This is the week “American Idol” viewers are going to find out which of the six remaining finalists are truly the favorites, and which are living on borrowed time.
That’s because each of the finalists got more praise than criticism from the judges, which was kind of a miracle considering the mentor was Shania Twain and each finalist sang from her catalog. If you haven’t spent the whole season thinking, “Man, I wish I could see what Lee Dewyze and Michael Lynchecould do with a Shania Twain cover,” well, you wouldn’t be alone.
It’s hard to imagine that the four guys remaining were enthusiastic about picking their songs, and not surprisingly none chose to go with “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” Although man, I wish they had! But fortunately for them, the judges were more than kind.
Lynche was compared to Luther Vandross by both Ellen DeGeneres and Simon Cowell, which indicates that both judges need to dust off their old CDs and give them a fresh listen before ever doing that again. He did fine on “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing,” but a Vandross-esque performance it was not.
And if you thought that praise was over the top, the judges really, really, really talked about Casey James’ version of “Don’t,” as if the singer’s fate on the show were entirely in their hands. And it may well be, given that James was the second-lowest vote-getter a week ago. He did much better this week and the genre suited his vocal skills, but it wasn’t the masterpiece that Simon and company painted it to be. Maybe they really think Kara DioGuardi does have a crush on him, and just want to keep her happy.
Dewyze opened the show by singing “You’re Still the One,” which did not sound very good when he was practicing it for Shania, but which turned out much better onstage. Downsides for Dewyze are that he opened the show and that the song isn’t the peppiest in the Twain canon. Upside is that he’s Lee Dewyze, he seems to have a sizable fan base and he sang it tolerably well.
As for Aaron Kelly … the judges just can’t keep from being patronizing toward the 17-year-old. Whether they love him or hate him, they talk to him like he’s a 3-year-old or a puppy. I fully expect that when he gets voted off the show, they’ll have Ryan Seacrest present him with a blue participation ribbon for a job well done.
Kelly sang “You’ve Got a Way,” and he later told the judges that he was singing it for his mother, which was a lot more information than I needed to know. The quartet felt it was his best effort yet, which might not mean much considering it’s not the highest standard ever and that everyone else was strong as well.
As for the women, we’ll soon find out if Crystal Bowersox owes her success to single males with a crush on her, or family values folks who assumed that the fact that she’s a mother must also mean she’s married. If either is the case, she’s in big trouble.
Her boyfriend was on display for the first time, sitting in the studio audience wearing a T-shirt reading, “Did you know that America prefers Crystal Bowersox one BAJILLION times more than other contestants?” If that T-shirt is correct, it shouldn’t matter that Simon didn’t like her performance of “No One Needs to Know” and that the rest of the judges weren’t overwhelmed.
Certainly, Bowersox herself didn’t seem affected. “It’s not as big as the other performances, but bigger isn’t always better,” she said, silencing Kara’s feedback.
Simon also wasn’t impressed with the song itself, which means he shouldn’t expect to have Twain serve as a guest judge on his next reality TV project.
Siobhan Magnus closed the show with “Any Man of Mine,” and was as polarizing as always. The detractors will say that she gave a karaoke performance, while her supporters will note that she and Bowersox were the only ones who looked like they were having fun onstage, and that she closed the show with a performance that had the crowd on its feet throughout.
But everyone should agree on two points: It was probably the most showmanship from her all season, and she deserves credit for once again working the scream in there. Sure, Simon may not like it, but it’s her trademark, like Bowersox’s dreadlocks and guitar; James’ long, blonde curly hair; and Dewyze’s nervous smile. He can’t take that away from her.
Well, unless she’s the lowest vote-getter this week (the only way anyone will be able to silence the scream). On a night where everyone did enough to earn fan support, she’s definitely a candidate for elimination. But except for Bowersox, so is everyone else.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.