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Wednesday May 12, 2010 1:25 am

American Idol 9: Top 4 Perform

The theme of American Idol 9’s Top 4 night was movie music, a sweeping genre encompassing many wonderful tunes. returned to Idol as the week’s mentor. He found the theme to be “a big task,” for the contestants. Foxx gave the four remaining singers T-shirts, one marked “Artist” and one marked “Contestant.”

“America wants to see the artist,” he explained to .

Lee DeWyze bravely chose “Kiss from a Rose.” Jamie Foxx spent their time together by getting right up in Lee’s face during the practice session (he did the same thing with Danny Gokey in season 8). After backing off a little, Foxx pointed to the camera and focused an intense gaze on DeWyze. He handed Lee an Artist shirt at the end of the session, threatening to take it away if necessary.

It wasn’t. Lee beautifully performed the song. The arrangement and vocals felt a little rushed, and Lee chose something of a safe route for the all-important Top 4 performance night, which is often a game-changer.

found the performance was only “okay,” and advised Lee to choose “a more rock kind of song.” “I think that there could have been more done with the song,” Ellen DeGeneres agreed, though she did add, “you’re so good.” “It’s one of the most difficult songs to sing,” Kara DioGuardi explained, though she also agreed Lee is “still great.” “That was verging on, I’m afraid to say, karaoke,” Simon Cowell pooh-poohed the performance. “I felt good about it,” Lee explained to Ryan.

Michael Lynche chose “Will You Be There,” a well-known Michael Jackson tune. Big Mike was uncomfortable with Jamie Foxx. The actor encouraged Lynche to dance around and even engaged him in a bit of boxing. “Once he lets go, I think that’s when he’s going to really shine,” Foxx predicted.

Mike did. He started the tune out soft and slow, his vocals getting bigger through the first verse as he stepped out onto the stage. Lynche’s performance created chills and thrills. He truly looked like a star on the big Idol stage.

Randy Jackson loved the song…not the performance. “I wish you had chosen some R&B song,” he said. “Your goal should be to win this thing,” Ellen DeGeneres said, unimpressed with Mike’s goal to get to the Top 3. found herself wishing for one of Lynche’s former performances. “I know you have more. And, you played it safe,” she told him. Simon Cowell found himself baffled with the song choices of the night. “At least you gave it a hundred percent. And I kind of felt that you meant it,” Simon added.

Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox stood on stage together to perform “Falling Slowly.” Each held a guitar as they faced each other, singing softly. It was truly beautiful. When the song got big, the crowd went wild. We’ll be seeing this same performance on the Idol tour this summer - it was just too good.

“A great song by two great singers. Unbelievable,” Randy Jackson was blown away. “God, that was great!” Ellen DeGeneres enthused. “One of my favorite moments of the entire season,” Kara DioGuardi was also ready to jump out of her chair. “I would call it a fantastic song,” Simon Cowell heaped more praise onto the pile. So…anybody get the feeling the Idol producers want this to be our Top 2? Ya think that’s what this was about?

Casey James chose “Mrs. Robinson,” a pretty boring choice. Jamie Foxx asked to be seduced through Casey’s singing. James called it “an intense moment.” James easily won an Artist shirt for his efforts when practicing with Foxx. For his Idol performance, he sang the song softly, sitting on stage in the midst of a group of admiring girls. Casey’s vocals were good -maybe even great- but there was a bit of a college-guy-on-campus-playing-under-a-tree vibe about the whole thing. His twist on the song made for an interesting performance, a bit unexpected. Well played, Casey James.

“Dude, why did you choose that song?” Randy Jackson wanted to know. Jackson then guffawed and pointed to Kara DioGuardi. “It was…a cool, laid-back version,” he decreed. poked fun at the size of the guitar. She liked the arrangement, but wished James had gone “further.” Kara DioGuardi liked Casey’s bravery and thought the song was “a good choice.” “Personally, I didn’t think the song or the performance had the substance required on this important night for you,” Simon Cowell found, calling the number “a little bit lazy.” Overall, he thought there were “very strange song choices” on the night. Casey James shouldn’t have worn that jacket.

Crystal Bowersox chose a song from the golf comedy classic Caddyshack, which made it seem like another odd choice. The tune was “I’m Alright,” a Kenny Loggins song. She flubbed her performance and cursed in front of Jamie Foxx, who encouraged her to keep going. “Don’t ever stop,” he advised.

Crystal started the song off on a sassy note, kicking the performance into high gear almost immediately. Her high-energy performance seemed to strike a note with the crowd right away. Of course, Bowersox was already warmed up from her earlier duet with DeWyze - which went over like gangbusters with the judges.

“You are definitely an artist,” Randy Jackson told her, calling the performance a “nice job.” “That performance, I would say, just got Crystal-ized,” Ellen DeGeneres quipped. She thought Crystal “took that song and made it better.” Kara DioGuardi agreed with Randy and Ellen both. “You, Crystal, are back in the game,” decreed.

Casey James and Michael Lynche sang “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman,” both also playing guitar. Casey started the tune out with his eyes closed. Both sang the tune intensely, Mike also squeezing his eyes shut as he crooned. Casey’s voice got a little lost behind Big Mike when the two sang together. All of the Top 4 can play guitar, but James has truly exceptional skills.

Randy Jackson found the performance to be a “nice one.” “As a matter of fact, yes I have loved a woman,” Ellen DeGeneres deadpanned. “The duets tonight were incredible!” Kara DioGuardi enthused. Simon Cowell found the performance to be “really good,” enjoying the two duets more than the four solo performances.

Jamie Foxx though the performances were “great,” and declared, “I enjoyed it!” His advice for next week was “let go and do your thing.” He was a serious, energetic mentor, truly encouraging the contestants to do better.

Which three of them did well enough to stay in the competition? Wednesday’s results show will reveal the answer. Check back for all the recaps, elimination interviews, spoilers and gossip - read all our posts.



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