American Idol Power Rankings: The Top 7

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The theme of last night’s Idol was “inspirational songs” and, overall, the show was short on inspiration. Most of the contestants seemed to have phoned it in, choosing trite, cheesy songs that did little to disprove naysayers who claim this season is seriously lacking in talent.

The one bright spot: Crystal Bowersox, whose moving take on “People Get Ready” proved she is worthy of the hype surrounding her prospects of winning. Like Carrie Underwood, Idol’s last big success, Crystal seems very in touch with who she is as a performer (and it probably won’t hurt that she’s turning out to be a true genre artist). Read on for our top 7 power rankings.

1. Crystal Bowersox Risk Level: 7 Payoff: 10 Total: 17

It’s becoming clearer and clearer as the weeks progress that Crystal Bowersox is in a league of her own. Last night, she took on Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and the a cappella opening was the stuff chills are made of. It’s clear that Crystal’s sweet spot is blues-influenced soul and she was wise to stay there this week. She showed the other contestants how it’s done and was rewarded with heaps of praise from the judges. Kara told Crystal that her performance was “on another level” and Simon agreed, saying her performance was “in a completely different class from everything else we’ve heard tonight.”

2. Lee Dewyze Risk Level: 4 Payoff: 10 Total: 14

Lee’s take on Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “The Boxer” was another judges’ favorite, though we were slightly less impressed. After several weeks of solid singing, Lee was back to having pitch issues, with his voice hovering just below the melody line. It was definitely one of the strongest performances of the evening, but that isn’t saying much. The judges, however, loved it with Randy telling Lee that he is “a great artist ready to make great music.” Ellen said his take on the song had “depth and soul” and Kara said he had “a moment.” Simon called it “brilliant.”

3. Aaron Kelly Risk Level: 6 Payoff: 7 Total: 13

It’s becoming frustrating to watch Aaron Kelly week after week because it’s just delaying the inevitable. There’s no way Aaron will win this thing, but he’s been good enough to avoid elimination so far. Sadly for us, it looks like he’s going to do it again this week. His cheeseball take on R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” was squirm-inducing but we don’t doubt his core group of fans will vote in droves for him. His voice is decent but his performances are becoming hard to sit through. Randy commended him for taking on “a giant song” and Ellen told Aaron he handled the song well. Only Simon didn’t like it, saying if he heard it on the radio he “would’ve turned it off in ten seconds.”

4. Siobhan Magnus Risk Level: 7 Payoff: 3 Total: 10

Kara hit the nail on the head in her estimation of Siobhan when she said, “I’d rather hang out with you than buy your record.” As cool and quirky as Siobhan is desperately trying to make us all think she is, the girl keeps choosing the worst songs to perform on the show. This week it was “When You Believe,” a schlocky ballad made semi-famous by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Pure pop songs are very hard to replicate on Idol, so we give Siobhan props for that. But if you’re going to choose one, why select a song that barely made a blip in the public consciousness? This was no number one hit to begin with. The judges again raked Siobhan across the coals, with only Ellen liking it. Kara said, “I still don’t know who you are.” And Simon called it “old-fashioned” and “all over the place.”

5. Michael Lynche Risk Level: 5 Payoff: 4 Total: 9

Michael Lynche couldn’t quite recapture the glory of his performance last week. His take on Nickelback’s “Hero” was perfectly adequate, but did nothing to create any excitement. Overall, the performance was dreadfully boring and split the judges were split when it came time to critique him. Randy told Michael he “worked it out” and Ellen said it was a “great job.” Kara and Simon saw things differently, though. Kara said Michael’s voice wasn’t quite right for the song and Simon said the performance felt “artificial.”

6. Tim Urban Risk Level: 3 Payoff: 5 Total: 8

After a surprisingly decent performance last week, the old Tim Urban was back with a shaky rendition of “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls. For Tim, it was OK, but we’re hoping this might be the final nail in his coffin. A superstar he is not and it, again, seems laborious to watch him week after week knowing he’s going to go nowhere near winning the competition. The judges were harsher on Tim this week. Randy called it “good karaoke” and Kara said that, although the type of song Tim chose was right for his voice and style, it “wasn’t the best execution.” Simon concurred, saying, “You’ve improved over the weeks, but it was a little bit of a letdown.”

7. Casey James Risk Level: 2 Payoff: 2 Total: 4

The biggest disappointment of the evening was Casey James. A consistently good performer, he took a huge tumble with a sleepy take on “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac. He didn’t do much the arrangement although he played with the vocal melody enough to infuse it with some of his bluesy flair. But the entire performance felt a bit lazy and Casey seems hesitant to break out of his comfort zone — something that could hurt him in the coming weeks. Randy said that he’s looking for “something more special” from Casey and Ellen agreed saying, “Nobody is going to be talking about that tomorrow.” Simon said there was “no originality” and that the performance “wasn’t particularly inspiring.”