Last night on American Idol the contestants performed in what is probably one of my all-time favorite theme weeks: The songbook of Lennon and McCartney. My biggest fear as I sat down on my couch was what song Tim Urban was going to screw up this week (Judge #7, Daughter Tara suggests he just sings Help).
Two weeks ago he demolished Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Last week he sucked the life out of Anita Baker’s soulful Sweet Love. I could hardly wait to see what he jumped up and down on this week.
On the flip side of this little record, I really couldn’t wait to see what Crystal Bowersox was going to sing and bring her own special style to. After her great rendition of Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee two weeks ago followed up by Gladys Knight’s Midnight Train to Georgia last week, this week was bound to be something special.
Here’s how I saw them this week, and I’m not going to lie, this was the hardest this has been so far this season:
1 – Casey James – Casey went with John Lennon’s solo number Jealous Guy, the only solo number of the night. He really slowed the arrangement down, a lot. And gave it a much harder edge. He took away the whole melody, which was a key part of the original, but with the cello and acoustic guitar it gave the song a more haunting, moving sound. Overall, the changes were good. It was his best performance in a long time.
2 – Crystal Bowersox – Crystal chose the “fun groove” Come Together and she clearly had fun singing it. And really, who wouldn’t have fun singing “he got toe-jam football”? No matter what this girl sings, it sounds great. It wasn’t her best performance, but it was still better than many others that we’ve seen tonight. The arrangement could have been smoother, but vocally she was on target and Simon was right in saying that you could hear that song on the radio today.
3 – Katie Stevens – Katie sang one of my all time favorite Beatles songs, Let it Be, and she rocked. Her voice had the perfect tone and pitch all the way through. Not as powerful as Jennifer Hudson in Hope for Haiti, but she was crystal clear with no mistakes. After two straight weeks in the bottom three, there’s no way this girl is seeing the silver chairs this week. Her best performance in weeks, if not overall.
4 – Siobhan Magnus – Siobhan did a great version of Across the Universe. Her voice was clear and strong and in a somewhat different move for her, she didn’t add anything new to the song. For the most part, she sang it just the way John Lennon did, and while often that is the wrong way to go, this time it worked. It’s kinda crazy, but you just never know. Sometimes it works when you sound like the original; sometimes it works better when you try to make it your own. You can almost never tell. She hit it right. But in all honesty, her voice is so good that it could have worked out for her no matter which direction she went.
5 – Tim Urban – Oh, what is Tim going to screw up this week???? In his promo, he said he wants to sing a song that puts a smile on people’s face. So, why sing? That would make me smile. Anyway, he chose All My Lovin’, another oldie (’63) but goodie. And you know what, it actually didn’t suck. OK, parts of it were a total mess, while other parts could have sounded like they were written by Jason Mraz. That is, it sounded almost contemporary. Randy said he had to judge it as a “Tim Performance”, and for a “Tim Performance”, it was good. And, I agree. This was probably his second best performance after Hallelujah. OK, I admit I’m just very happy that he didn’t take a Beatles’ song and turn it inside out and use it as birdcage liner as he has done to so many other great artists’ works this season.
6 – Lee Dewyze – Lee picked a perfect song to show off his voice, Hey Jude. He changed up the melody a little and missed a few of the high notes, but overall it sounded pretty good. It wasn’t his best, but it wasn’t his worst either. You can see the confidence has improved over the past few weeks, and it showed in his singing as well as his entire demeanor. Loved the bagpipes accompanying him toward the end of the song. That could be an Idol first. He gets bonus points for simply answering “Why not” when Ryan Seacrest asked him, “Why the bagpipes?”
7 – Andrew Garcia – Andrew went old school with one of the Beatles’ very first hits, Can’t Buy Me Love. He changed up the chorus a little and it wasn’t horrible. With his poofy hair, big glasses, acoustic guitar, and 60’s sound, he reminded me more of Buddy Holly than Paul McCartney, but that aside, the performance wasn’t bad. He wasn’t nearly as good as he was last week when he sang Chris Brown’s Forever, but it still worked. He was pitchy in some areas, but he had fun singing it, like John and Paul probably intended when they wrote it.
8 – Michael Lynche – It’s interesting to know that Big Mike’s family used to be known as The Lynche Mob. Honestly, I’m not really sure how I feel about that. A little scared, I think. Anyway, Mike gave a whole new twist to Eleanor Rigby and it may have been one of his worst performances to date. He was trying way too hard to sound like Puff Daddy and it took his breath away during the verses. They were flat and lacked range. The choruses, on the other hand, were the complete opposite and he attached his vocal range and special tone to them and it sounded great. Kara was insistent that his vocals were “on fire” and wasn’t taking any argument. She should take a listen to the version David Cook did two years ago. This doesn’t hold a candle to that version.
9 – Aaron Kelly – Aaron started off the show on a bad note singing The Long and Winding Road. He started off-key and I don’t think he ever really recovered. He reverted back to his country twang a little and it was awkward. It was very pitchy and really never got off the ground. David Archuleta sang it only slightly better in Season 7. This is not an easy song. Maybe they should stop singing it. There are only about 1263 other Lennon-McCartney songs to choose from.