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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Idol: 12 Finalists Compete

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I know a lot of you are going to say "Haw haw! You thought this show was about singing?" but it's really dispiriting to hear the judges repeatedly give feedback along the lines of  "You didn't hit all the notes but you did a great job."  Can't we at least try to pretend that singing well is still a big part of the show? But this is the top 12, the Stair part of the show.  People sing on the stairs. Ryan descends the stairs.  Idol and its precious stairs. There's no time for getting the notes right when there are stairs to think about!

If anything I was disappointed that Stones night was so average. I know it would have been expecting too much to have it be a great night but barring that, couldn't we have had a Sanjaya-level disaster tonight? That would have been more fun. 

Big Mike started the night off with "Miss You," which, style-wise, was a good choice for him since it's so bluesy, but Simon pointed out that Mike can get kind of corny sometimes, and he was right. Mike sucked the swagger out of the song, and the result was a little more smooth jazz than anything else. I think there is also such a thing as too much falsetto.  Ryan asked Simon to clarify his input and Simon asked if he should direct his answer to him or to Mike, and in response Ryan got all up in Simon's face, explaining in something of a clenched-teeth way that he was just trying to help Mike out. I don't care for this new aspect of Seacrest—toothy Ryan can be annoying but "edgy" Ryan is much worse.

Didi Benami sang "Play with Fire," and the audience did a really horrible job waving its arms along with her. I thought she sounded very strong on the chorus but out of it in the verses and at one point she seemed to lose the melody entirely (thus being the first of many occasions where the judges forgave bad singing). I agreed though with Kara that the sweetness of Didi's voice worked well in contrast to the eerie nature of the song but Simon wants her to do better which I think is good advice since she hasn't demonstrated herself as one of the more essential contestants to date.

Casey covered "It's All Over Now," which was a good choice for him, since he got to be rock n' roll and bluesy and country all at once.   While Casey did an OK job I agreed with Simon's critique, that he didn't fill up the space or have a lot of star presence during his performance.  Ellen liked it but in so many words said it didn't make her yearn for penis.

Lacey sung "Ruby Tuesday" and in retrospect I can't even really remember her performance, which is not a great sign.  It was a little sleepy and it sounded a bit out of her range.  Ellen agreed with me and noted that it was strange that Lacey was standing for the quieter part of the song and sat for the buildup. Simon said that there was nothing wrong with the vocals, with which I disagreed.

Andrew Garcia's grandpa had such high hopes for him that he assumed the kid would grow up to be a custodian.  Garcia took on "Gimme Shelter" which is a bad choice for a show like this since that song is all about the awesome backup singers.  I thought Andrew actually sung OK but something just didn't come together and it was flat, not electric and frightening the way the song should be.  Kara agreed with me and Simon accused her of being too literal, but regardless of whether Andrew channeled the original meaning of the song, it needed to have an edge to it and he missed it.  But, as Simon said, better than another week of "Straight Up."

Katie took on "Wild Horses," a song that always makes me think of Marky Mark finger banging Reese Witherspoon on a roller coaster, but I am a sentimental fool.  Before singing, Ryan paid her the ultimate insult and tried to "get" her by quizzing her on who the Stones' lead singer was.  I actually liked the song choice for her—it's a good song for a gal to cover. She went off the melody a few times and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't but I think she at least didn't make America look like a complete jerk for voting her through last week.

Tim Urban covered "Under My Thumb," in a reggae type style which musically maybe made sense despite being, as Ellen pointed out, cheesy and boring but moreover it was just odd to hear such a dark song covered in such a light and happy manner.  This was also the first time I noticed Tim's intense vibrato, which bugged me along with his long fingernails which I know are necessary for finger-picking but I have a thing about guys and long fingernails. Ellen and Randy were right to tell Tim he sucked although Kara applauded Tim for doing something "different" but let's be real, they all do something "different" these days—that's not something to congratulate the contestants on automatically.

Siobhan reminds me of Adam Lambert in that I really really hate it when she hits those high screechy notes and I feel like I'm the only person who feels that way.  I liked the first part of her cover of "Paint it Black," with a somewhat waltzy arrangement, but then she rocked it out and that's where it sounded less in-tune and more boring.  The judges loved it and I feel like the more people laud her, the more annoyed I get.

Lee DeWyze, the "pride of Chicago," covered "Beast of Burden." The judges pretty much covered all my impressions of his performance: that he sounded like Dave Matthews, that there was nothing wrong with it but he could have done more with it. Simon wants a moment.

While I don't think Paige got her moment, I think she redeemed herself a little bit from last week's performance with "Honky Tonk Women," which she apparently did while suffering from laryngitis.  Simon felt the song choice was a little generic and that she needs to connect more. I would just like to say I think she's the prettiest of the female contestants.

Aaron Kelly. What can I say about him? He's mini-Timberlake.  He covered "Angie" proficiently if not a bit boringly for my tastes but I admit he would have to do something astounding to make me praise him extensively. I liked it when Ellen accused him of copying her hairstyle. 

Crystal sang "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and in contrast to Aaron, I fully admit to favoring her whenever possible. I thought she built the song up nicely and let loose with the vocals more than last week. The judges didn't like it as much as I did and in retrospect while she sang well I think she still has it in her to pick a song and knock it out of the park not just vocally but also by singing a song like she had been dreaming of doing that one song on a big stage her whole life. 

Tomorrow Kesha's going to perform. I am not putting that $ in her name until I can start calling myself "¢laire." I predict she's going to stink.

—I frequently call my girlfriends "you guys" but I never refer to them as "the guys," as Kara does to Ellen (and Randy).

—Whose dad would you rather have, Crystal's or Siobhan's?