A review of tonight's "American Idol" performances coming up just as soon as I lament professional comedian Ellen DeGeneres' need to do two different "Shania Twain-as-train" jokes in one episode...
First of all, Shania Twain's Canadian-ness is one of those things I tend to forget (in spite of my own half-Canadian ancestry) for years at a time because I only hear her sing, and the accent only comes out in her speaking voice. Very unsettling to be reminded she could have played the love interest in a Bob & Doug McKenzie movie if the timing had been a bit different.
As to the show itself? Well, let's just say I find Shania's speaking voice more interest than a lot of what's in her songbook - and particularly the parts of her songbook that were performed this evening. (If only Big Mike or Aaron had come out and did "Man, I Feel Like a Woman"...)
Lee Dewyze, "You're Still the One": Every week, the judges completely ignore the number of outright horrible notes he lets into his performances. Until this week, those at least were the exception each week and not the rule, but tonight Lee sounded more off-key then on, while at the same time looking like he had just been up all night trying to recreate the "ADRIAN!!!!" scene from the end of the first "Rocky." I don't dislike Lee in general, but this was probably the worst he's been so far.
Michael Lynche, "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing": This is Big Mike doing his young Luther thing. Mostly sounded good - though the falsetto was oddly weak in spots - and passionate (the "wet" quality Simon was complaining about), but didn't do a lot for me.
Casey James, "Don't": Some other contestants this season have been ruined by inconsistent comments from the judges. Fortunately for Casey, the judges have all been telling him the same thing for weeks, and he finally listened. No pointless guitar mini-solos, no fixed half-smile; just his usual Bob Seger voice married to some genuine emotion. More vibrato than I would have liked, but overall his best since "Jealous Guy," and one of his strongest performances overall.
Crystal Bowersox, "No One Needs to Know": After last week's powerhouse, tear-inducing "People Get Ready," Crystal takes it down several notches with a quirky alt-country performance that sounded very much like the sort of thing she might play at a concert five years from now in between two of her better-known hits. I liked the vibe of it, and the way Crystal sounded a bit like Neko Case when she went into the falsetto. The judges were clearly irked (though only Simon came out and admitted it) she didn't swing for the fences again after last week, but I'm fine with a Mama Sox double now and then.
Aaron Kelly, "You Got a Way": Aaron's voice has been pretty brutal the last month or so, but on a country-themed night he finally managed to grab hold of the notes and not sound like he was straining to reach them. But if he sounded better technically, he still put me to sleep, though I believe I woke up just in time to hear Kara accuse him of being a virgin. Is that about right?
Siobhan Magnus, "Any Man of Mine": Okay, I think I'm done with her. All the usual Siobhan tics - dull, pitchy low notes at the beginning, building to a wail and an endless power note - and here we got the added bonus of her having major breath control issues as she tried to walk and sing at the same time, and then as she tried to deal with some particularly wordy verses. The judges were impressed by the big note at the end, but I've seen that trick too often to care when the rest of the song was so uninspired.
Best of the night: The Outlaw Casey James, followed a ways back by Crystal.
In danger: I'd be fine with either Siobhan or Aaron going, but he had the whole "I was singing it to my mom" moment, and she had the pimp spot, which is still mostly invulnerable, so... Lee, in spite of never being in the bottom 3 before? Big Mike, because his voters could get complacent twice? I'll be curious to see if Crystal goes bottom 3 after the judges finally criticized her, and also after a small-by-design performance, but I'd be stunned if she was in real danger.
Finally, as many of you know by now, I'll be blogging at HitFix starting next week, and in figuring out how the new job is going to work, I think "Idol" is one of the few shows I cover regularly now that won't get the weekly treatment in the new home.
Part of that is that it's been a real bear doing "Idol" and "Lost" live on the same night (which wasn't a problem this week), part is that I've been really uninspired by the cast this season, and part of it is that Fienberg has always been much, much better at writing about "Idol" (here's his review of tonight's show). When I was a solo act, it made sense for me to carve out time to do these weekly write-ups; when I'm at a place where another guy does it and does it better than me (and cares more than I do), it makes sense to focus time and energy elsewhere. I'm sure I'll weigh in from time to time, and maybe even do a weekly post where I link to Dan and invite you to comment, but at least until the finals, I'm out of the "Idol" reviewing game.
What did everybody else think?