Since Sinatra passed in 1998, the mentor this week was another jazzy fellow: Harry Connick, Jr. He served not only as soulful song guide, but also as composer/arranger for the contestants, and backed them (with several members of his band). Also, he looked outrageously hot in a suit and dwarfed Ryan Seacrest. Well done, HCJ. Well done.
Fort Worth's Casey James
was second up to perform and when the show returned from commercial break, there he was, sitting on a stool in his purple button-up, with Connick all up in his grill teasing, "Just remember one thing: Don't screw it up!"
RyCrest then reminded everyone how we almost lost CJ not only because he was a B3 last week but also because of an outside force.The Ceej explained with a fairly awesome story:
Yeah, I got a call from a friend of mine. He said, "Hey man, I need you on Tuesday. We got a gig at the Circle M and it pays $50 and you get a free meal." And I said, "Man, I'm actually busy on Tuesday." Because he doesn't watch TV and he hasn't heard anything--seriously! And I said, "Actually, I'm a little bit busy. I'm playing on national TV, you know." And he said, "Really?" And I said, "Yeah, just watch on Tuesday." It was a close call.
The mentor video package then showed Connick riffing a bit on Casey and CJ liking the light-hearted banter of the session. He's apparently a fan of HCJ, so that had to be both cool and disarming. Connick noted that, "sometimes it's not about the lyrics, it's about the groove," and that he felt it would be cool for America to see the blues dude with a big band.
His performance of "Blue Skies" included some bum high notes--particularly on the word "skies," which, you know, is kind of an important one. To me, it was a little bland. He seemed stiff in his movements around stage and he clearly didn't know what to do with that free arm since he didn't have his six-string security blanket. Thing is, I think, by his expression during the song, he was totally aware of every vocal mistake he made.
Randy thought it was CJ's "worst performance, dude." He called it pitchy through to the last note and even said when the orchestra sounds off-tune, you know it's trouble. Ellen said, "The whole thing is about being smooth and having swagger and that felt very stiff to me. Very stiff."
Kara acknowledged that it took Casey a while to warm up. She also gave him props for holding notes, but then compared the sound of said long notes to... a lamb. Yes, a lamb. She said his vibrato was "a little out of control" at which point his mother made a "Oh no she didn't!" face and Simon called the whole judging situation "uncomfortable." He went on to say that the good news was the band was great but the bad news was Casey wasn't "fantastic." Simes continued: "I actually thought you came over a bit embarrassed and a bit awkward. You just didn't feel comfortable. The good news is you got a booking for next week [referring to the aforementioned band gig]. No, I'm kidding."
RyCrest asked Casey if he was, in fact, uncomfortable without the guitar. And Casey said, "Um, duh, Ryan." No, he didn't. But I wish he had, because then Ryan Seacrest, King of Tact and Mercy, said, "It's like you don't know where to put your hands, right?!" Ass. I mean, c'mon, I can totally say it here behind the guy's back, after the fact, and with a bit of sympathy, but to say it to his face! The nerve. Amiright?! Rally with me, people.
Harry Connick, Jr. thought he sang it better in rehearsal but added, "I've heard him sing it, and I've heard him sing it really, really well. But in [Casey's] defense, it's hard to hear up here, I'm not gonna lie. It's hard to hear and that's where the problem was. But [Casey] killed it about two hours ago...but that's not gonna help the viewers."
Regarding CJ's competitors: Wee Aaron Kelly was well, just fine. Crystal Bowersox did well with her vocal but was also a little stiff and quiet in her stage presence. Big Mike Lynche owned one of the world's best-known love songs, "The Way You Look Tonight." Not an easy thing to do. And Lee DeWyze had the most stage presence--which is probably why the judges are so obviously in love with him. The vocal was all right. I really wasn't blown away because I once heard a wedding singer do a better job. What I find most upsetting is the weird pep talks and ass-kissing the judges do for DeWyze.
Kara actually told him to go home and write "I can win this thing" 100 times. What? Tell that to every contestant. They've all come out of some sort of shell, performed outside of comfort zones. Just because Lee was less confident than some and not already performing in bars and clubs or on street corners, it doesn't justify the favoritism. Hell, Aaron's 17 years old and even less experienced--why don't they build him up every episode? Oh, right, because he's less commercially viable. That being said, I like Lee far more than Aaron.
I fear Casey's fate come results. My guess is it's him, Aaron and Crystal for B3.
And yes, that was Anthony Hopkins (and a guy that looked a lot like Rob Reiner) in the audience.