The Top 12 finally hit the stage for the American Idol finals. Their task tonight is to take on the songs of the Rolling Stones.
Kids ... DO NOT MESS THIS UP.
Michael Lynche is up first. Tonight's intro segments go back to the beginning to tell us more about the contestants' lives back home. We learn that he was all about football until his mother became ill and later died; then, he says, he lost his way, and music came back into his life. He sings "Miss You," with a jazzy twist. Randy Jackson says he wasn't crazy about the arrangement, but nevertheless, Big Mike slayed it. Ellen DeGeneres says this was an amazing way to start the night. Kara DioGuardi says they have to fill up the new, big stage, and he totally delivered. Simon Cowell says he has his confidence back, which is good, but he thought parts of the performance were a little corny, especially the dancing, even verging on desperate at times.
Didi Benami shares that her mother gets so nervous watching her perform that she isn't there tonight. Her background segment includes the groundbreaking information that her mother loves her and that she has two sisters. (Nothing against Didi, it was just not that exciting.) She sings "Playin' With Fire," and it's somehow very passionate and still kind of subdued. But she seems stronger. Randy says this is the first time in weeks that he has felt like she's on fire. (Har!) Ellen says she lost it for a minute (which whoops, I totally missed), but she brought it back together. Kara likes her intensity and the darkness she showed tonight. Simon agrees, adding that it was a cool choice of song, solid, but not brilliant.
Casey James, we learn, had a bad reaction to the pertussis vaccine -- lots of seizures -- and his mother was worried about his delayed speech, until he started humming songs in his crib. He sings "It's All Over Now." He has a great time on stage, rocking out. Randy says he is back. Ellen says for most women, their hearts will race just looking at him, but "for people like me ... blondes ... I thought it was fantastic." Heh. Kara says he really was a rock star, unlike last week when he was just trying. Simon says he looks great, sang well, played well, but it felt more like an audition than to him doing something incredible on this big stage.
Lacey Brown says she is from a really supportive family. Her parents are pastors and say that she is naturally shy, so seeing her up there on this stage is remarkable to them. Her song tonight is "Ruby Tuesday." (Random note to the producers: Please stop telling the audience members in the front to swing their arms back and forth unnaturally.) Her performance is OK, I guess. There are a few good moments, some not great ones, and I really don't understand the choice to rush through the "still, I'm going to miss you" line. Randy says this was interesting, but he wasn't "jumping up and down about it vocally," but she held it together. He calls it the most interesting performance of the night. Ellen thought it was weird that she was moving when it was slow and then she sat when the song sped up. Kara says it was 50-50 for her, that one, it was good to hear her voice up close, but two, she had some bad notes. Simon says she performs like an actress, very precise, "nothing wrong with the vocals" (really?). He tells her to stop overthinking it.
Andrew Garcia shares that his dad was a musician, not professional or anything. His dad interviews that he thought Andrew was going to be a custodian for some reason (that was his big dream for his son?). Now, Andrew says, he is just like his dad, playing guitar and singing. He performs "Gimme Shelter." He's dispensing with the guitar tonight, and I think that's OK. He doesn't look as comfortable on stage without it, but I think it works better with this song that he focuses more on his singing. Randy says he loves him, the song and the Stones, but "it was pitchy everywhere, just a little under." Ellen: "What do I know? I think that was your best performance yet." Kara says there were elements that revealed his tone, but for most of the performance, he didn't reveal a connection with the lyrics, especially, "War, children, it's just a shot away." Simon says he gave it 100 percent, but his gut says that he was better in rehearsal. Also, he says he's glad he tried something new since he's gotten so much mixed criticism.
Katie Stevens says she has no other choice but to be old since it's Stones week! She says she was shy and afraid to sing in public when she was little, but her mom says no, she was totally a ham. She sings "Wild Horses," and that's a huge song for a teenager, but she does well with it, definitely better than last week. Randy says she sang the song really well and corrected a couple of pitch issues. Ellen says she started pitchy, but then she got into it and sounded amazing. Kara says it's never technically perfect, but she shows her talent by the changes she made to the melody. Simon says this is the only week that she's picked a really strong song and the first time she's connected with the song.
Tim Urban is one of 10 kids. Wow, no wonder he got enough votes to stay in his rough weeks! (Sorry, that was basically mandatory.) He's looking forward to being known as Tim Urban, the individual. His song tonight is "Under My Thumb." He tries to put a reggae-ish spin on the song, and it really doesn't work for me. It's a step back after "Hallelujah." Randy says it was bizarre and didn't serve him or the song well. Ellen says she felt like she was at a resort, sipping a pina colada or something, and they weren't wowed. Kara keeps saying, "I totally get what the guys are saying," right after Ellen speaks, and it's driving me bonkers. Ellen is a woman, dude! Kara applauds him for doing something totally different with the song. Simon applauds him for doing something different, but it didn't work. He says some Rolling Stones fans would be turning their TVs off.
Siobhan Magnus has a giant family, and she's from Cape Cod. She says she and her father use playing on the piano in the living room as an outlet. Her song is "Paint It Black." It starts out kind of cabaret, then gets rocky (like rock 'n' roll rocky) and she closes with not one insane note, but several stacked on top of one another. Whew! Randy says she was bringing the drama and it was hot. Ellen loves everything and says she rises above "like Snooki's poof." Kara says she is having Adam Lambert flashbacks (and she's not the only one). Simon says it was the standout performance of the night. He says he can see her development throughout the weeks. He adds that while a lot of people will love it, some will hate it, and that's a much better place to be than treated with indifference.
Lee Dewyze's parents tell the story of the first time he sang for them. He made them not look at him, and they were in the car, and he even made them tilt the mirror so they really couldn't see him at all. He sings "Beast of Burden," and for some reason Ryan introduces him by telling us how nervous he is. He does a low-key but heartfelt rendition of the song that I think largely works. Randy says it reminds him of a cross between Rob Thomas and Dave Matthews. Ellen says he sounded great, but did expect a tiny bit more from him because she thought he would do more with the Stones. Kara says he is growing more and more every week. Simon says he likes him as a person, but he doesn't really shine, personality-wise. He says it's frustrating because Lee has a really good voice. He tells him to stamp his mark on the competition next week and have "a moment."
Paige Miles says her mother has taken care of her and her brother single-handedly since her father died when Paige was 4. She says she grew up singing in the church, and her mom says she remembers the moment she realized Paige had "it," during a holiday play. She is singing "Honky Tonk Woman." She sings it big, and it works. Randy says she "kinda pulled it out. I liked it." Ellen says she has star quality and presence and that no one would know she is "struggling" with her voice. Kara says she did a lot with the song and is working the stage and this performance showed why they liked her. Simon asks what's up with her voice. She croaks that she has laryngitis. He says taking that into account it was good, but it was still "old-fashioned." Well, I know they theoretically like people to mix things up, but it's Rolling Stones week! What do they expect.
Aaron Kelly has been into music since he was 9. They show pictures of him from these "early" performances, and he looks almost exactly the same. He is so young! He takes on "Angie," and I'm concerned, but somehow, at 16, he pulls off this song and its emotion. Wow. Randy says his mom is right, he is born to sing. He thought it was hot. Ellen asks if he is trying to do his hair like hers. He says his performance and Siobhan's stand out. Kara says she beat him up last week, but this week, "you showed me!" Simon says he feared for Aaron + Rolling Stones, but he chose "absolutely, 100 percent the right song." He says he sung it within the limits of his vocals instead of pushing too hard.
Crystal Bowersox says her dad has always been really supportive of her music and helped her travel and set up from gig to gig. Her father tears up talking about a song that Crystal wrote for him called "Daddy." Awww, very sweet. She says she has known since she first touched a guitar at age 10 that this is what she was born to do. She performs "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and plays guitar, of course. And, as expected, she rocks it. She also brings the house down. Randy says this wasn't his favorite, but he still loves her. Ellen says she sings with ease and effortlessly. She says she's missing a little personality and Crystal says she was thinking too much. Ellen reminds kids to stop singing. Kara says she agrees -- that at first, it seems like she's so comfortable that she seems like she thinks she already has it won, but then she changed it up a little. Simon asks what was going on with her thinking, and she says she wasn't in the zone. Simon says he could tell, and that she was the clear favorite for this theme, but she got beaten by Siobhan. Crystal agrees that she was fantastic. Oh, and she has one of Lilly's feathers in her hair.
What did you think of tonight's performances? Who's in danger tomorrow? Who's got it made? Who surprised you?
(Photo Courtesy of Fox)