It was a big show as the Top 11 put it all on the line for the opportunity to spend the summer traveling the nation as the Top 10 finalists. The judges entered the set from behind the moving stage doors, and Kara was already clinging to Simon, who once again is wearing a v-neck cardigan. He's really going all-out for his last season on Idol!
The judges took their seats, and speaking of judges, So You Think You Can Dance judge Adam Shankman is sitting with this week's mentor, Miley Cyrus, in the audience. Simon said this is the worst night to go; he always knows what to say to make the contestants nervous right before they perform. And speaking of nervous contestants, Lee DeWyze was up first.
The theme is Billboard #1 Hits, and seventeen year old Miley Cyrus met one-on-one with each contestant. When did Miley Cyrus get her nose pierced? Why do I care?
Lee DeWyze took the stage with a huge band and sang "The Letter" by the Box Tops. I loved when Carly Smithson and Michael Johns sang this together at the Season 7 finale, Season 7 tour, and Season 8 results show. This seemed to be the most comfortable Lee has been on stage and he moved around a bit, but he still looked as if he were thinking about everything in his head. Forget bananas, Ellen is now comparing contestants to pens, and Lee is her favorite pen that dried out of ink but now is back. He got good reviews from three of the judges, but Simon is still waiting for Lee to have his moment.
Paige Miles chose the #1 hit "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. She's wearing some serious heels and Lacey's green polish on her toes. Miley suggested that Paige watches her pitch and told her that her quiet voice is strong. Paige arrived on stage from the staircase and she looks great. I have to agree with Miley about the pitch problems, and disagree with her when she said her quiet voice is strong; her belting is stronger. The judges thought the vocals were awful and that it's like she has stopped competing and believing in herself. Will Paige get to pick up mismatched earrings all across the nation on tour this summer?
Tim Urban brought the energy up with Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." He and Miley would make a cute couple, and perhaps that's why he decided to pull out all the stops and slide across the floor as if he were reaching for home plate. He took a step on to the new circular stage in the pit or screaming girls, and then shook their hands before working the stage. His performance was entertaining, but this is the type of performance that Simon likes to call "corny" and "verging on desperate." Ellen thought Tim came across as an auditioner for a certain musical about high schooler students, and Kara made a similar reference. I wonder what Miley Cyrus, Joe Jonas, and Demi Lovato will have to say about that when they perform the next day!
Aaron Kelly is battling laryngitis and tonsillitis, so Ryan decided not to talk and to write questions down for Aaron to answer which didn't make sense. He should have handed the clipboard to Aaron so he could write, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that Aaron was smitten with his mentor, which was adorable. He sang Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" in front of an meteorite screensaver. You couldn't even see little Aaron over the teen girls' swaying arms from the audience pit. The only problem I have with this #1 hit is that it has now been performed a total of six times on the show -- Allison Iraheta, David Cook, Antonella Barba, Lindsey Cardinale, Josh Gracin -- and Allison and David are two people it's tough to compete with. However, the judges thought the song choice was perfect.
Crystal Bowersox went with a hit song that didn't seem like too much of a stretch, Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee," but it was a good idea to sing it now because who knows what the other themes will be and if Crystal would have another opportunity to perform Joplin. Crystal said she has "powerful, beautiful women sign her guitar" and she asked Miley to sign it. That was so sweet; you wouldn't think of pairing these two up. Crystal looks great tonight with her hair up and she's wearing a dress. I wonder where she is keeping that pouch of trinkets she normally puts in her pocket. She did the song justice and Simon said, "You took a song and you nailed it, and your only gimmick is a carpet." Crystal and Ryan had an impromptu picnic, sans food, on her carpet, and she said she has big plans for next week, if she returns.
Michael Lynche called out "Hannah" as he greeted Miley with a lift and a bear hug. The 26 year old dad made the teen fall in love with him, and he had the same intentions as he sang Michael Bolton's "When A Man Loves A Woman" to America with the band on the stage. The judges loved Mike's voice, but weren't as in love with his decision to sing a Michael Bolton song. Kara and Simon thought it was too much, "You want one scoop of ice cream and you got 11," as Simon put it. It would have been nice to see Big Mike standing with that nice white piano and nothing else. That would've been powerful (although it would still be a Bolton song).
When Andrew Garcia struggled with his lyrics of "Heard It Through The Grapevine" as he sang for the tween Idol, she suggested that he puts down the guitar and loosens up. Andrew took the advice and moved around and did somewhat of a reverse moonwalk. Kara was the first to bring up "Straight Up," and that he's still chasing that moment. Simon thought Miley's advice to put the guitar down was good, but that Andrew is struggling in this competition. Ellen had a good point that it wasn't enough to make the undecided viewers pick up the phone for Andrew. Will he have a shot at playing "Straight Up" on tour?
Miley Cyrus encouraged Katie Stevens to "edge it up," and that's what Katie did with her outfit and song choice this week. She looked less like a pageant participant and more like a 17 year old. She sang "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie, and I liked her honesty at the beginning of the song. The judges were all over the board -- Randy thought it was pitchy, Ellen thought it was Katie's best, Kara thinks Katie is a pop/R&B girl, and Simon thinks Katie should go country -- but they all agreed that the younger Katie was a nice change. Then, Ryan Seacrest set up a play date for Katie and Miley.
Casey James is a big fan of...Billy Ray Cyrus. And that's how he introduced himself to Miley. The mentor and mentee decided that Casey needs to work on moving around and making eye contact. Casey took on "Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis and The News, which makes me want to go back to the future. He seemed to be having more fun and it sounded nearly identical to the original. Simon thought that was a bad thing, but at least he did the original justice. Randy always connects with Casey on a musician level, and said he's the best guitar player they've ever had on the show. Kara said Casey's ready to make an album, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind collaborating with him.
Didi Benami performed Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" and sent that message to her overpowering nerves. She performed this song with the same angst she had during "Play With Fire," or maybe that anger was because Ryan introduced her as "Didi Beneemy." The judges weren't in love with the song choice or performance, and Simon thought she was screeching. Didi held it together emotionally and asked permission to respond. I like how the contestants these days are polite when they talk back, rather than having the attitudes of some of the contestants in the early seasons of Idol.
Miley likes that Siobhan Magnus has a voice with swag and that she is different, which Siobhan said gave her confidence. The Cape Cod native came down the stairs and on to the stage and she was channeling Sanjaya with her hairstyle. She inserted her signature scream into the song. The judges loved that Siobhan sang with conviction and self-expression, and Kara brought up a good point that Siobhan seems more comfortable up on stage than she does in any other part of her life. Simon wants to see Siobhan push herself to find better songs. After two weeks of screams, I think she needs another ballad a la "Wicked Game."
Which ten will spend the summer in a bus together? This is going to be huge!