This week on American Idol: Guest mentor Usher brings the R&B theme to a bunch of guitar-strumming folk rockers! Before he does that, check out our current season 9 rankings, then vote for your fave contestant. (Related: ‘American Idol’: Catching up With 13 Former Contestants!; for more Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.)
10. Andrew Garcia (Last week No. 11): Five weeks of live performances without anything approaching a “wow” moment. Early front-runner says he knows who he is “as an artist,” but who exactly is that? Someone who does vocally wobbly covers of Marvin Gaye and Christina Aguilera? Lack of bottom three placement the last two weeks could convince his YouTube fan base he’s not at risk if he whiffs again during R&B night.
9.Tim Urban (Last week No. 9): Has perfectly illustrated the concept of “emotionally tone-deaf” with a neutered rendition of the sexually aggressive “Under My Thumb” and a rhythm-immolating cover of Queen’s jazzy “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” That said, whatever fan base is supporting him will likely be motivated by his back-to-back bottom-three finishes.
8. Katie Stevens (Last week No. 10): Set herself apart from the competition last week by choosing a song from the current decade (Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”) and performing it, well, adequately. Instead of debating whether she should aim for pop-R&B or country, though, the judges should really be advising the Connecticut teenager to select songs that don’t tax her questionable lower register.
7. Casey James (Last week No. 7): His take on Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love” was spot-on vocally — and also pure karaoke. Needs to watch YouTube clips of David Cook and Kris Allen to understand Idol contestants playing a guitar aren’t required to stand stiffly behind the mic stand. That said, the feeling persists that maybe he’s capable of something vastly more interesting than we’ve seen? The time for a breakthrough, however, has almost passed.
6. Michael ‘Big Mike’ Lynche (Last week No. 5): Could very easily rocket back to No. 3 if he nails his R&B night assignment, but despite the fact that he’s been the most vocally solid male contestant this season, it’s hard to shake the feeling that his gratuitous cheesiness and hints of ego are likely hurting him with Idol voters looking to crown the nation’s next recording superstar.
5. Aaron Kelly (Last week No. 6): The sole contestant stepping up and filling the country void raised his game by dialing back the vocal histrionics on “Angie,” then delivered a fine version of the overdone-on-Idol “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (despite fighting laryngitis and tonsillitis). Has a tendency toward corny stage antics and needs to forge a stronger emotional connection to his lyrics, but definitely heading in the right direction.
4. Lee Dewyze (Last week No. 3): Kara said he owned the stage on “The Letter,” but we saw the same panic-stricken dude who trembled throughout “Beast of Burden.” Definitely has a really nice vocal tone, but struggles to stay in tune when he’s forced to extend a note. Careful song selection and improved stage presence both required if he wants to contend for a top-two slot.
3. Didi Benami (Last week No. 4): Judges knocked her peculiar take on “You’re No Good,” but at least her “intoxicated cabaret singer” vibe was memorable, unlike most of her competitors’ drowsy performances. Here’s hoping Didi embraces her own musical instincts and stops worrying about what the fickle judges want from her. Defensive interview package on results night was not her best look.
2. Siobhan Magnus (Last week No. 1): Outrageous spin on “Paint It Black” was not as vocally flawless as preceding “House of the Rising Sun,” but it brought a much-needed sense of drama and unpredictability to the season 9 stage. Still, her decision to repeat the “Siobhan Shriek” on “Superstition” felt more like a “Look, Ma! No hands!” stunt than an honest artistic decision. Let’s hope she’s back on track tonight.
1. Crystal Bowersox (Last week No. 2): Soaring “Me and Bobby McGee” and soulful “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” were so effortless, the judges forgot to give her credit for taking exciting liberties with the songs’ classic melodies. Has also pulled off the tricky stunt of gently chiding Simon and Ryan without seeming obnoxious. Still, if she’s unwilling to take some chances with tempo and performance style (maybe step out from behind the mic stand?), she’s going to have a hard time avoiding an early front-runner backlash.
Image Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox