casey james 320 'American Idol': The Top 12 men disappoint    except Casey James and Lee DewyzeThe Top 12 men of “American Idol” take the stage and it is NOT. GOOD.

Hilariously, before they start, Simon immediately scares the beejeezus out of the guys by saying that if they screw up tonight, their careers are over. That will turn out to be very prescient for most of the men. If all the bad ones had to leave, we’d have like four guys left.

1. Todrick Hall, 24, “Since You’ve Been Gone,” Kelly Clarkson
This is a dubious song choice because he’s futzing with a song by an “Idol” queen. He has to know he’s going to get slammed. The R&B vibe is a bold choice and he deserves props for taking such a huge risk, but it doesn’t work. There are bum notes and the chorus is not good. It’s not that he did it, it’s that he didn’t do it well. That’s the problem.

Ellen echoes those sentiments, but does say she thought it was great. Randy says he’s a fan of Todrick’s but that it didn’t sound like the same song and that it’s a great song, that’s why it’s a hit. Kara tells him not to change the arrangement so drastically but applauds that he took a risk. Simon says he came off as a dancer trying to sing rather than a singer who can also dance. He also didn’t think the risk improved upon the song and that he murdered the original.

Now, it’s fine to say that the risk didn’t work, but it’s harsh to take him to task for obliterating the original song when they applauded Adam Lambert for doing that last year. You can say something works or it doesn’t, but you can’t act like it’s okay when some people do it and it’s blasphemy when others do. They are confusing whether it worked with whether or not Todrick should try it at all, and since last night they took several ladies to task for NOT changing up their songs and making them their own, it rings pretty false. 

But this happens all the time on “Idol.” Criticism is never consistent. It’s annoying.

2. Aaron Kelly, 16, “Here Comes Goodbye,” Rascal Flatts

Aaron sounds much heartier than he has before. He has sounded thin and nasal in the past, but this is pretty good. He sounds like he’s straining on the higher notes and his jump up into his falsetto does not work, but the lower stuff is nice. He’s just … very young. Aaron needed to wait a few years before he tackled “Idol.” That performance was a little karaoke-y.

Simon says it was quite good but wants more confidence. Kara loves how great his natural talent is. Randy says he can definitely do it. Ellen says he’ll be there a long time.

3. Jermaine Sellers, 27, “Get Here,” Oleta Adams

Let’s hope Jermaine tears this up a little because the start is breathy, low and hard to hear. Nobody is going to remember this if he doesn’t get bigger. Of course, “bigger” does not mean shrieking like you’re passing a stone, which is what Jermaine then does. Dogs are howling outside the theater. Yikes. That was the wrong song, first of all, and it wasn’t done well.

Ellen says he was pushing too much (yes) but she liked the song for him (no). Randy says he should’ve been more current, but if he was going to do this song, he didn’t’ have to do so much with the melody. Kara says you have to pick your spot for a run and that it felt old. Simon compares it to a cocktail bar song and that Jermaine oversang and screamed in the middle.

Wow, Jermaine Sellers is tall! Tim Urban is next. I’m declaring right now that Tim Urban does not suffer at all from being fairly obscure and only joining the Top 24 at the last minute. He’s a total Kris Allen cutie and the girls are going to love him, barring some kind of complete trainwreck performance.

I don’t usually review the video components or interviews (because they’re boring), but Tim not telling his family about making the Top 24 and letting them see it on TV is the best thing ever. Hilarious.  

4. Tim Urban, 20, “Apologize,” One Republic
Oh, Tim. You can’t pick this song if you can’t pull off the falsetto,. Just no. No. This is terrible. The rest of it isn’t bad, per se, but it’s hard to get past the barely-there falsetto. Very weak performance. If Tim stays, it’s because he’s so cute. Seriously. (Though he needs a haircut.)

Simon says based on that performance, they made the right choice not to pick him the first time. Wow. Kara says he got buried by the song. Randy says wrong song and cites the lack of falsetto. Ellen says it’s smart to choose a current song but the high notes weren’t there. She and Kara both fall back on the “but you’re cute” thing, which is totally true.

Ryan then makes Tim sing for his supper. “Why should you stay? Convince us!” Tim says it was a last minute switch and that he picked it because he was fun.

5. Joe Munoz, 20, “You and I Both,” Jason Mraz
Joe could easily be declared the “best so far.” The bar is low, Joe. Just take a tiny hop and you’ll clear it. Unfortunately, then the song starts. Joe is hard to hear and nearly unintelligible. When he gets to the chorus, it doesn’t get any better. WTF is happening tonight on “Idol”?

Ellen says it was really good and he had good stage presence. Randy says, “Again, for me, for you” it was not the right song choice but he worked it out. Kara likes the unusual song choice and says “best so far.” Well … yeah, but what does that say? Simon says Joe is not a star and was safe and forgettable.

6. Tyler Grady, 20, “American Woman,” The Guess Who
The low-key intro is cool and he manages to get in some fun screams without going over to the side of “Yikes, stop screaming at us.” However, that song consists of basically one line repeated many times and Tyler didn’t really get to show off his chops, but it will definitely keep him here. It was certainly more interesting than what we’ve seen so far.

Simon says the plus side is it was memorable but the down side is that it was too fake-y in its rock star gimmick. Kara wants to see more originality and less schtick. Randy babbles something, I was distracted. Ellen says he needs to work on the singing and do more than just pose on stage.

So after that pretty terrible first half, it can only get better, right? Right?

7. Lee Dewyze, 23, “Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol
Lee perfectly straddles the line between staying true to the original and changing it up to make it his own. There is one really bum note at the start of the chorus, but overall it’s strong. My god, compared to what came before him? That was a masterclass. Also, Lee reminds me of Mr. Tumnus from the “Narnia” movie.

Ellen says good song choice but she didn’t like the scream-y parts. She also says his tone is great. Randy didn’t like the song, he wanted a harder rock song. Kara says the song was unrecognizable at parts. Uh, that was the point! You want the kids to change it up, stop beating them down when they do! Simon completely disagrees because he thought best so far by a mile. Totally.

John Park says of Shania in his video package, “She is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in real life.” As Kara sits next to her at the audition. Snerk.

8. John Park, 21, “God Bless the Child,” Mikalah Gordon Jazz Standard
John has some weird pronunciation things happening and a really bad low note, but his tone is nice. It gets better when he gets to the bridge and is out of his lower register. He puts a really nice ending on it, but overall it was kind of a nice-sounding cardboard cutout. He needs to work
on his personality, but he’s got some good things happening vocally.

Simon says his voice wasn’t big enough for that song and that there was no emotion. Kara agrees and says it was sleepy and indulgent. Randy said when he hit the bridge, then it got good. Wow, Randy and I are simpatico tonight. But it was too old for him. Ellen liked the performance but wanted something a little more current.

9. Michael Lynche, 26, “This Love,” Maroon 5
Interesting song choice. Hmm. It’s a little bubble-gum-poppy for Lynche’s voice. Where’s the big soulful R&B song? This doesn’t show off what kind of artist he would be at all. On the very last line, when Michael slows down, you see a sliver of what he could’ve done with this song. He should’ve slowed the whole thing and done it as a slow jam.

Ellen loves his personality and song choice but says there were a few pitch problems. Randy likes his persona and then he and Michael devolve into something about the chiropractor and dawgs. Kara loved the energy but does say that if they’d had a lot of great performances, they would’ve been more critical of Michael. It was aight, but not outrageously great. She says he should challenge himself. Simon says there wasn’t a lot of “there” there.

10. Alex Lambert, 19, “Wonderful World,” James Morrison
Doesn’t he remind you of Matt Saracen? Anyway, Alex starts the song and … wow. This is terrible. Pitchy and thin and off the beat and just … so bad. This is bizarro “Idol”! Everybody stinks tonight!

I miss the judges comment because my computer freezes and I panic, thinking I have lost the 1600+ words I’ve written so far. I have to force shut down my computer and thank God my recap is still there when I restart. Panic. Complete and utter terror, y’all. Sorry I missed the judges. I can only imagine that Simon was waiting for the sweet embrace of death to take him during that performance.

11. Casey James, 27, “Heaven,” Bryan Adams
This suits Casey’s voice extremely well and the acoustic guitar is great. He’s not 100% great but it’s the strongest so far. His take on the bridge is particularly good. It’s hard to ignore the ridiculous judges, but somehow Casey muddles through.

The judges are completely off-the-rails at this point. Kara says he’s eye candy but also ear candy, Ellen says great, Randy says good song choice and swagger and Simon says it was the best singing performance by Casey so far.

12. Andrew Garcia, 24, “Sugar We’re Going Down,” Fall Out Boy

This is not that good. It’s a very low-key song and doesn’t show off Andrew’s voice enough. He sounds one-note and thin, it was way too safe and boring. Nobody really came out and killed it tonight.

Simon was looking forward to him more than anyone else but was disappointed. Join the club, Simon. Kara liked that he took the risk, but says it didn’t work. (Where as that critique on Todrick?) Randy is a fan of Andrew. Ellen says he’ll be carried by the Paula song and he’ll stick around.

Recap Recap: Todrick pooping on Kelly Clarkson, Aaron … wow, I’d forgotten about him, Jermaine making sounds like he’s getting his prostate examined by Captain Hook, Tim faking a falsetto, Joe now seeming half-way decent by comparison, Tyler going the easy route, Lee giving the first good performance of the night, John auditioning for the Rat Pack, Michael channeling open-mic night at a college coffeehouse, Alex making us all wonder how he even got in front of the judges way back in his audition, Casey finally giving a Top 24 performance and Andrew disappointing.

That was rough. I want the two hours of my life back. Even the best of the night Casey wasn’t that good. Holy crap, what has “Idol” done? Do they want a female winner so badly that they stacked the men’s side with total bums? The only guys who would get my vote after tonight are Casey and Lee.

My predictions for who is 100% safe look pretty good right now. As for who goes home? It really could be anyone.

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Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."