Wednesday, March 03, 2010

American Idol: Healing Crystal

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?

29 comments:

Danny F. said...

I'd keep Katelyn in the contenders section after being one of the few who was praised last week and for going somewhere really unexpected and awesome this week. (Thought she definitely deserved more praise from the judges.)

Katie *should* be a contender, but nothing she's done yet has shown her to be. At least Didi, who's had a rough couple of weeks in the semis, had Hey Jude and Terrified, which would have been standouts if she'd saved them for now.

Anonymous said...

Bowersox for the win!

Anonymous said...

Bowersox kid is really really talented! But with the knowledge of what the Idol voting demo is I'm not quite sure how far she can go.

Cree said...

If I made my own list I'd swap Katie and Katelyn. Katie hasn't done anything for me at all yet and I thought "The Scientist" was pretty amazing from Katelyn. But that's just personal opinion. Right now Lilly and Crystal have a hefty lead over anyone else, including all of the guys.

-CREE

Ben said...

Apparently Kyle Farnsworth has figured out the changeup (is that one word, two words, or a hyphenated one?), and there is a possibility of him becoming a starter, my hope is Siobhan can do the same, because she is now my favorite of the bunch. K the side darlin!

Anonymous said...

Did Simon just say misunderestimated? Why yes, yes he did.

MellowLE said...

I'm really surprised you like Katie as much as you do. I want her gone asap. She is so boring and forced.

I would love for her and Haeley to be gone tomorrow, but Katie will most likely stick around awhile.

J said...

This is the first time I've seen any of this year's Idol, and Katelyn Epperly's the only one I saw (I came in on the horrible Corinne Bailey Rae song) that made me stop and take notice. And Coldplay pretty much bores the hell out of me.

The last girl was amusing, and that one note was impressive.

"Lean on Me" and "A Change is Gonna Come" got very uncomfortable performances, for opposite reasons.

Four judges is way too many. Ellen's great. The judging process just takes far too long. Still. Ugh.

daniel said...

Bowersox had the clear performance of the night. She hasn't had a bad performance unlike both male contenders and she is obviously one of the most talented musicians on the show. In my mind, she is my favorite and should be the runaway winner.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm really surprised you like Katie as much as you do.

To clarify, I don't like Katie; I much preferred Katelyn last night, for instance. I just recognize that she has more vocal talent than a lot of the remaining women, and also she fits a type of contestant that has a pretty good track record on this show.

Danny Forcella said...

Do you really think Casey James has a shot at getting to the top five after his terrible performance this week? I poor man's Brian Adams during top 12 and then a audition for Guitar Idol in top 10, I wouldn't be upset if he left tonight. Lee DeWyze could easily be the final guy standing.

amysusanne said...

I think I'm pretty much just in this for Bowersox at this point. That and what I hope will be a progressive deterioration of the Seacrest/Cowell relationship now that Simon has pretty much completely checked out of the show and Ryan is having to deal with crying girls and shaky little puppy boys so early and so often as a result of the whackadoo judging going on.

Linda said...

The fact that the judges are being so silent about Lee Dewyze's SEVERE pitch problems suggests to me that they are firmly in the tank for him, so I think that's the great hope on the men's side. (Seriously, that guy croaks out more painfully bum notes than anybody else in the men's bracket, and it has gone unmentioned so far, for the most part.)

Anyhoo, as to the women, I love Crystal, I think Didi is very limited and is having trouble staying in the zone she's limited to, Katie is just as Degarmovian as others have noted, and Lilly needs badly to get over herself. I am a grump, I admit, with regard to this season.

Indeed said...

I agree that Katie is a contender because as Kara would say she's "commercial". She also has a good voice. But I personally find her so dull and young. It was clear to me she hasn't developed any sense of musical taste or style yet. She had no answer when she was asked what young singers she likes. One of the things I really dislike with contestants is when it appears like they don't like music or have any opinion on music. That's why I always like a contestant like Crystal or Lilly or even Katelyn (who I didn't think was good last night but still like her) or Kris Allen last year.

amysusanne said...

I actually kind of got the impression that it wasn't the part of having to name her favorite music/musicians that tripped her up, it was the "young" part. I don't think Katie's into The Jonas Brothers or Taylor Swift or that Justin Bieber kid. Otoh, whatever...I still dislike her and would like to see her gone before the top 12. She has a nice voice, but there's something very grating about her and she's uncomfortable to watch at points.

weiqin said...

I don't really care for Katie Stevens but I simply just can't understand why the judges keep on pushing for her to sing songs of artistes that are her age.

IMO artistes younger than 20 aren't very good are they? Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber - bleahhhh.

It's up to her to sing what song she feels most comfortable in. David Archuleta sang Imagine 2 years ago and I don't see the judges criticizing him for that.

Matthew said...

As with someone above, Crystal is my main interest in the show at this point. (I suppose Lilly Scott would be the other.) However, being from North Dakota, I can't help but compare Crystal to a blues singer named Shannon Curfman, who had twice Crystal's talent by the time she was age 16 and would have rolled through the competition like virtually no one else since.

As for the guys, I think the kid with the mullet could be a sleeper. He's got possibly the best voice among the guys, yet clearly the worst stage presence. If he can turn the later around, I could see in the top 10 easily. I'd say Jermaine and Toddrick have chances as well.

Kathleen Taylor said...

I can't get past the fact that Katie looks exactly like Tatiana del Toro.

I love Crystal (enough that I'm going to sign up for iTunes just so I can get her songs), but I learned my lesson with Taylor Hicks, who would have been so much better served by coming in 3rd or 4th rather than winning (it's my fault- I voted my fingers off for him). I don't want Crystal to win, and then to have to sing some craptastic Kara song, and be called a failure because she doesn't sell CDs like Underwood. I want her to make it to the middle of the Top 10 so she can tour and get tons of exposure, and then sign with an indie label and make the kind of music that she wants to make. Which I will buy.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Yeah, that's about how I see it, too, Alan. Love the comparison of Siobhan with a relief pitcher with a crazy fastball... that's right on.

It was funny how frustrated Randy seemed with his own inability to say anything of value to anyone, ever. Like, halfway through, he seemed legitimately mad about it, and it was pretty funny. It's you, Randy! You're part of the problem!

Now, side note: I'd like to get some screenshots or something, but what. is. the. deal. with Kara and Simon spending the entire episode all up in each others' personal space? It's weird! Simon's right arm spent the entire episode jammed in front of Kara. They were so close that pull-away shots of the judges were laugh-inducing.

Anyway. I still think that the majority of the contestants this year are too unseasoned to be interesting, but this week, at least we saw a few who appear to have their act together.

Mike F said...

I think Crystal is the frontrunner, but I'm not sure how long she can sing folk songs or even more current stuff (Indigo Girls, Ethridge, etc etc) without feeling like she'll be repeating herself. She's the best this year, I think...the question is whether her overall style and taste is timeless or whether its dated.

The other really special one, I think, is Siobhan. There's just something about her. I'm sorta in love and I can see her growing on people week by week. She's fascinating and the more I see of her, really beautiful as well. I think she has the it factor as well as a ridiculous set of lungs on her.

On the guys side, I like Lee...I don't care of he's pitchy or whatever...he's demonstrated the best and most current musical taste with his choices so far...and I think he's a very cool singer.

Mark Gilman said...

Couple of quick comments - Crystal is good, not great and we're all hyperventilating over her because the talent pool this year is so ridiculously shallow. There's already a better Crystal out there who never got any acclaim in spite of multiple awards, etc. and her name is Ashley Cleveland. Check her out. Crystal is nothing more than an Ashley soundalike without the grit.

And honestly, just when I was ready to accept Kara in the mix, she made me want to slit my wrists last night. Her over-emoting, forced vamping with Simon and "listen to me because I know this industry" personae is driving me nuts. Honestly, if I had to wake up every day with that attitude I'd shoot myself - no wonder she's reduced to writing songs about men who dumped her.

LA said...

I really like Crystal, Siobhan, and Lilly. The rest just sort of blend together.

The judging right now is spectacularly bad. To me, that's the real story of Idol this year. Ellen's not adding anything to the show. Simon's got one foot out the door. There should be only three judges, not four. What a mess.

Ian said...

I've been missing a Melinda Doolittle-esque power note all season and Siobhan finally delivered. If she can get her voice under control more she'd be fantastic.

Oh, and I'd like to see Kara gone like yesterday. She's clearly trying not to be a carbon-copy Randy like last season but it's just made her more annoying. Bring on X-Factor.

Chris said...

There's Siobhan and there's everyone else. Just an amazing singer, with an actual, unique personality. Wow.

njames said...

I really think Didi is amazing, but man, did those judges rip her a new one!!

I want to know what you think of my recap of the show:

http://iamnoahjames.com/2010/03/04/idolspec-top-10-ladies-performance-show-%e2%80%93-332010/

njames said...

I agree about Katie. Diana just was such a turn-off; and while I don't think Katie is the best thing (or that she'll even come CLOSE to winning), she definitely needs to be the teen girl that goes through.

Haeley is SO out of her league, it's not even funny.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Okay, I got some screenshots of Kara and Simon's constant space invasion.

It might not be as clear out of context, but... I mean, they're just talking to the contestant, and not to each other.

Weird.

dark tyler said...

By the way, regarding what could happen in case Crystal wouldn't have been able to perform. Last year in The X Factor, a contestant missed a week because of being ill, and they just let her go through to the next round. It's an option, especially if it happens to a contestant the show cannot afford to lose so early.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Adam Lambert has ruined this show for all of us. These little kids suck...but I do love Bowersocks...She has some talent.