American Idol Power Rankings: The Top 16, Part Two

Last night, the remaining eight men battled it out for a spot in the top twelve and if you were able to stay awake for the entire show without an adrenaline shot to the heart, we applaud you. For the most part, the performances were underwhelming with safe song choices, sleepy arrangements, and less-than-phenomenal vocal showings. At points, we wondered if the judges were watching the same show, as they heaped praise on some of the most mundane performances.

Some of our favorites tanked and some early disasters were able to pull it together. We’re not quite sure how the men’s race will end this week, but, on the whole, the women were a stronger set of competitors this week. Read on for our full power rankings.

1. Michael Lynche
Risk Level: 7
Payoff: 10
Total: 17

For the second week in a row, Michael Lynche was the obvious winner. This guy is on fire, but we think it could end up being his downfall. Overall, we found his take on Kate Bush’s (via Maxwell) “This Woman’s Work” totally over-the-top — we almost started laughing midway through. It was so dramatic that Michael lost control of his voice, belting and growling like he knows he’s got this thing in the bag. We were unimpressed, but the judges couldn’t stop gushing. Kara broke down in tears while our eyes rolled back in our heads and Simon told Michael that it was the best performance on any of the live shows so far this season. For us, it felt put on, like a calculated move to push his story as the doting new father forward. Maybe that’s Michael’s genius after all.

2. Todrick Hall
Risk Level: 8
Payoff: 7
Total: 15

Todrick had the most to prove last night and, for the most, part he delivered with a gospel-y take on Queen’s “Somebody To Love.” After two straight weeks of being bashed by the judges, Tod finally caught a break this week, with most of the panel praising his performance as a comeback. We’re worried that, when it comes down to it, Todrick is going to get lost in the Michael Lynche machine (his most obvious competition), even though we find him a much more inventive performer. For now, we’re pretty sure he’s safe, but we don’t have much faith we’ll still be talking about his in a few weeks.

3. Aaron Kelly
Risk Level: 3
Payoff: 9
Total: 12

The Aaron Kelly schlock circus continued its weeks-long run with his cheese-ball rendition of Lone Star’s “I’m Already There.” Despite the fact that this kid totally annoys us, he clearly understands who he is in the world of the show and which performances will garner him the most praise from the judges. Our criticisms of Aaron (he’s generic, he’s boring, his voice has no character) haven’t changed, but our estimation of him has. This might be a more calculated performer than we thought. Thankfully, Kara saw through his shtick, criticizing Aaron on choosing a song that clearly has no relevance to his life (it’s about a father calling his children). We thought it was a pretty astute observation, but Simon totally disagreed, calling in a “great song” and a solid performance. Blech.

4. Tim Urban
Risk Level: 7
Payoff: 7 – 3 because he’s not that good = 4
Total: 11

Tim Urban’s performance was clearly a step up for him, but when compared to the rest of the men he still falls short in our eyes. The judges though his take on Leonard Cohen’s (via Jeff Buckley) “Hallelujah” was a smart choice for him, but also subtly noted that while it was good “for him,” he has a lot of work to do to compete with the contestants that are vocally stronger. He stripped the song down to just his voice and a guitar (which he played) and, in our opinion, his phrasing and enunciation were totally off. He’s not a good enough singer to rely on his vocals alone and the sparse instrumentation highlighted all of his voice’s flaws. Ellen disagreed, leaping on stage to give Tim a hug for being so hard on him in past weeks. American Idol goes Dr. Phil.

5. Alex Lambert
Risk Level: 3
Payoff: 7
Total: 10

Oh, Alex Lambert: if we could just close our eyes while you sing (last night, he tackled “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne), your performances would be so much better. Probably the best singer of the men, Alex’s pitch is right on and the tone of his voice is rich and warm. Unfortunately, he has yet to master the whole singing on stage thing. Still awkward and clearly terrified, the judges came down on his again for this, while offering encouragement that his vocal gifts are immense. True, you can’t teach charisma (and this kid, bless him, has none), but we’re hoping that he can get it together just a little bit because he’s clearly a strong vocal contender. The stool, Alex, is your best friend this season.

6. Lee Dewyze
Risk Level: 2
Payoff: 7
Total: 9

Lee Dewyze is starting to bore us. His take on Owl City’s “Fireflies” was totally predictable for him and he clearly struggles with pitch problems. In the studio that can be fixed, but many of the held notes during his performances go painfully flat. Plus, he’s so similar to David Cook and Chris Daughtry, we can’t see him taking home the title this season. The judges might be onto him too. Though Randy, Ellen, and Kara thought it was solid performance, Simon, as usual, put into words what the rest of panel was feeling: there was nothing exciting about this performance. We’d love to see Lee work on his pitch and perhaps doing a ballad with just a piano to accompany him. Either way he’s got to get out of this rut if he really wants to move forward in the coming weeks.

7. Casey James
Risk Level: 2
Payoff: 5
Total: 7

An early favorite, Casey James was another contestant in desperate need of a little shaking up. His bag of vocal and musical tricks is too small to sustain an entire season’s worth of performances; we feel that he’s got to do something different to keep everyone’s attention. Even cougar Kara seemed unimpressed even though she said she’s “kinda” back on the Casey train after his performance of Keith Urban’s “You’ll Think of Me.” Simon said that it was better than last week, but not nearly as good as his first week’s performance. Looks like that flowing blond hair is only going to get you so far Casey.

8. Andrew Garcia
Risk Level: 9
Payoff: -3
Total: 6

In the saddest development of the evening, our golden boy Andrew Garcia crashed and burned with acoustic take on Christina Aguliera’s “Genie In a Bottle.” We must agree with Simon when he said the performance felt a little “desperate.” In an attempt to recapture the magic of his Hollywood week performance (when he did a similarly stripped down version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”) it seems that Andrew is frantically mining the catalog of female pop songs to come up with something that will get him better reviews from the judges. This wasn’t it, Andrew. The lyrics seemed ridiculous coming out of his mouth, even though his voice sounded OK, and the judges, once again, trashed him. We hope he has another week left, but we’re worried Andrew might be coming to the end of Idol brick road.