‘American Idol’ Recap: Highs And Lows With The Rolling Stones

It has been five days since America took a machete to the seriously talented people on “American Idol,” but as is always the case with this insane show, you just have to accept the results and move on. (Says the man who spent the day watching Katelyn Epperly’s “The Scientist” on repeat. While clutching a homemade Allison Iraheta plush doll. And weeping.)

But we have a brand new Top 12 to (Ford) focus on. And, as it turns out, a brand new “Idol” stage which … um … looked exactly like last year’s “Idol” stage. I’ll give anyone five bucks if they can tell me how light-up stairs, giant screens on the floor and an elevated band equals “new.”

On Tuesday night (March 16), the Rolling Stones offered up their classics to be Idolized. For those of you keeping score at home, the Beatles had two (!) dedicated theme weeks in 2008. In the eternal Beatles vs. Stones debate, I’m not sure whether that fact necessitates a check in the Beatles or Stones column. Thoughts?

In any case, the (new?) stage was set for a disaster. Nerves (x) a new stage (÷) the worst Top 12 ever”(+) beloved band’s music (=) potential train wreck. And yet I wish Tuesday was that interesting. Instead, we got a lot of “Meh,” one “Huh?!” and only a few performances we’re likely remember in a week’s time. (We also met a woman named Kelly Kelly, but we’ll get to her later.)

Let’s break down the contestants!

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Michael Lynche
Song: “Miss You”
Verdict: Disco Ducky
Big Mike is coming off the deafening buzz from last week’s gender-bending “This Woman’s Work,” so obviously he was going to pick a song from the Stones’ Some Girls album. It was smart for an R&B dude to take the Rolling Stones disco tune, though I’m not so sure it was smart to inject said song with Michael Jackson grunts, sing the words “I want to kiss you” to a pit of 14-year-old girls and jump around like a giant bear being swarmed by bees. But his voice cut through the full band arrangement, so points there. And his pre-performance package made him even more likeable, as if that were even possible. Take a cute baby (watch your backs, Babysox and Baby Garcia), a supportive munchkin of a wife, a deceased mom who inspired Mike to take up music and put them in a magic pink blender operated by a koala and BAM — you get a smoothie of precious. (And that’s precious, not “Precious.” The “Precious” smoothie ingredients include stolen fried chicken and Mariah Carey’s mustache.) When Simon called out Big Mike’s dance moves as being “corny” and “desperate,” Seacrest got all in Cowell’s face, to which Simon sniffed, “We can sort this out in my trailer afterwards if that’s what you like.” Hahahomophobia! [Crickets.]

Didi Benami
Song: “Play With Fire”
Verdict: Smokin’ Hot
Didi debuted a new look for Rolling Stones week: A stank-faced Jersey mallrat from the ’80s! Go back and check out at her outfit again, folks. The ponytail pulled to one side, the lacey tank top with weathered jeans, the angry “Don’t you dare buy the same fuschia prom dress from Contempo Casuals as me” snarl. The girl was one scrunchie and two cans of AquaNet away from being Kevin Smith’s childhood girlfriend.

I don’t mean to take away from her ferocious performance. “Play With Fire” gave Didi an exciting edge that had been missing from the emotional crooner. Too bad she got all “Nell” on the third verse, singing, “Old burp tooka diamonds and tiaras by the score. Now he Tourette’s a kicks in snidney, knocks bridge alamore!” Can you blame her for getting distracted? While she was performing with an intensity that burned through my TV screen, the audience swayed like they were part of a Time Life “Songs 4 Worship” commercial. Ugh! (Also ugh: When Benami pretty much hiccuped during the final note. No wonder Mommy Benami is too nervous to watch her daughter sing live.)

After the judges gave Didi rave reviews, Seacrest asked if Siobhan, her roommate, was rubbing off on her. (Imagine if he had asked Kris the same question about his roomie, Adam. The “Idol” Internet would have exploded.) Didi insisted that she has grown some tough skin from living in Los Angeles. This tough skin grew in a week’s time, because during the semi-finals Didi was acting like another Rolling Stones song: “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

Casey James
Song: “It’s All Over Now”
Verdict: It Might Be Over
Casey James’ pre-performance package was so over-the-top that my buddies Kenny and Brendan instantly direct messaged me: “Lilly Tomlin to play Casey James’ mother in the made for TV movie ‘Touched in Texas: The Cool Boy Has Seizures.’” I can’t top that. I won’t even try.

You know who else won’t bother trying? Casey James. “It’s All Over Now” — a song written by Bobby and Shirley Womack and merely covered by the Rolling Stones, which makes Seacrest’s “singing from the Jagger/Richards songbook” assertion a boldfaced lie — goofily smiled through the country-rock tune (when he wasn’t looking down at his guitar to make sure he wasn’t messing up). Like Big Mike, Casey sounded better than he looked. Randy compared him to Jonny Lang, Ellen made a failed lesbian joke, Kara called him a rock star and Simon called it an “audition performance.” Guess which judge didn’t make me roll my eyes?

Lacey Brown
Song: “Ruby Tuesday”
Verdict: Farewell Wednesday
I haven’t kept my love for Lacey Brown much of a secret. Her audition and Hollywood week performances were two of my faves this season. But the ease she displayed in those has been sorely missing from her live performances. The daughter of a pastor (who belongs to a church with “Victory” in the name, ironically) keeps pushing her fragile voice to squeaky places. Lacey used to coo, but nerves are making her squawk. And, as Ellen pointed out, the stylish redhead made the odd decision to plop down on the edge of the stage for the final section of “Ruby Tuesday,” just as the full band kicked in and the song got heavy. It’s commendable that Brown went with a string-quartet arrangement for this song (a song, by the way, that always makes me think of a salad bar), but her forced vocals made me long for an instrumental version. Sorry, Lacey, but Simon is right: You’re over-thinking to dangerous levels.

Andrew Garcia
Song: “Gimme Shelter”
Verdict: Pitchy Fingers
Andrew’s sweet father made a return appearance on the show. He’s still crying. His wife is still mute. But Tuesday, we found out Papa Garcia thought Andrew would grow up to be a custodian because he collected keys.

Unfortunately, his son never found the key to “Gimme Shelter.” Between his blustery delivery and uncomfortable mic-stand fondling (my Twitter follower LeeLeeMoss astutely said Andrew looked like he was delivering a coat/hat stand and didn’t know where to put it), Garcia’s performance was depressing, made all the more sad when Ellen blurted out, “What do I know? I think it was your best performance yet!” Good question, Ellen! (Better question: What are you doing on this show again?) At the very least, Andrew was finally likeable during his post-performance critiques (which, aside form Ellen, were not positive).

Katie Stevens
Song: “Wild Horses”
Verdict: To The Glue Factory!
And now an “Idol” multiple choice question: What was the most awkward thing about Katie Stevens’ segment?

A: Katie saying, “I have no other choice but to be old” when talking about the Rolling Stones songbook?
B: Katie switching into “Idol” coronation single language when explaining why she chose “Wild Horses”? (“It speaks to me in this moment. This is my time! This is what I really want to do!”)
C: The footage of Katie singing “From This Moment On” with her brother at a wedding?
D: The way producers over-lit Katie at the top of the performance, making her hair look stringy and gray, and backlighting every drop of spittle coming from her mouth? (That’s a way to age down a contestant: Special lighting effects to highlight white hair and drool!)
E: The fact that Katie picked a Rolling Stones song made famous again by the world’s most beloved memaw?

The answer is all of the above. And your prize is a map of the United States. You’ll notice that Connecticut is already on there, Miss Stevens. No need for you to “put it” there.

Tim Urban
Song: “Under My Thumb”
Verdict: Jamaican Me Angry
Tim Urban continued his reign of holy terror on “American Idol” by turning the Stones’ ode to sexual manipulation into a baffling reggae ditty sung by a guy so white he makes Scott MacIntyre look like Billy Dee Williams. Tim strummed his guitar for most of the song, but when he brought up his right hand to the microphone he showed America his freakishly long fingernails. Yes, I know, guitar players often keep their nails long for better plucking ability, but let’s be honest: Lindsey Buckingham he ain’t. The four judges all gave him variations on “WTF?” but my fave critique came from Kara, whose “Whether you like it or not, you made it your own” comment was like refusing to yell at a child for smearing feces all over the bathroom wall because the crap painting resembles a school house.

Siobhan Magnus
Song: “Paint It Black”
Verdict: Best of the Night
Is Siobhan Magnus the Eve to season eight’s Adam? On paper, maybe. In practice, hell no. Conceptually, I adored Siobhan’s drama-filled “Paint It Black,” which started as a Gothic waltz and built up to an octave jumping banshee-wail that’s quickly becoming her trademark, all the while showing off her epic Edward Gorey tattoo. But no matter how many times Kara invokes his name, Adam Lambert never delivered a vocal as sloppy as Siobhan did Tuesday. (If it weren’t for the perfectly tender note Magnus ended on, I’d argue her power-shriek almost ended up being Danny Gokey “Scream On” 2.0.)

At this point in the competition, Siobhan’s bum notes are practically irrelevant. More important: The Cape Cod girl is living up to her dark horse title by taking risks and demonstrating what kind of artist she will be in the real world. After this bold performance, I could see Siobhan clicking with fans of the Dresden Dolls or My Chemical Romance and getting a spot on next year’s Vans Warped Tour. Dressed in a black prom dress, Siobhan was the ultimate angsty theater geek. And like Adam, she knows how to bring the drama. Now she just needs to get her vocals in tip top shape.

Lee Dewyze
Song: “Beast of Burden”
Verdict: “Beast”? More Like “Critter”
Lee Dewyze’s parents had the most charming banter. They reminded me of a couple in the interview segments from “When Harry Met Sally.” I wish Lee had a quarter of their personality when he’s on screen.

When Dewyze is performing, his personality level increases ever-so-slightly, but he’s an aloof singer who equates growls with emotion. Still, his “Beast of Burden” was miles better than fellow cougar-bait Casey James, even if it’s disconcerting to see a guy transform into a lite-FM rocker at a remarkably fast pace. Kara called Lee’s retreat into Phil Collins territory “growth,” but I call it “safe.” And I’m curious to see whether Simon’s pep talk — where the cranky judge practically begged Lee to step up his game — will have any effect on the low-key Chicago boy next week.

Paige Miles
Song: “Honky Tonk Woman”
Verdict: Miles Better
In her pre-performance package, Paige told us that she began singing when she was cast in a Christmas play. But the editors showed a clip of Miles dressed in all black with goth hair and holding a scepter. Behind her was a goblin girl in pigtails and a blouse that featured bone epaulettes, buttons and a belt. It appears said Christmas show was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Satanist.” Festive!

Paige had the decks stacked against her this week. Not only was she public enemy #1 for Katelyn Epperly and Lilly Scott fans, but Miles is also suffering from laryngitis, which prevented her from rehearsing the song (and speaking). It was inspiring, then, to watch the ailing singer hit some robust notes in “Honky Tonk Woman.” Less inspiring? Paige’s “Troop Beverly Hills” getup. Unlike Shelley Long’s Phyllis Nefler, Paige does not have a black belt in shopping.

I, for one, appreciated Paige’s fortitude and felt like she proved she belongs in the Top 12. But regardless of how she looked or sounded, Paige pulled a dead paraplegic father (and laryngitis) out of her hat this week. She’s safe!

Aaron Kelly
Song: “Angie”
Verdict: Tender Vittles
Aaron Kelly told us some facts about his family, I imagine, but the only thing I can remember is that the aunt who adopted him as her son is named Kelly Kelly. Kelly Kelly. It is now my life goal to get Kelly Kelly and Lisa Lisa to join forces and create a supergroup. I don’t even care that Kelly Kelly can’t sing. She could play tambourine or something.

Aaron crooned a surprisingly tender “Angie” and paid tribute to Keith Richards’ heroin phase by lumbering around stage with the energy of a zonked out junkie. (Look alive, kid!) I prefer Aaron’s soft voice to when he belts. Incidentally, his chest voice is starting to remind me of Cher’s. Anyone else? Okay, cut me some slack. Cher is a little nutso. But its nothing compared to Randy’s Justin Timberlake comparison. Say whaaaat?

Crystal Bowersox
Song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
Verdict: The Bower Power Hour
I don’t care who I have to blackmail, threaten or kidnap, but I will hear Crystal Bowersox’s “Daddy” song and I will watch her perform it for her dad. Papa Bowersox got choked up recalling the ditty Crystal wrote for him when she was a teenager. (The lyrics were something along the lines of “Daddy I know you’re busy, you’re going to work all the time.” And the refrain is “Daddy, I love you.” Oh crap, even just typing those out is making me cry. Damn sensitive mustachioed fathers upstaging every single “Idol” contestant this season!)

Singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with ease and comfort, Crystal emerged from backstage with a swagger every other contestant lacks. The set parted for her arrival, as if it were saying, “This is Crystal’s world, and you’re just living in it (and fighting for crumbs found in her dreadlocks).” (True story: Crystal attached a peacock feather to one of her dreads as a sign of respect for the fallen Lilly Scott. Does that mean she’s going to put mementos from each eliminated contestant in her hair like “America’s Next Top Model” judge Miss Jay? I would love to see her walk around with Casey James’ discarded shirt or Lacey Brown’s green fingernail woven into a dreadlock!)

Bowersox’s Rolling Stones song wasn’t as awesome as her previous two performances, but Crystal saved her finest performance for the judges’ critiques. She somehow talked back to Ellen, Kara and Simon without coming across as a brat. Bowersox admitted to “over-thinking” her performances, agreed with Simon that she was outshined by the “amazing” Siobhan Magnus, and she corrected Simon when he said she was acting like she had won the show already. “I haven’t thought that I got the competition at all, but thank you for saying that.” She’s like the only living creature that makes you want to Z-Snap and hug her simultaneously.

But what did you think of the performances? Were you blown away by the girl in the audience who had a hat with fake dreadlocks to support Crystal? Who had the cutest parents? Do you like Siobhan with or without her giant glasses? And did you notice how Fox framed out “Gossip Girl” star Jessica Sczhor when they showed “Glee” star Dianna Argron? Awkward! Leave a comment below and follow me on Twitter @jambajim for more “Idol” ramblings!