In-progress notes from watching the show, after the jump.
Ryan seems to think the contestants rocked the Rolling Stones last week. Let us agree to disagree. Topic: Billboard Number Ones. The judges entering from the stage returns because, you know, the show never has enough filler. Randy notes that tonight's loser doesn't get the tour. Ellen notes how important it is to vote. I suspect they're not getting as many votes as they hope. And that the Miley/Jonas/Lovato trifecta suggests they're seeing some slippage in young viewers. Kara and Simon banter. I am trying not to listen. Ryan and Simon banter. Still not listening. Oh, Simon is hyping the importance of getting the tour, too. And now the top 11 enter to receive the prearranged thunderous ovation. Ryan tells the contestants to head offstage and Tim departs immediately.
Pretaped stuff about the topic and about Miley Cyrus being the mentor and how really fabulous she is. She hopes to make the contestants feel comfortable. Then we're introduced to Miley in the audience. He pretends that it only took one phone call to get her as a mentor. She says their voices blew her away. Really? Really? She appears to have had a lot of caffeine lately.
Lee Dewyze first. His song: "The Letter," Box Tops (although he sounds more Joe Cocker/Leon Russell). Miley says give people a few notes they wouldn't expect and work on stage presence. No acknowledgment of the recent passing of Alex Chilton. Yes, this is the Joe/Leon arrangement, showcasing Lee's vocal limitations. Pleasant-ish but hardly Joe C. Jeepers, even the backing vocals are recycled. C. Randy thinks it's cool that he chose this "bluesy soul" version and "you knocked it out of the box." Ellen thinks Lee is her perfect pen. Kara says he raised the bar for himself and "the progress is tremendous." Simon is surprised at the choice of song because that was not "a recording performance." Obviously no one on this panel knows the version Lee copied. [Or they're just avoiding the fact that the Box Tops went number one, Joe went to number seven.]
Paige Miles. Was starstruck meeting Miley. Song: Phil Collins, "Against All Odds." Hey, a Scott Savol tribute! Miley thinks she'll be fine if she watches her pitch. But she starts off hoarse and, yes, pitchy and seems to be losing her voice as she goes along. She can only sporadically bring it up, and fades even in the middle of a chorus line. Terrible struggle. F. Randy, looking stunned, throws out a bunch of yeahs and wows before admitting "that was honestly terrible. ... Nothing came together at all." Ellen says one positive is that she didn't fall down (in big heels) and "you look stunning," and then passes the music critique to Kara and Simon. Kara thinks Paige stopped listening and ranks it among the worst vocals of the season. Simon asks Paige how she thinks she did; she admits struggling but "I had fun doing it." She sounds hoarse even talking. Simon thinks she is in serious, serious trouble -- echoing Kara's comment that Paige stopped competing.
Tim Urban. Queen, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Miley thinks his bad reviews are based on a lack of personality. She thinks he's great. She tells him to do something cool and different. He says he will loosen up and have fun with it. Which apparently means that he enunciates very carefully, slides on the stage (once) and enters the trained-seal section of the audience. And is quite, quite boring. D. Randy says this is a singing competition (!) and that the most interesting thing was the slide -- the vocals were boring and "karaoke." Ellen felt it was like an audition for "High School Musical" and "corny." He is very lucky that Paige was so bad. Kara says little girls will love it but he didn't do much with the song. Simon thinks the sliding distracted from the song so "I kind of understand why you did it." He calls it pointless and silly, and he has zero chance of winning right now.
Aaron Kelly has laryngitis. And a crush on Miley. Aerosmith, "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Miley didn't realize how good he was. But totally wrong for that song, I would think. And let's find out ... You know, the laryngitis may be helping him -- gives his voice a little bit of rawness. Until he gets to the chorus, when he fails to go epic a la Mr. Tyler. He's trying, but he can't deliver. No authority. Blah. C minus. Randy thought it wasn't a perfect performance but at least he sang when the two just before him did not. Ellen thought it was a perfect song choice and "I see your career already." Hmm, Branson? Kara calls it best song choice of the night, gives him a pass on the vocals and wants more stage presence. Simon thought it was very brave but he's making himself old-fashioned; still, he says there's zero chance Aaron is going home -- which makes sense in the Paige/Tim context. Ryan jokingly calls Aaron "David Archuleta."
Ohio's Own Crystal Bowersox. "Me and Bobby McGee," Janis Joplin version. (Kristofferson did not chart.) And she's wearing a dress! And did her hair! Keeps the song mellow and low-key and totally Crystal. The no-nos and hey-heys are a bit strained, inviting comparisons to JJ which are not in Crystal's favor. I like her but I didn't love this. C plus, which still makes it best so far tonight. Randy says "that's what's called being a star." Ellen loved the song choice but wants more personality. Crystal says she has big plans for next week. Hmmmm. Kara felt more than before, and wonders if she will put the guitar down -- which is also part of the big plans for next week. Simon says she shouldn't change anything. Compares her, positively, to Pink.
Big Mike. Only one to hug Miley. "When a Man Loves a Woman," Percy Sledge, but with falsetto. She's uncomfortable being sung to, but had nothing bad to say. He hopes to speak to "the lovers out there." I get goosebumps three words in. He's the total package: good vocalist, great stage presence. He doesn't go places Percy Sledge does, but he does know how to speak to the lovers out there. A big, bouncy B. Randy doesn't think it was his best vocal but "you know who you are ... this R&B soul dude." Ellen thought it was a safe choice but she loved it. Kara thought it was really good technically but "a bit boring and lounge-y ... and over-indulgent." Simon thought it was almost too much; would have preferred him with just a piano to all the stagecraft -- that it was 11 scoops of ice cream when you want just one.
Andrew Garcia. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." He muffs lyrics in practice. She makes him get rid of the guitar. Kind of Marvin, with a little Gladys, but his vocal is spoken more than sung. Still another chapter in his decline and fall, unrelieved by his awkward pacing onstage. Camera catches Miley looking not interested. D. Randy is again feeling pained: "It wasn't good, man." Wrong song choice. Ellen loves him but "that was not enough to get a whole bunch of people on board" and not a good song choice -- but she hopes people vote for him. Kara brings up The Moment and thinks it's messing with his head, and she doesn't know who he was tonight. Simon wonders if "we just overrated That Moment." Kara insists it's brilliant. Simon says he sucked the soul out of the song and was "really, really corny."
Katie Stevens, or, as Ryan put it, one 17-year-old meets another. "Big Girls Don't Cry," Fergie. Miley tells her to "edge it up." Boring start, and then -- dare I say it -- pitchy. And then just plain off-key. But considering tonight's blah-ness, maybe a C minus on the curve. Randy admits sharp and pitchy but likes that she listened to the judges -- younger song, younger look. Ellen thinks it was her best performance so far. Kara asks Simon if he still thinks she's country; Kara thinks she's pop with R&B leanings, and was in the right place tonight, but "you've still got mad pitch issues." Simon thinks it was great for her to meet Miley, and that she looks better -- but she's not quite believable yet.
Casey James. Huey Lewis, "The Power of Love." Ryan has called it an '80s anthem. Anthem? Miley thinks he rocks but recommends eye contact with the people in the first few rows. And he planned to focus on making the crowd part of the song. Mere competence, more Bob Seger Lite in vocals. C. Randy loves him playing the guitar and wasn't a fan of the song choice but thinks he did it well. Ellen echoes Randy on song choice but thought it the best vocal of the night. Kara says he's ready to make an album and "you're in the zone now." Simon says he doesn't know what Kara is listening to, that it was old-fashioned 25 years ago; Kara insists he made it current; Simon argues that it was like an '80s cover band; Kara does not back down.
Didi Benami. "You're No Good." Linda Ronstadt had the number one. Ryan mispronounces Didi's name in the introduction. She's trying to start it jazzy, and I hate it. It gets somewhat more interesting, and it's what Didi does, but I just don't buy it. C minus/D plus. Randy loves the idea of it but it was very pitchy and "it never quite caught." Ellen doesn't think it was the right song choice. Kara felt as if Didi was playing a character; Didi doesn't like that comment at all. Simon sees the irony in her screaming "you're no good" -- and also thinks she wasn't herself.
Siobhan Magnus to close the show, in what I suspect will be a polarizing way. Stevie Wonder, "Superstition." Miley loves her voice. Siobhan says she has rocked out to Miley. Miley likes that Siobhan is different and knows who she is. Siobhan feels more confident. You have to be confident to dress the way she does. She sings OK, but does she add anything to the song? Not so far. Will we get A Note? Scatting, then the note, but it's shrieky again -- and she also seems to rein it in. I am basically unimpressed by the performance overall, even if her pipes are good, especially in tonight's context; too calculating. C plus. Randy thinks she's fearless and loved the performance. Ellen loves her. Kara doesn't think it was her best performance but pronounces tonight's The Note amazing. Simon thinks opinion will be divided and she isn't hitting The Note as well as she did earlier. He thinks Crystal was better, and that tonight overall was not good. Agreed, although I liked Big Mike most of all.
The recap showcases how very bad Paige was, by far the worst of the night, although I wouldn't complain if Tim or Andrew went home.