And then there were five. With just under a month to go before the season finale, the remaining Idol hopefuls took to the stage last night to tackle the songs of Frank Sinatra. For the most part, it was an abysmal showing. Even the untouchable Crystal Bowersox had trouble delivering a performance that didn’t leave us in a come thirty seconds in. We blame Idol’s producers for choosing such a lame theme and then forcing the contestants to perform them in front of a full band, leaving them no opportunity to do anything interesting with the arrangement. Harry Connick Jr. was an above-average guest mentor but even he couldn’t coax a gem out of some of the Idol wannabes. Read on for this week’s full power rankings.
1. Lee Dewyze Risk Level: 6 Payoff: 10 Total: 16
In one of the only surprises last night, Lee Dewyze, Idol’s modern rocker, pulled off a clear victory with his interpretation of “That’s Life.” A consistently solid performer — even if he is a bit boring and predictable — Lee was one of the only performers able to put his own stamp on a Sinatra classic. He delivered enough bravado to give viewers a much-needed adrenaline shot to the heart yet balanced these highs with a subtlety sure to please even the most devoted fan of ‘Ol Blue Eyes. Ellen said, “If this was the last night of performances you would have just won this whole thing.” And Simon called it “the best performance of the night.”
2. Michael Lynche Risk Level: 5 Payoff: 10 Total: 15
A close second, Michael Lynche brought the house down with his soulful rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Like Lee, Michael was a winning combination of vocal gymnastics and understated charisma. Of all the contestants, the evening’s theme suited Michael’s voice best. There were a few notes toward the end that sounded a bit pinched, but his belting during the second half of the song won the judges over. Kara told Michael that he “found the drama in the song” and “didn’t lose himself.” Simon agreed, saying, “It all just clicked. Everything worked.”
3. Crystal Bowersox Risk Level: 3 Payoff: 6 Total: 9
After a tepid (and completely undeserved) reception during last week’s country-themed performance show, Crystal had a lot to prove last night. Unfortunately, in the judges’ eyes, she didn’t do much to redeem herself. We liked her smoky, subdued vocals and thought that her take on “Summer Wind” solidified her place as one of the most versatile performers the show has ever seen (and the clear favorite to win this year). Again, the judges were less than enthused. While Randy said it was a little “sleepy” and Simon told Crystal he “expects better,” Ellen called the performance “impressive” and Kara gushed about Crystal’s phrasing.
4. Aaron Kelly Risk Level: 3 Payoff: 5 Total: 8
Aaron Kelly’s sleepy “Fly Me To The Moon” highlighted his vocal talent, but did little to convince us that he won’t be in the bottom three this week. At this point, our problem with Aaron is that, while he has a perfectly adequate voice, we’re convinced he’ll struggle as an artist outside the competition. Despite the judges’ ludicrous estimation that he’s a country singer (more like a Clay Aiken for 2010), we’re not sure who would even buy an Aaron Kelly album. But, as far as last night goes, half of the panel still liked him. “You did a really good job,” said Randy. Ellen told Aaron that he “totally pulled it off” but Kara said he “needed a little bit more charisma.” Simon, meanwhile, said that if Frank Sinatra were a “lion,” Aaron was more like a “mouse.”
5. Casey James Risk Level: 7 Payoff: 0 Total: 7
This was not Casey James’ theme. The bluesy rocker predictably struggled with his cover of “Blue Skies” — and he knew it. The whole thing seemed very inauthentic for Casey because, well, it was. This isn’t who Casey is as an artist and this is why we were frustrated by the fact that all of the performers were required to perform with a full band. If Casey were able to do an folkier version of a Sinatra song with his acoustic guitar, we think he could have knocked it out of the park. Instead, he seemed like a cheesy lounge singer, something we’re not used to seeing from Casey. Randy called it Casey’s “worst performance” and Kara said his held notes sounded like a lamb’s bleating. Simon said “wasn’t fantastic” and that Casey didn’t seem comfortable on stage.