American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 15, Casey James, “Jealous Guy”
Being good looking doesn’t hurt your chances on American Idol.
They almost did for Casey James.
If you don’t remember Casey, he’s the No. 2 all-time superstud in the history of the show behind Michael Johns (RIP) and just ahead of some teen black kid who got to Hollywood Week but didn’t get to the live shows but I do remember seeing him and saying “good god that kid’s gonna bang an uncountable number of 10s.”
Casey’s looks were a problem because it was the first thing anyone mentioned and it really hid his talents as a blues musician. Yeah, Kara DiGuardi would have 100 percent banged him and fawned over him on a week-to-week basis, but if you closed your eyes and listened, you heard magic.
It just took some time to realize it.
Three weeks into Season 9, performing out of the “Lennon-McCartney” songbook, Casey James put on a performance that made everyone realized he was more than a hunk with a guitar. His cover of “Jealous Guy” shows what a man with a voice and guitar can do and it earns the No. 15 spot on our American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time countdown.
THE SITUATION: As mentioned, through three weeks Casey James was just a pretty face.
He clearly wasn’t as talented as guitar-playing counterparts Crystal Bowersox or Lee DeWyze and even Andrew Garcia, who sang a cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” in Hollywood Week that had the judges clamoring for similar performances until his elimination, was a notch or two above in the judges’ eyes.
At this pace, James was going to be an afterthought. He didn’t fit in with what Idol wanted; he was a country/blues musician before that really was a thing on the show. His performances were falling flat and he needed something to get noticed.
And with one performance, he made everyone jealous.
THE HIGHLIGHTS: Casey James’ voice has a raspy drawl and tone that sounds like every amazing voice you’ve ever heard all in one. You can even hear a little Eddie Vedder. You can hear about 1,000 different guys, but it’s not one specific one. It’s Casey James.
His choice to drop the electric guitar in favor of the acoustic adds so much to the performance. His opening lines are dripping with passion and it doesn’t help that the words are coming out of the mouth of a man whose hair frames his face so perfectly (the white suit coat with the black pants? I’m shocked every girl didn’t rush the stage at once).
He controls the song. There’s no point it going huge with any of his notes because the song doesn’t call for it. His transition to a louder voice – on the line “I was shivering inside” – is the first time we really hear the power he has. When Casey did that he punched his ticket to the Final 3.
Performances like this are beautiful because they’re so perfect and effortless. There’s a realness to them that makes you stop doing whatever you were doing and listen to every last note.
The only thing wrong is the crowd response. Had this performance taken place late in the season, I imagine things would have gotten crazy in the studio.
WHY IT’S HERE: It’s an underrated performance. He’s so overlooked as a performer because Bowersox and DeWyze were so good that season and because he’s so good looking we want to punch him in the face.
This was his first showing as an artist as opposed to a bluesy rocker and it couldn’t have been any better. It really got him started on his run to the final three and it’s too bad he was in the season he was in because had he been on the show any time the last two seasons, he stomps the competition.
PREVIOUSLY: No. 16, Blake Lewis, “You Give Love a Bad Name”
NEXT UP: You couldn’t help falling for the girl who’s name you pronounced wrong