It was R&B night tonight on "Idol," a theme that benefited some singers over others, but it was actually a night of overall solid performances from the contestants. It is the first week where there hasn't really been a shockingly bad performance by any of the contestants and it featured a number of really excellent showings, including several comeback performances by performers who had a tough time in recent weeks. R&B/pop superstar Usher coached the contestants, giving spot on criticism to the group. It was clear Usher knew what he was talking about and he was the perfect choice to mentor this week.
The night began with a performance of Chaka Kahn's Through the by Siobhan Magnus. Magnus had what was clearly her weakest performance so far, as she completely missed the mark on the song. It was off throughout and didn't feature any of the interesting qualities Magnus has previously exhibited in the competition. None of the judges were very positive about her performance and, as Simon said last week and again this week, the soft song with the scream at the end feels quite tired at this point. Magnus won't be able to depend on her vocal tricks for much longer and needs to figure out somewhere else to take her performance.
Casey James was completely in his element tonight, able to combine his rock style with his affinity for blues music. James sang Hold On, I'm Coming by Sam & Dave, making a perfect choice and giving him the opportunity to best showcase his talents. Ellen and Kara felt it was a safe choice, while Randy, Simon, and Usher disagreed. (Usher's "Wow" was priceless.) Simon said it was the strongest week James had thus far and that he was "really impressed with [James] this week." James took advantage of a theme that benefitted him, resulting in a performance that should definitely keep him around for next week.
Resident Mr. Sensitive Michael Lynche performed the India.Arie hit Ready for Love, bringing out his acoustic guitar and performing an intimate performance at The Edge of the stage. My biggest issue with Lynche is his lack of versatility; he seems to perform the same, emotional love song each week. It would be nice to see Lynche to take on a different type of song and branch out a bit in upcoming weeks. The judges, however, loved the performance, with Simon saying, "[I] can take you seriously as an artist." Lynche should have no troubles this week, but hopefully he will give us something new in the future.
Didi Benami missed again this week with Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. As always, Benami's voice is unique and enjoyable, but the performance was way over the top. Ellen called it overdramatic, with Simon agreeing, saying it "sounded like the [type of] singer you hear on a dance show." (Ouch!) A tough criticism for Benami, who seems to have lost the hook that made her great at the beginning of the season. Benami may be in some danger after tonight.
"Teflon" Tim Urban, known as such for his imperviousness to the judges' criticism, lived up to the title again this week, after being lambasted for his performance of Sweet Love by Anita Baker. The judges can't stand his uncaring attitude, with Kara getting visibly annoyed as he laughed off their harsh words. Simon put is perfectly: "You're going to smile, the audience is going to vote for you, nobody cares, and you'll be here next week." Urban is clearly benefitting from "Vote for the Worst" mentality, where contestants receive a number of votes even though they are clearly the weakest performers. This week, however, it would make a real difference in the competition, as none of the contestants are standouts to head home, other than Urban himself. It would quite the shock if he's not the one to take the fall.
The Andrew Garcia that won over audiences and judges alike in Hollywood was finally back tonight, singing his own version of the Chris Brown song, Forever. Garcia chose a current song and made it his own, without altering the original so much as to make it unrecognizable. I was a huge fan of the addition of strings to the arrangement, as they really complimented his acoustic guitar. Garcia seemed connected with the song and the judges were ecstatic that the he was back on his game. Of all the judges, Kara was happiest to see such a remarkable performance, saying, "Nothing makes me happier than to say that [this] is one giant leap in the right direction." Finally, Garcia is back in the game.