Idol Thoughts — 03.16.10

I recently added some Rolling Stones classics to my iTunes library. This was a few weeks ago. I didn’t know American Idol was planning a theme night for them. I just realized that I needed to hear these guys again.

I’m listening to the Stones as I write this. And one big thing is clear about last night’s Idol. The musicians that back up the contestants, led by Rickey Minor, were a disappointment, lacking the vitality and energy of these original recordings.

But, what did anyone expect? The Rolling Stones are considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all-time for a reason. The contestants have no control over the band behind them. So let’s look at what they do control–their performances. I will attempt to rank from best to worst.

Best of the night:

1) Aaron Kelly – “Angie” – I’m as surprised as anyone to be typing Aaron’s name at the top of the list. The standard I’m using to determine the best performance is this: What song from last night do I want to hear again the most? This is it. Plain and simple. It’s a case of a contestant landing the perfect song among the choices available, and nailing it on show night.

2) Siobhan Magnus – “Paint It Black” – Of all the Top 12-ers, Siobhan is one the that convinced me she “gets” the music of the Rolling Stones the most. Looking great and sporting Jennifer Grey‘s Dirty Dancing hairdo, the Idol folks threw all their support behind this performance; Siobhan got the best light show. Even so, she needs some more time on that big stage to work on making every move seem effortless. And watch out on these massive notes she’s hitting to end songs. Last night’s got a little screechy.

3) Lee Dewyze – “Beast Of Burden” – Yeah, this was a safe choice. I suggested Lee should sing “Gimme Shelter” in my previous blog. Instead that song got mangled by someone else. But the fact is Lee’s Dave Matthews Band take on this song sounded great. And better each time I re-listen to it–which is why Lee’s name is here and not one slot below.

4) Crystal Bowersox – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Good stuff. But I expected more from her because she’s so talented. To resurrect a complaint from earlier in the season, Crystal’s performance last night was a little “coffee house-ish.” Especially those funky little phrases Crystal tossed in between lines of lyrics that Ellen DeGeneres applauded as “showing her personality.” I disagree. That crap is lame and hacky.

Middle of the pack:

5) Didi Benami – “Play With Fire” – A great vocal that was downgraded by a tentative performance. I mean, there were split seconds where it felt like she was going to stop due to forgetting the words. Didi’s another one who’ll need some time to learn how to use the big stage. Overall, it seemed she needed some more rehearsal time.

6) Casey James – “It’s All Over Now” – Does it bug me that this isn’t a song written by the Stones? Yeah, a little, cuz I’m a geek like that. But it was a smart song for Casey. Every several years comes along a young, good-looking guy that makes blues rock “cool” again. Casey the latest “that guy.” He was very comfortable and in his element last night. And is clearly the best musician on the show–by far.

7) Michael Lynch – “Miss You” – Okay. I suggested this was a Stones song that would not be performed because it’s not a great showcase for the vocalist. So “Big Mike” made a good move by changing the arrangement, giving himself more room to “sang it.” But for me, I didn’t really like the new arrangement as much. Otherwise, I’d be rating this higher. One thing was clear, though. Big Mike is definitely at home on the larger stage; he’s one of the show’s most natural performers.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Wild Horses” – This performance won’t make fans out of Lilly Scott fans, who probably feel Katie should be watching the show in her family’s living room. But Katie made something of a comeback. Solid version. I heard the potential in her voice last night to record country music, if that’s something she wants to do.

Lagging behind:

9) Paige Miles – “Honky Tonk Women” – Paige revised the lyrics (the song’s about honky tonk women, she sang it as a honk tonk woman). I’m not sure the song made any sense. But it did make sense for her to sing one of these rockin’ bluesy Stones songs. Paige was back in her comfort zone, and turned in a capable vocal despite some serious laryngitis.

10) Lacey Brown – “Ruby Tuesday” – I’m not sure why I’m rating Lacey so low on the list. Maybe because of the original of this song is just gorgeous. Lacey’s version seemed a little “precious.” Don’t ask me to define what I mean by that. I’m simply typing the word that best reflects what I felt.

11) Andrew Garcia – “Gimme Shelter” – Not good. A big disappointment. This song needed a bigger voice behind it. Lacking that, Andrew needed to take another route with the song. Instead, he went straight at it. And hit the wall.

Worst of the night:

12) Tim Urban – “Under My Thumb” – I hated this. Tim revamped this one in the style of some Jason Mraz acoustic reggae. The whole thing was a disaster…and came off a little creepy. I warned against doing this song in my previous blog. The only question in my mind: will general “adorableness” save him with voters this week? I say it will.

So, who will be in the bottom three tonight? I’m going with the three at the bottom of my list: Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and Lacey Brown. Although, I’d hardly be surprised if Paige Miles landed in there.

Who’s going home? My feeling is Lacey Brown.


Greg Valentine
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PS: Oh. And my prediction for the group sing tonight? “It’s Only Rock And Roll.”



  1. Excellent analysis. I am a big Crystal fan, so the only difference of opinion here is that I would have had her in Lee’s Position.

  2. “Lame and hacky” towards Crystal Bowersox?

    This is rich criticism coming from a radio jock who thought mashing up Greg Valentine with Valentine’s Day was witty and clever while doing it more than once.

  3. Crystal is one of my faves. A fresh, new voice–especially for the American Idol world. I’m confident Crystal will make an album I’d enjoy listening to.

    But no one gets a “free pass” when I write these. She wasn’t the best Tuesday night. I call it as I see it.

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