Notes as I watch, after the jump.
Starting a little late because I had a meeting tonight. But here I go. And I hope it's better than Tuesday's performances by the women proved to be. And that Ellen does more than tell every contestant that he has a great voice.
Fast-forwarding through some of the early chatter to get to ...
Todrick Hall. Song: Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." Like the arrangement, the beat and his authority onstage. But his range is not good, and he struggles when he has to really sing, and he seems to lose his hold on the song. C minus. Ellen says he's a "great performer" but that "the chorus was a little rough" and "the singing wasn't the greatest." Randy said "it didn't even sound like the same song," even though that's what would make him original -- which the judges keep calling for. Kara agrees with Randy but "it's undeniable that you are a performer." Which is like saying "it's undeniable you're a contestant." Simon thought it was a crazy arrangement that "completely murdered the original song." And doing it that way was "verging on stupid." Ryan urges Todrick to talk back, but he doesn't bite.
Aaron Kelly, who just on looks I have pegged as this year's Archie. Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye." Yup, Country Archie. No, he's not as strong vocally -- tops out before the high notes, and loses the melody as he labors to hit the big parts. Not thrilling at all. Another C minus. Simon calls it "quite a good performance" for his first live one, but notes that Aaron looks "embarrassed" to be onstage and needs to take control. Kara calls him her favorite kind of contestant because he doesn't know how great his raw talent is, and she likes him in that "pop-country lane" and "I think we're going to see incredible things for you." Randy thinks he's got "all those pipes" with some "pitchy moments." Ellen dittoes and thinks "you're going to be here a long time." And already I cringe.
Jermaine Sellers, who got all diva about the band during the Hollywood round. Song: Oleta Adams' "Get Here." Not crazy about it at first, but he's got presence and seems to take control on the song -- except he screeches. A lot. C minus. Ellen loves his look and loves the song but didn't think Jermaine was feeling it, and was "pushing a little too much ... out and off." Randy thought it was a weird choice, and "you were trying to do too much with it vocally, dawg." Kara thought the runs needed to be meaningful and "it felt a little old to me." Simon compared it to cocktail-bar music and thought Jermaine was "screaming" in spots.
Tim Urban, the reject who got picked up when Golightly was DQ'ed, with the show focusing on his getting called back. "Apologize," another "Idol" warhorse. Bland start, poor use of falsetto, worst performance so far. D. Simon congratulates him for coming back but says it was right not to pick him at first "based on that performance." Kara says "the music ... overpowered you" but "you're likable, you're cute and you're current." Randy says "it was really the wrong song ... none of it worked" and Tim is better than that. Ellen says "you couldn't hit those high notes" -- but "looking at ya, you're adorable." With Ryan's help, Tim admits the song was probably wrong and it was a "last-minute switch" because he had another song that he didn't want to cut down as much.
Joe Munoz. Jason Mraz, "You and I Both." It's not Mraz, but it's not terrible, although this is another case of a singer not being able to reach the big stuff he thinks the show expects. And the closer he gets to Mraz-ism, the weaker he sends. I'm not offended, but I'm not thrilled. C/C minus. Ellen liked it, and his stage presence. Randy says "not quite the perfect song choice" but he loves the sound of Joe's voice and "I think you did a good job on it, dawg." Kara liked the song choice, although "when you got to the chorus, you had a few issues." Simon doesn't believe he's a star; it was "OK, safe, forgettable."
I have to say the judges make more sense tonight than last night, which suggests either the fix is really in for the women, as has been suggested, or they realized they were way too soft on the singers last night.
Tyler "The Mad Stork" Grady. "American Woman." And I sort of like the beginning, making it a blues, but he repeats the same line way too much before actually going into the song. Of course, in the song, his limitations as a vocalist become clear. And he's too funny-looking to convey the authority he is trying. A bore, overall. C minus/D plus. Simon says people are going to remember it but for the wrong reasons, with the appearance of someone who went to rock-star school. Kara sees a '70s obsession with nothing original added. Randy says it "was definitely style over substance." Ellen thinks he lacks the charisma that goes with the poses.
Lee Dewyze. Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." With guitar. A pretty precise duplication of the song to start with, then a little raw authority -- but too raw. I think tonight we are seeing repeated demonstrations of what happens when singers spend too much time studying what has worked on the show before -- especially the need for a big vocal. Because Dewyze doesn't have the skill for the big parts. C minus close to a C, and this is all way too dull for halfway through. Ellen thought it was good song choice and liked the tone of his voice but thought it got "a little too pushed." Randy didn't like the song choice and too pop for a rocker like Lee. Kara thought he almost made the song unrecognizable (see above) and wanted something more like Bad Company. Simon thought it was the best performance of the night and that Lee is "a naturally good singer."
John Park. "God Bless the Child." Good start, then wobbles, and his inflections are weird at times -- not quite soul, not quite smooth-jazz. And nothing extraordinary. C as in competent, but I feel weird about that grade because, on tonight's curve it's pretty high, and it wasn't something where I'd say tomorrow, "Well, John Park was pretty good." More like, "there were some much worse singers than John Park." Simon says you have to have an incredible voice for that song, and he didn't have one, and that the performance was "pointless." Which is what, in my labored way I was trying to say. Kara agrees, and calls it "a little sleepy" and she doesn't know "what your lane is." Randy liked it at the bridge but the song "made you feel old and all out of sorts." Ellen was also mystified by the song choice; although she liked the performance, she didn't think it would get girls to vote for him. Ryan rescues him by letting him relate the song to his parents.
Michael Lynche. Maroon 5's "This Love." Decent vocal but the song feels rushed, trying to get as much as possible in the time limit. And there are times when he doesn't seem like much of a singer. Still, most capable overall performance so far tonight. C plus. Ellen likes his personality and song choice, in spite of some pitch problems. Randy liked most of it, but still remembers being hurt when Michael picked up him and Ellen at Hollywood. Kara thinks he was an improvement on the depressing aspect of tonight, but rightly notes that, if there had been more good performances tonight, the judges would be more critical. Simon says he's a supporting performer and there wasn't much to the performance.
Alex Lambert. Oh, a replay of Annoying Mary Rogers. Ack. James Morrison's "Wonderful World." Oh, snore. Blah beginning, tepid in the middle, no charisma, and I am tired long before he's done. D. Simon calls it "the most uncomfortable performance of the night" -- that he likes Alex but was pained by his nervousness. Kara wants to give him a hug; thinks he sounds so much like Morrison, and "your tone is crazy" -- but "it's not completely together." I don't think so. Randy says "you've got the voice" and "I like you." Ellen likes him and his mullet, and that he's like an unripe banana, which will apparently ripen from confidence. Ryan lets Alex confess to major nervousness.
Casey "The Dude" James. "Heaven." Sadly, not the Talking Heads'. Kara is clowning during the beginning of his performance. Aside from his fighting back a laugh through most of the performance, it's not bad -- more Bob Seger than Bryan Adams, and I consider that a plus. C plus/B minus. Kara spends a lot of time talking about how good-looking he is, and Ellen says "I could feel Kara undressing you with her eyes." But she admits the banter is unfair, although she thinks he's going to get lots of votes. Randy likes his swagger. Kara says "you are eye candy but you are also ear candy." Simon says "you absolutely chose the right song," and this was Casey's best performance.
Andrew Garcia, very impressive during Hollywood, to close. Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Goin' Down." Really like his voice -- and he could kill on Jason Mraz songs -- but this is not a show-closing performance. Just pleasant. B minus on skills, but no thriller, so C plus. Simon says he was looking forward to Andrew and that was a disappointment: "I don't think you took a risk," too serious. Kara calls it a strange rendition, but like Simon she brings up his "Straight Up" from Hollywood. Randy dittoes, and thinks "the arrangement was really strange for me." Ellen also believes "Straight Up" will carry Andrew for awhile, but wants to see more of himself.
And so, another night of unsteady singing. And in two nights, no one has blown the doors off.