There were three things to take away from last night’s “American Idol”: Harry Connick Jr. is a wonderful mentor, Frank Sinatra most likely would have hated all of the “covers” and Lee DeWyze is now the favorite to win this thing. As an hour-long television program, last night’s “Idol” was excruciating, but this is a competition, and we’ve stuck it out this far. There’s no turning back.
First, kudos to Connick for taking the mentoring process seriously with true constructive criticism and a laidback approach that put the contestants at ease. Connick even pulled double duty, arranging the Sinatra songs specifically for the top five. He did an admirable job, especially in the second half of the show.
To the show's producers: Why Sinatra week, especially this late in the game? We're dealing with a catalog that's difficult to freshen up, in a genre that seems the polar opposite of what "Idol" aspires to create. You could argue that contestants should be capable of adding a pop twist to most songs, but this isn't the deftest group. It was a true trainwreck of a week, making me think anything, even Black Eyed Peas week, would have been more suitable.
As for the contestants, it was a big ball of regression for most. Aaron Kelly is the next likely casualty, as his try-hard persona can only last for so long. Casey James, who soars when he's on a stool playing a melancholic guitar part, looked so painfully awkward that it felt like he lost a bet doing "Blue Skies." If America has an inexplicable soft spot for Aaron, Casey could be the next to go. Crystal will probably make it to the final two, but don't expect her to win, especially after another week of technically proficient, sadly underwhelming singing. I just want to shake her and say, "The moment to takeover this competition is fleeting, and you're seriously screwing it up." Michael Lynche continues to teddy-bear croon his way through, still hamming it up for the lens but delivering the notes we want.
That leaves us with Lee, a singer who isn't as gifted as Crystal but understands the competition's sense of carpe diem. Lee's biggest fault is his lack of sophistication — week after week, he hoarsely yells lyrics without paying much attention to pitch and melody. Luckily for him, he sounds OK most of the time. But his rendition of "That's Life" felt sturdier, more precise than usual. It helped that Lee's permanent mood — shrugged-shoulders Everyman — fit the song well. He has set himself up to win, and only needs a few more quality performances like last night's to get the title.
Unless Mike or Crystal have some magic left, and if so — what are they waiting for?