It was the guys' turn on the "American Idol" semis last night, and one man literally and figuratively towered over the rest. I'll have some thoughts on it coming up just as soon as I'm forced to imagine Randy in a bikini (thank you, Simon)...
Okay, as the intro and the picture suggest, last night there was Big Mike Lynche, and then there was everybody else. His "This Woman's Work" isn't the best version of the song I've ever heard, but it was technically very strong. More importantly, it was so confident, and delivered with more star power than any of the other guys could remotely muster. There were a number of performers last night who I thought were just fine vocally - Lee DeWyze, Alex Lambert, Andrew Garcia and, to a lesser extent, Casey James - but I fear that many of them (Alex in particular) will be swallowed up by the huge stage once they move on to the finals next week. Big Mike owned that tiny semi-finals stage, and if he can keep that level of confidence up, he's going to go much farther than the 9th or 10th place finish I pegged him for a few weeks ago when I assumed he'd make the finals largely on likability.
I disagreed strongly with the judges on a few performances. Aaron Kelly sounded awful, all warbly and strained, and I suspect if the judges refer tonight to having heard things differently when they watched the show at home, they'll be talking about him. Todrick Hall also doesn't have nearly enough voice for Freddie Mercury, though by that point you could tell the judges were just glad to not have another guy sitting on a stool and/or clutching his guitar like a wubby.
And I'm losing patience with the judges' loss of patience with Andrew. I get it: they've seen him do his one trick many more times than we have. But you know what? We haven't. And even if re-arranging female pop songs is the only club he has in his bag, I don't care, because his voice is so good, and because I'd rather hear him do his same thing over and over than hear a large number of the contestants of either gender try and fail to stretch themselves.
What was really interesting was how, for the second week in a row, Simon acknowledged that, "We're going to confuse these people so much" with their contradictory advice. Because Simon's leaving the show soon, and leaving it for another show that's largely distinguished from "Idol" by how the judges get to mentor contestants, Randy and Kara have been spurred to try much, much harder to give interesting critiques and advice. (And I've found myself shocked at how often I nod my head when Kara speaks now.) But because there are four judges, the advice is winding up all over the map, and you can tell some contestants (particularly the younger ones like Katie) are basically dooming themselves by trying to listen to all the conflicting suggestions. And I can't decide if Simon is now trying to put the brakes on the mentoring because he recognizes what they're doing to some of the kids, or because he's annoyed that "Idol" is trying to bogart one of the big gimmicks of "The X Factor."
As for who goes home tonight? I'm actually really worried about Andrew. I figure Big Mike, Lee and Casey are locks, and possibly Alex, too. Tim Urban made one of the canniest song choices on the show since Kristy Lee Cook sang "God Bless the USA." All he had to do was not fall completely on his face with "Hallelujah" (and he didn't, even if he wasn't especially good) to likely advance. So there may only be one spot left between Andrew (who's weirdly turned into the judges' punching bag) and Todrick and Aaron (who were both bad but got weirdly praised, owing partly to the horrid acoustics in the studio).
On yesterday's podcast, Fienberg and I talked about the awkward racial dynamics of the eliminations this season. So far, though, none of the eliminated minority contestants really deserved to stay. And if, say, Paige and Todrick are both eliminated tonight from the women and men's sides, those will be fair choices. But if it's Paige and Todrick and Andrew? i.e., not just the maximum number of minority contestants who could be eliminated this week, but including a guy who was easily the male frontrunner (if not the frontrunner of either gender) going into the semis? That's gonna be awkward.
My hope is that it's Aaron and Tim. Todrick hasn't been very good, but at least his performances are unpredictable, and a stylistic contrast to all the coffee-house types we have.
What did everybody else think?