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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.
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
I’ve had as many gripes about this season of American Idol as the next person (although it looks like the next person may no longer be tuning in, judging by the ratings slip the show has experienced), but I really feel that this year’s top 3 is one of the strongest the show has ever had. Admittedly, there’s no one who’s in Kelly Clarkson or David Cook territory, but to me, this is probably the only season that’s succeeded in having the three most deserving contestants make it to the end. Here’s a recap of how Lee, Crystal, and Casey did tonight, and how they’ve done throughout the season, in order from who I think is most to least likely to win.
1. Lee Dewyze
Song 1 (His choice): “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd – This was a perfect choice for Lee’s voice. His pre-competition karaoke version was promising, and it was great to see him give it the proper Idol treatment. It was a very strong performance, but I was expecting a slightly bigger payoff in the chorus. Still, it was certainly the best of the first round of performances.
Song 2 (Simon choice): “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen – Admittedly, I was not that excited to hear that this was Simon’s choice for Lee. It’s one of my favourite songs ever, but it’s been done to death on various Idol shows (and not to mention the scads of YouTube covers floating around). But it turned out to be a great choice for Lee, who took the song in refreshingly unexpected directions. He had one of his cleanest vocals yet, and he sang with a passion that woke this sleepy season of Idol right up. I might have preferred it with slightly less bombast, but it was an extremely powerful performance nonetheless.
Lee’s currently trending like crazy on Twitter, which is only a small indication of his rise to this season’s frontrunner. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought that Crystal was a shoe-in to take the crown. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been undecided, but after tonight, I think that there’s a very good chance that Lee could come out on top. “Treat Her Like a Lady” in the top 10 was the first performance that situated him as a real contender, and since then, he’s had memorable performances with “A Little Less Conversation”, “The Boxer” and “That’s Life”. His pitch sometimes leaves something to be desired, and he’s struggled with confidence, but he’s become this season’s underdog. Crystal is steady and consistent, but Lee’s arguably offered up more exciting “moments” over the course of the season. The fact that the past two winners, David Cook and Kris Allen, were of a similar style and also hit their peaks late in the season could bode well for Lee’s chances in the finals. And constant raving from the judges won’t hurt, either.
2. Crystal Bowersox
Song 1 (Her choice): “Come to My Window” by Melissa Ethridge – It was a suitable, if not slightly predictable choice for Crystal to take on this Melissa Ethridge tune. She sang well as always, but it lacked the grit and passion of some of her other performances.
Song 2 (Ellen’s choice): “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney – Any soul that was missing in her first performance was more than made up for here. Crystal is always best when she sings with abandon, and that’s exactly what she did here. It was great to see her sing without her guitar and move around the studio. I was a bit surprised that the judges didn’t rave more than they did.
Crystal started out as a favourite on this season of Idol. From her first audition to Hollywood Week through the top 24 and until maybe the top 7, she was the clear frontrunner. She did a great job of maintaining her momentum, but unfortunately, audiences are often more drawn to diamonds in the rough than the consistent ones who start off strong. Danny Gokey, Michael Johns, Brooke White, Chris Daughtry, and Melinda Doolittle could tell you a thing or two about that. Even though Lee is my personal favourite, part of me hopes that Crystal can still pull off the win. Idol‘s never had a winner like her, and it would be nice to reward her strong performance over the season.
3. Casey James
Song 1 (His choice): “OK, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson – I’m all for picking more obscure songs on Idol (the final season of Canadian Idol saw songs from Elliott Smith, The Kooks, The Jayhawks, Joel Plaskett, and Ryan Adams performed, and I couldn’t have been happier), but unfortunately, Casey chose a relatively stagnant song. It would have been nice to see him pick a song that would give the audience more moments to grab on to. He sang it well, and he seemed comfortable, but it was a somewhat forgettable effort.
Song 2 (Kara and Randy’s choice): “Daughters” by John Mayer – Somehow, the judges choice that I was most onboard with turned out to serve Casey the worst. It was as though someone had just placed him on the stage and said, “Okay, sing a nice sensitive song and make some John Mayer Guitar Faces”. And he did it. The song can be lovely, but he made it so bland. That said, the bridge was really strong. He briefly showed some passion as he was given that bluesier part to work with, and I would’ve loved to see his whole night at that level.
Casey has been a strange contestant. His audition was memorable for every reason except the singing, and from the brief glimpses in Hollywood Week, he seemed like a cute guy with a nice voice. However, his performance of Bryan Adams “Heaven” in the top 24 immediately established him as a serious contender and separated him from the season’s other piece of eye candy (hi, Tim Urban). He remained consistently good for a few weeks, and then began to fluctuate between being great (“Jealous Guy”, “Don’t”) and pretty bad (“Blue Skies”, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”). Casey seems like a cool guy, and I’m glad that he got to the top 3, but tonight’s underwhelming performances likely sealed his title as third-place finisher.
- Lee – “Hallelujah”
- Crystal – “Maybe I’m Amazed”
- Lee – “Simple Man”
- Crystal – “Come to My Window”
- Casey – “Daughters”
- Casey “OK, It’s Alright With Me”
Last night’s episode of American Idol found the final four contestants taking on really sappy songs from the movies (did you see that list that they had to choose from? They’ve since added some new ones to the list on iTunes, and how I wish someone had chosen Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”). After the success of last season’s Adam Lambert/Allison Iraheta performance of “Slow Ride”, it was inevitable that they’d pair up the final four, so we also got a Lee/Crystal and a Casey/Mike performance (obviously, Casey got the raw end of the deal on this one). Here’s a look at how the performances went down.
Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox (“Falling Slowly”) – I know that “Falling Slowly” was one of Kris Allen’s “moments” last season, but I thought that Lee and Crystal added a new dimension to the Once song. They did have the advantage of it being a duet (which is how the song is intended), but while Kris took a beautiful song and sang it quite competently (I spent all of season 8 wishing Kris would go home, but I did genuinely enjoy “Heartless” and “Falling Slowly”), Lee and Crystal sang with more passion. They sounded amazing together, and I liked that not only did they both shine, but they also connected and allowed the other to have their moments. It was one of those rare Idol performances that felt more like a concert than a competition. (By the way, did anyone else notice that Lee actually portrayed excitement while talking to Ryan after his and Crystal’s duet? He was still awkward as hell and rambled a bit, but his animated tangent about singing with Crystal for the first time was adorable.)
Casey James and Michael Lynche (“Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”) – With the misfortune of going second in the duets, Casey and Mike took the stage with this Bryan Adams ballad. They both sang it fine, but it felt more like an Il Divo-esque performance with dudes belting cheesy ballads to make the ladies swoon (which could explain why Simon liked it so much). They didn’t have much chemistry, either (Casey kept nodding and smiling at Mike while he sang, but I don’t think that Big Mike was having any of it). Good guitar playing from Casey, though.
The Individual Performances
Lee Dewyze (“Kiss From a Rose”) – America’s cousin, Phil Dweezy (if you don’t read Richard Lawson’s American Idol column over at Gawker, please do yourself a favour a go there right now), took on Seal’s one and only hit, and while he sounded perfectly fine, I do have to agree with the judges, who said that it wasn’t his best performance. There were a few pitch problems, and it seemed like he was getting out of breath at numerous points. That being said, it’s great to see that Lee is continuing to gain confidence. He looked more comfortable than ever on the Idol stage, and his past three or four performances have been much more charismatic than his jittery early songs. But Randy labelling him as “The Rocker” and insisting that Lee choose “a more rock kind of song” was ridiculous. What happened to the versatility that the judging panel so often demands?
Michael Lynche (“Will You Be There”) – Mike was the only contestant to receive a “Contestant” t-shirt from mentor Jamie Foxx (the whole “Artist” versus “Contestant” debate is valid, but I’m not sure if we actually need to give them t-shirts emblazoned with the label), and he showed us why with his lazy performance of some song from Free Willy (cue judges repartee). I say the same damn thing about him every performance, but it was fine. He sang it well, but it also made my mind wander back to Lee’s performance, and wonder what Lee and Crystal (who hadn’t done their duet yet) would sing.
Casey James (“Mrs. Robinson”) – Simon and Garfunkel have a lot of great songs. In fact, they have a lot of great songs in The Graduate alone. So why Casey chose one of their lightest ditties (or at least didn’t do the version by fellow lady wig enthusiast Evan Dando) confused me. The mandolin was nice, and him dangling off the mosh pit platform added to the cozy feeling, but the whole thing was a bit ho-hum. It was certainly much better than last week’s Sinatra debacle, but it was a far cry from his “Jealous Guy” and “Don’t” highlights. And did he pick that song just to invite more “Kara the Coug” comments from the judges? Because that’s really not doing him any favours, either.
Crystal Bowersox (“I’m Alright”) – Despite the bizarre song choice (The Kenny Loggins song from Caddyshack? Alright, then…) Crystal managed to pull off the best solo performance of the night. She wisely returned to her folk/soul roots, and her reworking of the song was quite clever. I am starting to get a bit bored of her, to be honest, but that often happens with the contestants that the producers pump up so heavily from the start. It’ll be interesting to see how the finale (assuming Crystal and Lee are the final two) goes, with the long-term frontrunner vs. the late bloomer. The past two seasons would tell us that Lee has a better chance than we might think.
1. Lee Dewyze/Crystal Bowersox duet
2. Crystal Bowersox
3. Casey James/Michael Lynche duet
4. Casey James
5. Lee Dewyze
6. Michael Lynche
So who’s going home?: If Big Mike is sent home, it’ll be the first time in American Idol history that I’ll genuinely really like all three members of the final three (Justin Guarini, Ruben Studdard, Jasmine Trias, Carrie Underwood, Katherine McPhee, Jordin Sparks, Syesha Mercado, and Kris Allen have all foiled my hopes). Seeing as it’s never happened before, I’m not holding my breath. But I still kind of think Mike might go home.
In American Idol‘s latest attempt to suck any shred of relevance out of their show, tonight was dubbed Frank Sinatra Night, and the contestants donned fedoras, vests, and ballgowns to take on some golden oldies. Even the chipper Harry Connick Jr., who arranged each song and sat in on piano, struggled to inject some life into these old chestnuts. No disrespect to Sinatra…but when you’re show is about finding a contemporary recording artist, this is one of the stuffier theme nights that you could choose. But nonetheless, let’s recap who fell apart (I’m not happy), and who managed to avoid flying off the rails completely. To change things up, we’ll go chronologically.
Aaron Kelly (“Fly Me To the Moon”) – Aaron kicked off the night looking adorable but sounding completely wonky on one of Sinatra’s better-known tunes. The first verse was shaky, and though he managed to get some nice notes in as the song progressed, he seemed completely uncomfortable. Nothing about his performance was interesting or memorable. And I feel like I just kicked a puppy.
Casey James (“Blue Skies”) – After Aaron’s lacklustre performance, Casey didn’t have much to top. Yet somehow he managed to sound even worse. Look, I’ve been a big Casey fan from the start. I’ve liked all of his performances (even “Don’t Stop”), but this was undeniably…brutal. I felt uncomfortable watching it, because he looked as if he knew how terribly it was playing out, and seemed lost without his guitar. The judges proceeded to kick him while he was down (even Ellen had nothing but negative feedback. Ellen!) With a last-minute VFTW switch (they’ve dubbed the campaign “Goat for the Worst”) and the possibility of sympathy votes, I’m hoping that Casey will scrape through to another week. But after two weeks in the bottom two, it’s not looking good.
Crystal Bowersox (“Summer Wind”) – Crystal looked lovely and gave a strong performance of a song that she claims is very personal to her. She had some really good moments, especially later in the song, but the whole thing lacked some of the intensity that she’s brought to her other performances. Part of it was the style, but she also seemed a bit disconnected in the front half of the song. She’s much better suited to intimate, acoustic numbers than big band arrangements. Not one of her more memorable performances, but still enjoyable, as always.
Michael Lynche (“The Way You Look Tonight”) – Michael chose a song that suited his voice and sang it in a cheesy, old-fashioned way. What else is new? Unfortunately, by tonight’s standards, that gave him one of the better performances of the night. Yeah, it hurts me to admit that, too. NEXT.
Lee Dewyze (“That’s Life”) – I was a bit worried about how Frank Sinatra Night would treat Lee, but he once again showed his ability to turn any song into a relevant, interesting performance. He looked surprisingly comfortable without his guitar, and his pitch was (for the most part) good. I don’t really blame him for this, but he seemed to be buried deep in the mix of the song. All of the instrumentation overpowered his voice at a few points in the song, but aside from that, it seemed to be a very strong performance for Lee.
- Lee Dewyze
- Michael Lynche (no comment.)
- Crystal Bowersox
- Aaron Kelly
- Casey James L
Should Go: MICHAEL LYNCHE
Will Go: Casey James (or possibly Michael Lynche…as I wishfully hope every week)