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Steven Tyler’s Criticism Is Gentle on ‘American Idol’

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

The Top 13 faced off on Wednesday night’s ‘American Idol,’ with the guys doing Stevie Wonder songs and the girls taking on the late great Whitney Houston, while R&B goddess Mary J. Blige did her level best to guide them all to greatness.

Let’s check in on our favorite judge, Steven Tyler.

If you haven’t seen Steven in action on ‘Idol,’ it’s important to understand that his role is not to be the buzzkill. He’s just too nice for that. Ever since Simon Cowell left the show, formerly inert substance Randy Jackson has stepped up to do the dirty work of pointing out any actual flaws in performances.

So Steven’s gig is to be more of a cheerleader. Words like “great” and “beautiful” are bandied about when someone is decent, and when they’re not, “I think your nerves got the best of you” is his usually his harshest criticism. (God forbid he should say you’re pretty. That’s when you know you really stunk up the joint.)

But honestly, this year is a rare one — there are no obvious jokes in this bunch of finalists. Yeah, some of the singers are better than others, and tonight a couple had truly awful performances, but even then you knew it was an anomaly. Which means Randy didn’t have much in the way of criticism, and Steven’s pleasantries started to sound downright monotonous.

We won’t bore you with a lot of details, but a chick named Jessica Sanchez sang the notoriously difficult ‘I Will Always Love You’ so brilliantly that she brought all three judges to their feet in the night’s only standing ovation and made even those of us who’ve been watching this show for more than a decade say “holy crap” (only something far less family-friendly) .

“You … may be the one,” Steven told her. “You just made 40 million people cry.”

Thursday night, the lowest vote-getting guy and girl will be on the chopping block, with the judges deciding which head will roll. But we can tell you this: it won’t belong to Ms. Sanchez.

See you then.

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