In many ways, Tuesday was a typical night on “American Idol.” Crystal Bowersox was good, Paige Miles and Tim Urban were bad, Ellen DeGeneres compared one singer to a pen and quoted Oliver Twist to praise another ... you know, the usual.
But that wasn’t why people tuned in. The big story was the guest mentor, Miley Cyrus — or as Crystal’s child probably knows her, Hannah Montana. Now she’s looking to evolve from those tween idol roots into bigger, better and slightly more serious things, and what better way to do that than to offer advice to the “Idol” finalists.
Of course, the advice that worked best for her was “Get your own show on the Disney Channel,” but that wouldn’t be practical for someone like Andrew Garcia, as Disney Channel stars tend not to have neck tattoos. Beyond that, what advice could someone younger than all but two of the 11 finalists possibly have about how succeed in the music business?
She acknowledged that herself, saying, “I know how talented they are, so I was like, ‘How am I going to tell them what they are doing wrong when I don’t really see it?’ ” Miley, don’t worry. Ellen is still asking herself that very same question every week.
However, while I’m as snarky as the next guy, and probably snarkier, I have to give her credit. In at least a couple of cases, her advice was right on the money.
For example, if Andrew is still here next week, he may owe that to her telling him to put the guitar down for a change. Unfortunately, she did not tell him to pick a better song than “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” so it was a mediocre performance, but at least he moved around and showed some stage presence. The studio audience seemed to love it, even if the judges didn’t.
About Lee Dewyze, she said, “Lee, I think, has an amazing voice. The only thing that is lacking sometimes is stage presence.” That would be correct if she replaced “sometimes” with “most of the time,” but he was a little better at that this week when he sang “The Letter,” so maybe he’s turning the corner there.
Aaron Kelly admitted to having a big crush on her, which is not surprising considering he’s a teenage boy and that is legally required. His voice was hurting on “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” because he had laryngitis and tonsillitis, as Ryan Seacrest and the judges mentioned a zillion times because they really want you to keep him around for awhile. But though he told her he loved her in his introductory video, don’t look for the two to be spotted together by gossip magazines anytime soon.
And then there was Crystal. Many wondered what those two would talk about, since they seem so different. Well, at least I wondered. But they got along fine. Miley signed her guitar, and then Crystal went onstage and knocked “Me and Bobby McGee” out of the park, causing Simon Cowell to gush that it was as good as the Pink version of the song and continuing to rave about her until the two hours ended. Hollywood being Hollywood, Cyrus should definitely take some credit for that.
Apart from that, nothing unexpected happened. In fact, even if you missed some of the vocals themselves, you could probably predict what happened.
Siobhan Magnus did both of her trademark bits. She went with the 1980s comedy transformation by wearing those oversized glasses during the interview and then vamping it up onstage, and brought out her usual scream for “Superstition.” She was very good as usual, but at some point both of those bits are going to get old.
Michael Lynche tried to make Kara DioGuardi cry again by singing “When an Man Loves a Woman,” but it was no “This Woman’s Work,” as Kara called it boring, lounge-y and overindulgent. Of course, the vocals and the personality were both present as always, so he’s a safe bet to move on.
And if Kara’s fallen out of love with him, you could probably guess that was good news for Casey James. If so, you would be right. “You’re just ready to make an album. You’re just there. You’re in a zone. Stay in it,” she gushed once he was finished covering Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love”
Didi Benami sang “You’re No Good,” so what were the odds the judges would use that to make dumb puns as part of their criticism? If you said 100 percent, your “American Idol” club card is in the mail, since both Ellen and Simon went there.
Is Katie Stevens the Dakota Fanning of “Idol?” Ellen thought so after hearing her sing Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You be the judge.
Last and least, that leaves Tim and Paige. Tim sang Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which is just asking for trouble from the judges. Boy, did he get it. Nobody liked the vocals and Kara tried to criticize him by comparing him to Zac Efron, although considering Efron’s popularity, that’s not a bad deal at all. And he won over Cyrus, who said after rehearsal, “I’m gonna give you a hug, because I don’t think you’re boring at all. I think you’re great.”
You know who was not great? Paige. Nobody has ever pulled off “Against All Odds” on “Idol,” and 30 seconds into the song it was obvious she wouldn’t be the first. Both Simon and Kara said that it looked like she had stopped competing, and Ellen’s praise was that Paige didn’t fall down. And because she lacks the huggable gene that Urban seems to have going for him, she’s the best bet to go home Wednesday.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.