'American Idol' recap: Top 9 perform

Tonight, the Top 9 perform on American Idol, taking on the Lennon-McCartney song book. Again, I say: Don't screw this up, kids. Crystal Bowersox gets it right when she says it's a privilege to get to sing these songs.

Randy Jackson tells Ryan Seacrest right off the bat that he thinks it's going to be an evening of big highs and big lows. Please not too many lows!


Aaron Kelly is up first, and we learn from his fellow competitors that he is known as Yoda. His song choice tonight is "The Long and Winding Road." He seems very nervous. He has some great notes, but they are interspersed among a lot of shakiness. He has a standout last note, though, which is lucky for him. Randy seems frustrated, but he says that he found it really sleepy. Ellen DeGeneres thinks he is fantastic, but "it felt like a long and winding song." The joke 100 percent fits this time. Kara DioGuardi says that when it "comes together" (right here) for you, it works, but they want to see another side of him. Simon Cowell asks why he chose this song and arrangement. Aaron says the song resonated with his journey, and he didn't want to mess with the Beatles. Simon says he found it old-fashioned and boring. Somebody screams a scary boo in the audience and interrupts everything.

Katie Stevens talks with Ryan about how she is getting lots of offers for prom. She says they should all send her their phone bills and she will go with the one who has voted for her the most times. Her song choice is "Let It Be," which she describes as a song she's heard in the car with her dad. I know what she means, but when it's described like that, she just seems so young. Which of course she is. I'm just feeling old here. In the performance, she changes it up just a little, adding a few big notes to it. But I suspect she is going to get similar criticism fro Simon about it being old-fashioned. Randy, however, says this is her best performance ever and reaffirms why she is there. He says those were hot, ridiculous vocals. Ellen says she changed it just enough to make it her own without disrespecting the song. Kara says she is blossoming on the stage and that she has a great, confident attitude. Simon says she got it right tonight because she listened to him and leaned toward country. What? Also, while she was better, I don't think she was that amazing tonight. 


Andrew Garcia has so much personality and energy, the contestants all agree, and they get so mad when the judges say he is boring. His song tonight is "Can't Buy Me Love." He does a kind of rockabilly take on the song, and it's fun and different, probably a move in the right direction for him. Randy says it was a solid performance and an interesting arrangement, thought a tad corny at times. Ellen says it was the perfect song choice and a lot of fun. Kara says she wants to love it, but she doesn't feel like she saw anything new. Simon says he was totally overpowered by the band, which made him old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Michael Lynche is singing "Eleanor Rigby" because it's a family tradition -- his family group used to sing it -- and he also loves the strings. He gives it a heartfelt performance and an arrangement that I'm not quite sure how to describe. It's easily the most dramatic performance of the evening so far, though. Randy says he isn't sure all of that worked, but the parts that did work were great. Ellen says Mike can do anything and has so many different sides. She thought it was incredible. Kara says "that was fire," and that she loved the drama and the story and how committed he was to it. "You made that song commercial today," she says. "... And that's what this show is about!" Simon says it was like a musical and didn't make him contemporary at all. He felt it was a little bit over the top.

Crystal Bowersox is Mamasox, according to her fellow competitors, and a very kind and caring person. She is singing "Come Together" tonight because she finds it to be a fun song, a fun groove. And her performance is just that -- she rocks it out, and it's easily the best thing we've heard so far tonight. And the crowd goes wild! Randy says this was another solid performance, though not her best necessarily. She's in the zone, he says. Ellen says the only problem she has is finding new ways to Crystal how good she is. She takes a page from Kara and tells Crystal she sounded current. Kara says this is one of her favorite performances so far. She liked that it was sexy and slinky and playful, and she was more accessible tonight. Simon says this is a song he could hear on the radio regardless of how old it was.

Tim Urban is always smiling and happy, the other Idols say. He wanted to pick a fun song, so he is going with "All My Lovin'." He has fun and it's OK, but kinda not that exciting, and we all (including him) know he should have gone home a couple of weeks ago at minimum. Randy even says he is in his own category, so he is going to start judging based on whether it's a good Tim performance. Tim looks appropriately offended (smile nonetheless). Ellen thinks it was his second best performance after "Hallelujah." Kara says it feels more honest when he has the guitar, which he did tonight. She thinks it was solid and that he has been taking their comments and listening. Simon thought, on the same scale as everyone, that Tim did well tonight. He even thinks it sounded current (false).

Casey James is like a soap star, the other Idols say. They call him names like Trevor, Fabio, Drake. His song tonight is "Jealous Guy." It's a good, emotional performance, but kind of subdued. Randy liked the sensitive vibe and he was really impressed. He loved it even though it wasn't the perfect vocal. Ellen says it was his best performance to date, so soulful and beautiful. She felt like he poured himself into the song. Kara says he showed vulnerability, and it was tasteful and showing depth. Simon says it was the best performance of the night so far. (I'm still thinking Crystal owns that one.) He says he's very impressed with Casey tonight.

Siobhan Magnus is weird and unique and bizarre, the other folks say. Her song tonight is "Across the Universe," to show a different side of her voice. And she does -- it's very soft and quiet and different. Randy says she is crazy and unpredictable. He likes that it was tender, though it was sleepy. But he loves her artistry. Ellen says she supports her marching to the beat of her own drum, and she thought the performance was beautiful. Kara says from a singing perspective, she hit the notes and showed control. But it was restrained and polite, which was kind of odd. Also, she didn't find it current. Simon asks what she was thinking about with the song. She says that she was thinking of her baby sisters and how they are her whole world, and regardless of whatever is going on now, that won't ever change. (Also, she cries.) Simon says she is way better than last week and that they remain fans of her unpredictability. The loud guy in the audience yells again, and they make the mistake of giving him ("Earl") attention and letting him come on stage and hug Siobhan. Great, now everyone in the audience from here on out is going to be super-obnoxious trying to get screen time. Sigh.

Lee DeWyze is the last. The other competitors say he is the resident worrywart. They also talk about how he and Andrew are best friends, which allows Crystal to say the line of the night: "I am so glad that those two can be together and get married have lots of little Danny Gokey babies." Bahahahahahaha! He's singing "Hey Jude" tonight. He sings, and it's a little pitchy and weird, but energetic. When he starts on the "Na-na-na-nananana" part of it, a guy comes down the stairs playing the bagpipes. What? What just happened? The audience loves it, but I'm not sure I agree. Of course, for me, he has a lot to live up to, because the best version of this song I've ever heard live was sung by Paul McCartney a couple of years ago in D.C. (with the bonus of holding my phone up so my husband, who is nicknamed Jude, could listen, too). And bagpipes or no bagpipes, this didn't compare to that, one of my all-time best concert moments, at all. Randy says he needs to stop being so nervous and calls it "another hot one." Ellen says he showed confidence and that she loved it. Kara says there were good moments and a few off moments, but she is still a fan. Simon: "I don't know what you lot are drinking in the house." He thinks the bagpipe player threw Lee off, and it was all a little weird.

What an odd night. And I didn't even mention the didgeridoo! What did you think?