The Top 10 show was introduced from backstage. Is that Crystal in a red dress and high heels?! Well, she did say she had big things planned for this week. The judges are having a love fest, and I feel like I'm intruding. Why does the back of Randy's sweater say "California Dreamin'"? He's already in California. Or maybe it's a shout out to The Mamas & the Papas.
"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" It's Usher's first time as an American Idol mentor. He met with the Top 10 to teach them lessons about how to be a great performer, which I suspect involves wearing sunglasses indoors at all times, even if you're being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest for the cameras.
First up was a "wicked nervous" Siobhan Magnus. Usher encouraged Siobhan to pick a wardrobe that doesn't distract from Siobhan's voice. So no Sanjaya-hawk this week? Siobhan took the stage and sang a big song: Chaka Khan's "Through The Fire." Although she hit the big notes with her signature scream, she had some pitch problems for the first time. Simon is getting sick of the scream, but Siobhanbies crave it. Siobhan said she wanted to prove that she's willing to take a risk, and there's no denying that. The judges then double judged her and they all re-commented. Siobhan cried a little at the end. C'mon Simon, Siobhanbies have feelings too!
Back from commercial break, the cameras showed Siobhan entering the green room as she headed somberly to the snack table. Was that footage shown deliberately? Ryan Seacrest made it seem so.
Casey James performed a song that has never been performed on the Idol stage before...that's a rarity these days! He chose to take on "Hold On I'm Coming" by Sam & Dave, which sounds like a restaurant/bar where you could get chicken strips and play skiball. During his rehearsal with Usher, Casey forgot the words. How do you forget the words to that song? There are basically four, and they're the same four that make up the song's title. Usher said that Casey is one to keep your eye on. Forget the blue electric guitar and white electric guitar Casey's been strumming, this week he played a red one. His guitar colors are very patriotic. The lady judges thought Casey was good, but they wanted him to take more of a risk. Simon saw authenticity in Casey and said, "I'm really, really, really impressed with you as an artist this week."
We ended up seeing Casey's off-stage reaction after the break and now I see it wasn't a fluke earlier, this is a new trend! I like it. What about you?
When Michael Lynche met with Usher, the superstar was glad to see Mike play the guitar this week to "Ready For Love" by India.Arie. He encouraged Mike to connect with everyone out there, and Usher even took his glasses off to look me in the eyes. Big Mike sat on a stool and strummed his "bread and butter." He gave an honest performance, but he was sitting behind the judges, so they had to look down at their monitors. The audience members on the floor swayed their arms at a speed that did not match up with the song. The judges loved that he gave a sincere, emotional performance. Songwriter Kara DioGuardi thought he nailed the intention and emotion of the song, and Simon said this was the first time he could take Big Mike as a serious artist.
After Didi Benami sang "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted" to Usher, she broke down and cried...again. Usher thought that the honesty she showed when she became emotional is what the audience will want when she sings (the honesty, not the tears). Hopefully her emotional clips package wouldn't make her choke up as she took the stage to perform the Jimmy Ruffin song. Didi remained strong and got through the song. She was dressed like she was going to the Oscars. The judges like her voice but they miss her singer/songwriter performances and style. Simon compared the performance to "swimming in jelly." He also thinks she lost her way. Didi managed to remain composed, even as Ryan questioned her about why she was so emotional.
Tim Urban met with Usher and sang Anita Baker's "Sweet Love." He hit all the high notes, but Usher urged him to sing to an invisible woman in front of him. Tim took the stage and sang to the millions of women watching from home, and the judges thought he sang in tune, but that it wasn't enough. Randy said it was missing the elements of a good R&B performance: vibe and swag. Teflon Tim remained strong and smiled and laughed despite getting tough reviews from the four judges. "They don't like a lot of things about me, but I didn't think they'd comment on me smiling too much," Tim said with a nervous laugh. I'd be smiling too if I knew I was headed out on tour this summer!
Andrew Garcia has struggled a little with song choice the past few weeks, but he went with a genius pick, Chris Brown's "Forever." Andrew was nervous when he met with Usher, but he was told not to over think things so much. He took the stage with his trusty guitar and was back to his old self. His interpretation of "Forever" was raw and the judges thought he took a giant leap in the right direction. Simon encouraged him to give even more stage presence, because at this stage of the game, that's what's most important. Mama Garcia stood up and defended her baby. She gave Simon a piece of her mind...and personality! Maybe it will rub off on Andrew.
Katie Stevens met Usher at EPCOT and tried to take a picture but was stopped by bodyguards. I hope Katie brought a camera or phone with her this night. Katie chose a big song: "Chain Of Fools" by Aretha Franklin. With this performance, we'll be sure to see if she's a Pop/R&B singer like Kara said or a country singer like Simon suggests. Katie was wearing an outfit that's a tribute to Paige Miles: a jumpsuit over tights, but with her make-up and hairstyle she is kind of channeling Kara DioGuardi. Randy compared Katie to "a young Christina Aguilera in a weird sort of way." Now he encourages her to connect her small moments and make them one big moment. Ellen made her second "Snooki's pouf" comment of the season. Kara thought Pop/R&B is most definitely the place for Katie, but Simon still disagrees. Then they both decided they liked my idea from last week: Polka!
Lee DeWyze has walking pneumonia, and I had no idea! His tweets revealed he was under the weather, but that sounds gnarly. Maybe his fans will rally together and send him some soup. Usher was impressed with Lee, but encouraged him to bring the confidence on stage to make this his moment. Lee chose to sing "Treat Her Like A Lady" by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, and I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with this song, but I didn't have to be to see that Lee brought his confidence to this performance. He started with just his guitar, voice, and the claps from the audience, and then the band joined in. The judges loved it and Simon said, "Watch the show back and understand this is the night that your life may have changed forever." It sounds like Simon got his moment from Lee that he's been asking for.
Crystal Bowersox's decision to wear stilettos made sense when we saw her sitting down at the piano. She promised she'd change it up this week, and she did with the heels, a tight red dress, and a piano. She hasn't played it in a long time, but she managed to do fine with Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia." She seemed nervous at first but then was in her element and her vocals were spot on. The judges loved the performance and song choice. Simon's only concern was if Crystal is losing herself by altering her appearance and performances, but Crystal replied, "I wouldn't ever do anything that's not comfortable to me." Amen!
Rounding up the night was Aaron Kelly. He met with Usher and rehearsed "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers, a bold choice since that was the song that last year's American Idol had his moment with. Would Aaron have a moment like this? Some people wait a lifetime...Usher suggested that Aaron really feel the "I knows" of the song so that it comes across as more than just repetitive lyrics. After Aaron crooned, Randy commented on the pitch problems in the beginning, but liked it when Aaron hit his power zone. When Simon said Aaron was like a cupcake to the main course performance of the evening, Ryan whispered in Aaron's ear, "People like cupcakes better than the main course." That's true, unless the main course is brownies...or pizza. None of the judges thought Aaron had anything to worry about though.
On Wednesday night, one person may be leaving the competition, and a heaping of R&B singers will perform on the Idol stage.