Before I recap the show, let’s talk about Simon Cowell and his handling of Siobhan Magnus last night. Simon’s critique turned a bad performance by a good singer into a full scale humiliation. It wasn’t what he said so much as how long he kept saying it. She stunk last night, and she knew it. She took it from Simon for a very long, uncomfortable time, because she knew that she deserved it. Siobhan finally had enough, though, and talked back to him. He had been hammering on her for almost two minutes before she said anything. When she said “but it’s not!”, when he said “If this were the first time we had seen you…” it really set him off.
He attacked her breathing, said that she sang so poorly that she didn’t sound like she deserved to be here, said he is sick of her screaming, and even went after her wardrobe. If Ellen hadn’t interrupted him he would have probably gone after her family and her friends, or actually ran up onto the stage and punched her. He was that angry. The other judges tried to defend her, and tried to repair some of the damage that Simon was inflicting on this kid’s very fragile 19 year old confidence, but it became an argument about how bad Siobhan sang. Through the eternal and tedious bickering Siobhan had to stand up there, stewing uncomfortably in front of the cameras.
Idol decided to interview the contestants after their performance last night. Since Siobhan sang first, she got the first interview. Good timing. Siobhan’s interview was skipped (I’m sure that it was her choice not to talk, who would want to talk after what had just happened?). They followed her into the Green Room with a camera because, you know, they were there and they were supposed to film her. She passed off a couple of hug attempts, getting as far from the camera as she could, just saying over and over; “Don’t even worry about it. It’s fine. Don’t EVEN worry about it”. The other contestants all had that look on their faces, you know the look; like they had just witnessed a car wreck. They were glad as hell that they weren’t Siobhan right then, but that had to be wondering what Simon would do to them if they messed up. It might have been the most awkward moment I’ve ever seen on the show.
We have to remember that Simon has already quit this show. He is going to produce a directly competing show once his contract runs out after this year. Siobhan wasn’t the first victim of his very sharp sword. There have been dozens of questionable critiques coming out of Simon’s mouth, from the beginning of the season. He wanted Casey James and Didi Benami out at their auditions. He dumped several singers in theHollywoodrounds that might have been interesting, to get his own candidates in. Those candidates? Tim Urban, Paige Miles and Lacey Brown. Last night he was negative towards everyone but Casey and Lee, and he’s been negative towards Casey and Lee on almost every other show. He even established some negativity towardsCrystalwhile supposedly, on the surface, praising her. It’s been clear for several weeks that he doesn’t like Siobhan. Even when she’s been so good that he couldn’t really hammer on her, he gets his bile in there. Go back and watch her critiques. He has said “terrible” or “hate” (or both) in every review of Siobhan this season, even after “Think” and “Paint it Black”. He was almost gleeful tonight; savoring his opening, when she sang so badly, to destroy her.
I watched the show and did these reviews last season. Simon has always leaned towards negativity, but not nearly to this extent. Has he, just once, just said “terrific”, or “good job”, or anything without a disclaimer? He did that many, many times last year, and the year before, and the year before that. He’s never been very good at picking the best singers, but he always treaded the line of decency when his job was on the line. Now that his job is no longer on the line his gloves are off, and we are seeing the real Simon.
These singers are not nearly as bad as he is making them out to be. As I said several weeks ago, this group is very young and inexperienced. They need more encouragement than an older group would. Every contestant with talent but shaky nerves, and fragile confidence, can be pushed forward, or backwards. Simon has been consistently pushing them towards nervous performances, and confusing them with inconsistent instructions. Snidely Whiplash couldn’t have done a better job of destroying the show this year.
There is a measurable amount of tension between Ryan and Simon this season. Ryan will be back next year on Idol. Simon will be competing with Idol. Which one of them is working for the show, and which one is working against the show?
Ok, on to the show:
Siobhan didn’t have to sit in the hard chairs after all. While Ryan talked to her, it was obvious that Siobhan expected to be sent to the hard chairs. When she was told that she was safe she almost looked like wanted to fall apart, but she gathered herself and told Ryan (ok, she told Simon with a balled, figurative fist) that she won’t ever feel defeated, no matter what happens. Did I mention that I love this kid?
The Bottom Three is Didi, Tim and Katie. Dammit. It’s going to be Didi, isn’t it? Katie got sent back right away, and Tim isn’t ever going home.
Yep. It’s Didi. She is screwed; they are not going to save her with 10 to go.
It’s not like Idol has never rewarded a woman; Kelly Clarkson won, Carrie Underwood won, Fantasia Barrano won, Jordan Sparks won. We have lost three of the six women in the first three weeks now, though, and a cute southern boy won last year over the best contestant in the show’s history. Is American Idol turning into Cougar Idol? Teenaged girls all text like crazy these days, and their mothers are the largest voting bloc that the show has. Texting isn’t controlled by the show, so they can vote thousands of times if they want to. IfCrystaldoesn’t win this year we’ll know that Idol has a problem.
The power rankings will be tough tonight. There was a lot of movement in the middle, and what do I do with Siobhan? The only obvious choices are at the top (Crystal) and at the bottom (what in the hell is Tim still doing here?).
9- Tim Urban… Tim isn’t in the top one million singers in theUnited States. I’ve run jam sessions, I’ve worked while Karaoke was going, and I spent a good part of two decades in bars at night, listening to music of one form or the other. I’ve heard thousands of people sing, maybe tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. I don’t remember a single night when he would have been the best singer in the house. There is always a better singer than Tim Urban; passed out on the bar, hitting on the waitress, or just dropping in for a drink. I doubt that more than 2 or 3 percent of the karaoke hosts aren’t demonstrably better singers than Tim Urban is. The list of casualties is getting longer by the week, and Teflon Tim just keeps bouncing bullets off of his chest. It’s amazing that only eight singers are left between this kid and him being the next American Idol. I am sure he’s a really nice guy, and I don’t want to get mad about him being here, but every week he stays and someone interesting goes just makes this year a little weaker.
8- Katie Stevens… She has talent, but she is years from being polished enough for this stage. To me she is getting worse and worse as the accumulated “advice” from the well meaning judges weighs her down like an anchor.
7- Andrew Garcia… He was much better this week. Ok, my man, can you back that up with another strong performance?
6- Siobhan Magnus… I’ll err on the side of caution here. If Siobhan can get back to doing what she was doing from the semis to the first round of the finals, she will be right back up there in the two spot. She is in a tough place right now. She peaked once already. While she is farther along than Katie or Tim (or Aaron), she is still a kid just like they are.
5- Aaron Kelly… I can’t warm up to Aaron, and it probably shows when I critique him. He isn’t a singer yet, and he doesn’t have adult emotions. He has vocal chops, though, and it’s not his fault that he is too young to have deep feelings. I guess my problem is that he seems too much like a teenaged lounge lizard, impersonating emotions because he doesn’t have his own yet. I like the kid down the road, but he just doesn’t do anything for me right now. There is no rock and roll in him yet, and no rhythm and blues. If, next week, he tries to blow it off the stage, it might just make me laugh.
4- Casey James… Casey is amazing to me, not that he himself is amazing but that he is the only guy in the competition of his type. How many Southern Rock singers and blues guys did Simon have to get tossed to leave us with just this one? There had to have been dozens of singers like Casey, and it would be an amazing thing if none of them had a much stronger voice than Casey has. I know several myself, and most of them were better than Casey when they were young enough to audition for Idol. I’ve worked with better, and we play for peanuts in small towns. I really root for Casey. He’s one of us.
3- Michael Lynche… I gave Lee the upper spot because Lee has an obvious hook, while Mike has to work like hell to find a good fit every week. If Siobhan doesn’t recover from her mugging, one of them is going to be in the finale.
2- Lee Dewyze… I am Lee’s biggest fan, and I picked him as a standout based on about 6 seconds of airtime in his audition. That said, it would be an incredible feat for him to win Idol with no stage personality at all. If this were a normal year Lee would be a solid, fifth place finisher and get an Indy label to sign him and make an album. With Simon doing his level best to ruin all the interesting singers, suddenly Lee has a shot at the title.Crystal should win, and probably will win, but the cougars might have a say in it.
1- Crystal Bowersox… After Siobhan’s pratfallCrystal is now miles ahead of everyone. I have said very little aboutCrystal compared to Siobhan so far. This is partly because I have gotten so interested in Siobhan’s Cinderella story, but also becauseCrystal is obviously going to be here until the end. I don’t want anyone to think that I am bored by her. I’ll be talking about her a lot more as the show goes on.
Nine left, and plenty of drama to come. I had to talk about Simon more in this one recap than I ever want to talk about Simon in my lifetime.
Facts: Simon is in the last year of his contract; he is going to another show, to compete directly with Idol next year. This is like Ichiro playing his last year for the Mariners, while he is under contract with the Yankees next year. This is like Benedict Arnold wearing the uniform of the newly formed United States Army, while he is being paid by the British. This is a man who is working under contract, for a show that he is contractually obligated to compete with by another show, a show that he himself is producing. I am just floored by the conflict of interest. I wonder what Siobhan thinks. She has a decent vocabulary, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know any four letter words.