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American Idol recap: Chairman of the Bored

Harry Connick Jr. takes control of song arrangements, but the contestants fail to live up to the Sinatra swagger

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Lee Harry Connick Idol
Michael Becker/PictureGroup

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Fact: A New York Times story earlier this year reported that there have been at least six murders over the last decade in the Philippines related to people performing karaoke renditions of Frank Sinatra’s ”My Way.” Tonight, however, as American Idol‘s Top 5 contestants took the stage to perform hits from Ol’ Blue Eyes’ songbook, it was hard to imagine their limp performances inspiring enough passion to instigate a strongly worded e-mail, let alone a full-scale murder.

And yet, suddenly, here I am getting the urge to do exactly that. Um, not commit an Idol-related homicide! Do I really take the show that seriously? (Don’t answer that.) No, Idoloonies, I speak of the time-honored tradition of firing off bold, slightly cantankerous missives. In fact, without further ado, I’m going to write seven of ’em right now.

Dear Idol Stylists,

If I wanted to watch Nova: Journey Into Simon Cowell’s Dense Thicket of Chest Hair, I’d be tuning into PBS in Hell. Okay, I realize you’re not at the top of the American Idol power structure, but if you could just get us to the point where the cranky British judge is unbuttoning his Henleys down to, say, Florida, instead of all the way to South America…

Oh, and while I’m nitpicking about fashion, can I ask why three out of four male contestants tonight went all Dapper Don from the waist up, but failed to make the same commitment to formalwear in the pants department? I’m just getting over a flu bug and too tired tonight to go back and check the videos for all their season 9 performances, but I can’t recall a single instance where Big Mike, Lee DeWyze, and Aaron Kelly performed in anything but jeans. I mean, say what you want about Siobhan Magnus and her many moths, at least she kept it interesting.

Dear Lee DeWyze,

Kara was right: You do have a chance to inherit Kris Allen’s tiara and sash — but no one wants to see you claim your title by default. In other words, it’s not enough to outperform your season 9 competitors; you have to perform with the heart and soul and innovation and pitch perfection of the Idol winners who came before you. And right now, you’re coming up a tad short in that department, even if Harry Connick Jr. thinks you’re a ”new and improved version” of him.

Don’t get me wrong, your rendition of ”That’s Life” was absolutely solid, the best of the night, in fact — thanks in part to an organ-heavy arrangement that was pure hipster throwback. Unlike last week’s ”You’re Still the One,” you stayed in tune at least 80 percent of the time, and you imbued Sinatra’s tale of hardscrabble scrapping with a bluster that bordered on (intentionally?) boozy. (Bonus points for working in the line ”some people get their kicks stomping on a dream.”) But on occasion, your enunciation gets a little hinky, and tonight you clipped some notes just a little too close, going for the double axel instead of the triple, aiming for a ”very good” and not a ”great.” Maybe that’s smart. Maybe that’s knowing the outer limits of your vocal range and working within its boundaries. But if Simon’s going to give you credit for giving ”110 percent,” I’d like to see you putting to rest any nagging doubts about your overall vocal technique. Do you think you can work on that for next week? (‘Cause you’ll totally still be here next week.) Sounds like a plan!

NEXT: The other AI