One week later, 'Idol' improves to less excruciating

The water cooler talk (the general, non-sports-related kind) surrounding this season's "American Idol" seems to agree the talent pool is very weak. Voting off Janell Wheeler, Ashley Rodriguez, Joe Munoz (one of the few, pure male vocalists) and Tyler Grady was trimming the fat, but after this week's performances, plenty more have to exit before this competition gets serious. Still, "Secrets" week (which didn't have to do with the music, just the contestants) was an improvement from the previous week, making me cringe slightly less and roll my eyes fewer times.

After the jump, check out my bullet points from this week's performances. If a contestant wasn't mentioned, it's because they were truly unremarkable.



  • Casey James is not cut out for a singing competition. His rendition of the pretty straightforward “I Don’t Want to Be” came off as a struggle. He earned a couple of points for shredding on an electric guitar, but there were at least 10 guys in your high school that could have done that, too. His voice is simply not strong enough. Unfortunately his looks and flirt-vibe will buy him a few more weeks. Wake up, America!

    I’m having trouble finding a male contestant to root for, but Alex Lambert wins this week because he strangely combines a laidback surfer personality (he described something as “legit”) with the show’s most visible case of nerves. He looks like he’s on a date with Miranda Kerr — thrilled, but ready to piss his pants. His take on John Legend’s “Everybody Knows” felt kind of awkward but was saved by Lambert’s unique voice staying in key. Watch it at the top of this post.

    Tim Urban, vastly better from last week’s “Apologize” abomination, still looks shaggy-haired perplexed, but will stick around because girls dig him. His performances have me on edge because he’s pretty bad; I’m just waiting to see how big the explosion is.

    John Park wants to be a smooth operator but no one is buying. He seems too concerned with not messing up, rather than giving a memorable performance. His time is almost up.

    Early frontrunner Andrew Garcia must hate “Straight Up” now. The judges can’t let go of his Paula Abdul cover. Garcia needs to go back to that space immediately. This week’s performance of James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” sucked. Bad karaoke with too many bum notes.

    Lee Dewyze stole the show with a believable take on Hinder’s (ugh) “Lips of an Angel.” My roommate turned me to right after and said, “That was the best ‘Idol’ performance I’ve ever seen.” I’m pretty sure there have been better but Dewyze’s performance felt like “Idol” at its best – surprising and riveting, like only live TV can be.

    GUYS THAT SHOULD GO: Weirdly cocky Jermaine Sellers should be banned from all microphones after his soulless version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Todrick Hall, stick to dancing.


    • The show was worried Casey Bowersox would be too ill to perform this week (the guys switched nights with the girls to accommodate her). An “Idol” producer said she’d be eliminated if she didn’t make it to the stage this week. Luckily for everyone involved, Bowersox delivered a great performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long As I Can See the Light.” She earned the status of overall frontrunner this week. Here’s to her health!

      Didi Benami was the first Top 24 contestant to crack under the judges’ negative reactions. She did Bill Withers’ timeless “Lean on Me” but with a melody that tried to show range but only underlined her shortcomings. After Simon called it “excruciating,” the tearful Didi did everything she could not to weep in Ryan Seacrest’s arms.

      Benami’s meltdown probably saved Lacey Brown, who, taking Kara’s previous advice, did an insufferable cover of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me.” Go away.

      Katelyn Epperly went big to save herself, showing she could play piano and do an even more lethargic version of “The Scientist” than Chris Martin could have imagined. The Coldplay rendition works because of its wonderful crescendo (something her version lacked). Epperly bought herself another week because she didn’t mess up the piano part.

      I’m pulling for Lilly Scott. She took on a song she shouldn’t have (Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”), but she has the most engaging performance personality thus far. Randy labeled her as “indie,” and there’s obvious contemporary inspiration from Duffy and Amy Winehouse, but at this point, and with this talent pool, I’ll take what I can get.

      I thought Alex Lambert was this year’s biggest weirdo, but Siobhan Magnus is downright cooky. She has a bold voice (the judges couldn’t get over the rightfully astounding last note Magnus hit of Aretha Franklin’s (!) “Think”), but the performance overall felt scrambled, similar to Magnus’ personality.

    GIRLS THAT SHOULD GO: Didi Benami. Michelle Delamor did a melodramatic take of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” (I can’t make this up). She should go, too.

    Wesley Case is a presentation architect for b. Follow him on Twitter, @wesleycase.