It was a tough hour for the American Idol contestants last night as the top 11 warbled a selection of Billboard number one hits. Week after week, the judges have stressed the importance of being a current, relevant artist so you’d think the Idol wannabes would take the hint and choose songs that were hits within the last 20 years, at least. Not so much. And, needless to say, the judges were not kind. Thankfully, Miley Cyrus was on hand as a mentor — apparently to show the contestants how to completely suck it on stage (see: her live performance last season).
The one true bright spot was Crystal Bowersox, who was the only contestant who was able to score praise from the judges with an old-school song (she delivered an inspired rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee”). Fingers crossed she wins this season — any other result would be a travesty. Read on, for our complete power rankings for the top 11 performers.
1. Crystal Bowersox Risk Level: 6 Payoff: 10 Total: 16
All hail, Queen Crystal. In our opinion, she’s the only contestant with a true claim to the Idol crown. A true artist, Crystal has a good idea of who she is as a performer and delivered a strong interpretation of Janis Joplin’s “Me And My Bobby McGee.” Her song choices are getting a little predictable — but she makes it seem so authentic that we can’t help but be won over. The judges agree, with Randy saying that Crystal is a “star” and Simon commenting that Crystal is on “another level” from the other competitors.
2. Siobhan Magnus Risk Level: 7 Payoff: 8 Total: 15
Siobhan Magnus is getting on our nerves — big time. Her screeching is becoming tiresome, her cheese-y song choices have us wondering who she is, and her quirky style seems like a put-on. Perhaps if her performances were as different as she wants us to believe she is, we’d buy it. But her schlock-y rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was a total disappointment. The judges were split: Randy and Ellen lurrrrrrrved it, but Simon and Kara were less enthusiastic. She’s Crystal’s biggest competition, but has convinced us she can actually walk home with this thing.
3. Lee Dewyze Risk Level: 6 Payoff: 8 Total: 14
With his bluesy take on The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” Lee Dewyze proved he’s in it to win it. Up until this point, he’s sold himself as the modern rocker contestant a la Chris Daughtry and Bo Bice. But last night he really let his voice shine and it never sounded better. He has struggled with pitch problems in the past, but his most recent performance exhibited that he can have nice control over high gravely voice. All of the judges (with the exception of Simon) loved Lee last night, with Kara saying she’s never heard him sound better and Ellen calling the performance “fantastic.”
4. Aaron Kelly Risk Level: 5 Payoff: 8 Total: 13
We have major problems with Aaron Kelly (this season’s David Archuleta — even Ryan made a joke about it). He’s got a decent voice, but he’s totally lacking in character. There’s nothing interesting about him and we’re totally worried that we’re going to have to put up with him for a lot longer. Overall, his take on Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was OK, but it sounded like an audition for a school play to us. Apparently, the judges heard something we didn’t. Randy called it a “perfect performance” and Ellen said it was “amazing.” Only Simon said it was a little old-fashioned.
5. Michael Lynche Risk Level: 4 Payoff: 7 Total: 11
The Michael Lynche soul train came back to town last night with another over-the-top R&B performance. This time, Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” was the victim. We’re beginning to get a little sick of Michael and his I’m-a-new-father theatrics. Again, the judges were split. Randy loved his performance, saying it was Michael’s best vocal. But both Kara and Simon thought it seemed a bit “lounge-y” and “overindulgent.”
6. Casey James Risk Level: 3 Payoff: 7 Total: 10
Casey continued with his shaggy rocker persona, delivering a solid take on Back To The Future‘s “The Power Of Love.” It was a great choice of song for his voice and Casey’s an undeniably charismatic performer, but he’s another one who’s starting to become a little predictable. Casey and his guitar have become the new couple we love to hate. On the one hand, they go together so well; on the other, we kinda want them to give it a rest already. Ellen raved about the performance, saying it was the best vocal of the night, but Simon said it seemed like he was watching an ’80s cover band. Snap.
7. Katie Stevens Risk Level: 2 Payoff: 7 Total: 9
Katie Stevens finally got the memo that a 17-year-old girl should sing songs that other 17-year-old girls would want to hear. This week, she chose “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. It was OK (certainly better than her previous offerings), but we still weren’t blown away. The judges, however, thought it was a huge step forward for Katie. Randy commended her for listening to their advice and Simon said that meeting Miley Cyrus was the best thing for Katie. I guess next week he hopes to see her writhing around on the stage with a stripper pole.
8. Andrew Garcia Risk Level: 5 Payoff: 1 Total: 6
The descent into the lounge singer gorge continued for Andrew Garcia with his horribly tacky rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” Why any Idol contestant would choose this song is beyond us. If you keep the arrangement the same as the original, it immediately dates you. If you change it up, people scream sacrilege for messing with a classic. Kara hit the nail on the head when she told Andrew that he’s been chasing the magic of his Hollywood week performance for the past few weeks and it’s messing with his head. We agree: This kid now has no idea of who he is. Simon was the harshest, saying Andrew ruined one of the greatest pop songs of all time.
9. Didi Benami Risk Level: 4 Payoff: 1 Total: 5
Last week, Didi’s take on “Play With Fire” was spot-on, and demonstrated a truly authentic soulfulness on her part. This week, she went about five steps backward with a terrible cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” Her voice sounded perfectly adequate, but the arrangement was awful and it’s these lapses in judgment that will cost Didi the competition. Randy said he “loved the idea of it” but that it was still all wrong. Simon said it sounded like the bad part of a musical.
10. Paige Miles Risk Level: 6 Payoff: -2 Total: 4
We’re so done with Paige Miles and, apparently, so are the judges. The one thing she had going for her — her voice — was in terrible form last night as she slaughtered “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. We totally get it. Mariah Carey did a cover of the song — and it’s clear she was channeling Mimi’s version with her performance last night. Ironically, it was the best choice of song for Paige thus far in the competition but her voice just didn’t deliver. Her pitch was all over the place and the judges noticed. Ellen didn’t even comment on her singing, merely saying she “looked stunning.” Kara called it the “worst vocal” she’s heard from Paige — and possibly any other contestant — all season long.
11. Tim Urban Risk Level: 4 Payoff: -1 Total: 3
How Tim Urban is still a part of this competition is beyond us. Sure, Lacey Brown deserved to go last week. But was she sacrificed so that we’d have to hear one more week of this? Hopefully, no one else will be subject to the same fate and Tim will be sent packing. The judges certainly hope that’s the case — they slammed his rendition of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Randy called his vocals “boring” and Ellen said it was “corny” and “pushed.” Simon told Tim that he has “zero chance of winning.” We couldn’t agree more. So please America, put us all out of our misery.