American Idol Power Rankings: The Top 9

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Last night on Idol, the top 9 took on the songbooks of John Lennon and Paul McCartney — both complete minefields (though thankfully there were no cheeseball renditions of “Imagine”). As usual, it was a mixed bag. Some contestants — Casey James, Crystal Bowersox — rose to the occasion, putting their imprint these legendary songs and securing their status as frontrunners to win. But others struggled. And while there were no complete bombs, there were several performances that were — even worse — completely forgettable.

All in all, it was a tedious two hours. We suspect the show won’t really get good until it’s down to the top three. There are a handful of Idol hopefuls who are just plain boring, and once they’re inevitably eliminated, the show should get more interesting. Until then, read on for our complete top 9 power rankings.

1. Casey James Risk Level: 6 Payoff: 10 Total: 16

The finest performance of the evening was undoubtedly Casey James’ heartfelt take on “Jealous Guy.” It was both a smart and risky move to choose a lesser-known Lennon song because while Casey was brilliantly able to make the song his own, it’s not one that’s likely to appeal to Idol‘s young audience (whose familiarity with Lennon probably extends as far as “Imagine”). But Casey made the tune completely relevant to today’s musical landscape, by performing a stripped-down arrangement that included him on acoustic guitar accompanied by a cello. The judges loved it. Ellen said she was “moved” and Kara concluded that it showed “depth.” Simon told Casey that he was “very impressed” by the performance.

2. Crystal Bowersox Risk Level: 5 Payoff: 10 Total: 15

Other than adding a didgeridoo player, Crystal Bowersox did little to spice up Lennon and McCartney’s “Come Together,” but the song was such a perfect fit for her voice and performance style that she didn’t have to do much to knock it out of the park. Vocally, she was able to infuse a little of her blues phrasing into the song and, though it was a bit predictable for her, it really proved that she knows exactly who she is as an artist and what kind of music she likes to perform — something the judges have been eager to see in this year’s contestants. And the all agreed it was a great night for Crystal. Randy called it “another solid performance” and Ellen struggled to find new ways to tell Crystal how great she is. Simon’s definitive word was that it was song “he could hear on the radio today.”

3. Michael Lynche Risk Level: 7 Payoff: 7 Total: 14

It was a bit of a leap for Michael Lynche to take on “Eleanor Rigby,” another lesser-known song and one that was immortalized by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. All in all, we found Michael’s whole performance a little puzzling. First there was that cheesy, synth-y arrangement that sounded completely dated. Then, there were Michael’s staccato vocals, which were so choppy it did little to show off his velvety voice. The judges were split, with Randy saying, “I’m not sure all of that worked.” Meanwhile, Ellen called it incredible and Kara told Michael that he “made the song commercial.” Simon was not enthusiastic, saying, “I don’t think you made that song contemporary at all.”

4. Lee Dewyze Risk Level: 4 Payoff: 9 Total: 13

Lee Dewyze was a bit of a disappointment last night. He got the plum spot of performing last and chose to do “Hey Jude,” which is a bit of a boring, if you ask us. Plus, Lee was back to having pitch problems again (his vocals were all over the place). Then, at the end, a bagpipe player inexplicably appeared to accompany him for the final bars of the song. It left us puzzled, but the judges raved. Randy said it was “another hot” performance for Lee and Ellen “loved it.” Kara was less impressed, saying “there were some good moments and a few off moments.” Simon, so totally confused by the appearance of the bagpipe player, had little to offer in the way of genuine critique.

5. Katie Stevens Risk Level: 2 Payoff: 9 Total: 11

“Let It Be” was the obvious choice of Beatles’ song for a 17-year-old girl and Katie delivered a solid vocal take on the classic. She was smart to strip down the arrangement to just a pianist as the lone accompanist. Though certainly not original, this decision offered Katie the chance to highlight her voice — one of the only things she has going in her favor. To us, the whole thing felt a little boring, but the judges raved about Katie’s voice. Randy called her vocals “hot” and “ridiculous,” while Kara told Katie that she’s “never sounded better.” Even Simon liked it, saying it was a “lot better” from her previous week’s performance.

6. Tim Urban Risk Level: 2 Payoff: 8 Total: 10

One of the only shakeups last night was Tim Urban’s semi-comeback. He abysmal performances in weeks past have landed Tim in the bottom three almost every week since the show began airing, but last night’s take on “All My Loving” was a winner for him. Because Tim doesn’t possess the considerable vocal talent of some of the other contestants, song choice is important for him. Last night, it’s what made him shine. He chose exactly the right song for his voice and was rewarded with actual praise from the judges, who’ve slaughtered him in the past. Randy said, “I think it was really a much better performance than you’ve had in the last couple of weeks.” Simon added, “I thought you did really well with that song.” We’re not sure it’s going to take him out of the bottom three, but, for now, we’re sure he’s basking in the glow of praise.

7. Siobhan Magnus Risk Level: 1 Payoff: 7 Total: 8

After a disastrous take on Chaka Khan’s “Through The Fire” last week, Siobhan did little to redeem herself with “Across The Universe.” It becomes clearer and clearer week after week that, unless she’s screaming her head off, her voice really isn’t that great. In fact, when she’s not singing full-voiced, her vocals can sound very nasal. Her stripped-down piano-based take on the song almost sounded like a Broadway star’s take on pop song (let’s use Sarah Brightman as an example). Plus, the song can be difficult to phrase properly and Siobhan was taking breaths in all the wrong places. The judges didn’t rake her across the coals, but they weren’t enthusiastic about it either. While they praised her quirkiness, Randy said it was “a little sleepy for me.” Kara called it “restrained” and “polite” — not exactly high praise. And Simon said that Siobhan “came back much stronger” from last week.

8. Andrew Garcia Risk Level: 3 Payoff: 4 Total: 7

Unfortunately for Andrew Garcia fans, his comeback was short-lived. We kinda got where he was going with his take on “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but it didn’t quite work. He was trying to turn the song into a more contemporary pop-rock track, but it came off as very lounge singer-y to us. We think Andrew could’ve made more of an impact if he had gone in the direction of pop-punk (a la Good Charlotte) with the song, but he didn’t and struggled to seem relevant. Ellen loved it, saying the performance was “a lot of fun” but both Kara and Simon were unimpressed. Kara said, “I don’t know that I saw anything new to you that I didn’t already know.” And Simon told Andrew that the arrangement made the song “corny, old-fashioned, and irrelevant.”

9. Aaron Kelly Risk Level: 2 Payoff: 4 Total: 6

Another surprise last night was Aaron Kelly’s fall from grace. He landed dead last in our power rankings this week, and we think he could be in trouble on elimination night too. He chose to do “The Long And Winding Road” and, as Ellen observed, it felt like “the long and winding song.” The whole performance was so boring, we struggled to remain conscious during it. His vocals were strong, as usual, but the song did little to make him stand out. Randy called it “sleepy” and Kara told Aaron that, though he’s deliver some solid performances in weeks past, “You have to be great and you haven’t reached that level yet.” Simon cut right to the chase, calling it “old-fashioned” and “boring.”