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American Idol: Amid a ‘Country’ Cavalcade, Another Voice Silenced

After a night of Shania Twain songs in which each of the six finalists were deemed to have been excellent (though perennial favorite Crystal Bowersox was told she was excellent-minus, as scored on a Crystal curve), there was — for the first time all season — no obvious evictee. Some whose time had come, sure, but no easily predicted loser. The anticipation was unbearable, and was only boosted by the show's use of techniques favored by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock: endless country performances mixed with blatant promotions for cars and animated movies.

But finally, the results were announced, and it was good night, sweet weirdo princess. Gone was season nine’s most interesting contestant, Siobhan Magnus, a girl who was legitimately fascinating as well as “ … interesting … ” in the way your mother uses the term after walking through a Francis Bacon exhibit. Siobhan certainly had her off nights and sometimes used her banshee shriek as a crutch, but when she was in her element she was electrifying. And truthfully, if you’re going to use a crutch in music, why not make it a Yoko-style screech?

With Siobhan gone, who else will sport a prominent Edward Gorey tattoo that references dead children? Who else will cover their outfit in butterflies as an “ode to FernGully?” Who else will do a Stones cover that would have made Klaus Nomi jealous? Say what you will about the oddball glassblower, she at least provided us with water cooler fodder for the next day. The remaining five contestants are looking pretty dull right now, unless it comes out that Michael Lynche secretly has a fetish for angora sweaters and once starred in an Ed Wood tribute film called Michael or Michelle?

All praise aside, it was probably time for Siobhan to go. The longer she stuck around, the more comfortable she was getting with throwing the judges’ critiques back in their faces. Seriously, if you want to make it in the music biz, you should be able to silently listen to constructive criticism for a minute and a half without interrupting to whine, “Don’t you try to change me!”

Joining Siobhan in the bottom three were Casey and Mike, which wasn’t wildly surprising since Casey and Mike seem to lack a consistent fan base to keep them out of the bottom three every time they have an off night. It’s worth an eyebrow raise, however, that Aaron Kelly wasn’t part of the lower echelon — in terms of technique and style, he’s just not developed enough to make his inclusion in the top five seem valid. Nevertheless, he’s a likable kid who sings songs to his mom, smiles innocently, and responds to most questions with a bashful laugh, so it is conceivable he may outlast Mike and Casey.

As for the live performances that rounded out eliminations night, Sheriff Seacrest drove a herd of mighty fine country performers across the Idol stage last night. Well, country performers plus Shakira … and come to think of it, Sons of Sylvia didn’t sound the least bit country. But for thematic purposes, fine, let's say that last night’s performances were "country," not that a reincarnated Hank Williams would have known that.

• Rascal Flatts began the night with their new single “Unstoppable” and later returned onstage with Shakira to perform her new single, the folksy sitar-flavored “Gypsy.” If you think a duet between Rascal Flatts front man Gary LeVox and the world’s foremost Latin pop chanteuse sounds like a terrible idea, you would be mostly correct. LeVox and his wheezing country croon seemed determined to sabotage the whole proceeding, but Shakira’s sultry, wounded voice and organic stage presence put everything right. Not to mention it was awesome that she opened and closed the song by blowing mournfully on the harp. Plus, she scored bonus charm points for referencing “Roooz-uh-velt” in her advice to the contestants, especially after Seacrest made his second “Hips Don’t Lie” joke of the night.

• Country megastars Lady Antebellum swung by to sing their instantly catchy new single “Need You Now.” The song is about making that pathetic, whiskey-soaked call to your ex at one in the morning, which is fantastic since the world needs more songs romanticizing desperate, drunken behavior.

• The ever-charitable Carrie Underwood stopped by to tell us we should fall in love with Sons of Sylvia, a band of three real-life brothers whom she’s been playing with for years. For a self-professed country band, the band played a song that was mostly a big emo sing-along affair, and their sound was mostly about alt-rock slickness, so it’s hard to say what they’re actually going for here other than general fame.

• This elimination makes it the second time a contestant was sliced after singing Shania’s “Any Man of Mine.” (Ditto for Mandisa back in season five.)

• The Ford Fiesta promo video was more bearable than usual simply because they eased us into it with a behind-the-scenes (be still my heart!) look at how these things come together. Crystal, Lee, Aaron, Casey, and Siobhan all got the vampire-makeup treatment (kind of shocking it’s taken them this long to tap into that trend) and attacked Big Mike, who repelled them with a garlic pizza. When Siobhan said, “Today we become vampires,” you got the impression this is something she says on a biweekly basis, and one can almost imagine a fanged Aaron tugging on the director’s shirt and asking, “So now that I’m a vampire, does this mean girls will like me?” Lee was given menacing cat-eye contacts. And in all seriousness, he looked absolutely terrifying. Take note, Twilight — if you really want to get gasps, give your vampires goatees.

• There was also a promo for the fourth Shrek movie, which the marketing campaign keeps assuring us is the final entry in the series. It’s hard to say if they mean that as a threat or a reassurance, but the whole strategy comes across as a plea bargain made in advance: “If you let us get away with one more Shrek, we promise to lock up the franchise forever.” Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas popped in for a second and apparently Seacrest has a line in the movie. So adjust your “this is how little I care” meters accordingly.

• Still not letting up on his efforts to embarrass Lee, Ryan described a moment where he got teary-eyed as getting “DeWyze-eyed.” Sure, maybe Lee gets misty now and then, but if they were back in a paint store in Illinois, Lee would have had Seacrest in a headlock within seconds.

• During their parting hug, Ellen told Siobhan, “See you tomorrow on my show,” perhaps to prevent the clearly perturbed singer from unleashing the powers of Wicca on the unsuspecting Idol audience.

• Acquiescing to Ryan's request that he explain what he meant by calling Mike's performance "girlie," Simon retorted, "Imagine if you were singing." Ryan asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing and Simon told him to "take it any way you want." Seacrest uncharacteristically missed the perfect opportunity to say, "I always do," then wink suggestively at the camera.

Next week Harry Connick Jr. is the mentor and the top five will be singing the songs of Frank Sinatra, which could really mean anything since Sinatra covered just about every major vocal-pop songwriter during his 60-year career.

Other Recaps:
The AV Club's Claire Zulkey realized last night's outcome when it came down to "the carpenter vs the glassblower on the chopping block. Come on now, you know that in a battle like that the guy who has Jesus' old job will come out on top: Siobhan's going home!"
Entertainment Weekly's Michael Slezak felt Siobhan suffered from this immutable law of the Idol-verse: "If you're not learning and improving on a weekly basis — or if you dare to peak too early — then it's only a matter of time till the backlash begins."

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX