Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.
Tuesday night marked the most important night yet of American Idol this season. For the first time, the contestants performed knowing there is no lifeline. Last week the judges elected to use their only save of the season to keep Michael "Big Mike" Lynche from going home.
As if the show didn't offer enough pressure for the contestants already, from now on, a bad performance could mean the end of the Idol dream.
So what does Crystal Bowersox do as the first performer onstage last night? She hits a lead-off home run that proved, mostly, to be a harbinger of decent to good things to come from the remaining performers.
Crystal rocked out a blues-gospel version of Elvis Presley's “Saved” for American Idol's Elvis theme night. She did the King proud.
As Ellen DeGeneres told her last night post-performance, "I'm so tired of telling you how great you are."
It's true. It's difficult finding new superlatives each week for Crystal. She's easily the most consistent performer on the show, and arguably the best performer this season. Period. Even her off nights are miles removed from some of the lesser contestants on their best night.
And that's why Crystal fans might have cause for concern.
Is such consistency by Crystal a good thing on a talent show that likes surprises every now and then, as we saw last week? Is it possible viewers will grow complacent with her steady performances each week and not vote for her because they figure she's safe from elimination?
There's a risk in always being good: People sometimes take you for granted.
And now there's nothing to save her if viewers do.
Meanwhile, there's Tim Urban, who's usually bashed by the judges, and week after week is around for more abuse. Last night, Tim took the stage with an acoustic guitar and wisely sang "Can't Help Falling in Love" with the camera zoomed in only a foot or so from his face through most of the performance. Call it a love letter to his fans — the tween girls keeping him around — but his intimate performance will probably woo fans into voting for him.
It helped Tim that the four judges, including Simon, who said Tim went from "zero to hero in two weeks," offered him praise instead of the usual rebukes.
You wonder if such accolades mean more for Tim because they are rare, unlike someone like Crystal, who hears nothing but positive critiques after every performance. Last night was no exception:
Randy: "Crystal, you know what? ... Every week i say this like a broken record, but that's the way to come out and give it up. You had energy, it was dope. You've got this whole blues-cool vibe going on. I thought I was listening to somebody's record. It could have been the second coming of, like, Bonnie Raitt. I loved it."
Ellen: "This is going to be a broken record and I'm so tired of telling you how great you are. … It was fantastic, Crystal."
Kara: "It was another solid performance from Crystal. I love what you picked; the lyrics were kind of controversial for that time and I loved the up-tempo, your personality comes across. The switch up in the arrangement gave [it] some drama. So I think you did some really good things tonight. I do."
Simon: "That was a lyric I could personally relate to, the lying, the cheating."
Crystal: "It says ‘used to,' though."
Simon: "Oh, 'used to.' What I loved about that is that you didn't choose an obvious song. You chose something that suited you, you put your own slant on it, and most importantly, you didn't fall into the karaoke trap, which a lot of people, I think, are going to do tonight. For that reason — it was original, it sounded great — congratulations again. Terrific."
So once again the judges loved her. Which brings me to Kara's comment: "It was another solid performance from Crystal." Last week Randy said the same thing, "Another solid performance." Two weeks ago he said, "It was another great performance by you."
The key word is "another."
Week in, week out, Crystal delivers "another" great/solid performance — she's like the FedEx of American Idol. Hopefully, for Crystal's sake, her fans continue to deliver as well.
Tune in at 9 tonight for the hourlong results show, seen locally on WUPW-TV, Channel 36, to find out.
OK, so American Idol is still four eliminations away from showcasing its top 5 finalists, but looking ahead ...
If Crystal does make it to the top 3, and certainly the top 2, at what point should Lucas County Arena open up for a live Crystal Bowersox viewing party? I've got to think there would be a sizable turnout by locals to show their support for the hometown girl.
And if Crystal wins, would there be a parade for her, or some other recognition of her achievement by the city? Certainly Toledo could use the good news, and the excuse for a feel-good celebration. What about Crystal throwing out the first pitch at a Mud Hens game?
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LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs
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