American Idol: Week #10, The Top Five

For two straight weeks, I called for the ouster of Michael Lynche, the gargantuan daddy of melodramatic showtune-soul. Yet ever since his original near-exodus a few weeks back, when the judges conspired to save him, he’s hung around, flirting with the bottom three, but eventually finding a seat in the safety zone. As a sign of Big Mike’s polarizing effect on viewers, Vote For the Worst, that carnival of social retardation, called on their followers to put their support behind Mike this week, which probably guarantees his survival. After all, last week the Worsters, after losing Tim Urban, elected Siobhan Margus as their candidate, who was swiftly thrown overboard that very week.

Ah, Shobbie. The world was not ready for one as fantastically bizarre as you. With her obstreperous hair, gangly-hot physique, and circus-chic outfits, Margus was the oddest duck in Idol history. Even her father warned, “You have no idea how peculiar she is”, conjuring up nightmare fantasies of fan-hitting shit at the Margus house. She offered the show a steady stream of deviance—her wild-eyed hinterland friends in the audience, her cracked new-age soliloquies in response to the judges, her sheepish smile that suggested both innocence and homicide. And then there was her singing. With a stomach-turning lower register and a banshee scream that channeled Axl Rose, Shobian combined awful and awesome with spinning intensity, like Tim Burton directing a new mashup of Annie and The Exorcist.

With Mad Marg gone, you no longer have to watch the show through your fingers, but things have gotten reliably lackluster, perhaps accounting for the show’s worst ratings since 2002, even getting tromped one night by Dancing with the Stars, for heaven’s sake, results that must have had Idol producers seeing visions of Paula Abdul in their sleep. Tuesday’s show took the final five from their comfort zone, country music, to the songs associated with Sinatra, a more foreign land to these contestants. Fortunately for them, Harry Connick, Jr., was on hand, who turned out to be the greatest mentor in the show’s history, breaking the paradigm of standing by the piano and offering formless approval. Instead, Harry rolled up his sleeves and wrote original swinging, punchy arrangements for each singer, which alone made this week’s show one of the season’s best.

Mike’s turnaround has been dramatic, which by now is no surprise since he’s had more highs and lows this year than Whitney Houston has. The Sinatra week suited him, making it obvious what we’ve long suspected: Mike has no great career as a pop singer, but he’s a lock for Broadway, which has become American Idol’s great consolation prize. If you can’t be Carrie Underwood, you’ll at least make automatic call-backs for the next Grease revival. I thought Mike’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight” was the evening’s best performance, even though the Lee-sniffing judges gave the nod to Dewyze.

Lee sang “That’s Life”, benefitting for a cool, swampy arrangement. It was an overall performance—confident, polished, potent—that may have launched Lee to the number one spot in the field. We knew he was in the running for this thing, but Crystal’s lead has seemed insurmountable for two months. Now, a glance into the Crystal ball shows far less certainty in the finals. Crystal had the classiest pick of the night with “Summer Wind”, and it was a serviceable reading, but she continued to take a step backwards. First, by continuing to blurt out defensive, supercilious backtalk to the judges—a terrible strategy historically —and, second, by flying her colors in a backless gown, revealing a hideous sunflower tattoo that spans both shoulder blades and clashed with her stylish eye make-up. Yuck, sister.

As for the other two, it was a mixed and ultimately forgettable night. Aaron finally looked like himself, and if you worked hard, you could imagine the pencil-necked WWII-era Sinatra, when boby-soxers were screaming for him. Aaron should have taken the stage in Sinatra’s sailor outfit from On The Town. Casey sang “Blue Skies”, miserable choice, which sucked and blew at the same time. Knocked for a guitarless loop, Casey was forced to expose his fatal flaw—that high-speed vibrato. Kara acted like it was the first time she noticed it although we’ve been complaining about it all season. Still, kudos to Kara for describing it better than we have: “You sound like a lamb”.

Wednesday night’s results will reveal the Final Four. Who goes? Who cares! Crystal and Lee are the Avatar and Hurt Locker of this group, and it’s highly unlikely that any of those other inglorious bastards have a real shot. So we pick off Casey, Mike, and Aaron over the next three weeks and settle in for the first battle of the sexes since Jordin Sparks laid waste to Blake Lewis.