This week on American Idol: Guest mentor Miley Cyrus!
I know, I know, you’d been trying so hard to forget that information. But it’s no use, Idoloonies. Tonight, the young lady who parties in the USA (if not other nations), will give advice to the top 11 contestants on how to shake what your mama gave ya while standing on top of an ice cream cart, but before she does, I’m gonna take a crack at ranking our current crop of season 9 contenders. When you’re done reading, voice your own opinion in the poll and comments section below. (Related: ‘American Idol’: Catching up With 13 Former Contestants!; for more Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.)
11. Andrew Garcia (Last week No. 8 ): Featherweight interpretation of “Gimme Shelter” continued the stock-price plunge for this one-time front-runner, who has yet to deliver a stellar performance since taking the live stage. Needs a drastic shakeup — a spot-on vocal, an eye-popping style choice, and a wicked song selection all might help — to reverse his fading fortunes.
10. Katie Stevens (Last week No. 12): The judges seem to want her around — maybe her tween appeal will translate into Idols Live tour ticket sales? –but just like Andrew, she has yet to deliver a “wow” performance since cracking the top 24. “Wild Horses” had some pretty moments, but as Kara pointed out, Katie’s problems with pitch are the real issue, even more so than her lack of a strong musical identity.
9.Tim Urban (Last week No. 7): Delivered the sexually aggressive “Under My Thumb” will all the ferocity of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. Two prior performances (“Come On Get Higher” and “Hallelujah”) were mostly in tune, though, and because life is full of cruel twists, I suspect we must brace ourselves for a few more weeks of Tim’s nondescript shenanigans.
8. Paige Miles (Last week No. 11): Came down with laryngitis and came up with her least bad vocal of the season on the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” Mumbled delivery of the song’s racy lyrics, however, suggested a possible lack of connection with the material. Unless she irons out her pitch issues — and ups the emotional ante — she could be eliminated at any time.
7. Casey James (Last week No. 6): Semifinal cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” was rock-solid, if not spectacular, and that’s been pretty much the story of Casey’s season. But what the laid-back blues-rocker needs to remember is that at this early point in the season, sometimes it’s more dangerous to be boring than trainwreck awful. Time to turn up the heat (musically speaking, Kara).
6. Aaron Kelly (Last week No. 10): Sole contestant stepping up and filling the country void raised his game by dialing back the vocal histrionics on “Angie.” Now he needs to focus less on staring longingly into the cameras, and more on ratcheting up his ability to deliver his lyrics in a mature, meaningful way. If he can do that, he’s got an outside chance at the top 5.
5. Michael ‘Big Mike’ Lynche (Last week No. 4): The Ham and Cheese Express kept rolling with over-the-top dance moves and facial expressions on the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.” But whether or not Big Mike’s shtick is your cup of tea, there’s no denying he’s delivered pitch-perfect vocals three weeks running. And hey, at least he’s not afraid to Perform with a capital P!
4. Didi Benami (Last week No. 5): Conspiracy theorists discuss: Did the judges use Didi for kickboxing training early just so they could convince the voting public that the artsy warbler is an appealing underdog? After shredding “The Way I Am” and (rightfully) “Lean on Me,” Simon & Co. have been dug “Rhiannon” and “Play With Fire.” The season 9 (not so) dark horse?
3. Lee Dewyze (Last week No. 3): “Beast of Burden” showcased major improvement in terms of Lee’s ability to stay in tune, and while the season 9 rocker disappointed the judges by bringing a laid-back vibe to the track, at least it was a fairly original cover. Now about those very obvious nerves…
2. Crystal Bowersox (Last week No. 1): Has yet to hit a bum note during her season 9 run, and her soulful rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was so effortless, the judges forgot to give her credit for taking exciting liberties with the song’s classic melody. Showcased a sense of humor, too, when dismissing Ryan and Simon’s erroneous contention that she thought she had the Idol crown wrapped up. Still, massive amounts of early hype can sometimes weigh a contestant down, and there’s a sense that she needs to take some chances with tempo and performance style (maybe step out from behind the mic stand?) if she wants us to believe she cares about winning.
1. Siobhan Magnus (Last week No. 2): Outrageous spin on “Paint It Black” was not as vocally flawless as preceding “House of the Rising Sun,” but pulls ahead of MamaSox by a feather because she’s bringing a much-needed sense of drama and unpredictability to the season 9 stage. Still, needs to make sure she doesn’t sacrifice pitch on the altar of theatricality.
Image Credit: Michael Becker/Fox(3)