If you’re one of the people running “American Idol,” there are two benefits for having Crystal Bowersox sing last on the Tuesday episodes. The first is that it closes the show on a high note, and the second is that it guarantees that there won’t be any extended interactions between her and Ryan Seacrest, because the show inevitably runs long and there’s no time for awkward dialogue.
That was a good thing this week. Bowersox closed the show with what Simon Cowell would call “a moment,” going onstage without her customary guitar for “People Get Ready” and setting the bar so high that she’s on a different level from the rest of the seven finalists.
What’s more, Bowersox broke down at the finish after catching sight of her dad in the audience, meaning there was no way we’d get the chance to see if there was any bitterness in the wake of that “betrayed by Seacrest” text message. She was too busy trying to steal the host’s handkerchief to lay the smackdown.
“Mama Sox — you know why they call you that? Because you schooled all the other contestants,” Kara DioGuardi said. Actually, I’m pretty sure they call her that because she’s a mother and “Sox” is a shortened form of her last name, but whatever.
Crystal’s the clear favorite, but Lee Dewyze is starting to move away from the rest of the pack that is chasing after her. He took on Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” a difficult song, but listened to guest mentor Alicia Keys and focused on the lyrics. The result was the most memorable non-Bowersox performance of the night.
Who else stood out? Nobody much. Michael Lynche gets some points for succeeding at “Hero,” but loses them again for picking a Nickelback song.
Casey James opened the show with a nice “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac and earned the votes of any Bill Clinton boosters who weren’t watching “Dancing With the Stars” instead, but the judges dinged him for not stepping outside his comfort zone. What? Is he supposed to sing opera? He’s country/bluegrass/rock ... please, please don’t ask him to try anything else. My ears couldn’t take it.
Siobhan Magnus again received mixed feedback, as the judges continue to nitpick. They don’t really like what she’s doing, and they can’t really articulate why they don’t, so she gets useless feedback such as, “I still don’t know who you are” from Kara. I wish Siobhan had answered with, “I’m Siobhan, I’m 20 years old and I’m from Cape Cod.”
She did fine singing “When You Believe,” though in fairness it was hard to concentrate on her singing instead of staring at the butterflies on her outfit. The problem is that she set the bar high in the early weeks, so in the judges’ eyes, she’s still chasing her performances of a few weeks ago.
In hindsight, she might have been better off with the Aaron Kelly and Tim Urban approach, which is to set the bar lower. Kelly has been good every week, but never truly memorable. However, perhaps because he’s a 16-year-old who looks 12, the judges treat him with unprecedented slack, giving him a pat on the head and a “you tried so hard! Great job!” even when he struggles through R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
And that pales in comparison to Urban. All I can guess is that the judges are all convinced his fate is entirely out of their control, so rather than spend their time ragging on a guy who never reacts to criticism with anything other than a smile, they might as well shrug, say something meaningless and move onto the next singer.
Urban sang “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls and made famous, of course, as the exit song for the late great “Next Great American Band.” Ellen DeGeneres compared him to the “soup of the day” for reasons that are too boring to get into, but Simon spoke for the rest when he said Urban wasn’t that great but he was better than he was a few weeks ago. That’s what I tell my 5-year-old after his T-ball games. Well, I tell him he WAS great, but you get the point.
The show continues with “Idol Gives Back” on Wednesday, in which Ryan spends two hours asking you for money and then cruelly sends home one of your favorites. I’m guessing it’s one of the Kelly-Urban duo, with Magnus also in danger given this season’s carnage among the women. For those of you who watch via a DVR, Ryan’s already warning that it’s likely to go long, so set those timers accordingly.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.