American Idol is definitely reeling from the loss of queen of kook Paula Abdul — see Rob Sheffield's excellent Post-Paula Depression for a full explanation — but the show is also lacking something it didn't even have until last season: breakout sensation Adam Lambert. Say what you will about his post-Season Eight career, for a few months in '09, Glambert was the reason people tuned in to Idol on Tuesdays (to see what he'd sing) and Wednesdays (to see what he'd wear while someone else got sent home).
This season has gotten off to a rocky start as the show acclimates new judge Ellen DeGeneres — who has yet to bring enough levity to the judges table to balance her lack of musical expertise — and prepares to say farewell to Simon Cowell, who remains the only voice of reason (sorry, Kara DioGuardi, you lost that mantle when you gushed over Casey James' flowing blond locks). During last week's cuts before the Top 12 was named, we lost awesome contestant Lilly Scott, who had the potential to bring some real quirky diversity to the finals. But Rock Daily remained hopeful that Siobhan Magnus and Crystal Bowersox could keep things interesting. And Magnus did just that during last night's Rolling Stones week sing-off, whipping out a note that can be described as Lambert-esque on "Paint It Black" (did you notice she started on the staircase?), proving she can be fearless and imaginative, too. She — and her dad who resembles an amalgam of all the members of AC/DC — is clearly one to watch this season; as for the rest:
Ones to Watch:
• Didi Benami brought an appealing creepy acid-wash vibe to "Play With Fire" that had Randy Jackson making a requisite lame fire pun and Simon praising the "cool choice."
• Do not mistake clean-cut youngster Aaron Kelly for a Clay Aiken retread: the teen scored with an intensely focused version of "Angie" that gave Randy a brief Justin Timberlake hallucination.
• Crystal Bowersox's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" gave Simon the chance to say "I think you chose a song that didn't have what you needed." But I thought that's what you got when you didn't get what you want?
• We're still not sure what everyone sees in Michael Lynche beyond a big heart and even bigger biceps. It's very possible Kara praised what she perceived as Stones-like swagger and attitude in his "Miss You" because he could easily pummel her to a pulp.
• We know what Kara sees in Casey James, but his "It's All Over Now," which featured a few tossed off guitar licks, recalled Bo Bice blended with Ace Young. "Just be a star," urged Cowell. Now why didn't anyone just advise him of that sooner?
• Lacey Brown's string-quartet version of "Ruby Tuesday" was a nice touch, but a bit snoozy.
• There was little chance Cowell would pan "Wild Horses," a song he just turned into a cash machine thanks to Susan Boyle's blockbuster cover, so Katie Stevens played it safe with a very Katharine McPhee-like performance.
• The judges talked about Paige Miles' alleged laryngitis during the judging for her "Honky Tonk Woman" rather than discuss how much soul there is to be mined — or in this case, missed — in the Stones' catalog.
• Lee DeWyze sounded like a super-nervous Dave Matthews on "'Beast of Burden." Maybe it's because Ryan Seacrest insisted he talk about his old job at a paint store, demanding a description for the shade "Snugglepuss."
Ones to Wipe From Your Memory With Bleach:
• Andrew Garcia didn't sing "Gimme Shelter" anywhere nearly as well as Fergie did at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anniversary show last year. Cowell noted Garcia can't just come out and sing his cover of Abdul's "Straight Up" every week, but we beg to differ: please let him come out and sing his cover of "Straight Up" every week.
Thanks for the Memories:
• If Tim Urban isn't sent packing for his reggae-disaster "Under My Thumb," he truly has nine lives. Somewhere Jason Castro was saying, "Did I do that?"