As American Idol came out of commercial break prior to Casey James' performance, the microphones caught this week's mentor Harry Connick, Jr. telling James not to "screw it up."
Sorry, Harry... James "screwed it up" big time Tuesday night - through no fault of yours - and by this time next week, the blond-haired rocker will be back in Texas playing gigs for $50 and a plate of free food.
James, who needed a stellar performance to stay out of the Bottom 3 for the third-straight week, was easily the biggest disappointment of the night. Forced to go without his crutch - the guitar - for his cover of "Blue Skies" during Frank Sinatra week, James looked even more stiff than usual. And not having to worry about playing the guitar didn't do anything to help his vocals, which were surprisingly shaky. In fact, Kara even said his vibrato sounded like a lamb.
Not that it will matter which of the remaining contestants will round out the Bottom 3, but I'll play along. It will be Aaron Kelly and Michael Lynche.
First of all, Lynche does not deserve to be in the Bottom 3, especially after his outstanding cover of "The Way You Look Tonight." When Lynche first announced he was covering this song, I prepared myself for a performance that would be just like every cheesy wedding band I'd ever heard. It was far from that. I'm not sure if it was Lynche's talent, Connick Jr.'s arrangement or both, but Lynche managed to make the song sound unique and honest.
However, the Idol voters have repeatedly turned out in low numbers for "Big Mike." In fact, the only reason he is still around is because the judges "saved" him four weeks ago. And even though he has had better performances that Crystal Bowersox during each of the last two weeks, he clearly does not have the same fan support, or media attention, that Bowersox does. I predict that Bowersox will be lucky enough to stay out of the Bottom 3 this week, but she has to really start picking up her game and stop coming across so indulgent (which she has been lately, for some reason), if she has any hope of contending with Lee DeWyze.
And Kelly is simply out of his league at this point - his pedestrian rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon" was so underwhelming that Simon actually compared this squeaky teenager to a mouse if Sinatra was a lion. And if Sinatra were still alive, I'm sure the lion would've devoured the mouse. But with Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins) in the audience, there's hope for that yet. Quick... someone get some Chianti.
Meanwhile, the night's best performance went to DeWyze - surprise, surprise - who seemed to infuse his cover of Sinatra's "That's Life" with every ounce of soul and feeling he possessed. You could almost see him sitting at a bar, tie askew bemoaning being "a puppet, a pauper and a pirate." And Randy - who is sadly still booing for Simon with all of his might at the start of every program - correctly asserted that despite the big band behind him, Lee managed to put a rocker's edge on a Sinatra staple
But I have to say, that my favorite part of Tuesday night's episode was the tutelage of Harry Connick, Jr. I might just be a prisoner of the moment, but I think that he could have been the best Idol "mentor" ever.
He made himself totally and completely available to the remaining five contestants - taking a fun shot at fellow mentor Shania Twain in the process. He did the song arrangements for all five performances himself, offered coaching, brought his band on stage and played piano behind each performance.
And the best part - he looked like he was enjoying every minute of it.
Considering the exposure that performers - professional and otherwise - get from being on American Idol, the Idol producers should aim to get every Idol "mentor" to show so much interest in the contestants performances.