Tonight the Top 10 perform live on American Idol. If I’m being honest, I’d rather skip the whole thing. As the weeks go on, we usually see the contestants getting better, surprising us with song choices and arrangements, and generally keeping us entertained.
But this season, it’s just week after week of lackluster disappointment.
And yet, I’ll be here tonight, giving you the recap!
See you at 8 PM!
OK, so I was cleaning for the last hour, and completely forgot about Idol until just a minute or two before the show started. Rats. I’d rather be cleaning.


Ryan starts backstage, where the contestants await their chance to perform and the judges are all huddled, and Simon and Ellen are … kissing? It’s gonna be a weird on tonight.
Here are the Top 10 – they look good, and Ryan mentions Crystal’s “surprise”; wonder what she’s got planned.
The guest mentor is Usher and tonight’s theme is R&B/soul. He tells them that he’ll be brutally honest with them and maybe hurt their feelings, but it’s all to make them be great. Ryan talks to him for a minute, and Usher says they’re incredible and have worked hard and they made progress. Ryan asks Usher if he taught Aaron Kelly how to dance, and he replies, “Not really. You can’t learn that in one setting.” Usher explains the “Raymond vs Raymond” dicotomy, his two sides of his personality, and how the songs are very personal about his recent experiences.
First up is Siobhan Magnus. She’s performing “Through The Fire,” and Usher says she has the voice to sing it. He gives her advice on her wardrobe more than on her singing. He says she has a “true shot at being an incredible artist.” I think she’s pitchy tonight and a little screechy. And she’s dressed weirdly, as usual. I’m sorry, I hate this performance tonight. Randy says he loves her but it wasn’t one of her shining moments. Ellen agrees but says she’s like dessert before the meal. Kara agrees, and says she thinks nerves got her. But that she delivers every week so she’s entitled to one off night. Simon says it sounded like hes run a marathon and was singing while she was out of breath. He says it was all over the place and she looks all over the place, and she’s kidding herself if she thinks it was a good performance. And he’s getting bored with the screaming at the end. Thank you Simon! Ryan lets Siobhan tell why she chose that song. She says it’s probably the hardest song she’s chosen so far and wanted to prove she could try it.The judges talk about taking a risk and failing; Ellen said she thought Siobhan was actually going to “kill it” because she thinks Siobhan can pull it off, but she was “guilding the lily” and it was overkill. Randy said she could have sung it great, she just didn’t tonight.

Backstage, we see Siobhan go into the green room where everyone tells her not to worry but she’s clearly upset.
Casey James is up next, singing “Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave. Casey is excited about tonight because it’s as close to blues as you can get and he’s in his element. Usher told him he’s already a rock star and says he’ll keep his eye on Casey, winner or not. Casey comes onto the stage like he owns the place; this is his night to shine. He looks comfortable and he sounds great. You know he annoys me a bit – that whold Kara/flirting thing did it – but he totally rocked tonight. Clearly the audience agrees. Randy keeps it short and sweet, calling it a hot night and a perfect selection. Ellen says he’s consistent and she loved his vocals. but she felt is was a little generic. She takes the boos witha smile and “I know”, but calls Casey’s performance “a safe zone.” Kara says she understands what Ellen is saying; she says Casey has more vocal range than he’s showing. Simon says he wants to be honest and this week he says it was Casey’s strongest week so far, because he liked the fact that Casey showed a different side as an artist and he sounded authentic, and Simon was “really, really impressed with you this week.” Ryan has to bring the whole flirt thing back – Kara said she wants him to “:show it all” and Ryan says, “She means that musically.” Yeesh, do we need to be reminded of all of that? Ryan, you’re ruining my “I like Casey” week.
Mike Lynche is singing “I’m Ready For Love”, playing guitar.Usher says girls love a guy with a guitar, and encourages Mike to project his energy to the whole room and through the camera. He’s on a raised stage behind the judges, out in the audience. He’s very good, as usual. It’s an intimate performance, but it’s ironic that Usher urged him to look at the audience and connect, and he’s singing with his eyes closed almost the entire song. He’s got such strong vocals; very nice. Randy says he likes the guitar, the sensitive song, and he’s in the zone. He says it wasn’t really exciting but it’s good to be sensitive once in a while. Ellen says it was beautiful and she loved it. Kara admits she’d never heard the song so she went and listened to it, and says he did an incredible job with it, calling it “tasteful” and “lovely.” Simon says its the first time since they entered the live shows he can take him seriously as an artist, even though the song was a little gloomy. He says it was terrific. Ryan asks Usher what he would say if he was a judge; Usher says it was incredible.
Ryan says that “things got emotional” when Didi Benami met Usher. She’s singing “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” and Usher calls it “a very emotional song for a very emotional young lady.” He says Didi wearing her heart on her sleeve is a good thing because it’s honest and personal. She says she wanted to sing a song that meant something to her but she’s afraid it might be too much. She looks very elegant tonight; she sounds less great. She seems a little shaky and nervous, and sounds like she’s singing a little faster than the music. It’s pitchy and all over the place. Which is too bad, because she’s got such a great voice. Randy says it wasn’t about the song but the whole performance was flatlined from the start. Ellen boos herself, and says it was “dramatic” and “waay dramatic” and “not her best performance.” Kara says it was “overdone, girl.” Kara says they loved the singer songwriter thing Didi used to do but she’s lost her way. Simon says, “Cue lots of boos” and says it was “like swimming in jelly” (not easy to get through) and so over the top, old fashioned and off melody. Simon refers to the dancing shows where someone is “murding a song” – which gets a nervous laugh. Ryan asks Didi to explain why the song makes her emotional; she babbles a bit but doesn’t explain why other than to say the song moves her and means a lot to her. Ryan keeps trying to get her to tell why she’s emotional, she refuses, and Ryan explains it’s for someone.
Here’s the story: A few years ago, Didi lost her best friend Rebecca Joy Lear, who was killed in 2005 in a car accident while the two were attending Belmont University. Didi wasn’t pursing her music as a career, but Rebecca was, and she encouraged Didi to sing. Didi credits God and his plan for her life with bringing the two friends together. So that’s why Didi gets emotional and why she auditioned for the show. It’s very personal for her.
In the green room, Didi is less upset than Siobhan was.
Tim Urban is up next. Ryan refers to news reports that he’s being referred to “Teflon Tim”, the way Tim stands up to their criticism with a smile. He’s singing “Sweet Love” from Anita Baker. Usher says when Tim started singing, he didn’t believe him so he has Tim sing to him. He’s trying to get Tim to connect in a way that’s believable. I think Tim can sing the song vocally, but let’s see if he can pull it off emotionally. He’s a little pitchy and stiff, like he’s trying too hard to connect. I think if we could see him with his guitar, sitting on a stool, it would have been easier to connect. Vocally, he was much better than he has been. But the truth is that there are a million teen aged girls who will fall in love with Tim all over again tonight. Randy says there were pluses and minuses, calling it a “singing waiter” thing and “pedestrian”, but at least he sang mostly in tune. Randy tells him to “put a little grease on it.” Ellen says that she hears there’s a drinking game going on every time she says “adorable” – so she says it twice – and says he was walking like he was trying to sneak up to them. She says, “Good for you for taking that on, but oh, boy, why?” Kara says he took the soul out of the song and doesn’t understand why he keeps doing this every week. Tim laughs, and Kara asks why, and Simon says he thinks Tim really doesn’t care what they think. He says Tim will smile, the audience will vote, and he’ll be here next week. Tim says they pick on him for a lot of things but smiling in a new one.
He may not sing on key, but there’s one thing you’ve got to love about Tim: he’s got such a great spirit. Backstage, he says it wasn’t as good as it could have been. haha!
Andrew Garcia is up next, singing Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Usher says he could tell Andrew is nervous, so he tells Andrew he needs to stop all the analyzing. Usher loves the song and now loves it even more. Yeah! Andrew is back! It’s him, the guitar, a guy on an upright bass, some strings and a little percussion. This is a great performance. I don’t know what this song usually sounds like, but I love this performance. Finally! Randy says, “America, Andrew is back!” He calls it Andrew’s best performance in a long time. Ellen says it was a really amazing strong performance and loves his smile. Kara says it was one giant leap in the right direction. Simon says it was miles, miles better than what they’ve heard from him in the past weeks. Simon says, “as a person, and don’t take this personally, that you come off very boring,” adding that he needs to make sure we all know about him as a person. Kara says he can do that next week, this week he’s back in the game. Ryan tells Mrs. Garcia to talk to Simon about his song being boring, Andrew says, Be nice, “Mama,” she gets up to goes to the judges table and defends her son, gets a hug from Simon, that was funny.
Wait, did Ryan just say “Haeley” is up after the break? Did I mishear or did he misspeak?
Katie Stevens is up with Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”. She says she met Usher once before at Epcot, and he says she doesn’t get any points because she met him before. He likes her energy and voice, but she needs some pizazz and needs to connect with the audience. He thinks she’ll do well and calls her “wise beyond her years in terms of energy.” I expect a lot from Katie tonight; she has the voice to pull this off. Oo, look at that sassy attitude and look. She’s doing a great job tonight, interacting with the backup singers a bit. My David disagrees; he says she wasn’t believable. Randy says it was a little disconnected vocally but it was one of the best vocals of the night. He calls her a young Christina. Ellen says she’s got a “Snookie’s poof” going on; she says she wants to see her a little younger and current. Kara says she’s found her genre; but agrees with Ellen but needs to make it “young and commercial.” Simon says it’s crazy for Randy to compare her to Christina. He says she was robotic and cold; he says he disagrees with Kara’s advice she’s an R&B singer. They argue about that; Randy calls her a pop singer with R&B leanings, Ellen adds that she likes her earrings.
You know what? Giving a singer advice that he or she needs to be “more commercial” is the thing that’s made the music industry the cesspool of pop crud that it’s become. There’s so much emphasis on making money rather than making music that talent becomes secondary to packaging. And let’s face it: music fans will buy music that they like if it’s honest.
Lee Dewyze is up next singing “Treat Her Like A Lady”. Ryan asks Lee how he creates a moment tonight, and Lee says it has to be genuine and showing what kind of artist he wants to be. Ryan also mentions that Lee has walking pneumonia. Usher says it was a special treat to hear Lee sing his song and says he has an incredible voice and tells him to own it. “If you don’t believe, they won’t,” he tells Lee. Lee on guitar, where he seems most comfortable and when he’s comfortable he sounds his best. He sounds great tonight. Randy says “Unbelievable! Best I’ve heard you in weeks!” Elen says best performance of the night and his best so far. Kara says “Amazing,” Simon says he’s always believed in him but Lee hasn’t believed in himself. Simon tells him to go back and watch the show and understand that “This is the night your life changed forever.”
Lee says if this is th n ight that changes his life, he hopes it is, because this is what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
Crystal Bowersox is up next singing “Midnight Train to Georgia” – this will be great. And the surprise? She’s on piano instead of guitar. Oh, and she’s wearing stiletto heels. Usher says the song fits her so perfect; Crystal says she needs to be more comfortable on the piano because she hasn’t played in years. Usher calls her “a sweetheart” and predicts her performance will be great. She starts the song at the piano, and at the chorus gets up and sings. Crystal without a guitar is just as great. What can you say about Crystal? She’s just soooo good. Randy says he loves it all, he likes how she switched it up, says it was great. Ellen says she’s never not great, and showing her other side was a wonderful idea. Kara says she’s glad she took the risk. Simon says the choice of song was sensational, the vocals were great, and he didn’t want the backing vocalists there, and his advice is to not let the competition suck her identity away. She says she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it. He warns her not to change into something else and she says she’d never do anything that wasn’t comfortable. I get what Simon is saying but I also can see where Crystal needed to stretch herself a little. Plus, she really seems to dig those heels.
Aaron Kelly closes out the show with “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. The judges were out for a smoke break so we see them come in; cut to Aaron and Usher. Usher says “Aaron singing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was incredible.” I think Aaron will really pull this off. I hate that he’s dressed in a hooded jacket and plaid shirt. Yeesh, he looks like he’s headed to algebra class when he’s done. Yeesh, dress him in something more hip and less jr. high. And his “I know, I know” moment fell flat. But he did sing the rest of the song well. I just don’t think he had “the moment” he could have had. Randy says it was just all right. Ellen says it was a good song choice and job. Kara liked it, didn’t love it. Simon says compared to some of the really good performances, like Lee, which “was the main course” that Aaron was like a cupcake. Simon says it was “OK” but there’s absolutely no chance he’s leaving the competition.
Recap: Siobhan was pitchy, Casey rocked, Mike crooned, Didi went off course, Tim warbled but smiled, Andrew shone, Katie was sassy, Lee rocked, Crystal was great, Aaron was OK.
Usher was a great guest mentor. I think he did a great job, offered great advice, was encouraging, and very gracious.
Bottom three? Didi, Tim and … Siobhan. That’s what I think. Your thoughts?
Ruben Studdard performs tomorrow, when we find out who’s going home.
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