Tonight's theme was Billboard number one hits and some good, bad, and confusing choices were made. And tonight's mentor: Miley Cyrus. (It was originally supposed to be a "Teen Idol" theme but either way, did you ever think you'd hear the words "under the tutelage of Miley Cyrus"? Of course this is a singing competition that used to be judged by Paula Abdul.)
Overall, I disagreed with Simon about the balance of the show. This was actually the first week that I felt entertained for more than 50 percent of the too long two hours. That might have had more to do with the fact that I really liked several of the tunes, regardless of how well the person sang them. What can I say? I'm a sucker for Huey, Stevie, Freddie, and "Bobby McGee."
It was a "wicked cool" night for local contender Siobhan Magnus who drew praise from Cyrus during the mentoring session and three quarters of the panel for her take on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." I loved the way she actually pulled back on the ends of phrases at the beginning of the song and threw in some funky, personalized ad-libs. I think Simon is definitely on to something though when he says the singing-screaming thing is becoming a shtick and that she didn't hit the notes as squarely last night as she has in the past. But she is so clearly having a good, unfettered time it's easy to get on board.
Although it wasn't clear that it was actually a tribute of any kind it was great to hear Lee DeWyze singing the Box Tops' "The Letter" just a week after the tragic death of Box Tops/Big Star leader Alex Chilton. Lee did it more in the vein of the Joe Cocker cover, but I'm in favor of anything that might make a viewer investigate Chilton who was a tremendous and influential talent. (Everyone from the Bangles to R.E.M. to Elliott Smith to the Replacements, obviously, were fans). And though I agreed the swinging take on the tune was out of character for Lee I thought it was his best, most vibrant, least pitch-challenged vocal to date.
Crystal took on one of Janis Joplin's biggest hits in "Me and Bobby McGee" and did herself proud. Aaron tackled Aerosmith's disaster movie schmaltzfest "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" with aplomb. Casey injected some southern flair and guitar into "The Power of Love." And yes, Michael Lynche lapsed into lounge-act territory on occasion with "When a Man Loves a Woman," but technically the vocal was strong and dynamic. Katie Stevens may have had a couple of glaring struggles with pitch, but she also sang a lot of that annoying Fergie song well, with more confidence and a sense of fun.
Poor Paige, tentative, wavery, stressed out, teetering on heels as she tried to sing Phil's classic '80s prom ballad "Against All Odds." There was nothing left there to remind us of the memory of her potential. (Anyone else have flashbacks to a young, shirtless Jeff Bridges?)
Andrew Garcia and Tim Urban also failed to impress. Andrew's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" felt stiff and over-enunciated and Tim, although okay vocally, seemed awkward. Andrew picked the wrong song, and if ever there was a week that Tim should've rocked his acoustic, this was it. He could've worked that cutesy George Michael-style hip-switch while he played. (Maybe "Faith" next week? You know he's going to make the Top Ten given all the girls in the live audience screaming for him.)
Finally, I really felt like the judges were way too hard on Didi Benami. Like Randy, I really liked the idea of her torchy recasting of "You're No Good" and thought she executed some of it really well and it didn't sound nearly as screechy to me as it apparently did to Simon. Not perfect but charming with good moments.
Bottom Three Prediction: Paige, Andrew, and Tim. I think the odds are against Paige and her number may be up.
What did you guys think? Who should go home? Did you love Siobhan's final big notes or did they make you cringe? How was Miley as a mentor? Did you think the judges roughed up Didi? Can you believe that no one told Miley it might not look so classy to be chomping gum on live TV? And on a more ethereal note, if superstition ain't the way, what is the way? Come chat with me about these and other questions tomorrow at 10.
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.