The music of Shania Twain turned out to be just what “American Idol” needed to get back on track.
    After a few weeks where the gang – aside from Crystal Bowersox – kind of struggled, Twain’s strong melodies made it easier for the finalists to connect with the song.
    No one benefitted from this more than Casey James, whose lazy take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” last week could have sunk him for the season. He applied himself this week and ended up with the performance of the night, turning “Don’t” into what Simon Cowell likes to call “relevant,” a song that could be a hit on the radio right now.
    James delivered the kind of emotional rocker that the judges always want to attribute to Lee Dewyze, except James was actually in tune and in control of his vocals the entire time. The judges’ over-praising of Dewyze again last night, as he wobbled through Twain’s best-known song “You’re Still the One” with melody changes that may or may not have been on purpose, only serves to make the voters question all their opinions.
    The same goes for Michael Lynche’s “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing,” which did get a Luther Vandross-ish spin, but sounded empty when it should have been soulful. Why it made Twain tear up probably had more to do with her than him, but Cowell was onto something when he called the performance “wet,” as in “not dry.” To be clearer, he should have called it “bad,” as in “not likable.”
    Speaking of bad and unlikable, Siobhan Magnus – the new “Vote for the Worst” favorite now that Tim Urban is gone – ruined “Any Man of Mine,” stomping out the song’s sense of fun like a combat boot on one of the butterflies that adorned her dress last week before trotting out her overwrought “big note,” which Cowell said this week sounded like she was “giving birth.” Though Magnus has tried to brand herself as “the one with attitude,” she couldn’t match any of Twain’s attitude at all.
    Maybe she should have asked Aaron Kelly what Shania was all about because the now-17(!)-year-old may have had his best week ever with Twain’s “You’ve Got a Way.” He connects with country and if he had more experience would simply offer up a country take of a song every week. After all, now that Urban is done splitting the swoony teenage girl vote with him, Aaron will be around for a few more weeks.
    In fact, depending on the unpredictable Casey and Lee, Aaron could end up being the one who challenges Crystal Bowersox for the crown. This week, Bowersox delivered a wonderfully understated “No One Needs to Know” with a country band line-up that the judges weren’t thrilled with. The odd song choice made it seem like Bowersox wanted to challenge herself so that things didn’t get boring for her. She would have been better off with the playful “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” but that would have been too easy.
   
THE RANKINGS

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Casey James, “Don’t”
Crystal Bowersox, “No One Needs to Know”
Aaron Kelly, “You’ve Got a Way”
Lee Dewyze, “You’re Still the One”
Michael Lynche, “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”
Siobhan Magnus, “Any Man of Mine”

BOTTOM THREE: Michael, Lee, Siobhan
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Michael
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Siobhan
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Siobhan

PHOTO: Casey James by Fox.