A review of tonight's "American Idol" semi-finals episode with the Top 10 women coming up just as soon as I tune up my Moog...
I generally don't do song-by-song breakdowns in the semi-finals, and shows like tonight's are why. There's such a clear separation between Those Who Can Win and Those Who Cannot that I really don't want to bother explaining why Haeley was better last week as a hot mess than a screechy bore, or why Lacey's likely to go home tomorrow.
So instead let's focus on the four Who Can Win, while allowing that a couple of other people could work their way into the discussion if they either get their acts together (i.e., Didi needs to pick her guitar back up, like, yesterday) or keep improving (Katelyn made much more of an impression tonight, even if the song was really slow). So here are the four with a shot, in chronological order:
Crystal Bowersox, "Long as I Can See the Light": You hear the song title and you think it's going to be one of those inevitable, predictable performances (even with Crystal coming off of her health scare), but the gospel arrangement was one of those terrific ones that made the song sound fresh without ripping the heart out of it. Crystal's vocal was great, with or without the health issues factored in, and she's by far the most assured stage performer of either gender so far. I'm still not sure how America will take her long-term, but right now, she's my favorite, if not the favorite.
Katie Stevens, "Put Your Records On": It's not even that Katie was that great tonight. It's that she's a more human-seeming upgrade on Diana DeGarmo, and the DianaBot made it all the way to a close second place in season three. What Katie needs to do is find a way to translate her goofy, non-robotic persona from the interviews into her actual singing. I suspect both speech and song are equally-rehearsed, but she connects when she's talking in a way she doesn't quite yet when she's on stage, even though she has a very good instrument.
Lilly Scott, "A Change Is Gonna Come": I'm not sure this legendary civil rights anthem is the ideal song to get Lilly's indie-cabaret treatment, but she still sounds great and, like Crystal, knows what she's doing on stage, no matter what the judges say. (If anything, Crystal performs with her eyes closed more than anybody.)
Siobhan Magnus, "Think": Right now, Siobhan is all power and no control. (Fienberg compared her to a relief pitcher with a very powerful but straight fastball; if she were a relief pitcher, she'd be Kyle Farnsworth.) The verses were limp and unremarkable, but when she hit the choruses - and, especially, when she hit the big power note that dropped Randy and Kara's jaws - she sounded remarkable. There aren't a lot of classic "Idol" belters in this bunch - or at least, not a lot of good ones - and if Siobhan can figure out what she's doing, she could be this season's big underdog story.
Anybody else you feel belongs in the discussion? And do any guys other than Andrew Garcia and Casey James have a prayer of outlasting these women?