Bravo's latest variation on reality-style game shows — "Work of Art" — will feature a Kansas Citian, Peregrine Honig. It's the second time in the last year that a Bravo show will feature a KC artist — last year Ari Fish was on "Project Runway."
"Work of Art" premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 9, on Bravo, Sunflower Broadband Channels 52 and 252HD.
Peregrine made a name for herself when a set of her prints were purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art, establishing her as the youngest living artist to be included in the permanent collection. Peregrine’s sculptures, imagery, and texts explore themes of sexual vulnerability, trends in disease, and social hierarchies. Peregrine resides in Kansas City, MO where she attended Kansas City Art Institute. She currently curates projects and annual events under the umbrella "Fahrenheit" and owns a lingerie boutique "Birdies." To date, her work is part of the permanent collections of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and The Chicago Art Institute, among others. She has had solo exhibits in Santa Fe, Kansas City, and Chicago, and has shown in group exhibitions in New York and across the globe. Peregrine is a recipient of the Art Omi International Artists’ Residency, the Charlotte Street Fund, and an Inspiration Grant. She recently produced a magazine titled Widow, in collaboration with Landfall Press, that explores the relationship between fashion and art.
The ninth season of "American Idol" entered its final night of competition, with titans Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox making their case for ownership of the coveted, occasionally cursed title.
It was a season that began with turbulent change and ended amid even more turbulent change. Unfortunately, in between all that chaos was a whole bunch of mind-numbing tedium. Dull, weird and unfocused, "Idol" suffered as viewership declined and criticism skyrocketed.
So before assessing the final sets of performances, I thought it would be fair to judge the judges this year. Some of them were new. Some (perhaps many) imminently departing. Some didn’t want to be there. Some seemed very happy to be employed anywhere.
Ellen DeGeneres Let’s start with the newest judge, Ellen, who probably brought the most potential to the table. Perhaps it was her complete lack of chemistry with any of her fellow panelists, or maybe it was just old-fashioned politeness, but the usually reliable comedian didn’t offer much entertainment value this year. Ellen seemed to have got it in her head she needed to fill the “nice judge” role vacated by the over-medicated and under-interesting Paula Abdul. Ellen failed to understand she got hired to be funny. Sure, she had some nice quips here and there. But far too often she said something generically nice and shut up. Hey, you could hire most people’s moms to do that. Rating: C-
Randy Jackson Back in the '80s when I often flipped through the pages of Bass Player magazine, I had nothing but respect for Randy. But the bassist-turned-producer didn’t have to open his mouth in those ads for the latest Alembic gear. That proved problematic on a television series where Randy’s job was to talk. Unable to get through a sentence without using a cliche and incapable of conjuring even the proper words when addressing people (In tonight’s show he called Crystal “man” and “dude” in the same sentence. Classy, my friend.), Randy’s shtick got thinner and thinner as the season progressed. If college folks haven’t yet created a campus drinking game based on Randy’s critiques, here’s a primer for next year:
Take one drink if Randy says, “Listen,” “Check it out” or laughs three times before starting his appraisal.
Take two drinks every time he tells a contestant, “It was just alright.”
Take three drinks whenever he pitches the mic to Ellen with, “What do you think, E.?”
Chug the glass whenever Simon Cowell’s name is announced and Randy boos.
Please, Randy, just go back to playing bass. Rating: D-
Kara DioGuardi Her musical resume is formidable, and she can likely out-sing any contestant who’s ever been on the “Idol” stage. Yet in her second season, Kara fulfilled two roles. One, as the Condescending Bitch (“That’s just not good enough, sweetie.”) and, two, as the Know-It-All Insider (“That’s what I call artistry!”). It’s not surprising that Kara has achieved most of her success away from the spotlight -- as a songwriter for other artists, an anonymous session singer, a vocal mentor, etc. Ironically, once the cameras rolled, Kara struggled to find her voice. Rating: C-
Simon Cowell The centerpiece of the show's winning formula spent much of his final season looking like he left his Jaguar's motor running in the parking lot. Disinterest. Disengagement. Disdain. Simon provided plenty of “disses.” And yet he was still the only judge worth listening to -- the only voice that mattered. Even at his most curmudgeonly and most underdressed, Simon bestowed his genuine spin on things. That’s kind of the point of being a critic. Rating: B
As for the outcome of the show ...
The night's performances could be explained in one sentence: Lee played it safe, while Crystal played to win.
All season Lee thrived on his emotion, authenticity and keen song selections. Tonight he only exhibited the latter -- and those barely helped without the former two strengths. Even on a tune as peppy and anthemic as U2's "Beautiful Day," Lee appeared to be performing like he was nursing a bleeding ulcer.
Meanwhile, Crystal absolutely brought it. All three of her songs revealed a different side of her folky/gritty prowess. This was all the more impressive considering she was forced to deliver a version of the sorority karaoke night classic "Black Velvet." Did you think it was suspicious that the "producer's pick" saddled Crystal with this awful stripper-pole fave by one-hit wonder Alannah Myles, and Lee got the hipper, deeper "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.? No question for whom the suits at 19 Entertainment were rooting.
Winner: Lee had it locked up until this show. Now it's a toss-up. I guess I'm obligated to stick with my original prediction and pick Lee. But Crystal has more than earned it at this point.
Hard to believe it's down to the final three contestants ... unless you've been writing a weekly blog about this year's "American Idol." In that case, the five-month season has felt five times longer than that.
Yes, folks, this is definitely the weakest "Idol" since Jordin Sparks was crowned on season 6. It's not the level of talent -- this year's contestants are pretty competent compared to final three performers of the past. No, it's the level of drama that's at an all-time low. Like watching a movie after the trailer has given away the ending, “American Idol” is handcuffed by its inescapable finale matchup.
Ten weeks ago I predicted the show would become a duel between
Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, with Lee ultimately winning it all. (And that was back when Crystal and Michael Lynche had all the momentary mojo going their way.)
Tonight's telecast did nothing to alter that inevitable outcome. But it did feature some musical moments of note.
Casey James began with his pick of the obscure "OK, It's Alright with Me" by Eric Hutchinson. Like the nearby city of Hutchinson, it left me with little impression.
Opportunely, Casey got to return with a "judges' pick," which provided "Daughters" by fellow heartthrob John Mayer. It was catchy, slightly low-key and completely lacking the type of big moment the sinking singer needed to have a fighting chance of survival.
Crystal picked "Come to My Window" by Leavenworth native Melissa Etheridge (let's see how many more Kansas references I can weave in this week). For a song traditionally defined by its emotional energy, Crystal appeared bored with it. She also seemed sick. While the judges predictably blathered on about how great she was, I couldn't help but notice she was uncharacteristically straining to hit her notes and often out of breath.
On the flipside, the judges handed her Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." (I remember seeing McCartney once in an interview talking about how this song was as good as anything he ever put out with The Beatles.) Divorced from her guitar and clad in black knee-high boots, Crystal gave a passionate, if somewhat faithful interpretation of the song. Although, again, she fumbled some of the ethereal vocal runs she normally nails.
Lynyrd Skynyrd often gets a bad rap. But Lee picked "Simple Man," the iconic Florida band's best song in my opinion. (Listen to Drive By Truckers' incredible 2001 album "Southern Rock Opera," and I guarantee it will alter your perception of Skynyrd.) Lee’s soulful, rendition really emphasized why he is the contestant to beat.
From Lynyrd Skynyrd to Leonard Cohen! The judges selected "Hallelujah," the Cohen-penned, Jeff Buckley-covered tune that was performed so memorably two years ago by Jason Castro -- who just played in Lawrence a few weeks back. (Note: Third Kansas reference.) At first, I was surprised by the choice, especially considering it had already been done by Tim Urban this season. But the song’s emotional peaks and valleys are hard to deny, and Lee dug deep into the material. Regrettably, he was escorted by too many others in the endeavor. The performance began with merely his voice and guitar, but it eventually included a rock band, gospel choir and screechy horn section. Only thing missing was a corps of Scottish bagpipes. It was pure overkill. Think how much cooler it would have come across it if had been just Lee and the choir -- or just Lee.
Going home: In the most no-brainer decision of the season, Casey James will leave the show, with nothing more than his male-model looks, solid voice and excellent guitar playing to accompany him. Poor guy.
Music and film -- my two favorite things. And that's what got combined on "American Idol," in its own peculiar, intriguing and slightly unsatisfying way.
Tonight's theme promised "songs from the movies," which gave the four remaining contestants nearly 100 years worth of material. The broadcast delivered a parade of strange choices, emotional highs, surprisingly tasteful guitar playing and an overdose of mentor Jamie Foxx. The comedian-turned-actor-turned-pop star seemed a perfect choice for movie night, except for the fact that he came across (for the second consecutive season) as one of the most annoying people on the planet. “Look at me. Me. Me.” I'm surprised he didn't jump up onstage during the performances like Kanye West and try and wrestle the mic away from the contestants.
Lee DeWyze (Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" from "Batman Forever") kicked off the night with a song so overplayed on "Idol" that it rivals "I Believe I Can Fly" or "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" for sheer number of versions served. Add to that it's a nearly an impossible track to pull off in a live setting. Lee gave it his ingratiating growl, but even he struggled with pitch throughout, usually leaning toward flat.
Michael Lynche (Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" from "Free Willy") selected a song from a flick even more forgettable than "Batman Forever." It was pure gospel nonsense, complete with robed choir members descending a staircase behind him. Only a Baby Jesus descending from the ceiling on a cloud-shaped pillow could have made it more pretentious. Keep in mind, this was the theme song to a movie about a killer whale.
Not since Kristy Lee Cook performed "God Bless the USA" has a contestant made such a shrewd, calculated choice to keep from being voted off the island. Casey James (Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" from "The Graduate") appealed directly to the soccer mom demographic with his ode to May/December romances. Seated among a throng of audience members, equally made up of pre-teens and MILFs, Casey strapped on a mandolin for his less-than-stirring rendition of the 1967 fave. Regardless, it was still a significant improvement from his Sinatra butchering of the previous week.
Crystal Bowersox (Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright" from "Caddyshack") went for the one Loggins soundtrack effort that makes me not want to pop my head in a microwave. Finally, a song with a little energy! (Just picture that gopher grooving to the shuffling beat.) She sang it with more bluesy firepower than it's probably ever been sung before, though it was just a precursor to her real highlight of the evening.
Since four songs do not make an hour-long TV show, the contestants got paired up for two additional tunes.
Lee and Crystal performed a duet of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly" from the brilliant 2006 Irish pic "Once." They fully captured the escalating emotion of the Oscar-winning track -- one of the great musical moments ever shared onscreen by a guy and gal. It was arguably the best performance of the entire season.
Also quite good were the improbably paired Casey and Michael, who tackled Bryan Adam's "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from 1994's "Don Juan DeMarco." Their ostensibly disparate voices blended comfortably, and the Spanish-inspired ballad benefited greatly from Casey's choice flamenco riffs on his nylon-stringed acoustic.
The duets were so good that it begged the question: Shouldn't they all just form a band?
Going home: I know I've been predicting Michael Lynche would be exiting for weeks now, all while he continues to hang around. But I also predicted weeks ago that the final three would be Lee, Crystal and Casey, so I’m sticking with that no-brainer of a trio.
"American Idol" is rigged.
Okay, maybe rigged or fixed is too strong a word. Specifically, it's more like the show is heavily tilted toward certain contestants winning.
I had previously thought this claim to be merely conspiracy theory nutjobbery ... until last week's show.
That's when frontrunner Crystal Bowersox was dressed-down by the cabal of judges -- Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson -- for delivering a below average performance (untrue) that put her at risk of being voted out. The commentary was delivered in robotic unison, as if by the brainwashed soldiers in "The Manchurian Candidate." ("Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.") It was clear the judges had colluded previous to the show and decided that if they continued to heap more praise on their pet Crystal, viewers might believe she was safe and neglect voting for her.
Meanwhile, Siobhan Magnus gave a truly abysmal performance -- one that ultimately got her booted by America, despite the judges all offering one-note responses about how great it was.
Well, the judges' reverse psychology worked. Fall-guy Magnus is now off the show, and with her the last semblance of any chance of being surprised by this forgettable season.
There's simply very little mystery left with this final five, as evidenced by Tuesday's show. As I predicted when we were introduced to the season's top 10, it still comes down to a battle between "the Hippie Girl" and "the DMB Guy."
This week's Sinatra Night theme did little to cater to those archetypes, somewhat leveling the playing field for the final five. The night’s big winner was the always amusing Harry Connick Jr. as arguably the best all-time mentor. This was bolstered by the fact that he didn't just listen to a contestant’s run-through and give hollow advice, but instead arranged the material AND performed in the live backing band.
He wasn’t the only one having to work hard during Sinatra Night. Unlike, say, Shania Twain Night, the material the contestants chose was truly challenging. There would be no way for them to fake their way through these orchestral labyrinths.
First up was Aaron Kelly ("Fly Me to the Moon"), the high school contestant who likely had heard of the song because it was also the name of a recent animated 3-D movie. Aaron sounded fine but looked ridiculous. The one thing about covering a Sinatra song is that Ole Blue Eyes brought so much gravitas with him on-stage, that it's impossible for a non-grownup to emulate that without seeming phony
(It brought to mind Phil Hartman's Sinatra impression on "SNL" where he threatens a younger rock star, "You don't scare me. I've got chunks of guys like you in my stool!")
I thought Casey James ("Blue Skies") might step it up tonight after finding himself in the bottom three last week. No such luck. The man who typically appears so at ease with an electric guitar and chest-baring shirt looked quite terrified with but a mic and a ponytail holder separating him from a 30-piece orchestra. His shaky vibrato even got compared to that of a lamb by judge Kara.
Crystal Bowersox ("Summer Wind") never looked better than in her femme fatale-meets-mermaid evening wear. (I love watching how the “Idol” hair and makeup people try and disguise the fact she has dreadlocks each week.) Crystal blended into the theme night unexpectedly well, capturing the phrasing and subtlety of the Johnny Mercer-penned hit. Yet ... she was virtually indistinguishable from someone you might find crooning the song in a hotel bar. Proficient? Yes. Memorable? No.
Speaking of unmemorable, then came Michael Lynche ("The Way You Look Tonight"). Likely waiting all season for a shot at wearing a fedora when it didn't look so ludicrous, Big Mike tried to make a big splash with this big hit backed by a big band. Big deal. Mike's a talented dude, but he’s incapable of elevating above his cover band roots. He might be a hoot to watch performing the after-dinner show on a cruise ship, but I can't imagine buying an album by the man.
Despite being mercilessly teased by Connick Jr., Lee DeWyze ("That's Life") was the one who had the last laugh on Tuesday. He managed to seem both utterly authentic and wholly contemporary during the closing number. As I said weeks ago, the whole season has been leading up to the moment Lee will square off against Crystal. And, barring a last-minute meltdown, Lee is poised to win.
Bottom three: Aaron Kelly, Casey James and Michael Lynche.
Going home: Michael Lynche. Despite Casey's baaaaad performance, his legion of (female) fans will spring into action with enough votes to save him for another round.
Note: How fun would it have been to watch Siobahn render the Sid Vicious version of “My Way,” as she had threatened to do prior to getting the ax?
Country superstar Shania Twain has sold 65 million records. But up until tonight's episode of "American Idol," I could only name two of her songs.
Happily, the remaining six finalists didn't even pick one of those discernible hits (the blasphemous "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"). Instead, they dove into the not-very-twangy Twain catalog, emerging with a congenial mix of passable tunes.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but was this the first show of the season to feature a slate of songs that had never once been played on the series before?
Lee DeWyze (“You’re Still the One") sounded more Dave Matthews-esque than ever on the only other song I could name by Twain. He did manage to admirably change up the melody on a track that is already loaded with hook after hook. Judge Randy Jackson mentioned that it is "one of the greatest songs of all time." I'm wondering how big Jackson's list is. Ten songs? One hundred? One thousand?
Twain seemed rather giddy at the prospect of Michael Lynche (“It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing”) covering one of her tunes. She likely doesn't get a lot of love from the smooth R&B crowd. Mighty Mike did what he does best: Sing competently while boring the crap out of you. Even while it was happening, I couldn't hum the melody.
Casey James (“Don’t”) looked more confident than ever for his seated, acoustic showcase. As always, Casey displayed the tremendous ability to never make a mistake. No lyrical flubs, no rushing, no pitch problems. The guy is certainly a pro. Yet he remains a stylistic enigma. He could make a singer-songwriter record. Or a country crossover record. Or a blues-rock one. Or an instrumental guitar one. Or a jam band one. Or ....
Poor Crystal Bowersox (“No One Needs to Know”). Despite singing rings around her other more-lauded female counterpart (check out the control on her falsetto), she got nothing but shrugs from the four judges. Crystal took the country theme to heart more than the other competitors, employing a quartet of musicians that included standup bass and lap steel to deliver a two-stepper that seemed more like an outtake from "Austin City Limits." I thought it was one of the cooler moments of the night. But maybe it was too "rural" for the coastal judges.
On a side note, host Ryan Seacrest announced last week's “Idol Gives Back” show netted its charity causes $45 million. Or as I like to call it: Simon Cowell’s annual salary.
Poor Aaron Kelly (“You've Got a Way”). One day this 17-year-old is going to wake up, and his "Idol" experience will be over. So he'll go back to calculus class and sketch Idol logos on his notebook. But until then, the kid's voice and unassuming manner have kept him in the competition. Tonight, he nailed another ballad -- though a toned-down one. He altered the lyric of "It's in the way we make love," not because it sounded weird coming from a virginal teenager, but because he explained he was singing it to his mom.
Obviously, the judges were pressed for time with the ticking clock of the last performance because otherwise they might have actually criticized Siobhan Magnus (“Any Man Of Mine") for her awful showing. Shivers now occupies the Vote for the Worst spot vacated by the "adorable" Tim Urban. She definitely earned the distinction by putting on a Vegas-meets-Berlin version of a Hollywood-meets-Nashville track. Shiv strutted around the stage sounding like an asthmatic, barely mustering enough output to ping a VU meter. Perhaps she was saving up her breath for the lone earsplitting note at the end of the song. I'll admit: As terrible as Shiva the Destroyer was, I'm still more excited to see what she does next week than Aaron or Michael.
Bottom three: Aaron Kelly, Michael Lynche and Siobhan Magnus.
Going home: Michael Lynche. All of Tim Urban's fan votes from last week are likely going to Aaron instead of you.
Part of the allure of "American Idol" is you hope for that one special performance that judge Simon Cowell refers to as “a moment." Whether it’s Fantasia Barrino crooning “Summertime” or David Cook overhauling “Billie Jean,” each season yields performance worthy of becoming iconic.
Given that it was "Inspirational Songs" night, it provided the perfect canvas for that “moment” to happen. It also opened the door for maudlin cheese to seep through.
Most of the competitors split the difference -- with a little mentoring from Alicia Keys -- often confusing "inspiring" with "overdone." Take Casey James, whose shopworn rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Don’t Stop” (the weakest song on the classic "Rumours" record) kicked off the show with a thud. As with many past "Idol" contestants, James has more talent than good judgment. The selection did nothing to camouflage his cover band roots.
Lee DeWyze delivered Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer," flanked by an army of backup singers and symphonic musicians. It was unnecessary overkill, considering he could have likely gotten the same mileage out of a version featuring only his acoustic guitar and comfortably raspy voice. The judges were overly fawning of his routine.
Tim Urban stuck within his wheelhouse of emotional-yet-unchallenging material with a soundtrack-friendly "Better Days" by Goo Goo Dolls." Like the Dolls, it was blandly pleasant -- or pleasantly bland.
Aaron Kelly cranked out one of the night's better vocal performance's. Unfortunately, it was at the service of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly" -- a song perhaps only rivaled by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" for cliche ballad of the millennium. Also, given R. Kelly's multiple arrests on child pornography and underage sex charges, isn't it a bit skeazy that a 17-year-old singer opted for this track?
Speaking of Whitney Houston ... Siobhan Magnus unleashed a version of Houston and/or Mariah Carey's “When You Believe." It proved just as freaky and schizophrenic as Magnus herself -- first a breathy ballad, then a screechy soul number, then back to a breathy ballad. The butterfly-adorned singer may have one of the biggest voices in the competition, but with each week that waltzes by she seems less focused. She keeps striving to come across as a radio-friendly diva, when in reality she's more like a singing performance artist at an underground coffee house who gets the audience's attention through her "unconventional antics."
Since Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" from the "Batman Forever" soundtrack was likely too challenging, Michael Lynche opted for the next best thing: Chad Kroeger’s “Hero” from "Spider-Man." Big Mike sang it just fine, though emulating the singer from Nickelback can't be very demanding. While Mike was strumming his guitar, it was hard not to notice he might be the most out-of-shape bodybuilder on the planet. His arms looked like Gabourey Sidibe's legs.
At last, some actual inspiration. Crystal Bowersox may have chosen a song that's been covered to death (The Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” penned by the great Curtis Mayfield), but she owned it during the evening's telecast. Not only did she eschew performing with an instrument for the first time on "Idol," she actually displayed some genuine emotion when she shockingly, charmingly burst into tears at the song's conclusion. She explained that she had seen her dad in the audience, who had previously never attended a taping. It was the "moment" the “Idol” season had been longing to experience.
Bottom three: Tim Urban, Aaron Kelly and Siobhan Magnus.
Going home: Aaron Kelly. Sorry kid. You're good, but you have no chance of winning.
After a week devoted to the all-time most iconic rock band, “American Idol” raided the catalog of the all-time most iconic singer.
Yes, America, it was Elvis week. The good news was it gave the producers an excuse to film a segment in Vegas with mentor Adam Lambert, last season’s flamboyant runner-up, providing actual constructive advice. The bad news was the contestants had to perform Elvis songs.
Just to clarify: Elvis songs proved just fine when The King himself delivered them. (No one will argue the man had style.) But his genuinely great songs were few and far between ... sometimes years and years between.
Unlike the Beatles songbook — which brims with hundreds of classics — Elvis peaked at the Sun Sessions and artistically plummeted thereafter. Only his movies reeked more of contractual obligation than his patchy musical contributions. (And most of those were written by other people.)
So it was no surprise that the majority of the nine remaining contestants ended up hauling out a batch of interchangeable 1-4-5 progressions that were as unremarkable then as they are now.
Andrew Garcia (“Hound Dog”), Katie Stevens (“Baby What You Want Me to Do”) and Aaron Kelly (“Blue Suede Shoes”) fared the worst. All basically sang the same song with different lyrics. Hey, at least they remembered the words — which is better than you could say about Vegas-years Elvis.
The especially vulnerable Garcia finally injected a little chutzpah into his vocals. But the song itself proved so tired that it was hard to qualify it as a success. Judge Simon Cowell went for the jugular, calling it “lazy.”
Both Kelly and Stevens seemed disconnected to the material. Notice how Stevens tonally defaults to retreating farther into the back of her throat based on her comfort level with a song.
Faring slightly better, thanks to superior singing, were Crystal Bowersox (“Saved”), Casey James (“Lawdy Miss Clawdy”) and Lee DeWyze (“A Little Less Conversation”). Again, the thin songs were overbaked — especially by DeWyze, who chose a tune that’s already been covered ad nauseam on “Idol.” (Remember “pen salesman” Jon Peter Lewis’ awkward rendition on the third season?) Even a brigade of doo-wopping background singers wasn’t going to inject life into these chestnuts.
After his near-elimination last week — perhaps he should have chosen “Saved” — Michael Lynche (“In the Ghetto”) returned with a stripped-down version of Elvis’ ode to poverty. The performance was enough to save him again this week, even if it erred on being too sparse due to Big Mike’s shaky guitar accompaniment.
Elvis’ most recognizable song from his 1960s phase should have been a showstopper for Siobhan Magnus (“Suspicious Minds”). But her schizophrenic arrangement got in the way of its sexy groove. Magnus is increasingly getting a more desperate look in her eyes when she performs. Kind of like that moment in “Fatal Attraction” when Glenn Close tells Michael Douglas, “Don’t you ever pity me, you smug bastard.”
Oddly enough, it was perpetual whipping boy Tim Urban (“Can’t Help Falling in Love”) who fared the best on Elvis week. Revealing a nice touch with a capoed acoustic guitar, “Turban” kept the melody simple and involving. By eschewing the bombast, he made a genuine impact. Even Simon approved.
Bottom three: Andrew Garcia, Aaron Kelly and Katie Stevens.
Going home: Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens. Remember, it’s double elemination this week thanks to the judges’ save being deployed last week.
After Nielsen numbers revealed this week that top dog "American Idol" had dropped to second place behind "Dancing With the Stars" for the first time, the singing competition's producers were no doubt hoping that a dose of songs from the world's most popular band might boost ratings.
Unfortunately, instead of an evening promising "We Can Work It Out" in order to "Come Together," many contestants seemed to be embracing an "I'm Only Sleeping" vibe.
Yes, once again "American Idol" opened up the Lennon/McCartney catalog to the nine finalists. Note: not "The Beatles" catalog -- but "Lennon/McCartney." So those viewers hoping to witness someone warbling through a version of Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" were sure to be dissatisfied.
As in past years, the arrangements proved to be the challenging part of Beatles week. More often it's been a battle of finding an appropriate song to match a particular artist -- especially a tune that hadn't been bludgeoned to death by past "Idol" hopefuls.
Aaron Kelly (performing "The Long and Winding Road”) and Katie Stevens ("Let It Be”) opened the show with late-era ballads. Despite their collective youth -- their combined ages barely surpass 30 -- their choices veered toward old-fashioned ... and slow. (At times my mind wandered to the point I became more interested in the undulating Fox 4 weather graphic that squeezed the screen.) Luckily, Kelly and Stevens both sang with conviction, which freed them from the impression they were merely playing dress-up.
Andrew Garcia (“Can't Buy Me Love”) tried to give a makeover to one of the Fab Four's earlier, boppier tunes. The result was a hodgepodge of musical styles fighting for attention. As if making a critical statement, Garcia played with his back to the judges. Far from an embarrassment, he was equally far from entertaining.
Michael Lynche ("Eleanor Rigby”) went the opposite route of the first two singers. He turned the pulsating string quartet classic into an overblown Vegas showcase. While the judges heaped accolades on Big Mike, I thought it was phenomenally yucky. Tasteless. Kind of boring.
Just as Kris Allen and Carly Smithson had done previously, Crystal Bowersox ("Come Together”) opted for a Beatles selection that has yet to shine on “Idol.” Instead of the swampy, slinky groove of the original, she went the Bonnie Raitt route. This was made all the more madcap by employing a sideman playing a didgeridoo, the droning aboriginal instrument of Australia. It didn't fit in the slightest, but it didn't necessarily kill any of Bowersox's momentum, either.
Everyone favorite jovial punching bag, Tim Urban (“All My Lovin'”), ditched the stage histrionics and strapped on a Gibson ES-335 for a surprisingly inspired version of an early Beatles ditty. It worked so well that even judge Simon Cowell begrudgingly approved. (What are the odds that so many of this season's contestants are pretty impressive guitarists?)
Casey James (“Jealous Guy”) was the odd man out, choosing a Lennon solo song ... that wasn’t even “Imagine.” And he got a perm. The other thing permanent might be James after this performance. Previously skating by on his looks and his road-hardened musicianship, the vocalist delivered the night’s best performance with a song that revealed a depth and connection with the material that none of his fellow contestants were able to match.
Bringing everyone back down to sleepytime mode was Siobhan Magnus ("Across the Universe”). Seated, decked out like Little Bo Peep and radiating "crazy," Magnus attempted to turn one of John Lennon's trippy guru tracks into a heartfelt torch song. Although not entirely successful, she was engagingly weird ... even without her patented screaming.
It's never a good idea to whittle a 7-minute Beatles anthem down to 3 minutes. (Remember when Michael Johns tried it with "A Day in the Life?) But that's exactly what Lee Dewyze ("Hey Jude") attempted with his version of the band's most popular song. The normally reliable Dewyze seemed a tad lost during the performance, with only his gravelly delivery to bail him out. Then things became spectacularly surreal during the "na-na-na" part when a kilted Scotsman descended from the stage's staircase with bleating bagpipes.
Didgeridoo? Bagpipes? I'm hoping next week Siobhan Magnus finds a way to introduce a Theremin ...
Bottom three: Andrew Garcia, Michael Lynche and Tim Urban.
Going home: Andrew Garcia. It's not that he was bad, just mildly disappointing. He also selected the most forgettable and simplistic of these nine Beatles songs.
Since this uneven season of "American Idol" has now reached the top ten plateau, it's time to officially handicap the chances each contestant has of winning it all.
Given this truly oddball collection of entertainers, predicting is by no means an exact science. (Compare it to past seasons when Carrie Underwood and Fantasia Barrino emerged as the favorites from the time they opened their mouths.)
Tuesday's show did however offer enough information to start winnowing the standouts from the dropouts. To be fair, the Lilith Fair/"Glee"/frat party contingent that makes up this season's cast didn't exactly scream "rhythm and blues." But coupled with mentor Usher predominantly offering excellent advice, the evening proved to be inspiring -- made even more so based on last week's abysmal telecast.
Siobhan Magnus (performing Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire”)
Wow, Magnus tanked. For the first time, the talented, idiosyncratic and just plain nutty Magnus seemed completely out of her element. Worse, she never managed to get in tune. As someone who generally appeared capable of winning the competition a few weeks ago, this outing denoted a giant, space-booted step backward. But one never can tell. Like a crazy ex-girlfriend, she might stick around longer than expected.
Most favorable outlook: third place.
Casey James (Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’”)
Yes, he’s dreamy. Sure, he already carries himself like a rock star. No doubt, he’s arguably the best lead guitarist to ever strut his pentatonic chops as a contestant. But ... there’s something really forgettable about James. Perhaps it’s because there are a hundred guys like him making their living on the club circuit.
Most favorable outlook: fourth place.
Michael Lynche (India.Arie’s “Ready for Love”)
Big Mike Lynche is surprisingly nimble, both in his delivery and his musicianship. He’s also consistently strong, never offering anything short of professional. But Lynche is also old-fashioned. Unsurprising. In certain respects, uninteresting.
Most favorable outlook: fifth place.
Didi Benami (Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”)
I love Benami -- and not just because she’s a former swimsuit model. No, I think she is a really distinctive artist who is capable of amazing moments when she finds the perfect song. Unfortunately, after tonight’s performance, it’s unlikely that song will ever materialize for her. Benami just doesn’t get what makes (made) her intriguing. And no amount of prodding by host Ryan Seacrest to reveal the backstory behind her weepiness will help her out much. It’s not melodrama she’s in need of; it’s melodies.
Most favorable outlook: sixth place.
Tim Urban (Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love”)
The anti-“Idol” Web site Vote for the Worst announced this week that Tim "Teflon" Urban had tied infamous hack Sanjaya Malakar as the contestant who’d spent the most weeks (seven) as the site’s faux choice. If nothing else, his labored version of “Sweet Love” offered the four judges their best material of the season, with Randy Jackson calling him a singing waiter, Ellen Degeneres pointing out the drinking game associated with his “adorable” demeanor , Kara DioGuardi talking about his soul sucking and Simon Cowell saying it’s irrelevant how he sings because the moronic audience will vote for him anyway. Yeah, maybe ...
Most favorable outlook: seventh place.
Andrew Garcia (Chris Brown’s “Forever”)
A strong frontrunner at the beginning of the season, Garcia has watched his stock plummet with each successive appalling song choice. Tonight he finally scored with a perfect rendition of a tune immortalized in that JK Wedding Entrance Dance on YouTube (46 million views and counting). The soulful singer may not be able to win the show, but at least he saved himself from getting voted off too early.
Most favorable outlook: fifth place.
Katie Stevens (Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”)
Showtime. Encore. If you’re not from around Lawrence, these references won’t hold the same significance. But, to elucidate, Stevens is a high school girl who got lucky. She’s poised and professional, and could probably pass for a frumpy graduate student with the right lighting, but she is by no means an artist to be taken seriously. Time for her to go back to school and land the lead in the high school musical -- not to be confused with “High School Musical.”
Most favorable outlook: eighth place.
Lee Dewyze (Better than “Treat Her Like a Lady”)
I gotta give Dewyze some credit. I initially dismissed him as a Dave Matthews/Jack Johnson knock-off. And in some respects he is. But he’s also a better pure singer than either of those gentlemen. His delivery of the 1971 Cornelius Brothers single put his fellow contestants to shame. Dewyze is easy to root for because he seems to have no ego. And it’s a no brainer to figure out what kind of genre he wants to make a living from.
Most favorable outlook: winner
Crystal Bowersox (Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”)
As good as she is -- and she is very good -- there is something distant about Bowersox. Remote. Aloof. I get the impression there is a sizeable part of her personality that just doesn’t care about “American Idol.” How else to explain the fact she still wears those dreadlocks, which is about the least flattering hairstyle a white girl can sport. I can smell the patchouli from here. That little hint of detachment may be what separates her from winner and runner-up.
Most favorable outlook: second place.
Aaron Kelly (Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”)
This kid is good. But he’s still just a kid. He also proved with his version of the Bill Withers classic that he’s no Kris Allen. (Last year’s winner blew him away with a rendition of the same minimalist classic.) But Kelly could go a long stretch on the strength of the pre-teen vote. It’s not that he’s cute -- as in a David Archuleta way -- just that he’s unthreatening. No neck tattoos for this dude. If only he would have been around a decade ago, then he could have landed the Justin Timberlake slot in a boy band.
Most favorable outlook: third place.
As for this week‘s results, here’s the most likely outcome:
Bottom three: Tim Urban, Katie Stevens and Didi Benami.
Going home: All three have about an equal shot of going home, but since I have to whittle it down to one, I'll go with Tim Urban. He's not deservedly bad enough to take sole possession of Sanjaya's Vote for the Worst streak.