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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Lee’s Way

Who knew Harry Connick, Jr. was so funny?

At first, I questioned the combination of Harry Connick, Jr. and Frank Sinatra songs, mostly worrying none of it would be relevant to the hordes of text-savvy teens that love this show. But as it turns out, not only is Harry a great musician, he’s also one funny guy! When he wasn’t trading barbs with Ellen, he was picking fake fights with Aaron or Lee. And let’s not forget the time he spent arranging songs for these kids and then actually playing with them on stage. If there was an award for ‘most dedicated “Idol” guest mentor,’ then I think Mr. Connick would win two.

With the “Idol” stage taking on a true nightclub feel tonight, complete with dim lights and a full big band orchestra, each of the Top 5 tackled one of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ many famous Rat Pack songs. (Although it was a bit strange when two of Sinatra’s daughters showed up to hand Simon one of their dad’s hankies. Not so sure what that was about. Maybe Simon’s a big fan?)

Anyway, up first tonight was Aaron Kelly, singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” Harry liked his voice and encouraged him to turn his notes around so they weren’t so jarring. And while Aaron seemed to heed his advice as much as he could, his voice was still too shaky for this material. As Simon said, Sinatra was the “king of cool,” so you really need personality to deliver these types of songs. Aaron definitely hit some power notes during that performance, but his voice just isn’t big enough to rise above a full band. (Or maybe the band was just swallowing him up? I’m not really sure who’s to blame here.) I think Simon also called it when he said the audience loves seeing him, so he will definitely rack up some votes. But will they be enough to keep him out of the Bottom Three (or Two)? Probably not.
Best part of this performance: During the judges’ comments, when Ellen said she thought the piano part was a little pitchy! Anyone else think she and Harry have known each other for awhile?

America’s favorite blues guitarist contestant Casey James took the second spot of the night. Casey has been delivering some awesome performances over the last few weeks, especially last week on Shania night with his cover of “Don’t.” Unfortunately all that positive momentum came to a screeching halt as Casey sang the most self-conscious version of “Blue Skies” I’ve ever heard. I figured this would happen once he was forced out of his comfort zone and prohibited from picking up his guitar. Casey awkwardly smiled and shuffled around the stage, delivering vocals which Kara compared to “a lamb.” The rest of the judges didn’t have any better comments for Casey, who ended up taking a big step backward this week.
Best part of this performance: When Casey told Ryan that one of his friends, who doesn’t watch “Idol,” asked him to play a $50 gig with him (including a free meal!). Casey very nicely explained his current situation to his clueless friend.

Wearing a full-length dress and rocking a giant back tattoo (who knew that was there?!), Crystal sang “Summer Wind.” Harry immediately noticed that the song meant something special to Crystal, but told her to keep the reasons to herself because that makes her performance even more intriguing to the audience. I thought her vocals were great, though I agree with Randy (who said that??!!) that it all seemed a little too sleepy. Where was the energy? Where was the oomph? I get what Crystal was trying to say to the judges at the end, that she shouldn’t sing big notes just because she’s on “Idol,” but I think she needs to sing a few of them if she wants to win. Just sayin’.
Best part of this performance: At the beginning of the song, when Crystal tickled a few keys on the piano, patted Harry on the back like they were good friends and then sauntered over to the mic. Suddenly she’s become way more relaxed on stage.

Four weeks after tempting fate with that Judges’ Save, Mike almost guaranteed his status as a Top 4 contender with his performance of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Up until that point, all the songs seemed a little restrained and almost boring. But when Big Mike took the stage, that all changed. Wearing his best Sinatra outfit, Mike nailed all the notes, while the band played a great arrangement of the song. And all it took was for Harry to give him a little sage advice about how to sing the song to his woman, and he made the audience feel that emotion. Surprisingly I have to agree with Kara (who said THAT??!!) that he still put his signature Mike touches on the song, especially with that small vocal run near the end. As Simon said, “you put yourself in the game.”
Best part of this performance: I’m just glad he left poor Harry Connick, Jr. alone and didn’t try to bear hug him. After watching Mike almost put Ryan Seacrest into traction, and flailing almost all of the guest mentors around the room, I think Harry lucked out.

Last, but definitely not least, was Lee. What would this year’s resident rocker do with “That’s Life?” Apparently he’d find a way to rock out, that’s what! Melding some classic Sinatra mannerisms with that gruff voice and some kickin’ melodies from Connick on his organ, Lee delivered the performance of the night. I liked everything, from his start on the stool to that emotion he packed into some of those power notes. Somewhere between the beginning and the end I started thinking, could Lee be the Dark Horse of this competition who could sweep past Crystal when no one’s looking and win this whole thing? It’s really possible, actually. Just look at what Kris Allen did last year! I think Ellen and Simon’s comments really summed it up, though. Ellen told him that if this was the finale, then he’d already have won, while Simon said he gave it 110 percent.
Best part of this performance: When Harry Connick, Jr. looked at Lee when they first met and said “My wife thinks he’s cute and after meeting him, he’s like a new and improved version of me.” Awesome! I was laughing so hard I cried.

My predictions after tonight’s show? It’s looking more and more like Lee, Crystal and Mike will be duking it out for the two slots in the finale, while it’s only a matter of time before Aaron and Casey take the long walk home.

So did every singer rise to the challenge of Sinatra night, or were some contestants clearly better than others? Did Crystal take a misstep this week and is Lee the new contestant to beat? Was Harry Connick, Jr. one of the best guest mentors the show’s ever had? And did anyone else know that Harry was so funny? Post your Idol-tastic comments and questions below, then be back here again on Wednesday as the Top 4 are revealed! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on May 5, 2010 12:15 AM
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