American Idol recap: Can Michael Lynche's big shoulders bear the hopes of the Tampa Bay area?
But did Big Mike get psyched out this week -- just a little bit?
I only ask because his performance of Michael Jackson's theme to Free Willy Tuesday was everything we've come to expect from our St. Pete-raised guy made good: Smooth, vocally expert and seemingly effortless.
But after two weeks in the low end of the competition, Lynche really needed a home run this week to assure that he might survive this week's ejection and return to St. Petersburg with American Idol cameras in tow for their Homecoming Week.
Lynche himself acknowledged the pressure on camera Tuesday, noting ""You have the pressure of your family and your city really wanting you to get in the top three," he said, "You have that on your back and your heart and soul. . . . I'm trying to bring it home to my city — St. Pete."
I tried to capture some of that in my story for today's newspaper, looking at how Lynch's sometimes troubled alma mater Gibbs High School (and, to a lesser extent, his former middle school Johns Hopkins) may be hoping for a little good publicity for once -- along with city officials hoping to show off The Pier and downtown St. Petersburg on one of TV's most watched shows.
I had particular fun hanging out with Lynche's in-laws, Frank and Laura Angelelli. A scrappy guy from long island who founded and ran his own tennis coaching business for nearly 20 years, Frank Angelelli is a fervent believer in the power of positive thinking, and refused to see any possibility of danger for Big Mike, even after a performance Tuesday that judge Kara DoGuardi said was too safe and predictable.
"He's a man with a dream," Frank Angelelli would say several times. "How do you stop a man with a dream?"
He's also, according to Lynche's pastor Mike Avato, an intensely loyal guy who has been accepted by the Angelelli's as a surrogate son. Avato, who leads Tradewinds Christian Church in South Pasadena, talks to Lynche every Tuesday before the performances, and has watched him build a strong family with the Angelellis after his own mother died of cancer in 2004.
"He's the kind of guy who, you meet him after a few minutes and you feel like you've got a friend for life," said Avato, who initially encouraged Lynche to audition for Idol.
As I expected, Tuesday's theme of music from movies proved deadly for most of the contestants, pushing them into treacly tunes such as Lee DeWyze's mostly faithful reading of Seal's Kiss From a Rose and Casey James' mandolin flavored Mrs. Robinson (enough with the jokes about a married DioGuardi sleeping with this dude, already. We're well past creepytown on this particular jibe).
Mentor Jamie Foxx was his typically self-centered and superficial self, concluding that sticking his mug in the contestant's faces and handing them t-shirts labelled "Artist" or "Contestant" was an adequate substitute for actually coaching them (in a bad sign, Lynche was the only singer he tried to give a "Contestant" shirt) If he'd really been doing his job, he would have convinced more of them to try upbeat fare like Crystal Bowersox's grooving version of the Caddyshack Theme I'm Alright.
Where the contestants really shone was their duet performances, blending harmonies with surprising power on Have You Ever Loved a Woman (James and Lynche) and Falling Slowly (DeWyze and Bowersox).
Now fingernails across the Tampa Bay area will be gnawed to the quick, as tonight's episode reveals whether the hometown hero will get a grand parade on Friday, or the sad consolation that even Oscar and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson couldn't get further than he did.