American Idol Recap: The Top 20 Try For Redemption

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And some of them succeed.

Last week, the Top 24 had a rocky start. The boys were almost universally atrocious, and the girls rarely surpassed mediocre. After dumping four singers, we're back with the Top 20, and the question on everybody's mind (well, OK, mostly on my mind, but I'm "everybody" on my blog, right?) is "Is this going to be the worst season ever, or are these contestants going to pull it out and prove they deserve to be on the #1 show in America?"

American Idol Todrick

Todrick image courtesy American Idol

Honestly, even the redemption felt tepid this week, but before I get ahead of myself with sweeping pronouncements, let's recap what went down over the last two nights:

First, because of Crystal's mysterious, unexplained hospitalization, the guys graciously agreed to swap and go first on Tuesday night:

1. Michael sang This is a Man's World by James Brown

Although I think he went more for the Seal version. And we all know that I am *intimately* familiar with Seal. It goes something like this, "Mr. Lynche, I know Seal. I love Seal. Seal is my #1 boyfriend, and you, sir, are no Seal." So, once I got past Michael being no Seal, how did he do? He did pretty well ... I found it a little too smooth, a little too easy-listening. He had neither Brown's outsized personality nor Seal's sexy gravel in his voice. So, strong performance, but not particularly special.

Bottom line: No Seal, but no doubt safe.

2. John sang Gravity by John Mayer

Remember last week when John sang "God Bless the Child", and they told him to be more youthful? Yeah, I don't think "Gravity" is the answer. Now, that's not to say this wasn't a LOT better than last week; it was. But although John has a really, really nice voice, he is not an old soul. He doesn't bring (yet) any depth of feeling to what he sings. So maybe he should go for something upbeat, something not so low key. I'm a little uncertain he can pull off boy-band, but we know he can't pull off deep, right?

Bottom line: I would say John is at risk. Because he's among the nice-voice-no-stage-presence-getting-by-on-cute-factor crowd, and I'm not sure he's the cutest one of that crowd.

3. Casey sang I Don't Wanna Be by Gavin DeGraw

Note to American Idol contestants: No one needs to sing this song on the show ever again. M'kay? And srsly. That being said, Casey pulled off the electric guitar god act pretty damn well. He plays really well. Unfortunately he probably plays better than he sings. Casey doesn't seem to have a facile voice; he can't just sing whatever he feels like -- it's a bit tight, a bit stiff. Now, he uses that to his advantage. Not having the prettiest voice, and playing the electric guitar, he actually gave this song a harder edge, and he also enunciated the words really well. I heard lyrics I had never noticed before, which also made the song more interesting. [Still, don't forget, dear American Idol contestants: No one needs to sing this song on the show ever again.]

Bottom line: I think he's definitely safe.

4. Alex sang Everybody Knows by John Legend

I'll admit it. When I first heard this gawky, awkward kid was going to sing a song by King of Smooth John Legend, I was deeply skeptical. OK, actually, I was horrified. Alex is so very mullet-tastic, and John Legend ... is not. But let this kid hide behind his guitar, and at least he uses some of the most egregious awkwardness. The truth is he has a nice voice, a really really nice tone. This was a little imitative, but it wasn't horrible.

Bottom line: Hey, if he didn't go home last week when he was sucktastic in addition to mullet-tastic, it's hard for me to imagine he'd go this week.

5. Todrick sang What's Love Got To Do With It by Tina Turner

I'm not sure why the judges dislike Todrick so much. He obviously has a really good voice, and he seems to be doing what they're telling everyone else to do: Make songs their own. I thought this was an interesting version, honestly. Was he still a little too superficial ... a little too perform-y .... a little too inauthentic? Sure, but at least he's bringing something to the table. A lot of these guys are like lumps on logs.

Bottom line: Oh, he's at risk, if for no other reason than the judges seem to be willing it.

6. Jermaine sang What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

Note to American Idol contestants: This is one of those songs. One of those iconic songs that no one on this show should ever sing again. M'kay? You cannot measure up, trust me. And you especially cannot measure up if you smile through the whole song!!!!! Yay, "brutality"! Yay, "too many of you are dying", yay!!! OMG OMG OMG. This wins this week's Lacey Landslide Award for infuriating me. He needs to go home for this one.

Bottom line: Of course, somewhat like Alex, I'm thinking: IF he didn't go home last week for that travesty, will he go home for this one? I hope so.

7. Andrew sang You Give Me Something by James Morrison

This was a bad bad choice for Andrew. I actually loved him last week, and this was a big step back. The first half of the song was terrible. When he stood up, he finally seemed to kick into gear, but it was a pretty uninspiring performance of a very uninspiring song.

Bottom line: I hope has a lot of residual good will built up, because this was not great. I think he does.

8. Aaron sang My Girl by the Temptations

Note to American Idol contestants: Yeah, this song? 40 years old. Written for a group. Can you say "old-fashioned" and "doesn't make you stand out"? No one should ever sing this song on the show again. M'kay? That being said, he did sound good, can't deny he has a nice voice. He also tried to infuse it with some confidence and swagger...which was a little disturbing, actually. It ended weakly and a little pitchy. Add him to the is-he-cute-enough-to-escape-elimination pile.

Bottom line: If I had to guess, I'd say he's safe.

9. Tim sang Come On Get Higher by Matt Nathanson

Well, first of all, Tim is a good guitar player, and this was a much better song choice for him. But the truth is that he was a tiny bit sharp throughout the whole song. Not as painful as if he'd been flat the whole time, but still: Not good. He's also got that nervous vibrato going.

Bottom line: I tend to think, again, if he was safe last week, when he was atrocious, he must be this week, when he upgraded to mildly pleasant.

10. Lee sang Lips of an Angel by Hinder

OK, I am feeling disoriented because I almost never disagree strongly with Simon ... Carmen Rasmussen might be the last time. But I DO NOT GET AT ALL why they are all over this guy. Does no one else hear that he's off-key? And often? And nasal? Yes, yes, he has a nice tone. I agree. Kind of a husky vibe going, like a million other singers, actually. If it were ON KEY. Not. getting. it.

Bottom line: Well, apparently, he's safe as can be, and I've lost my hearing.

On to the women:

American Idol Crystal

Crystal image courtesy American Idol

1. Crystal sang Long as I Can See the Light by Creedence Clearwater Revival

I guess she should get sick more often, because she sounded great! Frankly, I found the song kind of boring and standard, but she really nailed it.

Bottom line: Totally safe.

2. Haeley sang The Climb by Mile Cyrus

Oh. My. This was one long strained mess. Painful, in fact. And yet she's kind of quirky and cute. Should she stay or should she go? I don't seem to care much either way.

Bottom line: People seem to love or hate Haeley. I think the haters might win out tonight.

3. Lacey (aka Landslide Destroyer) sang Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer

Much better song choice. Much better job, particularly since she managed to be on key. Trouble is, that's not saying much. Again, this was a pretty soulless performance...she pranced about and had a frozen smile, but there was no spark and nothing behind those eyes.

Bottom line: Well, I think you know what I'll say: If she didn't get sent home last week for destroying a great song like Landslide, I hardly think she'll go this week for adequately karaoke-ing a an OK song.

4. Katie sang Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae

Katie really does have a great voice. I respect her chops, particularly for such a young person. However, she is one of the more irritating performers I've seen in a while. She's all affected movements and pulling faces. Drives me crazy, no matter how nice the vocal may be.

Bottom line: She's gonna stick around far longer than she ought, but she is not going to win.

5. Didi sang Lean On Me by Bill Withers

Didi is another one where I disagree pretty strongly with the judges. I thought she was clearly the best woman last week, and while I didn't think this was a great week for her (Lean on Me, really?) I didn't think she was that bad. I really like her vocal style, and I really like her authenticity. I believe her when she sings. Yes, there were pitchy moments, and yes, I do think she tried a little too hard to change it up, but I do like her and hope she doesn't go home.

Bottom line: Definitely at risk, unfortunately.

6. Michelle sang Arms Wide Open by Creed

Interesting song choice. I didn't get it. Thought it was pretty atrocious. Weak, wavery horrible ending note. I feel like Simon and I have grown apart this season. it's tragic, really.

Bottom line: I don't think people wil listen to the judges. I think Michelle is at risk.

7. Lilly sang A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke

This was generally pretty good. I wouldn't say her guitar playing added anything, and I wonder if she's ever going to put it aside. I also think the ending was weak. That being said, she definitely has a certain something ... now she should just pick songs that match that something, because this one really didn't.

Bottom line: I think she's very safe.

8. Katelyn sang The Scientist by Coldplay

Unlike last week, I didn't have to look at my notes to remember who she was or what she sang. This was a big improvement over last week -- although that just brings her up to the level of good, not great. She has a really strong voice, but she could pick something better to exercise it on. (Not that I don't like the song, but I think it was a bit dirgelike for this venue.)

Bottom line: I'm guessing she's safe.

9. Paige sang Walkaway by Kelly Clarkson (and Kara DiGuardi)

Another good, not great, performance. She has a really strong voice, but she doesn't have that facility to slide back and forth to and from her falsetto that Kelly Clarkson has. Those moments did not work. She sort of started falling apart about half way through. And I was thrilled that Kara gave her the note to not smile during an angry song. I wish the judges would point that out more often.

Bottom line: You know, she should be safe, but she hasn't given folks anything to really root for. She's a bit forgettable in this crop of quirky (if not as talented) singers.

10. Siobhan sang Think by Aretha Franklin

Personally, I thought this was mediocre karaoke, big screamy note notwithstanding. It really seemed like she was changing the melody to compensate for not being able to hit notes, not because is really worked.

Bottom line: She has probably screamed her way into being safe.

Bottom Line for the Bottom Two:

For the men:

Should be: Jermaine (for obvious reasons), John (because I don't think he's going to improve)

Will be: Jermaine, Todrick

For the women:

Should be: Haeley, Lacey (I can't forgive)

Will be: Haeley, Michelle

And FYI: It's actually much much harder to guess when there are so many equally so-so performers.

So, what's your guess?

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