American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 28, Michael Lynche, “This Woman’s Work”

If he wanted Kara he 100 percent could have had her.

If he wanted Kara he 100 percent could have had her.

Winning American Idol isn’t all about voice; the strategy of picking songs often gets overlooked and is why we sometimes don’t get big-time moments from every season. Safe always survives.

But there’s something to be said for the risk-takers. There are some songs – or versions of songs – that are so unique to the original artist that doing a remake or rearrangement is impossibly hard. Even the great Adam Lambert fell flat trying to sing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” because while his voice was terrific, his opening note wasn’t anywhere in the ball park of the legendary Motown crooner.

There were two very specific camps for Michael Lynche – you either loved him or hated him. His popularity took a hit when the producers overplayed him in pre-taped episodes and just about every week we were reminded that his wife was going to give birth any day, then she was going to give birth any minute, then she gave birth, then it was she had a baby and he wasn’t there because he was trying to fulfill his dream of being a professional musician. We got it. Didn’t need it on TV every 15 minutes.

Big Mike needed to take a risk to get to the Top 10 and he delivered one of the best performances of the season and it only proved a long standing Idol fact – take your shot early and people won’t forget you.

THE SITUATION: It was the “semifinals,” with eight guys performing and two going home. It was the perfect time to establish yourself as a contender and Lynche went with R&B star Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “A Woman’s Work,” which was a horribly risky proposition because one of two things seemed likely; 1) Big Mike would do some ridiculous rearrangement that wouldn’t sound right; 2) Big Mike would try and replicate Maxwell and since we hadn’t heart him sing falsetto yet, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

Big Mike – who wasn’t fat like Ruben Studdard, just a monster of a human being like an NFL defensive end – chose option 2 and as soon as he hit the false notes, every woman watching cried. It was brilliant.

HIGHLIGHTS: It’s all about the false. Had he blown the note, he gets sent home and no one hears of him again. He doesn’t become the first Idol to earn the save – which he picked up after bombing in the Top 9 (the theme was “Lennon-McCartney Songbook,” which isn’t exactly a great theme for a giant black R&B singer) – and doesn’t go on to make the most of that save, finishing fourth for Season 9.

If you watch and re-watch – which I did, because I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I was remembering the performance correctly – you see Big Mike’s confidence grow. After he gets past the falsetto part, it’s smooth sailing. He gets in a groove and starts dancing around the stage, moving his hands to let everyone know he’s in charge and we get moment No. 2 – the crowd stands up.

At that point, something clicks and Mike can feel it it. He starts dancing a little more, finishes the power balled with a look that screams “everyone in here wants to bang me and I know it” before collecting himself and finishing where it started – with an amazing falsetto finish. It made Randy Jackson’s brain stop working as he momentarily forgets how to speak English (listen to his critique, especially when he goes “I was like … oh … WHAT?” with facial tics that are priceless).

Of course, we’ll all remember Kara DioGuardi crying – which I think was a little bit of showmanship on her part – but it made a point about connecting with the audience. Even Simon Cowell loved it (PS Simon and Kara? That definitely happened).

WHY IT’S HERE: This nearly got left off the list. I remembered the false at the start and Kara crying, so I had to watch it again. The confidence of his performance is really cool to see because it’s so visual. You know he knows he’s kicking ass. The only reason it’s ranked so low is because it was so early in the competition. If he did this to get himself to the Top 3 or final it’s likely a top 15 performance.

It’s here because it shows how great this show is when the contestants take risks and execute them to perfection.

And it’s also here because I have a soft spot for giant black dudes crushing it on Idol and if you don’t think I considered Jermaine Jones‘ rendition of “Somewhere Out There” the week he got booted for getting arrested, you don’t know me well.

PREVIOUSLY: No. 29, Jacob Lusk, “You’re All I Need”

UP NEXT: When one of the girls turned into a rock god