This week, the guys get to go first on American Idol. I thought this was a given, since the women went first last week. However, host Ryan Seacrest says this is a change of plans, that actually, the women were due to go first, but Crystal Bowersox was hospitalized and can't perform today. Hopefully she will be ready tomorrow (and well very, very soon).
The (vague) theme of the night is Billboard hits, and the contestants have been asked to give more insight into their personalities.
Michael Lynche shares that he has long been into musical theater and went to a performing arts high school, and he likes to lift weights, if by weights you mean Aaron Kelly. For his performance tonight, he's showing he's the main event by singing "It's a Man's World" by James Brown. His voice sounds great, but it still feels a little bit subdued. Still, a major improvement over last week for sure. (And last week wasn't even that bad for him.) Randy Jackson says this season is finally getting rolling and that he was the first one to show some fire. He gives him a standing O. Ellen DeGeneres says this was a great way to start the night because he set the bar high. Kara DioGuardi says that she did not get it (meaning his popularity) until tonight. But now she is feeling it. Simon Cowell says it was like going from a pussycat to a lion, and it didn't sound dated at all. He closes calling it his best performance so far.
John Park says his a capella group back at Northwestern has been supportive of his success. He tells Ryan his goal is to capture the honesty of his performance instead of trying too hard with his voice, which he thinks he did last week. His random background fact is that English is his second language. He's singing John Mayer's "Gravity." This is a much better choice, and he has some great moments, but a few odd places, too. Still, better. Randy says this is more his vibe, but he didn't bring anything new to it, and so all you could see was that it wasn't as good as the original. Ellen says it was a better song choice, but he needed more soul in it. Kara agrees, way better than last week, but she says she still lacks the connection between him and the song. She wants to see him takes some risks. Simon says his a capella group might get their lead singer back because it wasn't exciting.
Casey James tells Ryan that he hasn't watched Idol before, and after he picked his song, he saw this song has a history, but we don't hear what song it is yet. His random fact is that he hasn't had a TV for most of his life. Then we learn his song, "I Don't Wanna Be" by Gavin DeGraw. Then we get some funny footage of him hiding his pre-show ritual from the cameras. He says that if he makes the Top 10, he'll share it, but he needs every advantage he can get. Casey is, by the way, doing a plugged-in version of the song, playing his electric guitar. He sounds on key but a little shaky at first, but he warms up to it. Randy loves the guitar, but even though he doesn't think this was the best vocal, but you could see him making records like this and winning. Ellen says you can't go wrong with the song, and she liked his performance. But she says while everything is there on paper, in person there is a little bit missing. Kara: "We all got the memo, the cougar is a fan, but I gotta say, tonight you took two steps backward." There is a lot that's wrong with that statement. Anyway, she reminds him that it is a singing competition and he stepped away from that. Simon says he turned into someone trying to be a rock star, and he didn't have the grit in his voice to pull that off.
Alex Lambert talks to Ryan Seacrest, who calls him their most nervous contestant. In fact, Ryan makes him share, he threw up before his performance last week. TMI! He says when he was in sixth grade, he created a language that he uses to help him write songs when he can't think of words yet. His song tonight is John Legend's "Everybody Knows." He had said in the interview segment that he would be more comfortable on stage tonight because he has his guitar, and that's definitely true. He doesn't seem like a terrified little kid tonight, and you can actually hear his voice, which is interesting and good. Randy tells him he has his own language too. He says he loved everything tonight, and he calls him "way legit." Ellen says someone put the unripe banana in a paper bag, and he has so much more confidence so fast. "Under that mullet, you have a Sam Cooke voice!" she says. Kara says everyone is rooting for him, especially after this improvement. She adds that people would die "to have that tone," and she also calls his voice "recordable." Simon says this was "a million times better than last week." But he says the only time one should he nervous is if one is useless, which he is not. But he says he needs to work on his killer instinct and not aim for middle of the pack.
Todrick Hall is taking on Tina Turner, and he says he picked it because he knows it and he knows it wouldn't be like the original. His random fact is that he is a ballet dancer and was the first African-American Fritz in the Nutcracker in his dance troupe. As he sings "What's Love Got to Do With It" it feels like he is overwhelmed by the backup singers in parts. It's just a weird fit. Randy says that his falsetto run at the end was great, but the rest, he didn't love. He tells him to just take a nice song and sing it. Ellen says he should sing and move and play to his strengths. Kara agrees, that when he wasn't moving, he was stiff, and when he moved, he was better. Simon says move, but don't sing because this is not working out. Then, he claims, he is not being rude.
Jermaine Sellers says he "rocks my onesie," and we see footage of him in grown-up footie pajamas. Ha! His song choice is "What's Goin' On" by Marvin Gaye. It's rough at the beginning, the last third is OK, but this is not a youthful choice. Randy says he needed to pull it back a little more and make it simpler. He didn't love it. Ellen says she loves his style and that he rocks the onesie, but the song didn't work for her. Kara says he can do all these things, but he is doing too much and look at the meaning of the song and feel the lyrics instead of showing off tricks. Simon says they are frustrated and disappointed because he watered down one of the greatest songs of all times. He says because he played around with it so much, listeners couldn't take it seriously. He calls it old-fashioned. Jermaine asks them what he should sing next week, and Simon says he might not be there next week. Ellen suggests a Frankie Beverly and Maze vibe.
Andrew Garcia shares that he has been a breakdancer since middle school. He's singing James Morrison's "You Got Somethin'." He starts out a little shaky, too, but gets better in the second half. Some. Randy says it was pitchy all over the place, and he is way better than that. Ellen says there were some pitch problems, but she liked it a lot. She says he set the bar super high with the Paula Abdul song in Hollywood Week. She says he needs to top it. Kara says it's been going down since "Straight Up." She says it was too safe tonight. Simon is also disappointed.
Aaron Kelly shares his random fact, which is that he loves photography. His goal is to show more confidence, and his song choice is "My Girl" by the Temptations. But he kind of freaks and still seems nervous. Randy says he wasn't sure he was going to love it, but he can really sing. He means, at least, that he loved the beginning. Ellen says he showed more confidence, but the song was a little forgettable. But he has a great voice, she closes (on a positive). Kara says she really liked it and loves how he is so consistent and not confusing. Simon says it was too old-fashioned and he needs to show America what kind of artist he wants to be.
Tim Urban says he has a huge family and he loves them all, and he shares his pre-show ritual, which is praying. He is going to sing "Come On, Get High" by Matt Nathanson, a song he is very comfortable with. It's a lot better than last week, but still has some not-awesome moments, especially the last notes. Randy says he didn't really get it and calls it very karaoke. Ellen says they are going to boo her -- she asks whether he can act because if he was on Glee and then started singing, people would love him. But she doesn't think he is a great singer. Kara says she liked the song choice, but he didn't make it his own. She says it's frustrating because it's not all adding up yet. Simon disagrees with the others. He says it was a marked improvement and that it was clear he listened to the criticism and he was more relevant than others we saw tonight. So he's impressed by his performance, his attitude and his work ethic.
Lee Dewyze shares that high school was tough for him and he was transferred to an alternative school, where he met some teachers who helped him figure some things out. His song is "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder. He doesn't have his guitar this time, and he's just kind of ... soundalike. Randy wants to know what happened, and Lee says he decided to put down the guitar this time, and he was out of sorts. Randy says he liked it despite some pitch problem. Ellen says he didn't perform much, but there was a lot of passion and intensity even if it was nerves. Kara says it was a big improvement and that he had some pitch problems then and now, but not as many today. But she says he has a radio voice, very commercial. Simon tells him to raise his shoulders because vocally, he is head and shoulders above everyone else on the guys' side of the competition, but he needs self-belief.
What did you think of the performances tonight?