Adam Lambert Brings Straight Talk to 'American Idol' Elvis Night

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American Idol may have generated artists who have sold more albums than last season's glittery runner-up, but the show has never birthed a star of Adam Lambert's magnetism. But depending on who you ask, he became the first former contestant invited back as a mentor because he energized the series (and raked in big ratings), or needs the show's help as he's "struggling" to live down his controversial American Music Awards performance from November: the latter was what the show's executive producer spun to EW earlier this week. (The show has certainly attempted to spotlight former winners with truly struggling careers, like Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks.)

Look back at Lambert's Idol run as the show's glam-rock sex god.

Either way, Lambert returned last night to guide the remaining nine hopefuls through songs by Elvis Presley, a rock star to whom he was oft compared by his loyal fans last season. The good news: Lambert didn't hold back, bringing some much-needed straight talk to the mostly underwhelming cast. The bad news: the performances were still fairly horrendous. Even worse: Ryan Seacrest couldn't resist throwing Lambert a stupid curveball at the top of the show, mumbling about how "my tongue is not nearly as talented as yours." But wait, a silver lining: it was still better than this mind-numbingly awful rendition of "For Your Entertainment" that aired on Idol ratings rival Dancing With the Stars on Monday. Yes, it'll actually make you miss the AMAs:

Ones to Watch:

• Lambert advised Crystal Bowersox to go electric and let her dreads down for "Saved." She took half his advice and earned a full load of praise from Randy Jackson: "That could have been the second coming of Bonnie Raitt."

• Casey James grinned and growled his way through "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy." The judges didn't eat it up, but it was still miles better than the rest of the crew...

Meh:

• Lambert motioned at Lee DeWyze's face and said, "Here, there's nothing going on." He could use "A Little Less Conversation" and a little less inspiration from botox.

• Michael Lynche returned from the precipice of elimination and took some advice from Siobhan Magnus on song choice: the result was one of his strongest performances yet, a pretty (but still sleepy) "In the Ghetto."

• Was Katie Stevens being backed by Wake Up Wakefield's Jazz x 10 on "Baby, What Do You Want Me to Do"? Even Ellen DeGeneres took the opportunity to make a lame joke about the brassy arrangement, calling it "a very horny song."

• Siobhan Magnus said she's a big Elvis fan, then dressed like a soccer mom for a pretty straightforward run-through of the great tune "Suspicious Minds." But she was anything but dull when she responded to Simon's critique with, "I can't pinpoint who or what I am — I don't feel it's necessary to be labeled." Reminder: it's not bad to be labeled flexible or innovative.

Ones to Wipe From Your Memory With Bleach:

• Andrew Garcia continued his Marathon of Epic Boredom with an extremely lackluster take on one of the most iconic Elvis songs ever, "Hound Dog." Lambert didn't hold back on his critique, telling the camera, "I was bored" and "he needs to step his game up."

• A gold star to anyone who can explain why the judges have flipped and decided to embrace dreadful Tim Urban and his off-key "Can't Help Falling in Love With You." At least Ellen's story about learning to love tequila shots had sort of a point: you have to be drunk to enjoy him?

Thanks for the Memories:

• Aaron Kelly unwisely prefaced his "Blue Suede Shoes" with the admission, "I don't know that the song fits me, it's probably wrong in every way." Sadly, he was right: the competition's sweet kid may be heading to the exits tonight.

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