(I'm not sure who to credit for this fantastic screen shot- if anyone knows, please tell me)
We open backstage, in a Judge Group Hug. Randy is in a red sweater appliqued with felt argyle diamonds and an elephant (seriously). Ellen is in a gray blazer with white Mod piping, and a loose bow tie slung around her neck. Kara is in a one-shouldered gray dress and multiple chains. Simon's white shirt has pin tucks and looks like it's made from jersey knit.
Usher is the mentor tonight. It was nice of Ryan to tell us old folks that Usher has sold 45 million records and has won 8 Grammys. He's wearing an extremely soft-looking gray leather jacket with huge lapels, over a t-shirt that probably cost $400. In addition to mentoring the kids, he's shilling for his new "alblum".
Siobhan has picked up where Lacey left off in the Wacky Wardrobe Department. She's dressed so oddly at the rehearsal that Usher cautions about letting her outfits distract from the performance. Way to go, Usher. I'm not sure that Siobhan took him seriously- tonight she's sporting braided and puffy hair, a black strapless top that may or may not have lips sponge painted on the front, over a toga, and mukluks with shin guards. I kid you not. I forgot to write down what she sang (see, Usher was right), but she started out straight up and subtle, with a good build to the Big Note. Unfortunately, she couldn't resist throwing in a shriek or two. They must not have enough filler tonight, because the judges all had plenty of time to tell Siobhan exactly how disappointed they were with her performance. We get a glimpse of the backstage action, and it's clear that Siobhan is devastated by their comments.
Casey forgets some lyrics during his Usher Time, which reminds me that he also forgot the words in dress rehearsal last week. This is a disturbing trend. He's wearing a black shirt over a red shirt, and playing a matching red guitar. His hair is tied back, though it may be shorter, and a lighter blonde as well. He's singing Sam and Dave's Hold On, I'm Comin', and it's good. As usual, Casey is not doing anything different or interesting with the song, but it's fun... except for that part where he forgot some of the words... though the judges seemed not to notice.
Mike is wearing a tan leather jacket that is way too small (I suppose it's difficult to find stuff that fits arms that are bigger than my thighs). He's seated on The Stool of Seriousness and they've given him the Angel Lighting, as he plays a guitar and softly sings India.Arie's Ready for Love, while seated behind the judges, who had to watch the performance on the screen. This is a really lovely performance, though there is still too much vocal embroidery for my taste (yes, I know that I say that every week).
Note to Audience: Enough with the waving arms already
Didi is up next, and she loses it entirely during her one-on-one-Usher-time. The little we hear of What Becomes of the Broken Hearted rehearsal does not bode well. Didi looks lovely, as usual, in a spangly gold mermaid dress that shows a lot of leg. The performance is not lovely. She's totally out of her league, and she knows it. So do the judges. Ryan tries to comfort her onstage, but his questions make Didi squirm (literally).
Note to Ryan: When you are holding a girl's hand, and she pulls back sharply, let go.
Tim is wearing a trim suit and a polka dot tie, and has a bit of chin scruff. He's singing Anita Baker's Sweet Love, a song I totally adore. He starts out tentatively, but warms into it. Sorta. Like Ellen, I wonder why in the world he chose that song. Tim seems to be a nice young man who accepts criticism gracefully. A nice young man who is very lucky that Didi performed first.
Usher actually removed his sunglasses to make a point for Andrew about connecting with the audience. It must have worked, because Andrew, in a shiny gray suit, purple checked shirt and pocket square, delivers a performance of Forever that is his best since Hollywood Week. Welcome back, Andrew! I've missed you.
Note to Andrew's Mama: Oh, honey, no. On all counts.
Katie is taking on Aretha, which Usher should have discouraged. Her hair is in an ill-advised, multi-layered pompadour (or as Ellen says, Snooki Poofs), and she's wearing a weirdly constructed gray romper over leggings and stilettos, which strays periously, and uncomfortably, close to Hooker Wear. Her vocals, as always, are good enough. But again, as always, she has absolutely no connection to the lyrics, music, or audience.
Lee is wearing a gray jacket with epaulettes and either a Masonic symbol, or a Star Fleet Emblem, embossed on the breast. He's accompanying himself on Treat her Like A Lady, with an acoustic guitar. This is a bit shouty for my taste, but otherwise it's really good.
Note to Lee: Don't swallow your pick.
Crystal is gorgeous tonight, in a fitted red dress and black belt over leggings, and really cute heels. She ditched the guitar for a piano, where she begins Midnight Train to Georgia. Wow! Wow! Wowee! Wow! This is exactly what she needed to do- I am not in the least bored with her Earth Mother Lilith Fair Folkie Guitar Schtick, but I have heard a bit of grumbling on the Interwebz. She glamed it up, souled it up, and changed it up. That oughta shut them up. Wahoo!
So, how is Aaron going to follow this? With Bill Wither's Ain't No Sunshine. Hmmm. Well, he starts out weak and a little wavery in a black leather hoodie and Tin Tin hair, but he builds and improves. Still, it's not nearly as good as it could have been. Or as it needed to be, following Crystal and Lee. Simon compares the performance to a cupcake, and he's absolutely right. He's still better than Didi or Tim.
Best tonight: Mike, Andrew, Lee and Crystal were all excellent.
Going home: Didi, fer shure.