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Last night on Idol, the contestants sang songs from the movies. And didn’t they choose the most random movies? I mean, I get that they just picked whatever song they wanted, and then found a movie that featured said song. But it didn’t seem like any of them had even seen the movies that they picked the song from.
But anyways, they probably should have just renamed last night’s show “‘Isn’t Jimmy Iovine an Idiot?’ Night” because no one had any love for the show’s creepy mentor. Even Will.i.am (did I miss the part where he became a permanent fixture on American Idol?) shot down most of Jimmy’s suggestions. When Jimmy told Paul that he should add beatboxing to the middle of “Old Time Rock and Roll”, Will was quick to (correctly) point out that drum machines and “old time rock and roll” don’t mix. Then when Jimmy told Lauren that she should try and “steal” votes from ex-Pia fans, Mr. I.am made Jimmy look like a heartless bastard, and suggested that Lauren should rather “invite” the new votes. Jimmy got all huffy, grumbling about “semantics”.
But Jimmy’s biggest trouble didn’t come for a Black Eyed Pea this week. Rather, it was the idols that got lippy on more than one occasion. And I can’t really blame them, because Jimmy seemed completely out of touch when making suggestions for what songs they should sing. Granted, he was probably right about Jacob, who originally planned to sing “Impossible Dream”, and was instead given the much less dreary “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
But I was ready to hurl things at the television during Casey’s pre-performance package when Jimmy tried to stop him from singing “Nature Boy”. Because while Jacob’s original song was quiet in a boring, old fashioned way, “Nature Boy” is the kind of quiet song that someone with Casey’s chops can kill (more on that in a second). Wisely, Casey defied his mentor, as did James and Scotty. Stephen Tyler seemed to love the rebellion, and it was one of the few things that perked him up during the telecast. (The other thing was Haley Reinhart’s outfit).
Here’s my ranking of the performances:
1. Casey James (“Nature Boy”)
I’m so glad Casey stuck to his guns on this one. It was the closest to his original style from the auditions that we’ve seen on the live shows, and he nailed the cool, jazzy feel. The bass was awesome, and thanks to the stripped-down arrangement, we could hear it loud and clear, unlike last week. The vocal was not perfect, but there were some beautiful moments (the first “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn…” refrain and the second-to-last run in the song were the highlights for me). After a shaky start to the live shows, it seems like Casey is finally finding himself again. (And even though it’s crazy that Pia went home last week, I’m still really glad that they used the save for Casey.)
2. James Durbin (“Heavy Metal”)
James also gave Jimmy Iovine the (figurative) finger, and stuck to his roots with a song from the aptly titled film, Heavy Metal. And this was probably the best performance James has ever given on the show. He seemed completely comfortable, and he was clearly just having a blast. He slipped in some requisite screams that were nice, and he always kept the energy level high. He does have some obvious similarities to Adam Lambert vocally, but it’s when he gives these kind of high-octane performances that he really stands out on his own.
3. Scotty McCreery (“I Cross My Heart”)
Scotty is always reliable, and this week was no different. To me, it sounded like most of his other performances, so I don’t have much to say about it. Just get this guy a record deal already.
4. Haley Reinhart (“Call Me”)
Her take on the Blondie tune wasn’t up to par with her past two performances, but I thought the judges were unnecessarily harsh on her. (Actually, they probably were suitably harsh. But when they give zero negative comments to anyone else, Haley’s critiques become disproportionate.) It was a fun performance that lost a bit of steam in the middle section, but Haley’s proving that she still deserves to be there (and she toned down the growling this week!). I never thought I’d be saying this three weeks ago, but I really hope she sticks around, and that a guy finally goes home.
5. Paul McDonald (“Old Time Rock and Roll”)
Paul broke out the tambourine and his finest bedazzled rose-covered suit for this song from Risky Business. It was fine, but it seems like Paul has been favouring “fun” over “singing” for the past two weeks. Because even though it seems like he’s gotten most of his pitch issues under control, it might only be because he’s picking songs that require very little actual singing. There’s lots of speak-singing and hopping around, but I miss performances like “Tracks of My Tears” that were actually vocally dynamic.
6. Lauren Alaina (“The Climb”)
Ugh, I guess this was a really good song choice for Lauren, but her performance was just so boring. Call me crazy, but I like it better when Miley does it. Sure, Lauren sang it well, but despite talking about how much she connected to the song, there didn’t seem to be much gravitas behind what she was singing.
7. Jacob Lusk (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”)
Judging by his stint in the bottom three last week, America seems to be getting sick of Jacob Lusk’s gospel stylings (and were probably confused by his possibly arrogant comments last week). And I have to say, I kind of agree. I mean, I was never a huge fan to begin with, but what used to seem impressive now seems standard. His performance last night was mostly nice (though not without some pitch troubles), but it didn’t leave me with much.
8. Stefano Langone (“End of the Road”)
Can this guy just go home, please? He’s technically proficient, but there is never any genuine emotion. And singing a Boyz II Men song might not have been his smartest move, because it only reminded me of how perfect this lil’ guy would be in a boyband.
Bottom Three Prediction: I’ll guess Paul, Stefano, and Haley, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacob there, either.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night usually goes over well on Idol, and last night’s show was no exception. There wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch. That said, there wasn’t really a stand out performance either, but since this season is just working its way back up to being entertaining, I’ll take what I can get. Here’s my ranking of the performances:
1. James Durbin (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)
It was rock n’ roll week on Idol, and James, the show’s resident rocker sang…a ballad! Nonetheless, I think that James made a wise choice to slow things down. As he himself pointed out, he’s done three big rock songs in a row (I would have thought it was more than that, to be honest). It was a tender performance that showed his vulnerable side, and the Durbs reminded us of what a great voice he has. Yes, he still seems like the poor man’s version of Adam Lambert, but that’s still not bad.
2. Haley Reinhart (“Piece of My Heart”)
Upside-down world continues, because I thought Haley was great last night. I don’t know what incited this change in her, but it’s become clear that this gal is a fighter. I may still find her personality annoying, but somehow that…um, vivacity…has translated well to the stage lately. And not to mention the vocals. I still wish she would reign back the growling on the lower notes, but she did a Janis Joplin song justice, which, like, never happens on Idol, unless your name is Crystal Bowersox. Some of those notes were incredible.
3. Pia Toscano (“River Deep Mountain High”)
Pia chose a sort of uptempo song this week, and she was going to have fun, dammit! The whole thing felt a bit forced and contrived (“pageant hand for emphasis here, point at the camera there”), but it was a flawless, professional vocal performance, as usual. Your white swan is perfect, Pia!
4. Paul McDonald (“Folsom Prison Blues”)
I think Paul McDonald has cracked the Idol code. If you do as little actual singing as you can, you’re chances of being off-key are significantly reduced. And amidst the guitar solos and audience banter, the actual singing was relatively in tune. Congratulations, buddy, that’s a step up from last week! And while it wasn’t a hugely impressive vocal performance (the last note was really nice, though!), it was a lot of fun, and strangely memorable. After a solid performance and the coveted last spot of the night, I think (and hope) that Paul will live to sing another song on the Idol stage. (His adorable dancing with Lauren at the end of the show won’t hurt him, either. Twirl, Paul, twirl!)
5. Scotty McCreery (“That’s All Right Mama”)
I…I just…this was weird. But in a kind of wonderful way. In some ways it was totally Scotty, and in other ways…it wasn’t. I liked his “high” singing that he did this week, and he looked like he was having fun. That said, some of the stage movements were a bit awkward, and the higher register showed some of his limitations, but overall, it was nice to see something a bit different from him.
6. Casey Abrams (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain”)
This was a cool performance, and Casey sang it very nicely, but I don’t remember much else, to be honest.
7. Stefano Langone (“When a Man Loves a Woman”)
After his Elton John debacle last week, I expected Stefano to once again prove why he doesn’t deserve to still be on the show. But he was actually pretty good this week. Darn. I mean, it was still sappy (leave it to Stefano to find the cheesiest song ever written by an artist in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and over-the-top, but his vocal was really impressive. It was probably his best performance to date. But he’s still mad inconsistent, and hopefully that will be enough to get him sent home.
8. Lauren Alaina (“[You Make Me Feel Like] A Natural Woman”)
I guess Lauren thinks pretty highly of herself, because she took on quite the song this week. And while she sang it competently, it still managed to be boring and emotionless. This might have something to do with her utter lack of life experience. I dunno, just a theory.
9. Jacob Lusk (“Man in the Mirror”)
I still have no idea what Jacob was talking about in the video package before his performance. He said (and I am paraphrasing from memory here), “If I end up in the bottom three this week, it won’t be because I sang the song badly. It will be because America is afraid to look at themselves in the mirror.” Huh? Now, I’m a fan of existentialist, vague bullshit (I am an English major, after all!), but this literally made no sense. Nonetheless, Jacob did not sing the song badly, but he also didn’t sing it phenomenally. I don’t know, maybe I’m just afraid to look at myself in the mirror.
It’s a tough call this week, because it was a pretty even playing field in terms of performances. I’ll predict that Stefano, Lauren, and Paul will be the bottom three, with Stefano going home. Stefano has been in the bottom before, and I feel most of the other expendable contestants are gone at this point. You can only coast for so long. As for Paul, he got the fewest votes last week out of anyone who’s left. The potential rebound voting and “pimp spot” placement last night should be enough to save him from going home, but it might not be enough to keep him completely safe. And even though Lauren’s never been in the bottom before, I think her performance was underwhelming enough to get her there this week. Perhaps I am underestimating her appeal, but it seems like she’s still not quite living up to her early frontrunner potential.
The other two in possible danger are Casey and Haley. I think Casey is still riding the wave of goodwill from the save (and a strong performance last week) and Haley is gaining momentum, but given their past troubles in the voting, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see either of them in the bottom.
If things felt a bit familiar on last night’s episode of American Idol top eleven show, it’s probably because it’s the second time around. After the judges saved Casey Abrams in last week’s surprisingly entertaining results show, the bottom two vote getters will be going home this week. You could tell the contestants were feeling the pressure last night, but luckily most of them channelled that pressure into some pretty impressive performances. Here’s my ranking:
(Side note: If you like all things American Idol and haven’t yet seen Jimmy Fallon’s skit on Casey Abrams’ future in endorsement deals, check it out here.)
1. Casey Abrams (“Your Song”)
I couldn’t help but smile while watching this. This is the Casey that I (like many people) originally fell in love with. He left out the faces, and the growling, and the gimmicks, and he just sang. And he sang it beautifully. When he did the second set of “I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind”, it (to steal a line from J.Lo) gave me goosebumps. My other favourite moment was the line, “or the man who makes potions in the travelling show”. You don’t see many lines that are phrased so beautifully on American Idol. He totally redeemed himself and proved that the judges were very wise to use their save.
2. Lauren Alaina (“Candle in the Wind”)
Lauren may be barely capable of stringing together a coherent sentence for the camera, but somehow that all vanishes when she sings. Her take on “Candle in the Wind” was restrained and beautiful. She put the slightest little country twist on it, while still maintaining the classic simplicity of the song. She’s regaining momentum by the week.
3. Pia Toscano (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”)
This was a predictable choice from Pia, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t knock it out of the park. I do understand why people call her boring, and her ballad-only approach to the competition is a bit dull. But some of those notes that she hits are far from boring. As J.Lo said, “the notes take us to an other-worldly place”.
4. Haley Reinhart (“Bennie and the Jets”)
What is happening? I…I have no explanation for this other than the fact that Haley was good this week. Like, really rather good. The growling still grated on me, but my god, some of those notes were amazing. Definitely her best performance by FAR. And I didn’t even mind her personality this week. I feel very confused right now.
5. Scotty Creery (“Country Comfort”)
Scotty kicked off the night with Elton’s one and only country tune, and as always, he did a good job. People criticize Scotty for singing the same style of song every week, and I’m kind of split on this criticism. On one hand, his performances do tend to all sound alike (especially since I’m not familiar with most of the songs he picks), but he does that style so well. And considering that he’s one of the only contestants who’s ready to record an album in a defined style any day now, singing something completely different would be kind of pointless, since he’s obviously not trying to be any other kind of artist. It was the usual from Scotty, which means he didn’t surprise me in the way that some of the others did, but I kind of like the usual.
6. James Durbin (“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”)
You can always count on James for a dynamic, showy performance. And complete with flaming pianos, his take on the Elton John stomper was fun. But I kind of get the sense that James is more interested in acting like a rockstar than singing. Of course he sings well, but he’s currently stuck at a cheesy hair-metal level. It was fun when he did the Judas Priest tune (and he made a wise choice in singing McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” the week after), but he needs to push himself more and focus on the vocals. He’s always solid, though.
7. Jacob Lusk (“Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”)
Randy gave Jacob great advice when he told him to pick one part of the song as the standout moment. Because with Jacob, every part of the song is in top gear, guns a blazing. Don’t get me wrong – it was a good performance. I just feel a bit like I did with Siobhan Magnus’ signature “scream” last year. If you can do something impressive like that, don’t do it ALL THE TIME. It begins to lose its impact, and people stop caring.
8. Thia Megia (“Daniel”)
Oh, Thia. Unfortunately, she is floundering big time. This is probably the only situation where not having Lauren or Haley’s personality is a bad thing. Her take on “Daniel” was nice, but it just…didn’t work, somehow. It was enjoyable to listen to at the time, yet I remember almost nothing about her performance after the fact. I feel like Thia’s losing what originally made her unique.
9. Paul McDonald (“Rocket Man”)
Last week, Idol blogger Richard Lawson lucked out with the realised Seacrest/Stefano sexual tension, and I imagine he’s having all sorts of fun with the literal interpretation of his “Willy Whispers” label for Paul this week. Sadly, that strange final note was probably the most memorable part of Paul’s performance. I of course love Paul, and he was good last week, but the pitch killed him again this week. It wasn’t an especially strong rendition of the song to begin with (save for a few strong moments), but his mangling of the melody in the chorus was rough. I wish he could pull himself back together.
10. Naima Adedapo (“I’m Still Standing”)
I like Naima for being unique. And I didn’t mind her reggae twist on “I’m Still Standing”. It was just…kind of amateur. The singing was okay, but she never seems like she’s quite good enough to make it far on the show.
11. Stefano Langone (“Tiny Dancer”)
“Tiny Dancer” is one of the best entries in Elton John’s impressive catalogue, so I was worried when Ryan Seacrest’s tiny dancer Stefano announced he was taking it on. And sure enough, he managed to suck all of the emotion out of it and turn it into something completely boring. His phrasing was wonky, his facial expressions were ridiculous, and he completely missed the emotion of the song. But he did keep his eyes open for an entire song. So there’s that.
Should Go: Stefano, Thia (Er…it felt wrong putting Haley in this spot after that performance. And with Thia falling in the bottom half of my ranking for a few weeks running, she’s not adapting.)
Will Go: Stefano, Thia (or possibly Naima)
Motown week never excited me on Idol, but I’m now forced to eat my words, because last night’s show was the best live show yet this season. I’m kind of relieved, because things weren’t looking good those past two weeks. The season started off really well, but until last night, it had slowly been losing steam. It wasn’t an AMAZING night, but by comparison, these kids looked pretty damn good. And we also got some A-grade Steven nonsequiturs, which is always a treat. As always, here is my ranking for the night:
1. Pia Toscano (“All in Love is Fair”)
I really want to hate Pia. And every time I see one of her robotic video packages, I do hate her. But then she opens her damn mouth and sings, and it’s undeniably gorgeous. She killed it, she’s amazing, blah blah blah.
2. Jacob Lusk (“You’re All I Need to Get By”)
Thank you, Jacob Lusk. After his almost entirely out-of-tune rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” and a ho-hum take on “Alone”, Jacob reminded everyone why he made the top 13. It was a passionate, beautiful performance. He killed the vocals like we knew he could, and it’s great to see him back to form. He’s not even one of my favourites, but he can be great, and he was great here.
3. Paul McDonald (“Tracks of My Tears”)
My sweet Paul! Congratulations on not being awful this week! I felt the recurring twinge of disappointment with those first few notes, but he really pulled it together once the song got higher. I liked his take on the Smokey Robinson tune, and there were a few moments that reminded me why I fell in love with his voice to begin with (such as the line: “My smile is the makeup I wear since my breakup”). It’s a somewhat rare thing on Idol when a contestant performs a song in a way that I really enjoy, and that actually brings something new and interesting to the song that makes me want to listen back to it a few times. (And all that talk of smiling and clowns seemed appropriate for Paul, right?)
4. James Durbin (“Living for the City”)
I was unsure about how James would do with Motown, but he did a cool little rendition of this Stevie Wonder tune. It seemed a bit by-the-numbers at times (as in, “okay, high note here, scream here, point to the audience here), and just this side of sharp on some notes, but it certainly won’t hurt James any.
5. Lauren Alaina (“You Keep Me Hanging On”)
Her personal connection to the song was shaky (to me, it seemed like she was grabbing for people’s sympathy. Something about people on the internet being mean? How shocking), but if that’s what it takes for Lauren to give a heartfelt performance, then go for it, girl. She delivered a solid if slightly forgettable performance. Lauren is re-building some of her momentum, and if she keeps it up, she could definitely be sitting pretty in the top three.
6. Scotty McCreery (“For Once in My Life”)
I hope this isn’t creepy (for the record, I’m only a couple of years older than him!), but Scotty is so cute. He just makes me smile. The poor thing was out of his element big time last night, but his take on the Stevie Wonder tune was interesting. His herky-jerky delivery style was in full swing last night (it seems better suited to actual country songs, obviously), but I really liked some of his “high” notes. Progress!
7. Naima Adedapo (“Dancing in the Streets”)
Like Jacob, Naima mostly pulled her pitch together this week. And she also gave a lively, lovely performance. I find her phrasing a bit awkward at times, but she always captivates me when she sings. I didn’t think that it was quite as amazing as J.Lo seemed to, but a nice performance overall. The dancing was awesome, too!
8. Thia Megia (“Heatwave”)
The merriment was a bit forced here, but Thia (who wisely chose an up-tempo song this week) did a decent job of convincing everyone that she was having fun. She sang better than she has for the past two weeks, and it’s a step in the right direction. Not amazing, but a solid performance.
9. Casey Abrams (“I Heard it Through the Grape Vine”)
Casey was the first one to perform, and after his performance, my expectations for the show were pretty low. It wasn’t a bad performance, and I do still like Casey a lot, but I’m happy to say that it was one of the weaker of the night. Despite saying in the video package that he was going to pull back on the screeching, he had some of his screechiest moments yet for me. I miss audition round Casey. Things were more low-key with him then. Kind of a slow boil. Now it just seems like he’s trying EVERYTHING, and it’s not really working.
10. Stefano Langone (“Hello”)
Perhaps Stefano chose a good song, because he’s kind of American Idol‘s
Lionel Ritchie. He’s got a pleasant voice and he’s likeable enough, but he is not relevant by any stretch of the imagination. He sang well, but I’ll have to borrow a critique from my Idol viewing partners (aka my parents) and call it schmaltzy. Oh, and I haven’t had a chance to read Richard Lawson’s recap of the show over at Gawker yet, but I imagine he was ALL OVER that Sefano/Seacrest sexual tension (Randy Jackson must read his column).
11. Hailey Reinhart (“You Really Got a Hold On Me”)
Let me start this by saying that this was my favourite performance from Haley so far (and not just because my television’s audio cut out for 30 seconds in the middle of it). I really didn’t mind it, for the most part. Sure there was some growling and vocal gymnastics, but she actually SANG, which was a refreshing change. That said, it was a strong night and I don’t like Haley so…
AND, since I just finished watching the results show tonight and it was an unusually interesting one, I’ll talk about it a bit now. The whole results show was sloppy and strange, and I kind of loved it. It’s Steven’s birthday! Hulk Hogan’s here! Ryan Seacrest is flying through the air! Is Casey James alright…no, seriously, is he okay?
- So apparently the reason that everyone sucked the past two weeks and was good last night is because they didn’t know how those monitor things worked before? And now they do? And it required Marc Anthony to show them that? I really enjoyed how none of the contestants gave a single fuck when Mr. JLo came out and continued to ignore him backstage (good effort, though, Paul! I saw you trying to care. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.)
- James and Paul wrestling was way cuter than it had any right to be.
- James in a suit was way cuter than it had any right to be.
- Oh, hey Stevie Wonder!
- Sugarland confirmed the fact that they are actually terrible in every way possible.
- And as for the results, they were kind of surprising. If you look at my rankings (which I made before the results show), I guess the bottom three kind of made sense (though I thought Haley was toast). But just because Casey was so-so the past couple of weeks DOESN’T MEAN YOU SEND HIM HOME. I’m glad the judges saved him (though I legitimately feared for his health when the judges announced it. He was so pale! And he’s been in the hospital and everything…), though I was ready to enjoy some old-school Casey bluesy stuff when he sang for his life.
So overall, a surprisingly entertaining week of Idol!
After last week’s underwhelming top 13 showing, I’m happy to report that most of the Idol contestants came back with something to prove. The majority of the top 12 were better than they were last week, and we saw several strong performances. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but I think that they’re at least on the right track. My only complaint is that while J.Lo and Randy seem more outspoken than ever, judge Steven Tyler is unexpectedly getting shuffled into the background. But here’s a rundown of tonight’s performances, from best to worst.
1. James Durbin (“I’ll Be There For You”)
I’ve been very impressed with the Durbs since the “live” shows started. He’s been remarkably consistent (he, Scotty, and Pia are probably the only ones who have had three good performances in three weeks), and it seems like he’s thankfully used his “screams” sparingly. Though I liked his vocals better last week on “Maybe I’m Amazed”, I have to give him a lot of credit for improving his stage performance. Yes, American Idol is really cheesy, and James is also kind of cheesy (so much hair metal!), but he worked the stage like a pro last night.
2. Scotty McCreery (“Can I Trust You With My Heart”)
Scotty wins for best pre-performance video package (baby Elivis impersonators? Yes, please!), and he also gave a super solid performance, as usual. His “high” note was lovely, and he seems to be gaining confidence each week.
3. Pia Toscano (“Where Do Broken Hearts Go”)
I was relieved that Pia avoided doing another ballad. Yes, it was still a Whitney Houston song and yes, there were still lots of power notes, but it was nice to see something a bit different from her. It’s not a style of singing that I love, but she does it extremely well.
4. Lauren Alaina (“I’m the Only One”)
Lauren was battling the flu this week, and despite a strange pre-performance interview with Ryan (where she was even spacier than usual), she overcame the illness for her performance. She’s just a naturally great singer. This song showed off her voice much better than last week’s, and I think Lauren is now back in the competition.
5. Stefano Langone (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”)
I haven’t been much of a Stefano fan, but I think that this was his best performance yet. He didn’t change the song up much, but considering last week’s Stevie Wonder debacle, that was probably for the best.
6. Casey Abrams (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)
I love Casey Abrams’ parents. And I also love that Casey always surprises me with his performances. He took on the mighty Nirvana this week (yay 1991 babies!), and while it was certainly a strange performance (and yes, a bit unpleasantly screechy at times), I give him a lot of credit for doing something that we’ve never really seen on the Idol stage. And with some good moments, it was much better than it had any right to be.
7. Jacob Lusk (“Alone”)
Can we please stop “Lusky stank” from entering the Idol lexicon? Please? The exuberant Jacob took on a Heart song, and thankfully, he was much better than last week. It still didn’t totally work (and he went off-key at a couple of spots), but as always with Jacob, it was a passionate performance.
8. Thia Megia (“Colours of the Wind”)
Thia was born in 1995 (that even makes me feel old!), yet despite having the most current music to chose from out of anyone, her performance felt the most old-fashioned. She sang it very well, and it was a nice performance, but this girl is going to fall by the wayside for sheer blandness if she doesn’t step it up. She should do something more current (maybe something Adele-like, since apparently Adele is the only relevant female artist that the judges can think of to compare people to).
9. Paul McDonald (“I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues”)
Why are you doing this to me, Paul? Why are you making me rank you 8th and 9th for the night? It was definitely an improvement from last week, but while some parts showed off his voice nicely, other parts were hopelessly flat. His energy also seemed a bit lower this week, despite all of the hopping around stage, but I’ll chalk it up the cold that he had.
10. Naima Adedapo (“What’s Love Got to Do With It”)
You know what’s great about Naima? She’s the only female contestant currently on the show with a definable personality. But you know what’s not so great? Her recent inability to hit more than half the notes in any given song.
11. Haley Reinhart (“I’m Your Baby Tonight”)
Like most of Haley’s performances, there were a few really nice moments, vocally. But most of the time, she was a bit all over the place (too much growling!). Her stage movements were awkward, and not in a fun Paul McDonald way.
12. Karen Rodriguez (“Love Will Lead You Back”)
If it wasn’t for her ridiculous hair and pandering to Nick Jonas, I would literally remember nothing about Karen’s performance.
Will Go: Karen
Should Go: Haley or Karen
The first live show of the season just ended (last week’s performances were pre-taped), and well, things were a bit rough. There were very few standout performances, and quite a few disappointing ones. Even the judges were a bit out of sorts (it seemed like Steven and J.Lo were battling colds, perhaps?) and just ended up praising most of the contestants. Here’s a rundown of what I thought of the performances, from best to worst.
1. Scotty McCreery (“The River”)
Mainstream country music is not my thing at all, but I do adore Scotty. He’s just such a pro. He basically salvaged the night with his rendition of this Garth Brooks tune. And as J.Lo pointed out, he loosened up, connected with the audience and looked like he was having fun.
2. James Durbin (“Maybe I’m Amazed”)
James Durbin has been doing a lot of screaming, so it was really refreshing to see him take a step back and sing as prettily as he did tonight. He did throw in some power notes, but they were done tastefully and accented his performance (as opposed to overwhelming it). His little falsetto run near the end was gorgeous, and he completely nailed this one.
3. Casey Abrams (“With a Little Help From My Friends”)
Taking on Joe Cocker’s barn-burning rendition of the Beatles tune is no easy task. And while Casey is a pretty passionate guy, his version did pale in comparison. It was a good performance, but there were a couple of key moments to the song that he didn’t hit. Not his best, but still very enjoyable, as always.
4. Pia Toscano (“All By Myself”)
Pia blew me away last week with her performance of “I’ll Stand By You”, but it seemed like she was trying to top herself this week. The problem was that she didn’t need to go any bigger than last week. She did wander into oversinging territory tonight, but there were also some really stunning moments.
5. Naima Adedapo (“Umbrella”)
I was very surprised to hear that Rihanna is Naima’s inspiration. I’d simply expected someone from an older era. But she did surprisingly well with Rihanna’s megahit “Umbrella”. It was not a perfect performance by any means (especially that last segment), but she did bring a welcome energy and unique flavour to her version.
6. Lauren Alaina (“Any Man of Mine”)
Lauren Alaina annoys me sometimes, but I thought that the judges were too harsh on her (since she was the first to perform, maybe they wanted to seem like they had very high standards. But then as the night wore on, it seems like just about anyone would cut it). Not great (and not a great showcase for her voice), but fun and lively.
7. Thia Megia (“Smile”)
She sang it well, but Thia’s performance of “Smile” was a bit of a mess. To begin with it was the wrong song choice – way too old for her. And then they took an old-fashioned song and made it seem even more irrelevant by adding some weird jazz arrangement. This girl has such a unique voice, but she needs to pick songs to showcase it.
8. Paul McDonald (“Come Pick Me Up”)
My sweet Paul. I wanted so badly to like this. He took two things that I love (Paul himself and Ryan Adams), but it just didn’t really work. “Come Pick Me Up” is a great song, but it was too low and didn’t suit Paul’s voice. I admire that he picked an artist that he actually admired (rather than Ashthon and Thia who just chose whoever the judges compared them to laste week), but there were other Adams songs that he could have done much better with (“Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd.”, Adams’ rendition of “Wonderwall”, “Dear Chicago”, “The Rescue Blues”). Also, I was shocked that J.Lo was unfamiliar with Ryan Adams. I know he’s not huge but COME ON. Someone who’s in the industry like her should know these things. (Semi-Side Note: Ryan Adams is currently trending worldwide on Twitter!)
9. Karen Rodriguez (“I Could Fall in Love”)
10. Jacob Lusk (“I Believe I Can Fly”)
Did I completely mishear this? Because to me, Jacob seemed to be singing in about half a dozen different keys. He’s usually solid, and he can be amazing, but this was just all over the place.
11. Haley Reinhart (“Blue”)
Good lord, some of those “yodelling” notes were really painful to me. You can insert the dying animal analogy of your choice. There were some nice moments, vocally, but the whole performance was boring.
12. Stefano Langone (“Lately”)
Frantic, sloppy, and boring all at the same time. It’s a rare combination.
13. Ashthon Jones (“When You Tell Me That You Love Me”)
Ashthon seems to be getting a lot of hate online, but I’ve always kind of likes her voice. But this was just stuffy, and not particularly well sung.
No one completely crashed and burned, but there were a lot of really underwhelming performances. Almost everyone was better last week, so we know that they’re capable of more, but this was a slow start to the finals (though to be fair, the first Top 10/11/12/13 show is usually rough)
Will Go: Ashthon?
Should Go: Ashthon, Stefano, and Haley are seat fillers to me right now.
…But Paul McDonald is singing “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams tonight!
I know some DRA fans will be pissed, because it’s American Idol and all. But really, I think Paul can do it justice. He’s seems like the real deal (or at least, as close to the real deal as you can get on Idol). I watched this video of him talking about his influences, and I really can’t argue with anyone who likes Mumford & Sons, Ryan Adams, and The Black Keys. (Who has all three of those artists in their top 6 most played artists on Last.fm? Oh that’s right, it’s this bitch.)
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Ryan being shown to a wider audience. It is a good thing, but part of me is also one of those snobby people who doesn’t want “the masses” to taint their favourite musicians. But it was kind of cool when Jeff Buckley hit number one on iTunes after Jason Castro (was it him?) sang “Hallelujah” on the show.
Mostly, though, I’m just excited to see what Paul does with it. (And what they’ll change some of the lyrics to!)
(And yes, I know that Ryan Adams has been done on the show before, when Blake Whatshisface sang “When the Stars Go Blue”. But I think the less that it said about that, the better.)
This kind of reminds me of that final season of Canadian Idol where everyone kept picking the most unexpected songs. Someone sang fucking ELLIOTT SMITH on Idol. I had an existential “David After the Dentist” moment. Is this real life? We also heard, Ryan Adams (by my favourite contestant of the season, Earl Stevenson, who sang “Two”), Radiohead, The Kooks, Blind Melon, Feist, The Jayhawks, Joel Plaskett, The Tragically Hip, Matthew Good Band, The Black Crowes, and The Zutons. I mean, not everyone did it well (as evidenced by Mitch MacDonald, who probably didn’t hit more than about eight correct notes all season, but chose awesome songs – and somehow placed second), but at least they didn’t all sing “I’ll Be” and Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” (which never, ever works) every week like they do on the American counterpart. They had theme weeks like “Rock and Roll Heaven” (they had to pick songs by dead rockstars, which was kind of tasteless but kind of awesome) and David Bowie Week and Beatles Week and Unplugged Week (Canadian Idol did it a few times, and it was always really good). And then people kept picking Bread songs, too, which was weird.
But anyways, I didn’t mean this to turn into a Canadian Idol rant. Too much misplaced nostalgia.
American Idol has had a good season so far. And a couple of contestants aside, I thought that the judges chose a top-notch to 24 (John Wayne and Coulton, you shall both be missed). And despite some shaky nerves and a couple of ghastly performances, the top 24 got off to an unusually strong start, I’d say. There are a shitload of performances to get through, so I’ll get right down to my rankings of both the guys and the girls (from favourite to least favourite).
- Paul McDonald (“Maggie May”) – If they sent the other contestants home and let Paul sing all the songs every week, I wouldn’t be mad. We’d briefly seen him sing “Maggie May” in his audition (don’t think I’ve forgotten that five second clip, Paul!), and I loved everything about the full version here. His intro (“What’s up, TV land?”), his wobbly stage moves, and that incandescent little grin all worked to give him a surprising charisma. And that VOICE. If Randy can say that Jacob Lusk’s Hollywood rendition of “God Bless the Child” was the best Idol performance ever, I can say that Paul McDonald has one of my favourite voices on Idol ever. And since I spotted him trending on Twitter (at least here in Canada) after the show, I guess I’m not the only one who is enchanted.
- Jacob Lusk (“A House is Not a Home”) – It’s not the style of singing that I usually enjoy, but you cannot deny the power of Jacob Lusk’s voice. He always brings so much conviction and emotion to his performances, and here, his performance was beyond anything to do with American Idol.
- Scotty McCreery (“Letters From Home”) – Just sign him to a label and put out an album now. He’s already a pro at 17, and Scotty McCreery is going to be sticking around for a long, long time (I’m predicting top 3). He sang impeccably, and he certainly knows who he is as an artist.
- Casey Abrams (“I Put a Spell on You”) – I’m a huge Casey fan, and while it wasn’t my favourite performance of his, he certainly didn’t disappoint. He commanded the stage, and showed heaps of soul, as always.
- James Durbin (“You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”) – I’m up and down with James, but he pretty much killed it here.
- Brett Loewenstern (“Light My Fire”) – Brett has been my favourite since his audition. And the best part about his performance on Tuesday was that he was obviously having a blast (well, that and the attack hug on Ryan Seacrest afterwards). He’s amazing, and I love how unique he is. It wasn’t his best performance (the beginning was too low), but it had some moments that showed off his voice beautifully.
- Clint Jun Gamboa (“Superstition) – I’m sure I’m not the only one that remembers Clint’s bullying douchebaggery in Hollywood, but I do have to admit that he has a great voice. He didn’t bring anything new here, but it was a powerful rendition, and he had a few amazing notes.
- Stefano Langone (“Just the Way You Are”) – Mostly nice (except a few really wonky notes), but generic.
- Jovany Barreto (“I’ll Be”) – This seemed straight out of American Idol, season 3. It was an old-fashioned and unoriginal performance, but Jovany did sing it very well.
- Tim Halperin (“Street Corner Symphony”) – His Vegas rendition of “Something” was so good. But for some reason, Tim chose a stupid Rob Thomas song and flounced around the stage like the worst kind of Tim (that is, Tim Urban). Very disappointing.
- Robbie Rosen (“Angel”) – I like Robbie, but I did not like this. All his note-switching (because clearly that’s the technical term) started to drive me insane by the end. He was nervous and it was a shady song choice.
- Jordan Dorsey (“OMG”) – More like WTF.
- Thia Megia (“Out Here On My Own”) – LOVE HER. Her tone is so interesting, and she is always so composed and professional. While a lot of the other girls screamed and tried to strut around the stage, Thia was a breath of fresh air. She seems much more mature than 15, but not in the way that people like Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina do. Those two are trying to look and act like they’re 25, but come off like desperate mallrats. But while Thia LOOKS 15, she seems to have a natural grace and wisdom about her that makes her an old soul.
- Pia Toscano (“I’ll Stand By You”) – I hadn’t paid a lick of attention to her until now, but Pia was amazing tonight. I wasn’t completely sold at the beginning of the performance, but by the end she was hitting unreal notes.
- Lauren Turner (“Seven Day Fool”) – She was another one who hadn’t been on my radar, but I loved her natural spunk and stage presence. She has killer, husky vocals, and she picked a good song to showcase them.
- Lauren Alaina (“Turn on the Radio”) – I find her annoyingly precocious, but I do have to admit that she’s got a great voice (though the judges have been over-selling it a bit). It wasn’t an Idol “moment” or anything, but she did prove to be fairly worthy of the hype.
- Ashton Jones (“Love All Over Me”) – I like her. She has a really nice voice, and her diva thing is cool. She did have some pitch problems, but I thought she showed a lot of potential, and good stage presence.
- Naima Adedapo (“Summertime”) – It was a solid performance, but she got overshadowed by some of the other ladies.
- Kendra Chantelle (“Impossible”) – I first noticed her during her duet with Paul McDonald on “Blackbird”. And here, I would’ve preferred to see something simpler. She has a really nice natural tone, and she doesn’t need as much of the crazy vocal gymnastics. She pulled it off pretty well, but the song was boring.
- Karen Rodriguez (“Hero”) – Generic and expected, but nicely sung.
- Haley Reinhart (“Fallin’”) – I CANNOT STAND HER. Everything about her rubs me the wrong way. She can sing, obviously, but all of her vocal gymnastics just drive me up the wall. Whenever I hear her, I always think of this (and like Marge Simpson was there, I’m always half asleep by the end of Haley Reinhart’s performances). I find her obnoxious, and her outfit and dance moves were tasteless.
- Rachel Zevita (“Criminal”) – I wanted to like her, but she kind of blew it here. “Criminal” is a great song, but it’s like she removed the melody and made it unrecognizable. And the whole “sultry” thing that she was going for didn’t really suit her. She’s beautiful, but she doesn’t need to play it up in such an obvious way.
- Julie Zorrilla (“Breakaway”) – I’ve never been a huge fan, and she kind of showed why here. She’s capable of singing better technically, but as J-Lo pointed out, she always lacks connection to the song.
- Ta-Tynisa Wilson (“Only Girl in the World”) – I have no idea what this was. I have to give Randy props, because he was the only one to give Ta-Tynisa and Haley negative feedback tonight.
So who’s going to make it through? The top 5 guys and top 5 girls will make the top 10, and there’s also some mysterious judges wildcard at hand, as well. I think that these people are basically guaranteed a top 10 spot:
- Scotty McCreery
- Lauren Alaina
- Casey Abrams
- Jacob Lusk
- Brett Loewenstern
- Pia Toscano
From there, it gets trickier. There are a LOT of contestants fighting for just a few spots. I don’t know how many wildcard spots there will be (I’m guessing they’ll go to a top 12, but does it have to be 1 guy and 1 girl? Will they add an extra spot to make it a top 13?), but luckily it’ll let the judges save a few deserving souls. These folks all have a decent shot at the last three top 10 slots, or the wildcard:
- James Durbin
- Paul McDonald (I actually really fear for him making the top 10, because Scotty, Jacob, Casey, Brett, and James have been shown so much more and have more obvious appeal. But I feel like the judges love him, and would probably save him)
- Thia Megia
- Lauren Turner
- Ashton Jones
Longshots (people who could get voted in):
- Clint Gamboa
- Jordan Dorsey
- Naima Adedapo
- Kendra Chantelle
- Haley Reinhart (PLEASE NO)
- Karen Rodriguez
Oh, yes, and if anyone’s curious (because I’m sure you all are…) my ideal top 12 (ignoring guy/girl distribution) would be: Paul, Brett, Thia, Casey, Scotty, Pia, James, Jacob, Lauren Turner, Lauren Alaina, Ashton, Tim
Strong contenders burn out while early favourites fade away, and this season of Idol sees its most low-key top three ever.
As confetti rained down on Lee Dewyze and he tried to hold back tears and/or vomit, as a viewer, I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down. I’d taken an interest in Lee’s voice early on in the season, and became a full-fledged fan with his rendition of “Treat Her Like a Lady” in the top 10. And like most Idol views, I’m a sucker for contestants that “grow” over the course of the season. But even his considerable upward trajectory didn’t leave him on the same level as runner-up Crystal Bowersox by the end of the competition. However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over nine seasons of American Idol, it’s that being the best isn’t always equated with winning the competition.
Crystal Bowersox had the arguable misfortune of being one of the contestants that the producers highlighted from the start of the show. We followed her journey through each round of auditions, and the obvious benefit of this was that she had a fanbase before the live shows even started. Other competitors (such as Joe Munoz, Michelle Delamour, and Alex Lambert) had hardly been shown all season, and were soon eliminated once the Top 24 started.
But at the same time, to be set up as an early “frontrunner” on Idol rarely pans out in the long run. Past seasons have seen early favourites like Danny Gokey, David Archuleta, Melinda Doolittle, and Chris Daughtry peak too soon in the competition and suffer from early overexposure. Fans simply seem to get bored of these contestants as the months of competition wear on, and begin to root for new, emerging favourites.
But perhaps no Idol contestant knows more about peaking too soon than this season’s Andrew Garcia. He was also shown at nearly every stage of the competition, and his Hollywood Week acoustic version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” was championed by the judges. But after having his performances compared unfavourably to his “Straight Up” glory for eight weeks of live shows, he was unceremoniously booted in a double elimination during the top 9.
Other early favourites also fizzled during the live shows. Tyler Grady, the affable “70′s Guy” who stood out with a playful rendition of “Let’s Get It On” in his audition, was eliminated after a lacklustre take on “American Woman” on the first week of the live shows. Didi Benami, who wowed the judges early on with her take on Kara Dioguardi’s “Terrified”, unsuccessfully attempted to transition from folky singer-songwriter to R&B diva mid-season, and had to settle for 10th place. And another early favourite, 17 year-old Katie Stevens, suffered from old-fashioned song choices and got booted with Garcia.
And Siobhan Magnus had a condensed rise and fall trajectory from the start of the top 24. She wowed viewers with the powerful scream she gave at the end of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” during Top 16 week, but made the mistake of continuing to tack The Scream onto the end of most of her performances in the weeks that followed. Fans seemed to tire of it, and voted her out at the top 6.
While early favourites were struggling to find their footing on the Idol stage, emerging dark horses had their Idol run cut far too short. One of the most talked-about episodes of the season came on the night where the top 12 was announced. Alex Lambert and Lilly Scott (and to a lesser degree, Katelynn Epperly) had given strong performances in the top 24, yet were robbed of their chance at a top 12 spot in favour of struggling contestants like Paige Miles, Tim Urban, and the aforementioned Katie Stevens.
So with all of the once-promising contestants (with the exception of Bowersox) either eliminated or floundering, where did that leave us? The impeccably coifed Urban was kept around for a bit of fun, but was inevitably booted in the top 7 due to lack of singing skill, and Aaron Kelly snuck into the top 5 with inoffensive but unspectacular performances. Meanwhile, “Big” Mike Lynche was saved from elimination by the judges in the top 9, and somehow slid through a few more weeks of competition on the rebound.
After all of that, viewers were left with Bowersox, Dewyze, and Casey James as the top three. For such a regular dude, James had a bizarre Idol run. He infamously removed his shirt at his audition upon request from the female half of the judging panel, and he floated into the top 24 as presumable eye candy. But on the first week of competition, he surprisingly cemented himself as a contender with a cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven”. In the following weeks, he yo-yoed between mid-tempo blues numbers (which left the panel cold) and heartfelt acoustic ballads (which left the panel raving). Armed with a nervous smile and an easygoing attitude, Casey was an unusually subdued contestant.
In fact, the entire top three lacked the usual desperation of most Idol contestants. They were all in their mid-to-later twenties, and it was nice to see three fairly well-rounded musicians duke it out. They each had their share of unconventional Idol song choices, and all of this unconventional Idol behaviour (which occasionally bordered on “blasé”) may have left some fans cold.
Both Crystal and Casey seemed largely unchanged by the process. They maintained the styles that they arrived with (proven by Casey’s strange selection of “OK, It’s Alright With Me” in the top three), and started out a high level that left little room for improvement.
On the other hand, Lee did seem to be greatly affected by the process. Kara declared in the top 3 that he had become “the heart of the show”, and though I hate to give her credit, she’s right. His first live performance was an out of tune, reserved cover of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”, but by the end he was belting out “Hallelujah” with a gospel choir and swaggering through Sinatra’s “That’s Life”. Lee came across as genuinely likeable and seemed to be a bit down on his luck (he shared stories of being sent to an alternative high school for behavioural issues), so it’s obvious as to why viewers wanted him to succeed. The previous two winners, David Cook and Kris Allen, also rose from mediocrity to beat out the more obvious contender (David Archuleta and Adam Lambert, respectively), so it wasn’t hard to predict this season’s winner.
I actually don’t think that this season was as awful as many made it out to be. I kind of liked the singer-songwriter vibe of the top 3, though obviously, it made for a less exciting season than last year’s Adam Lambert spectacle. Lee may be one of the show’s lesser vocalists, and it’s a shame to see a talented woman lose yet again, but overall, the top three made the show worth watching week in and week out.
Last night’s annual Idol finale brought the usual musical stalwarts and unnecessary bombast, and it focussed heavily on the departing Simon. But it seems like finalists Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowesox got lost in the shuffle. Though they appeared infrequently over the course of the two-hour spectacle, the two finalists did manage to provide a highlight of the evening in their performance with Joe Cocker on “With a Little Help From My Friends”. Other “legends” (I use the term loosely) on hand included Alice Cooper (who performed with the top 12 on “School’s Out”), Michael McDonald, Chicago (performing a medley with Lee), Alanis Morrissette (performing “You Oughta Know” with Crystal), Bret Michaels (who, judging by his media tour, seems to be having the speediest recovery in the history of life-threatening ailments), Janet Jackson, Christina Agueilera, Hall & Oates, and the surviving Bee Gees. Some of the performances were fun, but as soon as the acts ventured into double-song or medley territory, the numbers felt endless.
We also got unfunny musical comedy from Dane Cook, and some expectedly bizarre sorta-comedy from a returning Paula Abdul. Oh, and the “Pants on the Ground” guy was there with William Hung. Yeah.
The Idol finale always seems to feel simultaneously drawn-out and horribly rushed, and by the time they settled down to crown a winner, my enthusiasm was waning. Coming into the finale, I was predicting that Lee would win, and though I was conflicted on who I wanted to win (especially after Lee’s lacklustre performance on Tuesday), I was kind of rooting for The Paint Salesman. In the end, Seacreast dramatically announced Lee as the winner, and though his post-victory antics were endearing, I couldn’t help but feel that Crystal got robbed.
Since another season has drawn to a close, here’s a list of my ten favourite performances from the live shows:
- “Falling Slowly” – Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox
- “Treat Her Like a Lady” – Lee Dewyze
- “Jealous Guy” – Casey James
- “A Little Less Conversation” – Lee Dewyze
- “Change is Gonna Come” – Lilly Scott
- “Me and Bobby McGee – Crystal Bowersox
- “This Woman’s Work” – Michael Lynche
- “Maybe I’m Amazed” – Crystal Bowersox
- “Paint It Black” – Siobhan Magnus
- “Rhiannon” – Didi Benami
And though it seems mean, there were so many dud performances this year, so here are the most cringe-worthy performances from the live shows:
- “Against All Odds” – Paige Miles
- “The Climb” – Hayley Vaughn
- “Landslide” – Lacey Brown
- “Apologize” – Tim Urban
- “What’s Going On” – Jermaine Sellers
- “Smile” – Paige Miles
- “Hound Dog” – Andrew Garcia
- “Blue Skies” – Casey James
- “Sweet Love” – Tim Urban
- “Through the Fire” – Siobhan Magnus