'American Idol' Top 9: Casey James, Katie Stevens blossom

casey-james-katie-stevens.jpg Casey James and Katie Stevens both had their best performances yet on "American Idol" Beatles week, while Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze failed to wow us.

We weren't able to attend in person this week, so we will have to make do with the TV broadcast. Also, did Simon Cowell smoke something in honor of Beatles week? Because he was saying some crazy things tonight.

Here is our list, from best to worst:

Tier 1: Casey James, Katie Stevens

No. 1 Casey James, "Jealous Guy"

This was just an outstanding performance. It was soulful and bluesy and emotional, Casey really connected with the song. The guitar was still skillful without becoming distracting and the range was right in his sweet spot vocally. Between his looks and turning in performances like this, Casey might stick around awhile. This was incredibly solid and very current.

No. 2 Katie Stevens, "Let It Be"

There is a difference between sounding current and sounding young. The judges keep harping on her to be younger, but you know what? This was her best performance and she didn't sound at all her age. She sounded incredibly mature and heartfelt. Katie also demonstrated exactly how you change a song without altering it so much that it's unrecognizable. Really beautiful. And btw, Simon Cowell trying to take credit by saying it was kind of "country"? What does country & western music sound like in England? This was actually a million times closer to Kara's assessment that Katie is pop-R&B.

Tier 2: Siobhan Magnus, Michael Lynche, Crystal Bowersox, Lee Dewyze

No. 3 Siobhan Magnus, "Across the Universe"

Her weird spiel about her younger sisters aside, Siobhan bounced back from a pretty rough week to have a restrained, nuanced and perfectly on pitch performance without using her patented shriek. We all forget what a good voice is hiding in there sometimes. Kara criticized her for being too restrained, which is rich since they've told her to tone it down previously. Also, it fit the song. It wasn't sleepy either, like Randy and Ellen said. It's a ballad. Some ballads are slow. We found it haunting.

No. 4 Michael Lynche, "Eleanor Rigby"


We are at odds with the judges on this one. After David Cook masterfully rocked out on "Eleanor Rigby" (plus it being our favorite Beatles song), we weren't sure Michael should pick this. But his R&B changed the song completely and left a really solid performance in its wake. It wasn't blow-me-away good, but it was definitely better than Simon would have you believe. Plus, "musical"? What are musicals like in England? Again, this was current R&B all the way.

No. 5 Crystal Bowersox, "Come Together"


We disagree with the judges -- this was completely old-fashioned. It was like Janis Joplin meets the Beatles and we could not hear this on a radio station nowadays at all (at least not any stations that aren't Classic Rock). And that's fine, but let's call a spade a spade. Her unanimous praise is getting old -- she should be told when she has an off week. Randy came the closest when he said twice it wasn't her best performance. It wasn't. And several Idols out-sang her Tuesday night.

No. 6 Lee Dewyze, "Hey Jude"

This is a sing-songy, repetitive song. All you can really do is wait until the end when the backup singers take over the "nah nah nahs" and try to let it rip. Unfortunately, it just turned into pure karaoke, complete with a break-down and Lee trying to get the audience to clap over their heads. This was a terrible choice for him. He could've done so much more with making a current-sounding performance out of "Penny Lane" or "Day Tripper." Here's hoping he's safe because Kara is right that his voice is the most radio-friendly of the bunch, but this was a bad night for Lee. 

Tier 3: Andrew Garcia, Tim Urban, Aaron Kelly

No. 7 Andrew Garcia, "Can't Buy Me Love"


We think we get what Andrew was going for -- a throwback, Buddy Holly, pompadour, Elvis kinda vibe (Randy Jackson'd). But if he was trying to get his Brian Setzer on, he needed to go bigger. He needed like a powder blue tuxedo and a stand-up bass. Simon was right to criticize Andrew and the band, but we think instead of pulling it back, he could've gone the other way and done more with it. The vocal by itself wasn't bad and the break-down, like Kara pointed out, was great. But overall, not that strong.

No. 8 Tim Urban, "All My Lovin'"

Of course he did one of the most bubble gum Beatles songs. Of course. Tim Urban is like a little wind up muppet and he smiles and he bops around and he plucks his guitar and lalalala. Between his mop-top hair and the smile and this tween-friendly song, he isn't going anywhere. But damn. All he was missing was a head waggle in time to the music. We fully expected to see hoards of panties just a-flyin' on stage.

We also love how Randy Jackson has just completely given up in regards to Tim. He's going to judge the performances on a Sliding Scale of Tim. Well, that's nice. Heck, we can say that some songs the homeless man on our block sings are better on the Homeless Man Scale than others, but that doesn't mean he should be on "American Idol," understand Jackson?

No. 9 Aaron Kelly, "Long and Winding Road"

Let's just say that Aaron Kelly's "Long and Winding Road" is aptly titled. This season's David Archuleta he is not. Could he even hear himself? It was flat almost the entire way through, he has the stage presence of a tree stump and the final last note was like his "Idol" death rattle. Go home, Aaron Kelly!

Who's going home?

Tim Urban has the hit the Bottom 3 several weeks in a row now, is it finally his time? We can only hope. If not him, maybe Aaron Kelly or Andrew Garcia? They've never hit the Bottom 3, though, and Katie Stevens has several times. But she was phenomenal tonight. Let's hope she isn't a surprise elimination and one of those three gentlemen is packing his bags. It's way past time for a guy to leave anyway.

Thoughts & Tidbits

  • More didgeridoos and bagpipers, please. They made for excellent jokes all around. Our personal fave was Ellen wondering if the bagpiper got separated from his parade. For some reason that conjured the image of the band in "Animal House" being led straight into the wall. Maybe next week for strange instruments we can get a spoon player or someone can let their balalaikas ring out.
  • We love Andrew and Lee's bromance, but the best comment of all time was Crystal Bowersox: "I'm so glad they can get married and have lots of little Danny Gokey babies." That is funny on several levels.
  • Way to snub Lacey Brown, Ryan Seacrest. "Hey David Boreanaz, hey Emily Deschanel! You are dead to me, girl who was on the show two weeks ago."

Did you guys hear? Adam Lambert is next week's guest mentor!

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Photo credit: FOX