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.
Crystal Bowersox makes it look easy ... and very good.
Ripping through the bluesy Tracy Chapman hit "Give Me One Reason," with an electric guitar no less, the 24-year-old Elliston, Ohio, resident continued to make a strong case for her being the best in the American Idol bunch as one of the eight remaining women.
And once again, the judges loved her:
Randy: This is what the show's about for me. Love that, love you, love the song ... love the honesty. I'm a fan. That was hot. That was hot."
Ellen: "I need new adjectives for you, I'm sick and tired of saying you're amazing. I don't know what else to say about you, but best performance of the night."
Randy: By far.
Kara: "This is what we talk about when people know who they are. Every time you step up there it's easy for you 'cause you know. And you just know what to do. That actually is a great song choice. It's more contemporary and it's kind of what you'd be doing on your record, it feels like. So now I'm starting to see what the record is you're making and that is when I get really excited."
The biggest praise, though, again came fromIdol's harshest critic, Simon: "You are one million, billion percent going to be in the top 12 next week. I would say definitely the most improved artist, because what you've got now is that you've got confidence. And I can see that; you start to believe in yourself. And right now you are the one everyone has to beat. I'm telling you, it's yours to lose."
Bowersox has gone a long way to distance herself from the pack. Her biggest rival so far has been Lilly Scott. But the indie songstress was a bit off her game last night with a good but not great contemporary version of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," which Simon said lacked "the wow factor.
"It was cute, it was quirky, it plays into what you're all about, but that could have been a risky thing for you to do funny enough," he said.
The other judges, though praised Scott, along with Siobhan Magnus with her stark arrangement of the classic folk song "House of the Rising Sun."
Praise for these trio of performers seems to be the most consistent. And in a season in which the judges continue to harp on the performers for not knowing who they are as artists, it's not a coincidence that Bowersox, Scott, and Magnus seem to be the most sure of themselves as singers.
Scott is the quirky indie girl with a memorable voice and a gift for reworking classic material into something fresh. Magnus is a quirky presence onstage who's not afraid to dive into any genre — and who is blessed with a voice to pull it off. And Bowersox is the earthy, folk-rocker who can channel bluesy Janis Joplin one night and dive into a hallelujah-gospel version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long as I Can See the Light" the next.
Each singer has more than her share of strengths, but it's been Bowersox who has yet to reveal any sizable weakness, other than her undisclosed medical condition that kept her in the hospital overnight a week ago. A few bloggers have commented she still looked a tired Tuesday night, and that's why she sat down on her amp after her performance during the judges' critique. It was hard to tell; if she wasn't up to 100 percent, you'd never know it from her performance.
Whenever the conversation of Bowersox and American Idol comes up with someone, I've almost always asked if I think she can win it all. My answer is yes.
She has the talent to win it all and be a very good American Idol; one with the talent to take her past the show, like a Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. And if she doesn't win -- another real possibility, too, given that the best singers on the show win about 50 percent of the time -- I think she's destined for a great career just the same.
And being an Idol runner-up isn't so bad: ask Chris Daughtry or Adam Lambert. And in the case of Jennifer Hudson, seventh place proved to be very lucky indeed.
Tonight the guys perform. Thursday night is the results show, in which four more contestants will be sent home, leaving the show with the 12 finalists.
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LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs