ADAM LAMBERT Helps American Idol Top 9 Honor the King

It was a do-over night for American Idol's top nine.

With the group intact because the judges opted to save Michael Lynche from elimination last week, the finalists took the stage to sing Elvis Presley tunes knowing full well that two of them are leaving tomorrow, no matter how much the Decider, Simon Cowell, might like them.

Helping them get their acts together this week was Adam Lambert, who was in their shoes just one year ago (and, like latter-day Elvis, has a fondness for leather) and is the first former contestant to be asked to return as a mentor.

But while the top nine seemed to take their meetings with Glambert in stride, none other than Ryan Seacrest tripped over his words, ultimately complimenting the scene-stealing Idol runner-up on his talented tongue. "You know, your singing," Ryan quickly added.

"My mission is to be completely honest, but constructive," Adam said going into Tuesday's show. "So hopefully they take that spirit of Elvis Presley and they inject that into these songs, and they give you something to listen to, to look at and to feel."

Well, these nine aren't exactly you, Adam, but at least they tried their best…

Crystal Bowersox: Well, she's the closest to Adam in terms of raw talent, at least. And tonight, her performance was more than good enough to propel her into the top seven. "Saved" certainly isn't one of Elvis' best-known songs, but she added electric guitar and her usual Joplinesque vocal theatrics to turn the 40-year-old ditty into a cool, bluesy experience. "I'm so tired of telling you how great you are, so I'm going to use this time to ask, 'Are there any birthdays in the audience?'" joked big fan Ellen DeGeneres. Simon loved that she didn't choose an obvious song and instead went with one that meant something to her. (He usually doesn't like that at all, but Crystal's a special—i.e. talented—case.)

Andrew Garcia: We understand. There are some voting issues going on over on Dancing With the Stars, too. But Michael should not have been the viewers' choice to go home last week, especially when Andrew keeps turning in the weakest arrangements of the bunch. Adam Lambert warned him that his version of "Hound Dog" was boring, and Andrew should have listened. "I didn't get it at all," lamented Randy Jackson. "Lazy and predictable," Simon called it. Ellen was his sole defender, though even she wished he had brought more "swagger" to the performance. (Well, here's hoping Andrew got a chance to consult with Justin Bieber when the 15-year-old swung through.)

Tim Urban: The 20-year-old doesn't have a rich enough sound to coat one's heart in a warm, fuzzy blanket with "Can't Help Falling in Love" the way Elvis did. But Tim offered up an interesting acoustic version that better suited his reedy voice, achieving a totally believable indie sound. (Or the "singer-songwriter" style, as the judges call it.) Ellen couldn't help falling in love, yada-yada-yada; Kara said it was her "favorite Tim performance ever"; and Simon noted that he's gone "from zero to hero in two weeks."

Lee Dewyze: Now his voice, on the other hand, sounded layered and seasoned beyond his years on "A Little Less Conversation." Lee rocked the song, which everyone knows better today because of the hour-long remix, to perfection. All the judges loved it, though Kara, interestingly enough, wanted him to be "more playful" and a little less "errrgh." "What do you want, kittens?" Simon countered. "It's about nailing the song, full stop." Which Lee did.

Aaron Kelly: They tell Aaron to switch it up from his usual ballads and he chooses "Blue Suede Shoes"? OK, sure, do one of Elvis' most identifiable songs, which only really works with the King's signature snarl (or Carl Perkins' rockabilly guitar). Well, Aaron did a perfectly serviceable Uncle-Jesse-on-Full-House version, but we doubt it won him any new fans. It wasn't "wrong in every possible way," as the 16-year-old predicted before going onstage, but it definitely wasn't right. Kara thought being out of his comfort zone gave him a nice, growly edge, but Simon thought it did the exact opposite. "Wasn't crazy about it, sorry," the Brit said shortly.

Siobhan Magnus: She drew comparisons to Adam Lambert when she let loose with "Paint It Black" a few weeks ago, but Siobhan's been hanging out in wild card purgatory for awhile now. She had some major pitch issues tonight on "Suspicious Minds," but at least the interesting arrangement allowed her voice to extend in multiple directions—country-tinged melody, belting high notes, booming low notes, screams, etc. Kara, however, said that the chameleonic chanteuse's "two voices" were beginning to confuse her, and Simon also said she was losing herself in the process. To which Siobhan responded, getting another round of applause from Ellen: "Even I can't pinpoint who or what I am, and I've always taken pride in that."

Michael Lynche: Talk about pressure. Saved from the chopping block last week, Michael set out to prove himself all over again with "In the Ghetto," covered excellently by Taylor Hicks in season five. Well, guess what? This was even better. Michael sat on the edge of the stage, strumming his guitar sparingly against a piano backdrop, and served up a more current R&B version of the 1969 rpm single. Idol was only 90 minutes long to make way for the midseason premiere of Glee(!), so the judges were running out of time and only took about 10 seconds to critique him. "I'm glad we saved you," Ellen said. "Terrific choice of song, congratulations," concluded Simon. And…we're clear.

Katie Stevens: The 17-year-old managed to be sexy with her torch-song take on "Baby, What You Want Me to Do." The horn-heavy arrangement was a bit on the old-fashioned side, but her vocal was quite lovely. "Katie's getting a little sassy, letting all the vibes out!" exclaimed Randy, who called the performance "entertaining." "That's a very horny song," Ellen quipped, then going on to clarify her statement no less than four times. "Look, for me, I found it very loud, a bit annoying," shrugged Simon. But "they liked it," he added, gesturing to the audience, "so it doesn't matter what I think."

Casey James: It's not easy to make a less-known tune penned in 1952 and covered by Elvis in 1956 sound current…and Casey didn't quite pull it off with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." He kicked things off with a sexy growl, standing right in the middle of an adoring circle of young ladies, but then the performance devolved into bar-room blues shtick. It sounded perfectly good, but not that interesting. Randy and Ellen thought it a solid Casey performance, but it "fell short" for Kara, and Simon considered Elvis night a "wasted opportunity" for the 27-year-old rocker.

Two of these hopefuls will be kicked off the show Wednesday night, following a couple of songs from Adam Lambert, natch.

Who deserves to go and who should stay? And could Ryan be any more cute when he says dopey stuff? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.


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