American Idol recap: St. Peterburg's Michael Lynche turns teary Kara DioGuardi into Paula Abdul
It took him just one song to complete American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi bizarre metamorphosis into Paula Abdul.
That's because, after hearing Lynche's soaring version of Maxwell's take on Kate Bush's This Woman's Work Wednesday, DioGuardi burst into tears -- a signature move by Idol's often-erratic, now-departed judge.
Already, DioGuardi had faced accusations she was becoming the "new Paula," trading sex-laced quips with bratty judge Simon Cowell and hitting on the cute male contestants, just like her faded '80s pop star predecessor.
But this time, DioGuardi's advanced Paula-ness was totally understandable. Because Lynche's masterful, R&B-tinged vocal workout was easily the best male performance since Idol's live shows began weeks ago, marking him as the male to beat and elevating the show's energy level through the stratosphere.
It was a surprisingly powerful end to a show which began in the doldrums, kicked off by a string of contestants strumming guitars and singing mellow tunes. Each singer performed a bit better than the week before, as each guy gets a better handle on working the stage and picking songs.
As evidence, consider the fates of two singers tagged early for elimination: misplaced dancer Todrick Hall and semi-finalist at the last minute, Tim Urban. Hall may have saved himself with a gospelized version of Queen's Somebody to Love, while Urban definitely bought himself another week with a creditable version of Leonard Cohen's Hallalujah (it's an enduring irony that a singer awful as Cohen could write such a great ballad for good singers).
In fact, the guys stepped up so much this week, the fella most in danger of getting bounced is Andrew Garcia -- a heavy favorite when the live shows started who can't seem to match his amazing audition moments.
The best thing about Wednesday's Idol, though, was its abbreviated length. Forced to fit eight singers into one hour, producers had to cut down on all the things I hate most about this show -- the treacly feature stories, the strained banter between contestants and host Ryan Seacrest and the contradictory advice judges fall into when singers are just mediocre.
Cowell even stepped in during one of DioGuardi's Paula moments -- she was about to tell teen powerhouse Aaron Kelly he sang great but still wasn't great -- to warn against confusing the singers by not being consistent enough.
Imagine that. A string of strong performances with a minimum of blather.
Maybe Idol's guys aren't the only parts of this show hitting its stride at long last.