There were two real saving graces tonight. One was the fact that the show once again had the contestants pair up to perform duets. This device last year led to the incendiary Adam Lambert-Allison Iraheta duet on "Slow Ride." This year, we got a magnificent duet from Crystal and Lee on "Falling Slowly." It was truly gorgeous. Casey and Michael's performance of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" didn't even come close to Lee and Crystal, but it did give us Ellen's delightful quip: "Why, yes, I have really loved a woman."
The other saving grace was Jamie Foxx. Last year, when Jamie showed up as a mentor, I was dubious. Then and now, though, Jamie proved himself to be a thoughtful, insightful mentor. I loved how he challenged the singers to be artists and not just contestants. He's honestly one of the best mentors they've had. His focus on performance and artistry seems like it really helps contestants. Seriously, I just love the guy.
Okay, on to the rankings:
1. Crystal Bowersox ("I'm All Right") Crystal kind of took it easy the past couple weeks, choosing quirky, low key songs rather than big belters. As a result, Crystal was knocked around a little by the judges, so much so that suddenly Lee became the new de facto winner in their eyes. Crystal came punching her way out of the box this week though with a rockin', crunchy take on the Caddyshack theme song. I'm with Ellen and Kara -- she didn't just make the song her own; she made it better. She added a soul to the song that had never been there before. Suddenly, a song that previously only made me dance like a gopher puppet when I heard it became cool. funky, and a song I would like to have on my I-Pod. Like now. It may have been a perfect strategy from Mamasox in that it took the glare of "pre-determined winner" off her if ever so briefly and allowed her to save some vocal ammo for the weeks when that ammo really is needed.
2. Casey James ("Mrs. Robinson") Maybe I'm a little biased in that I really love Simon and Garfunkel. Like LOVE them. I liked how Casey stripped the song down and really put the loveliness of the tune on display. I do think, though, that the song (like last week's "Blue Skies") really showed a lot of the limitations of Casey's voice, particularly that goat-esque vibratto. Casey may benefit from the fact that, outside of Crystal, the other performances this week were equally meh, but I do think he's probably in danger. And if it means the end to the grossly inappropriate jokes about Kara's "crush" on Casey, then so be it. (Seriously, you guys, in the real world, that's called sexual freakin' harrassment!)
3. Michael Lynche ("Will You Be There") UGH! It's from Free Willy. Isn't that enough? And then that choir enters from behind Big Mike like he was the second coming of Ruben Studdard. PUKE! At least Mike is doing a slightly better job of faking humility, but how humble is it to pick a Michael Jackson song? Even a crappy one. And here's the thing I'm KIND of sick of -- singers defending their choice because "they liked the song." I know I praised Siobhan Magnus for not letting the original artist scare her away from a song she liked, but at some point, to be an ARTIST, you need to think beyond what you like and focus more on what WORKS. And this song does not work. Period. I suspect that it will be either Michael or Casey shown the door tomorrow night, and losing either one, at this point, would not break my heart. Either one would be a pretty week second runner up, but at the same time, either one is probably worlds better than some other second runners up (I'm looking at you, Nikki McKibben and Jasmine Trias!). An evil part of me thinks that since Mike said he had made it his goal a year ago to finish in the top three, I want it to be HIM sent home. Just because I love to see goals thwarted. Bwahahahaha!
4. Lee Dewyze ("Kiss From a Rose") Song choice, song choice, song choice!!! I love this song, but it really has a lot to do with the way Seal's voice caresses the notes. It is a song that benefits from Seal's artistry. In the hands of Lee, the song became, well, icky. His growl was ill suited for the delicacy of the melody. In all honesty, at times it felt like Lee's voice was going. He sounded more hoarse than raspy, and I kind of wondered if he'd be able to get through the song without it just giving out on him.. Despite the fact that he had the worst performance of the night, though, I don't think Lee is necessarily in danger. I mean, after all, Danny Gokey survived the hideous death wail of "Dream On" last season to crack the top three; Lee can survive this. He will likely be aided by the fact that his duet with Crystal was the best performance of the evening -- and that he had the benefit of the duet coming AFTER his solo performance. Memories are short, and "Falling Slowly" can erase a lot of ugly. A lot.
Seriously. A LOT.