Usher's advice changed "American Idol" tonight, giving Lee Dewyze and Andrew Garcia the confidence they needed to go out there, slay their demons and take over the stage.
It was one of the best guest mentorships we've ever seen on this show -- all of Usher's advice was right on, and resulted in a pretty high-quality R&B and soul night.
After hearing Usher tell him he had an "incredible voice" and should have no reason to doubt himself, Lee Dewyze went out and regained his magical tone on "Treat Her Like a Lady." Simon told him tonight his "life may have changed forever." I thought entering the finals Lee was a dark horse to win it all. He showed tonight the only thing stopping him was himself.
Andrew Garcia likewise stormed back after a few down weeks with his creative vocal on "Forever" that Usher loved as much as Chris Brown's take. As Usher told him, the only way he could sell an acoustic version to us was to totally go for it and care, which the supremely-talented Andrew needed to hear.
Andrew also flashed some personality; ironically, only after Simon said he needed to show some. A kind of unfair slam which got his mom up on stage yelling at Simon in Spanish, wound up with Andrew saying "momma, momma, momma, you gotta calm down!" in a totally endearing way, leading to hugs between his smiling mom and Simon.
Here's how I ranked everyone tonight. Make sure to put in your rankings in t\he comments, below.
1) Lee Dewyze's "Treat Her Like a Lady" showed off his great tone, but more importantly, pumped up by Usher, he took over the stage.
2) Andrew Garcia's "Forever" showed off his mad creativity, impressing Usher and the judges. And his mom -- man, she gave Simon a piece of her mind!
3) Crystal Bowersox was her usual excellent self with "Midnight Train to Georgia"... now if she can only be more likeable and lose the chip on her shoulder.
4) Didi Benami's "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" was hated by the judges, but I really liked it -- quick, unorthodox pacing gave it an urgency, and given that she was singing about the impact of her best friend's death on her, I found it compelling.
5) Michael Lynche's sensitive "Ready for Love" blew away the judges. Simon thought he showed he was a serious artist for the first time since Hollywood.
6) Katie Stevens' "Chain of Fools" was halfway there for me. She had the attitude and the vocals, but just not totally believable
7) Casey James wasn't half-bad with "Hold On, I'm Coming" -- even if we've heard this act from him before.
8) Aaron Kelly's performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" wasn't as good as he usually is, but it wasn's horrible either.
9) Siobhan Magnus got huge praise from Usher, but then kind of laid an egg tonight with "Through the Fire." Oh well, there's always next week. She's still one of my faves.
10) Tim Urban gave one of the all-time bad performances with "Sweet Love" and made it worse by laughing as the judges rip him. At least admit it wasn't great, Tim!
TALK: Who was great tonight and who's in trouble? Click on "Add a comment" at the bottom of this post, or e-mail me and I'll post it for you.