Because of my schedule, which last night included a screening of "Alice in Wonderland" and today involved writing the review, and a TV column, and an article updating the attempts to make a Soap Box Derby, AND a class tonight, I have not yet seen the Top 10 Men's performances. So I am going to do this as "Idol" intended before Crystal Bowersox took ill (and no explanation of how at the top of the show, with other reports indicating she battles diabetes). Which means hearing the women singers now, and the men later.
And on to the jump, where I will write as I watch, but with some fast-forwarding ...
Usual blah-blah, aside from having Crystal assure us that she's fine and will perform tonight.
Crystal leads off with "Long As I Can See the Light," Creedence. Guitar, no harmonica, and it's the backing band's organ that sets the gospel tone. First goosebumps of the season. A little squawky but she knows what to do with she's got, and she's getting the full backup-singer call-and-response. A solid B and the best female vocal since we went Top 24. Randy says "truth is reality" and "you are the truth." Ellen calls it "pure, raw, natural talent ... amazing." Kara says "you actually hit a new level" but misidentifies her song from last week. (Ryan corrects it on the followup.) Simon notes her illness (without specifying) and "you chose a song" and "I completely misunderestimated you."
Haeley Vaughn. Miley Cyrus's "The Climb." Wobbly at the start, not just the tune but the way she pronounces things. Improves at the chorus but she talks it more than she sings it, and she butchers the big notes, then gets worse. D. Randy says "it was excruciating ... so pitchy and so not right for you ... You had no connection to the song at all." Ellen says she's "adorable" but she had no connection to the song, "no feeling there." Kara says people are rooting for her (like Alex Lambert) but "you need about a year of really strengthening your instrument." Simon says he agrees: "it was a complete and utter mess."
Lacey Brown. "Kiss Me," Sixpence None the Richer. Boring start, and it's not getting better. Talk about no connection to a song; it feels as if she would exactly the same moves and gestures regardless of what she was singing. D plus, but only because she seemed slightly closer to the tune than Haeley. Randy thinks it was a good song choice but it was karaoke; "you didn't bring anything to it." Ellen thought "it was adorable." Two contestants, two adorables so far. Kara thought this song brought back Lacey's "unique" tone but "you have to step it up from here." And no depressing songs. Simon thought it was "marginally better than last week" but she's not showing herself as an artist.
Katie Stevens, whom I kind of hate already because she has become the show's teen-pop princess but did not sing very well last week. (There's also an acknowledgment that Michael Buble did not originate "Feelin' Good.") Going younger with "Put Your Records On," Corinne Bailey Rae (who, by the way, is 31). We start the performance with a closeup of ... her feet. She knows the inflections (and is being helped by the backup singers) but anytime she's asked to demonstrate range, she can't do it -- until late in the song, and then for only one line. Other parts are painful. But she's getting by on youth and supposed charm. I say D, and I say the hell with it. Randy says there were some good moments but "the first part of the song was very pitchy" and she should tackle bigger songs. Ellen says she has a great voice but it "still feels like I want to see you younger, somehow. ... I don't want to hear something I would hear in my dentist's office." Kara agrees and "I am so frustrated with you, Katie." Also questions the song choice. Simon is also frustrated but he doesn't know what kind of artist she wants to be.
Didi Benami. Going for a "soul kind of thing" with "Lean on Me." Which makes me a nervous kind of thing. Which is not eased by the way she starts -- hideous. More tuneful when she gets to the chorus, but without authority, very forced, white-bread, like beauty-pageant music. Not buying it, not liking it. Another damn D. Randy is laughing; "I don't know what's going on tonight," he said, and says a soul song shows more of her imperfections. Ellen loves her voice, and "you have a great presence" but would have preferred another Withers' song, like "Lovely Day" or "Use Me." Kara says "it wasn't good" and "what I'm missing from you is consistency." She drops a karaoke on her. Simon calls it "screeching, bad choice of song."
Michelle Delamor. Creed, "With Arms Wide Open." What is with the baby-doll voice at the beginning? She then sings well, in spots, but not consistently, and without the power you need for something this anthemic. C minus? I guess. Randy says "couple of pitch problems here and there" and the most positive thing is "the outfit is hot." She didn't do enough with the song, and "it felt flat." Ellen thinks she did do a lot of the song, and "it almost worked but not quite." Kara calls it her favorite Michelle performance ever; "not technically perfect" but believable. Simon thought the first half much, much stronger than the second, but she didn't choose a safe song, and he liked that.
Lilly Scott with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Another little-girl kind of voice to start. All right, a Tim Burton kind of little girl. And it's not uninteresting, but I don't particularly like it. Still, she's doing exactly what she wants vocally, and that's more than almost anyone else can say. As I said, I don't like it, but I kind of respect it in context. C. Randy compares her to Bjork, Dylan and Lucinda Williams; "you worked it out," his favorite performance tonight. Ellen says "you have got it" and "by far the best performance of the night." Kara was "riveted." Simon says it shows "how you become relevant" but he wasn't crazy about it, and Crystal was stronger.
Katelyn Epperly. Playing piano. Coldplay, "The Scientist." OK, it's VERY Coldplay, but I like her voice at the beginning, before it gets a little too cocktail bar. What's the band going to do? Nothing, apparently, which puts a lot of pressure on her to deliver vocally. And she's fine, just not extraordinary. Oh, there's the band. And I do like her voice, and the lounge aspect was kept somewhat at bay, C plus. Randy "wasn't over the top about it but I liked it." Ellen forgets which instrument Katelyn was playing, but catches herself; "I fell kind of asleep," she says, because "it was way too slow." Kara "kind of love you ... you have an incredible instrument" but "you're all over the place" in terms of choices. Simon says it's almost identical to a Natasha Bedingfield version, which Katelyn says she hasn't heard, but "it was a million times better than last week."
Paige Miles. Kelly Clarkson, "Walk Away" (which, we are told later, Kara helped write). Paige had a dry mouth before singing -- handed water by Ryan -- and for about half the song she struggles, seems out of breath at times, too. Finds herself near the end, and while she's not the boomer Kelly is, she does a nice job and a good understated ending. C plus, and probably a B on the latter parts. Randy "wasn't over the top in love with it," and he wants to hear her hit the big notes. Ellen loves the song and "everything you did with it." Kara says she shouldn't have been smiling because the song was "a bit angry," but "I liked it." Simon agrred with Randy that she chose the wrong song.
Siobhan Magnus to close. Aretha, "Think." She is unworthy. She has a big voice, but not Aretha big. Still, more convincingly soulful than Didi*, at least when I don't look at the TV. And there are a couple of killer notes at the end. So B minus/C plus. Randy calls her bold and fearless and "it was dope. You slayed it." Ellen loved it, too. Kara "can't get over that note" at the end; Siobhan said she got it from singing Kelly Clarkson in the shower. Simon says "you're such a strange person," that parts of the song were terrible and that one note incredible.
And I am out, leaving behind a somewhat more interesting set of performances than a week ago, and some possibilities of good stuff in the future.
*She may also have really killed Didi's chances by demonstrating what blue-eyed soul can be, and how Didi ain't it.