'American Idol's Top 10 male semifinalists take to the stage and sing
By Reality TV World staff, 03/03/2010
American Idol's ninth-season Top 10 male semifinalists continued their push for the finals during last night's Fox broadcast.
Some semifinalists continued making bad song choices while others took the opportunity to rebound following their poor performances in last week's initial semifinals round. In addition, one semifinalist appeared to establish himself as the early male frontrunner in the judges' eyes.
The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the 10 male semifinalists sang. Also included are comments from each of the four judges -- Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance.
Tonight, the Top 10 female semifinalists will also perform, and then two male and two female semifinalists will be eliminated on Thursday night based on home viewer votes cast immediately following this week's performance episode broadcasts.
Randy said: "I feel like right now this season is really getting rolling. Because what I've been looking for -- [and] I didn't see it last week -- is trying to look at everybody's eyes and see who has that fire in the house and wants to take this to the house and win the whole thing. Mike, first time [I'm doing] it this season, don't know how many times I'm going to do it: Mike, this is how I fell about that (stands and applauds). Dog, I got to give it to you! Crazy, crazy! Unbelievable. R&B star right there."
Ellen said: "I like every song choice that you've made so far, and they're all so completely different. That's a great song. It's educational -- we've learned that man has made the car and the train. Women by the way have made the medical syringe and the water heater, everybody. Don't forget it. Seriously, that was the one to beat. That is the way to start out the night and everybody has now got to top that, that was fantastic."
Kara said: "Mike, I have to say, I did not get it. Until tonight. Tonight you went from being a singer to someone who could potentially be a great artist. You owed it tonight. I don't know what you ate between last week and this week -- maybe a lot -- but let me tell you, you are not the same guy. Either you know now that you got a baby to support -- I don't know what's going on with you, but you are a different Mike and I'm feeling it, I'm telling you."
Simon said: "Oh my gosh, what a difference. It was like from being a pussycat to a lion in one week. Seriously. That was exactly the right kind of song for you, this is the kind of artist you are. You're in old soul, it suited you. And actually what was good about it was it didn't sound dated. This, by far, is the best performance you've given in the competition so far."
Additional Notes: Afterwards, Mike credited his wife's impending arrival for this week's big difference. "God willing, if I'm still around on Friday she'll be here," he told Ryan. In addition, he revealed that the male finalists had learned that they would be performing one day early at around 10AM PT -- only seven hours before the broadcast's 5PM PT start.
John Park, a 21-year-old from Northbrook, IL who currently resides in Evanston, IL
Song: "Gravity" by John Mayer
Randy said: "Listen, I think the John Mayer vibe is definitely probably your vibe. My problem with it was you didn't bring anything new and kind of spicy to it. It wasn't as good as the original. And every time I hear that song I think about him, I see the guitar. It was just kind of flat fro me and there were some pitch problems here and there. I just didn't see anything special about it."
Ellen said: "I thought it was so much better a song choice, I thought it was really, really the right song choice for you. I agree that there could have been a little more soul in it. You got into it more than you did in rehearsal, you felt it more here right, than rehearsal? But still, I feel like just try to feel the song a tiny, tiny bit more if you're going to do a song like that."
Kara said: "Way better than last week. But my concern for you is sort of what you were talking about, being honest. It's the connection, that's what I lack from you the most. When you're singing it I don't always believe it. and I don't know if it's because you want to be perfect and you want to hit the notes and you're hearing it as you're doing it, but you need to let loose and get out of that comfort zone of yours. You're a little bit safe. I want to see you take some risks on that stage, because you're not going to get to the next level without it."
Simon said: " I think [your a capella group] Purple Haze might get their lead singer back this week. I do. Because the problem is, there's nothing to get excited about that. It was what I call a 'So What?' performance. Better than last week, better song choice. But I struggle with the believability here, if I'm being honest with you. And I think in 20 minutes times you're going to forget that performance. That's why I think you're going to have a problem this week. I do. sorry."
Additional Notes: "It just didn't feel authentic. I don't imagine this guy in a year's time at the top of the charts," Simon replied when Ryan asked him to elaborate on his comments. "My problem is that I don't see the star thing, that's why I said there was nothing special," Randy added. "Nobody right at this moment has that, but maybe Mike is a little further along," Ellen countered. "Get out of your comfort zone," Kara said.
Randy said: "first of all, from one musician to the next, I love you like channeling like Hendrix through the whole kind of Texas... thing, I love all that. And the song for me, I don't know if you did the best vocal, but what I love [is] this is the kind of music I could see you making as an artist and winning. Like as a producer, these are the kind of records I would make on you. It told me a lot, I didn't know you played the guitar like that dude, that was hot. What? Hello."
Ellen said: "Yeah, you can't go wrong with that song, it's just such a great song. And everybody, even if you don't know the song, it's such a great song to listen to. I thought you sounded great and I loved the guitar. I felt like on paper everything is there. I love you're look, I love the way you sound, But there's just a stiffness about you. I want you to just play on stage and move more, and even your expression -- you're smiling a lot but I want to see, I don't know, I want to see you perform more. But everything else is great."
Kara said: "Look, we all got the memo, the cougar is a fan. We all know, right? We got it, we got it. But tonight, I got to say, you took two steps backwards for me. Yeah, you did. Besides the fact that you're a great lead guitar player, which I love, this is a singing competition and tonight everything that was distinct about you -- upfront, center, honest -- went away and it was like you trying to play up there playing the guitar and singing. And the notes were off on the bottom, you didn't hit everything, and you didn't take the song to another level. And you can do that. Still a fan, but tonight two steps back baby."
Simon said: "Okay, this is where I sit. I'm kind of with Kara here... because I think last week you chose a great song, which was stand-out and it really, really worked. This week you turned into somebody you will see in any bar across America. Somebody trying to be a rock star. So I don't think that worked for you, that song, at all. I don't think you're got the grit in your voice to make that authentic."
Additional Notes: "That hurt a little bit... I don't have grit?" Casey replied after Simon made his grit comment. "No, more like sand," Simon fired back. "More like dirt," Kara added.
Alex Lambert, a 19-year-old from Fort Worth, TX who currently resides in North Richland Hills, TX
Song: "Everybody Knows" by John Legend
Randy said: "You know what I love about your package, I have my own language too, man. You know what, this is such an improvement for me over last week for you. I love you with the guitar, I love the confidence, I could see it. And it didn't sound as sound-alike as it had in the past, you kind of found your own niche with it a little bit. I really enjoyed that actually. Nice. And way legit tonight. Way legit tonight, dude."
Ellen said: "It's like someone took the unripe banana and put it in a paper bag. You know if you put an unripe banana in a paper bag it ripens faster? I don't know how you did that so quickly, but [it was] so much better than last week. And the confidence in you is like -- you know that was a compliment, right? I mean it's a compliment I'm saying, you have it, you just don't have the experience, that's the only thing. But you're gaining so much experience so quickly. Such a great voice, under that little mullet is a Sam Cooke voice. You got such a great voice and of everybody here I think you have the most unique style... you are somebody I've never seen before. I like it. I like it."
Kara said: "There isn't a person out there who isn't rooting for you. You can't look at you and see that performance and see where you were last week and see you today and not root for you. What you have is an incredible, recordable voice. People would die to have that tone. I mean producers, writers. And you have it and you don't even know what to do with it! And that's why I love this show, because you're going to learn, and one day we're going to sit here and go 'Oh my god, look at this, look where he came from.' Great improvement."
Simon said: "Alex, that was a million times better than last week. Having said that, let me just give you some advice -- the only time you should feel nervous is if you're useless. And you're not, you're actually got a very good voice. The only issue I have with you at the moment is, and I think the song reflected that, I don't get the feeling at the moment that you are taking part to win. If this was like a 100-meter sprint, you'd be quite happy coming in seventh, midpack. You have to have a killer, killer instinct now. I wish I was choosing your songs for you right now, because once you connect you with the song and you start believing that you actually may have a chance, you're going to see a different person. So from here on , I don't want to hear any more about this nerves, throwing up, or any of that nonsense. You just got to take part, take your opportunity and do your best, because you're a good singer."
Additional Notes: Before his performance, Alex had revealed that he uses a language he made up in the sixth grade to help him write songs and frequently vomits when nervous before big moments.
Song: "What's Love Got to Do With It" by Tina Turner
Randy said: "There's a reason that your here, [it's] because we really think that you're one of the best that we found. At the end of this song, when you did the falsetto run at the end, that was hot. What I find hard every week -- last week, this week -- it's like a great song doesn't need a different wild arrangement. Great is great, you just need somebody to sing it greatly. So, my thing is I didn't love this, I didn't love this at all. My thing to you, just sing a nice song and just sing it. Don't change the arrangement, don't change the beats, the accents -- just sing it. Because you can sing, just sing! For once!"
Ellen said: "I would not say just sing. I would say sing and move, because use your strength You're a dancer, and it doesn't matter if Simon said you were a dancer coming off [as a singer last week] -- maybe in that particular song you looked that way, but you should always go with your strength. If you're a performer, use that on stage. Be a performer. I don't think it was the right song at all, it's a hard song to sing anyways and it's not a current song. And I want you here. I hope people vote for you, but I don't think that song helped you get any votes and I hope people can give you another chance because that was not the right song."
Kara said: "That's it, Todrick, we all like you. You're a fun guy, you're likeable, and she's right about the dancing. When you started moving it actually got better. When you were stiff you weren't getting to the notes. For me the first song you ever sang us that you wrote, it was a simple melody... and it was great! But ever since that day it's... been all over the place, and I don't get it. What happened to Todrick with his unique spin on stuff that was not crazy all over the place? I don't know where that Todrick went. Where'd he go Simon?"
Simon said: "I don't know Kara. I would say Todrick, move but don't sing. Because this is not working out at all for you. I promise you I'm not being rude, it was just one of those performances I've had the misfortune to see at a theme park. Which is a group of dancers... it's true... it was of that caliber, which is a very corny, bad version of a Tina Turner song which has no relevance. And I don't know what's going through your head at the moment but you are getting this completely and utterly wrong. Sorry."
Additional Notes: Kara and Randy objected to Simon's theme park comparison. "That's mean. It wasn't that bad," Kara said. "That's harsh. It wasn't that bad," Randy added. Todrick pledged to take the judges' advice and "just come out and just sing" if he advances to next week's semifinals round. "I thought they wanted us to take songs and change them and make them our own, but I'm apparently doing it too much so I appreciate the criticism," he said. "It's too much," several of the judges replied.
Randy said: " I'll at least say this, it was definitely better than last week. But dude... oh man... it was just so close but so far at the same time. There were a couple of bright moments where you hit the falsetto -- the first high one you hit. Then I was like 'Ah, okay' [but] it just wasn't a great performance, you know? It's another tough song to sing... you needed to pull it back even more because Marvin wasn't really that kind of a gospel guy with that bravado and all of that kind of thing, it was more simple. Oh, I don't know."
Ellen said: "It doesn't feel good to get these notes, I know, but I'll start with the positive. I love your style and I love that you rock the [one-piece pajamas]. I think that you have great style and I would like to see you -- argh, I don't know, it just didn't work for me and I don't know what to say about it. It was off a little bit and [you] pushed too hard again, I think."
Kara said: "You can do all these things, which is impressive in itself. I mean you're hitting some crazy notes, some crazy runs. You're doing things that are different. The problem is that you're always doing too much. I think that you have to pull it back and look at the meaning of the song. Look at the lyrics. Come from here and don't worry about showing us that you can go up to your falsetto and you can drop back down again and hit a kind of blue note. It just feels forced, and it feels like you're just trying to show us every trick. We don't need every trick in every performance. One trick that means something, that's what I'm looking for."
Simon said: "Look, what everyone's saying here, I think, in a roundabout way, is that we're frustrated and disappointed. Because what you do is you water down the songs. You water it down. Because that is one of the best pop songs of all-time -- one of the greatest songs of all time -- but you make it lose its importance because you play around with it so much, nobody can take you seriously as an artist... you're got to work out the arrangements. Just you and the piano on that song with your voice would have worked."
Additional Notes: Simon said he was open to taking Jermaine up on his offer to come see him sing at church one Sunday. "Really?" Kara asked. "Why not?" Simon replied. "but I don't think that's church singing. Church singing, again, it kind of gets you. That was just, once again, you did a kind of a cabaret-type performance with it, therefore making you very old-fashioned." Afterward, Jermaine asked the judges tell him what song they wanted him to sing next week. "I'm not sure you're going to be here next week," Simon replied. Ellen suggested a Frankie Beverly and Maze type of vibe, which Randy agreed with.
Randy said: "Listen, I love James Morrison too -- amazing singer, amazing song -- [but[ Dog, honestly, that wasn't a vibe for you tonight. I don't get it, it was pitchy all over the place, honestly. And to me, you are way better than that, and I see you with your guitar doing your thing. Doing different kind of, more unique, quirky things. Almost more in the mode of a real singer/songwriter like Jason Mraz. This guy is really like a soul singer and Jason Mraz has soul and you have soul but you're not a soul singer. So I didn't get it dude, it wasn't good for me."
Ellen said: "I disagree with Randy. I thought there were a couple of little pitch problems but I liked it a lot, and I like that you take chances. You set the bar so high with that Paula Abdul song, that's the problem. We're always going to be disappointed because that was such a great song. But you can do it and I still am such a huge fan that I am thinking about getting your name tattooed on my neck. [No], I'm not. But I thought you were really good, it's just never going to live up to that [Paula song], you've got to top that somehow."
Kara said: "That is the problem. Because [you did] that 'Straight Up' [performance] so brilliant, and since then it's just kind of been going down. But I do like you because I do see that potential, that you can come back from that. You're a rhythmic singer, you're got to stay on the rhythm. You've got to surprise us. Like at least last week it was a different take, today you played it too safe. You were trying to do it more like James Morrison did it and I don't like that, I like it when you surprise us. And we need another big surprise from you. Right now."
Simon said: "Andrew, look, it's just frustrating once again. I mean when the previous contestant was asking what they should sing it's an indication that you're lacking something. And the fact that you haven't managed to choose the right song in two weeks is beginning to become a problem, because there are billions of songs out there that you could sing, do something original with it, [and] stand out in the crowd. With that song, you're never going to look back on that performance and go 'That was an incredible version of that.' It's just okay and you're better than okay. So I'm disappointed still in you."
Randy said: "I didn't know if I was going to like that because I didn't know what to really expect but I remembered when you were singing, when you started this song 'Yo, this is that young dude man that I loved in Hollywood Week.' Let me tell you something, the first half of that song was brilliant. The end, when you guys did the breakdown kind of thing it got a little strange but dude, you can really sing and that was 200% better for me than last week. Nice one Aaron."
Ellen said: "Yes, a whole lot more confidence and I liked the way you used the stage and moved around. You definitely, I think you sing very well. I think the song was just kind of, I think, a little forgettable and I think you did a lot with it, which shows us you can sing. I just wish that there was a different song that you chose for that personally. But you definitely have a great voice."
Kara said: "I liked it. I mean I really liked it. And I like you. I like that every time you step on that stage it's consistent. You've got a little bit of country twang, you do your thing to it. You've got a great bravado. You have control for someone your age. And I appreciate that, that I don't get confused. I don't think one week that you're going one thing and then the next week -- and that's actually a big statement for somebody your age who hasn't been doing this very long. I really like you and I think you're going to get better and better."
Simon said: "How old are you Aaron? Sixteen? See, this is really difficult because I didn't like the song, I'm going to be honest with you. It was all over the place and I think you actually went kind of backwards. What you're got to work out, and it's all there if you look at someone like Justin Bieber, you've got to work out at your age what kind of artist do you want to be, right? Because we could have heard that audition 15 or 20 years ago, 10 years ago. It's too old-fashioned. The arrangement was too old-fashioned. No, I'm being serious, I'm trying to help you here. You've got to come on here week after week [and] tell us, tell America, 'This is the kind of artist I want to be.' Not just sing that kind of song."
Additional Notes: Kara disagreed with Simon's suggestions. "I think he did his own version of that song... I like him," she said.
Randy said: "Listen man, I didn't really get it. It was kind of very karaoke for me. There was nothing special about it. Nothing jumped out, nothing made it unique. There were pitch problems everywhere. I don't know, I didn't get it."
Ellen said: "Yeah, keep that [booing] going for me... because you're going to boo me [too]. I've said it before, do you like to act, can you act? You should act. Like if you were on Glee and all of the sudden we heard you sing as well as act, girls would love you. Girls would go crazy if you were. But there's no charisma, there's no stage presence, and the voice isn't even strong enough. But you're so adorable and if you act you've got it made because then you can also sing a little. But I don't think the strong point is the singing. I'm sorry."
Kara said: "Well, I actually liked the song choice. I did, I see you more in that lane way more than OneRepublic. but you didn't make it your own and it's just frustrating with you because you look the part, you play the part, but it's not all there yet. There are moments where I go 'Ah!' and then it just kind of goes the opposite way. It's just not all adding up yet. It could be there, but I don't know yet that it's totally there. But I still want to see you next week."
Simon said: "Okay, Tim, this may surprise you but I'm going to disagree with these three. I thought that was a marked improvement on last week. I really do. And I'll tell you why. Because I think you really listened to the criticism. I think you chose a young song. You went back to what we liked about you initially. So I thought you were more relevant tonight than a lot of the other singers we've seen before, which really was karaoke. Which was just doing an old version of an old song. So I'm really impressed not just with your performance tonight but I'm really impressed by your attitude and your work ethic. You didn't whine, you got on with it, so congratulations, I thought you did great."
Additional Notes: Similar to last week's results show reaction to the discovery that he had advanced to the semifinals' second round, Tim's eyes appeared to widen in disbelief when Simon revealed his positive comments. "Wow!" he mouthed.
Randy said: "Listen, it was a bold move [not using your guitar] and I could see you were a little out of sorts with it but I liked that you're trying to take chances and come out of your comfort zone a little bit. Listen, I'm a huge fan of yours, I love you. I think the song had a couple of pitch problems but I liked it. I can see you in that space."
Ellen said: "Yes, I agree. A couple of little pitch problems but it doesn't matter because -- that's an example you didn't move around, you didn't really perform so much as stay still but there was so much passion and intensity. And maybe it was just nervousness, but it came out as a great performance because you were just really in that song and I thought that was great."
Kara said: "I thought it was a big improvement from last week, I did. I think there were some realll pitch problems last week and this week they're still there but the one thing I can say about you is I can hear you on the radio right now when you open your voice. When you open your mouth I just go 'Is that the radio?' Because it is, it's very commercial. Your look is commercial. You've got to kind of own stance a little -- we like you, we want you to stay. But good job."
Simon said: "Yeah, I was going to say that. Just raise your shoulders, because let me tell you, vocally I said this before, you are head and shoulders above everyone else in your side of the competition right now. You are. You are definitely the best singer. But I'm going to repeat myself: self-belief. I mean you look terrified right now.... I'm just waiting for you to totally, totally connect [and] lose your nerves, choose the right song, sing as good as we know you can. you may be the one to beat."
Additional Notes: Lee blamed his unfamiliarity with a microphone stand for his discomfort. "I'm not used to a mic stand at all," he said. "Yeah but Lee, that's not an excuse... you've just got to take the center," Simon replied.