'American Idol' Report Card: Who Soared On Inspirational Songs Night?


Crystal Bowersox's emotional take on 'People Get Ready' was the only performance that made the grade.


Is it too early to name our valedictorian and dismiss this "American Idol" class for the summer? Though the show will stretch on deep into May, there's no doubting now that Crystal Bowersox is this season's top student. With Tuesday night's emotional take on the Impressions' "People Get Ready," MamaSox made a convincing and teary case that she alone deserves summa cum laude reality-show status, while the rest of the "Idol" hopefuls would be lucky simply to graduate.


Not all of them will. So who's going home after failing to make the grade on Inspirational Song night? Let's find out as we write up another edition of our "American Idol" report card. (And don't miss Jim Cantiello's "Idol" recap in the MTV Newsroom).


Excellent


Crystal Bowersox: We'd been hoping MamaSox would revisit the gospel and soul vibe that worked so well when she brought it to tunes like "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Long as I Can See the Light." We never imagined, however, that she'd bring that vibe ... and knock America out cold with it. Her rendition of "People Get Ready" was nothing short of staggering. Remember during "The Matrix" when Morpheus says of Neo, "He's starting to believe"? That seems like what was going through Crystal's head when she broke down in tears toward the song's end: She was singing beautifully, she was looking at her dad and she was starting to realize, finally, that not only could she win "Idol" but that she deserves to win it.


Good


Lee Dewyze: On an ordinary night, Dewyze would find himself rejoicing with a big fat Excellent. As passionate and pleasurable as his refashioning of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" was, it still did not approach the power of Bowersox's performance. That's not to take anything away from Dewyze, who seems to be coming into his own at exactly the right time. His arrangement made a crusty classic fresh, and his vocals were at their growly best. Why, though, that look of utter relief when it was all over? Lee, you're a contender, kid! Take a note from MamaSox and gain some confidence.


Average


Casey James: Casey, Casey, Casey. We know you're not as generic a rocker as Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" made you sound. We've seen you bring smoldering emotion to performances past. But my goodness, every time you try to rock out, you showcase bad taste and worse stage presence, and you leave the general impression that we're witnessing the stylings of a proficient and not particularly entertaining wedding-band frontman. You've never hit the bottom three, Mr. James, but is it possible you could this week? Probably not, even though that sort of wakeup call might be good for you.


Siobhan Magnus: It's a troubling complaint to have at this point in the competition, but Kara DioGuardi summed up our own feelings when she admitted to having no clue what kind of artist Siobhan Magnus is or wants to be. One week she's a gothic temptress, the next she's an ethereal fairy crooning from a land far, far away. This week, during Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's "When You Believe," she seemed to be pretending she was auditioning for a Broadway production of a Disney musical. We've defended the singer's shape-shiftiness in the past. The time for excuse-making is over. Magnus might end up in the bottom three, and much like with Casey, that sort of humbling might serve her well.


Michael Lynche: Big Mike really has to make a decision. Is he an R&B-cloaked teddy bear or a guitar-strumming indie rock wannabe? Week to week, it seems even he's not sure. In fact, it might be past the time when he can actually make that choice for himself. Tuesday's version of Nickelback's "Hero" had Lynche ditching the R&B tuneage that a) saved his hide from elimination with a judges' save and b) has been his undeniable strong suit all season. He may like to think of himself as a double threat. He ain't. Only a return to soul territory — à la "This Woman's Work" — can keep Big Mike returning to the "Idol" stage week after week.


Poor


Tim Urban: Here we come to the week's toughest grade. A case could be made that Urban's "Better Days," by the Goo Goo Dolls, was merely Average, as opposed to truly Poor. He's clearly found the lite-rock sound that works best for his talents. And the kid looks like he's having so much darn fun up there. And yet he stretched far beyond his comfort zone this week, and the results were not pleasing to the ear. We're not sure it matters. Urban is on a magical run this season. The fates — and the tweens — seem to be conspiring to keep him around.


Aaron Kelly: This 17-year-old's problem has never been his vocals. If he doesn't try to go too big, he'll sound just fine. Where things have gotten dicey for him is in the showmanship department: Kelly just looks silly up there, as if after the big kids went home for the day, a pre-schooler hopped up onstage and pretended he was gonna be a star. Last night's "I Believe I Can Fly" was, then, a perfect storm of "Aw, hells no!" The R. Kelly song was far too big for him, and he attempted some expressive arm and hand gestures that could well have been pulled from the Big Book of Clichéd Diva Moves. No and no. Will it matter in the end? Kelly escaped his brush with the bottom three a few weeks back, and it's anybody's guess if voters finally wake up and send him back there.

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