The Lennon-McCartney songbook is back (to where it once belonged) tonight on American Idol. Hopefully it’ll be a little more Carly Smithson “Blackbird” than Kristy Lee Cook “Eight Days a Week.” But no matter what hijinks or horror await us tonight, I’m forging ahead and updating the current season 9 rankings. Won’t you do the same by voting for your favorite contestant in our Power List poll? (Related: ‘American Idol’: Catching up With 13 Former Contestants!; for more Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.)
9.Tim Urban (Last week No. 9): In his defense, the permanent bottom-three fixture generally sings in tune, and he’s gamely handled brutal put-downs from Kara and Simon with a permanent smile that’s at once defiant and completely obtuse. Still, his utter failure to emotionally invest in a song — Tim delivered the romantic smooth-jazz ballad “Sweet Love” and the sexually aggressive “Under My Thumb” with the same blank cadence — is bizarrely horrifying/fascinating. Can he outdo the respective seventh- and sixth-place runs of Sanjaya Malakar and John Stevens? It’s doubtful.
8. Katie Stevens (Last week No. 8 ): Offered a pale outline of the Queen of Soul’s “Chain of Fools” last week that returned her to the tired pageant-girl stylings of “Feeling Good” while continuing to expose issues with her lower register. She’s had a few pretty moments during “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Wild Horses,” but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Connecticut teenager would’ve been a far more interesting contender if she’d waited four or five years to audition. Instead, Katie seems doomed to be upstaged by the judges’ played-out squabbling over whether she should aim for pop-R&B or country.
7. Andrew Garcia (Last week No. 10): Finally proved he’s a somewhat worthwhile finalist with a cleanly sung, relatively hip cover of Chris Brown’s “Forever” that helped remedy five prior weeks of live performances without anything approaching a “wow” moment. Continued forward momentum on Lennon-McCartney night could turn him into a possible top-five contender, but even a slight step backward would probably spell his doom on a week where a guy seems likely to get booted.
6. Aaron Kelly (Last week No. 5): On the plus side, the charming teenager is wisely filling season 9’s vacant country slot, and when he’s good (“Angie,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”), he makes a semi-convincing case for taking on The Lady Bowersox at the Nokia in late May. Conversely, though, Aaron has struggled to maintain an authentic connection when he tackles adult fare like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “I’m Already There.” (“Meaningful” glances to the camera and “hand-on-heart” posturing do not count.) Plus, we’d like to see him declare a two-week moratorium on ballads — as well as any material previously covered on the Idol stage.
5. Casey James (Last week No. 7): He’s consistent — which is more than a lot of his competitors can claim. Three-week run of “It’s All Over Now,” “Power of Love” and “Hold On, I’m Coming” contained very few bum notes, but not much originality, either. The Huey Lewis cover was follow-the-bouncing-ball karaoke, and his stiff demeanor and permanent smirk aren’t exactly pointing him out as the obvious successor to David Cook and Kris Allen.
4. Michael ‘Big Mike’ Lynche (Last week No. 6): Dialed back on the grimace-inducing theatrics and offered a tender India.Arie cover on R&B night, adding to a bulging repertoire of romantic-dude ditties that have played out like his own personal “I Love My Wife and Newborn Baby” tour. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but Big Mike’s occasionally off-putting personality (enough with the bear-hugs, dude!) and slightly fusty performance style make it hard to see him as a potential music superstar for 2010.
3. Siobhan Magnus (Last week No. 2): It’s been a case of rapidly diminishing returns for the “Siobhan Shriek” — “Through the Fire” < “Superstition” < “Paint It Black” — and unless she returns to the vocal excellence of “House of the Rising Sun,” the Glassblower could find herself added to the list of too-early eliminations among the season 9 ladies. Needs to choose honest artistry over competitive gimmickry — immédiatement!
2. Lee Dewyze (Last week No. 4): Came darn close to (maybe even experienced?) a serious Idol Moment with a searing cover of the Cornelius Brothers’ “Treat Her Like a Lady” that had Simon declaring him a contender for the Nokia in late May. Still has a tendency to look panic-stricken both during and after his performances, and while that lends the Chicago rocker a certain charm, he’s going to need to boost his confidence in the coming weeks (and steer clear of his occasional pitch problems) if he wants a chance to use his gruff instrument on “This Is My Moment to Make You Believe I Have No Boundaries Inside Your Heaven.”
1. Crystal Bowersox (Last week No. 1): Shook up the folk-chick-on-guitar vibe by taking to the piano for a slowed-down and quite lovely cover of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” True, she looked uncomfortable as Ryan without hair product during her stint at the keyboards, but she showed a willingness to add some theatrics and unpredictability to the mix. Combined with soaring “Me and Bobby McGee” and soulful “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” she’s the clear front-runner, though she’ll need to shake up the tempo (rock out, MamaSox!) and tackle more current material to maintain that lead.
Image Credit: Michael Becker/Fox