Ryan Seacrest kicked off last night's American Idol by listing off the show's own sort of Breakfast Club: "A paint salesman, a high school student, a glass blower, a mother, a father and a construction worker." The show was eager to play up the Top Six contestants' folksy roots on country week as superstar Shania Twain returned to Idol as a mentor (she previously guest judged earlier this season, filling in for the absent and sorely missed Paula Abdul at the Chicago auditions). Twain, who hasn't released a studio album since 2002, proved to be a thoughtful and invested adviser, and she even entertained during the live show by eagerly clapping along in the audience and boldly pairing a pair of mom jeans with a sequined top. In the end, all of the contestants seemed fairly evenly matched — in this lackluster season, that means all were just OK, or "meh" as we say in these parts — but there was one standout. Here's how it broke down:
Ones to Watch:
• Casey James lost his vocal grit for a sweeter tone on Twain's "Don't" and was rewarded with the judges agreeing it was his best performance of the season.
• Crystal Bowersox is still the favorite to take the big prize, but stripping back "No One Needs to Know" with slide guitar, upright bass and mandolin to send "a message to my boyfriend" didn't really do it for the judges. Bowersox's simple response: "Bigger isn't always better" (we'll presume that one wasn't aimed at her bf).
• Shania ordered Siobhan Magnus to get some 'tude and add character to "Any Man of Mine." Magnus interpreted that to mean "walk out in the audience" and go for one of those screechy Adam Lambert notes she hasn't attempted in a few weeks. The note started strong and ended oddly, inspiring the Cowell critique "it was almost like you were giving birth there at the end."
• The judges have anointed Aaron Kelly this year's "country guy," so he had no choice but to deliver on "You Got a Way." He also scored points with show's conservative viewers for removing that risqué "when we make love" line (cue eye roll) because ... he dedicated the song to his mom (cue second eye roll and chorus of "aw").
• The judges have anointed Lee DeWyze the unhappy one, commenting every week on his lack of smiles during his performances. Still, they ate up his horribly off-key version of "Still the One" and then gave him crap not for guitar face, but for vocal face.
• Michael Lynche pulled a comparison to Luther Vandross after singing "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing." It only hurt when he hit the strained falsetto at the end. Cowell's commentary was that it was "a little bit girly for you." Girly enough to send him home? Aaron Kelly may have saved himself this week, which is not good news for Lynche, who's already been voted off once this season and rescued by the Judges' Save.