He did, however, supply Ellen with the night’s best quip: “First of all, you can buy love. Am I right, Simon?”

Michael Lynch. We found on Tuesday that Mike snores really loud, but his performance of “Eleanor Rigby” showed us nothing else new. The melodramatic showboating, the falsetto opening, the string ensemble, the funky drummer—the whole thing was gaudy and obnoxious, like the Beatles Meet the Phantom of the Opera. Three of the four judges loved it, of course, but, in reality, it was a thoroughly unenjoyable performance and a step backwards from last week.

Crystal Bowersox. C-Sox sang “Come Together”, joined by a dude playing a didgeridoo, for the evening’s most interesting talking-point and one of today’s hottest wiki searches. Send that guy on the tour! Crystal’s rendition was fairly unexceptional at times, but she occasionally found her spark. She seemed a little distracted by the chording of her guitar, but that just means that she wasn’t faking it. In the end, she did nothing to hurt her standing as Soul Mama #1.

Tim Urban. Randy provided the night’s meanest comment when he told Tim, “You’re in your own category…so was it a good ‘Tim performance’?” This means, of course, that Tim can’t sing well enough to be taken seriously with the others and is only trying to better his own terrible past performances. True enough, and Tim’s by-the-numbers version of “All My Loving” (while playing a Gibson hollowbody) was good for Tim, but only average by summer-camp-talent-contest standards. Still, Simon said, “I’m very, very proud of you” because Tim takes the lambasting like a man. Can Tim avoid the bottom three this week? How about, could he win this whole damned thing?

Casey James. Cay-Jay came up with the night’s most interesting selection, Lennon’s solo classic, “Jealous Guy”. Backed by nothing but cello and his own guitar appregios, it was a nice, naked performance, although not in the way Kara might have liked. Casey’s fast vibrato is a problem, one that becomes apparent on these kinds of unadorned arrangements, which cause him to shy away from his voice and throw away his lines. Nonetheless, the judges heaped on the praise, and Casey has never really cooled off with voters, so he remains on a bullet train to the finals.

Siobhan Margus. Another new look for Shobe this week, as she borrowed a dress from Bjork and perched on a stool to sing “Across the Universe”. Siobhan’s tone and delivery in that slow lower-register makes me nervous, as she demonstrated, like last week, that she has areas of clear limitations as a vocalist. When she brings the soul shouters, she’s electric, but Tuesday night’s performance was intriguing mostly because it was so weird. Speaking of weird, some of this season’s funniest moments are the audience shots of “Siobhan’s Friends”. I want to party with those guys.

Lee Dewyze. Lee brought the show home with “Hey Jude”, and it was middling performance designed to rouse the crowd to their feet. Just before the Na-Na-Nas, a lone bagpiper descended the stairs behind Lee, for the night’s most inexplicable moment, forgivable only if the bagpiper had turned out to be McCartney himself. Vocally, Lee’s work was just all right, where he needed to lay into that song much more. Lee’s strategy for now: Don’t make it bad.

So who deserves to get yanked Wednesday night? With this tight field, it’s hard to say, but I’d put the screws to Aaron. Sorry, Yoda—voted off you should be.