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'IDOL' WATCH: The Top 11

"American Idol" featured the teen sensation Miley Cryus as the contestant's coach on their songs for this week. Cyrus was surprisingly helpful in her comments to the top 11 and it was clear she had done her homework, knowing each person's strengths and weaknesses. Several singers gave strong performances this week, while the weaker contestants missed the mark again. The theme was back to number one Billboard hits and, even though it seems like it should be easy to make a good song choice out of the thousands of possibilities, it was still a struggle for many of the singers.

Lee Dewyze was not one of those singers. He sang The Letter by The Boxtops and, though it looked to me as though he felt awkward performing, the vocals were quite good. It was a bit of an odd choice from DeWyze, since it was more big-band than you would expect from the rock singer. Randy, Ellen, and Kara all thought he was excellent, while Simon said it was "quite corny" and that he "missed the point about having a moment." DeWyze seems unlikely to head home this week.

Paige Miles gave what is perhaps one of the worst performances in "Idol" history, singing Phil Collins' Against All Odds. It seemed as though Miles was in a different key the entire song; there were almost no notes that were on pitch. Randy called it "honestly terrible" and Kara said it was "the worst vocals that I've heard from you and possibly of the season." Miles wouldn't have made it past the initial auditions if she had performed this. It looks like it may be the end of the road for the talented singer.

Up next was Tim Urban who, week after week, seems to make poor song choices. This week was no different, as he sang Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The arrangement was dull, added nothing new to the song, and Urban's performance was that of an Elvis impersonator. (My favorite part was when he slid on the floor. Uh...what? Though, Randy did say it was the "dopest thing [he] did.") The judges were unimpressed with his vocals and Kara called it the equivalent of Zac Efron or Hairspray. I seem to doubt Urban's vocal abilities are enough to handle a career in musical theatre and I think it's about time his run on "Idol" came to a close.

The always-consistent Aaron Kelly was up next, singing I Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. Apparently the vocal problems that plagued Paige Miles last week have made their way to Kelly, as he was suffering from both tonsillitis and laryngitis. Other than his top notes being a bit weaker than usual, I'd never have known. I was a big fan of the arrangement and thought it worked well for Kelly's voice. The judges agreed, with the only criticism being that he lacked stage presence. With enough work, Kelly could give a singer like Crystal a run for her money, due to his widespread appeal.

Speaking of Crystal, Ms. Bowersox sang next, performing the Janis Joplin hit, Me and Bobby McGee. Bowersox had never really won me over until tonight. The performance was incredible and showcased her amazing control over her voice. She seems to be at another level compared to many of the other contestants and her only downfall seems to be that she may not appeal much to the younger audience members. That being said (and Simon has said this many times), it's her contest to lose.

Singing When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge, was Michael Lynche. It was a rather safe choice for "Big Mike," as it is not terribly different from his past R&B stylings. I really enjoyed the ending of the song, as he bookended his bigger notes with a softer tone. Kara called the performance "a bit boring and lounge-y" and "over indulgent." It seems like Lynche will need to show a bit more versatility before he is able to really make a push to become the next "American Idol."

Andrew Garcia seems to disappoint week after week. Garcia was my pick to win the competition following Hollywood, but he has lost much of my support, as he never picks the right song. This time, it was I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. Garcia tried to sing the song as written, losing the guitar and his signature arranging style, though this may have been the type of song that would have been perfect for that sort of thing. Overall, it was completely the wrong song choice and did nothing to gain him votes from fans. Each of the judges commented on his poor choice and Simon went so far as to say he "ruined a great pop song." Don't expect Garcia to be around too much longer, though his personality should sustain him past Urban and Miles.

Katie Stevens began to get herself into the right vein with Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry. The song choice was much more modern than we are used to from Stevens and it made a significant impact on her performance. Her phrasing was a bit off at times, but it was a huge improvement over some of her past performances. Ellen called it her best performance so far in the competition and Kara said of the song choice, "This is your vibe." It was also nice to see Stevens' interaction with Cyrus during her rehearsals, since they are of very similar age and Cyrus was able to relate to her on a more personal level. This was a much better showing for Stevens than in past weeks and she may finally understand the type of songs she should be performing.

Rocker Casey James chose to perform the Huey Lewis and the News hit, Power of Love. During rehearsal, Cyrus was spot on in her criticism of James, saying he needs to connect more with the audience, and suggested he try making eye contact with fans in the first couple of rows. James still seemed quite disconnected though and had a smile plastered on his face for the duration of the performance. The song was a bit bland and didn't showcase any of James' vocal abilities, though Randy, Ellen, and Kara were all fans. Simon said the song lacked effort and originality, but that the vocals were fine. James still hasn't broken out of his shell and hopefully he will be able to really hit a homerun before his time runs out.

The judges absolutely tore into Didi Benami's rendition of You're No Good by Linda Ronstadt, though I thought the performance was actually pretty good. Benami's unique voice always catches me off guard and I think the tone is so distinct that she would succeed as a recording artist. The judges all disliked the song choice, with Kara saying it felt like a caricature. Simon thought the vocals were awful and said it was ironic that she screeched through the chorus singing "You're no good!" (Ha!) I didn't think the performance was bad, but the judging panel disliked her performance this much, she probably didn't hit home with much of the audience. She should, however, be safe for this week.

Closing out the night was Siobhan Magnus, who has been at the top of her game as of late. After last week's terrific performance of Paint It Black, Magnus had high expectations. Her performance of Superstition by Stevie Wonder was quite good, allowing her to show off her belt again this week, but actually felt a bit tired. Magnus will have trouble winning the competition if she comes out every week performing the same song: start off small, grow, and rock the high note at the end. Her voice is great, but she needs to change it up from week to week if she wants to win.

Simon said at the end of the show that all the contestants, excluding Crystal Bowersox, really need to start pushing themselves if they want to have a chance to become the next "Idol." "Crystal," he said, "is in a league of her own." Clearly the panel thinks Bowersox is the one to beat and, after tonight, I'm definitely in her corner.

As for who will go home this week, it seems an easy choice. After being in the bottom two last week and giving an awful performance tonight, don't expect Paige Miles to be here much longer. Joining her in the bottom three will probably be Tim Urban, who missed again this week, and Andrew Garcia, who still can't seem to put it together.

Tomorrow night's results show will send another "Idol" hopeful packing. Performances will include a duet from Joe Jonas and girlfriend Demi Lovato, as well as this week's coach, Miley Cyrus. The results show will air beginning at 9:00pm EST.

"American Idol" is a reality competition to find new solo musical talent, created by Simon Fuller. It debuted June 11, 2002 on the Fox network and has since become one of the most popular shows on American television. It is currently the #1 TV show in the Nielsen Ratings and is one of only three that have been #1 for five consecutive seasons. The cast of "Idol" includes judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, and Ellen Degeneres, and host Ryan Seacrest.

The program aims to discover the best singer in the country through a series of nation-wide auditions, and subsequent viewer voting. Through telephone voting, America has chosen past winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, and Kris Allen.

Several "Idol" contestants have been seen on the Broadway stage, including Barrino (The Color Purple), Hicks (Grease), Clay Aiken (Spamalot), Diana DeGarmo(Hairspray), Josh Strickland (Tarzan), Tamyra Gray (Rent, Bombay Dreams), and Constantine Maroulis (The Wedding Singer, Rock of Ages).

"American Idol" airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights on Fox at 8PM EST.

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From This Author Jeff Dennhardt