After weeks of shaky performances, early “American Idol” favorites Andrew Garcia and Lee DeWyze finally returned to form on Tuesday night, shaking up the competition on the FOX reality show, while Michael Lynche and Casey James also lead the way for the guys.
Andrew and Lee, who seemed to be getting by on their glory moments from Hollywood Week, finally proved why they are in the Top 10, with performances of R&B and soul songs (the week’s theme, mentored by Usher) that left the judges marveling. Simon Cowell was so swayed, he even told one of the two men on Monday that his life, “may have changed forever.”
The prophetic praise from the British judge went to Lee, 23, from Mount Prospect, Ill., who performed “Treat Her Like A Lady,” a rocking rendition that stirred the emotions at the judges’ table.
“Unbelievable,” Randy Jackson exclaimed. “Lee, that was the bomb.”
“Lee, I’ve always believed in you,” the Brit chimed in. “This was the night your life may have changed forever.”
Andrew too was heavily praised for his triumphant performance.
Dressed in a sharp gray suit, the spectacled singer took the Chris Brown hit “Forever” and gave it an acoustic, slower vibe, something that won him high accolades.
“America! Andrew is back,” Randy enthused.
“That was a really amazing, strong performance,” Ellen DeGeneres said.
Simon, however, said Andrew still needed to work on something.
“Don’t take this the wrong way – you come over as very boring,” he said. “You’ve got to start showing personality — that you care.”
The comments didn’t please Andrew’s mother, who show host, Ryan Seacrest, gave air time to as she turned the tables on the judge.
“Where’s my husband?” she asked, looking for a back-up before offering her own criticism to Simon in Spanish.
Also a standout was Texan cutie Casey James, who with his bountiful blond curls and gleaming smile, rocked out to the Sam & Dave classic, “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Casey included a guitar solo in his impressive performance, but it didn’t overshadow his vocals, which the judges also commended.
“In my opinion, it was [the] strongest week you’ve had so far,” Simon said. I think the fact that you took on an R&B song — it showed a completely different side of you as an artist. I thought it sounded authentic and [I’m] really, really, really impressed with you this week.”
Michael Lynche was equally strong amongst the men, performing India Arie’s “Ready For Love” on the “Idol” island, the small bit of stage behind the judges, and got some good feedback. “I don’t like it when people talk behind my back and I don’t like it when people sing behind my back, but that was beautiful,” Ellen said.
But things didn’t go as smoothly for everyone. After Didi Benami performed “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” a song which didn’t sit well with the panel, Ryan created his own awkward moment when he worked hard to get the strawberry blonde to admit for whom she had sung the number.
Didi wouldn’t reply to Ryan’s line of questioning directly.
Holding her hand, he asked again.
“I think it’s important people know why,” Ryan said.
“He wants me to say him,” Didi eventually replied.
“Didi, we need to talk,” Simon jumped in, referring to the rumored crush on Ryan’s part.
“Didi actually auditioned for the show for a reason,” Ryan said, seemingly referencing Didi’s best friend, a young woman who passed away. “She sang that for someone, we can leave it at that.”
Here’s how the rest of the contenders did:
Quirky Siobhan Magnus lead off the night with Chaka Kahn’s “Through the Fire,” but offered her shakiest performance to date. “Every performer has an off week and you’re entitled to one, " Kara DioGuardi commented.
Tim Urban, or “Teflon Tim” as he’s been nicknamed, performed Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love,” but got almost uniformly harsh reviews from the judges, except for Simon.
“I don’t think it makes any difference what we say,” the Brit said shrugging. “It was a completely inappropriate song. It’s like a mouse picking a fight with an elephant. You’re not gonna win, but it doesn’t matter because you’re gonna smile, the audience are gonna vote for you. Nobody cares and you’re gonna be here next week, so well done.”
It was the criticism for his smile though, with which the usually chirpy Tim (who appeared a little upset on stage for the first time this season) took issue.
“They’ve picked on me for a lot of things. I never thought smiling would be one of the things. I mean, I’m just saying,” he noted.
Teenager Katie Stevens opted for the Aretha Franklin classic, “Chain Of Fools,” which polarized the judges after Randy said, “you’re like a young Christina [Aguilera] — in a weird sort of way.”
“I think for Randy to compare you to Christina there, is crazy,” Simon chimed in.
“She’s not there yet… but she’s got the potential,” Randy clarified.
Crystal Bowersox, who thus far, could do no wrong for the judges, performed Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train To Georgia” dressed in high heels and from behind a piano for part of the song, and in center stage for the latter half. Her performance, though, worried Simon.
“Do not let this process suck the identity out of you, because what you were doing before was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Just do what’s comfortable with you and don’t change into something that you’re not”
It was Aaron Kelly, 16, who closed the show with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but his reviews were just plain cloudy. “I liked it, I wasn’t in love with it… but I still liked it.”
“If you compare it to the really good performances of tonight, like Lee as an example, which was the main course, that was a little like a cupcake,” Simon said. “Having said that, there’s absolutely no chance you’re going to be leaving the competition.”