Newly single Usher, promoting his latest album Raymond v. Raymond, pulled an Andrew Lloyd Webber on Tim Urban during last night's American Idol, instructing "Teflon Tim" to sing to him as though Usher was an alluring lady (it wasn't quite the come-on Webber presented to David Cook two seasons ago: "I'm a gorgeous 17-year-old girl from the chorus"). Still, Usher oozed star power and the 10 remaining hopefuls largely did not. The R&B/soul night helped a few struggling singers find renewed focus, but it failed to deliver a single outstanding, powerhouse performance and Season Nine continued its Paula-free slog. Here's how the night broke down:
Ones to Watch:
Is it weird that the three strongest performers this season look like they could list off the five best Phish live performances of "Run Like an Antelope"?
• Crystal Bowersox changed up her style by rocking a pair of heels and playing piano to Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" without sacrificing her vocal swagger.
• Lee DeWyze's gritty take on the Cornelius Brothers' "Treat Her Like a Lady" made Usher say "wow" and had Simon outing him for avoiding eye contact during regular conversation. (In better news, Cowell said, "This is the night your life might have changed forever.")
• Casey James was so psyched to be singing Sam and Dave's bluesy "Hold On, I'm Comin'," he was seriously grinning (when he wasn't busting out some fierce guitar face) with good reason.
• Usher advised Siobhan Magnus to tone down her wardrobe, but didn't say anything about the over-the-top screeching? Her version of Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire" wasn't bad, but it was by far her weakest yet.
• Usher and all four judges gave props to Mike Lynche for a kinda sleepy performance of Indie.Arie's "Ready for Love."
• Andrew Garcia is in such a creative hole he actually scored points for covering Chris Brown's "Forever" on acoustic guitar.
• Katie Stevens' take on Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" was probably the smoothest song of the night, but she's a little too young to truly channel that old soul vibe.
• Aaron Kelly got the coveted final performance slot, but blew it on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," a song Kris Allen slayed around this time last year.
Ones To Wipe From Your Memory With Bleach:
• Seriously, please vote off Tim Urban before he becomes Season Nine's Sanjaya. Randy Jackson said his version of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" started out as "this singing waiter thing." Ellen remarked on his stage wanderings: "You were walking like you were sneaking into a bedroom." Maybe he'll get arrested for trespassing before he can sing again.
Thanks for the Memories:
• Big respect to Didi Benami for avoiding Ryan Seacrest's repeated prompts to explain why singing Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" moved her to tears. "She sang that song for someone, we can leave it at that," he said, perhaps attempting to draw some sympathy votes her way after a shaky performance (earlier this season, Benami revealed she auditioned for Idol to honor her friend Rebecca Joy Lear, who died in a car accident). Hopefully her desire to not pull a Gokey doesn't get her sent home.