Last night on American Idol, the Top 13 performed semi-live. Well, at least they were live the other night. Due to the number of contestants and the potential length of judges’ critiques, the producers made the command decision to go live on Monday night and air it tonight. That gave them the opportunity to edit at will. Probably not a bad choice. Expect the show to be actually live next week.
This week’s theme was contestant’s favorite idol. No, not their favorite American Idol. Wouldn’t that have been silly and self-serving? No, the contestant got to choose a song from their actual favorite idol. And in a somewhat interesting marketing ploy to make even more money, Idol producers made the interesting decision to allow the contestants to work with record producers and record their songs, which for the first time will be available on ITunes today in a compilation album that will sell for $7.99.
I guess they figure that people are going to YouTube them and download them anyway, so what they hell, they may as well get something out of it. So what if the song sucks. Someone will buy it. Probably a lot of someones. After all, this is America, land of the sheep. If it’s on TV, it must be worth having on your IPod. Someone else may have it and therefore, you have to have it too.
So, here is how I saw last night’s contestants, in the order of appearance.
Lauren Alaina started off with Shania Twain’s Any Man of Mine. She was good, but not as good as she had been in past weeks. And not as good as she could have been, or should have been. And all three judges called her on it. She has the talent to potentially be the one of the strongest girls in this competition and she can’t let herself fall back on her laurels. And the judges won’t let her. She won’t make it to the end if that happens. Plus, I was not happy with the way she rolled her eyes and pouted when Steven Tyler finally told her she “needed to be a little more kickass”. Has she never been told that she needs to do better? Really? 8
Casey Abrams sang Joe Cocker’s A Little Help from My Friends. While it wasn’t his best work, it was a great song choice for him. The opening was a little weak, but as soon as he opened the song up, he really tore the package off of it. His now signature growl came out and did nothing but make the song better. The chorus in the background, his “friends”, helped a lot. Nice standing ovation from the crowd. Tyler, never at a loss for an interesting phrase, called him a “Plethora of Passion”. 3
Ashton Jones looked like her idol Diana Ross, resplendent in a long shimmery white gown and poofed out hair. And her voice was nice, but she certainly wasn’t Diana Ross as she sang a weak, watered-down version of Diana’s Tell Me That You Love Me. She continues to play the part of a diva but still has done nothing to earn the title. I wasn’t crazy about it, and neither were the judges. Making it worse was the fact that the song’s writer, the legend himself, Gordy Berry, sat in the audience to listen to her. 13
Paul McDonald chose Ryan Adams as his idol, and if he sang a more known artist and a better song, it would have been a great choice. The biggest problem is that the song he chose, Come Pick Me Up, is little known and that is never good. I still love the original tone to his voice, but his herkey-jerkey movements are still so disarming and seem to be getting worse. Although watching Ryan Seacrest imitate his movements afterward was quite funny. 9
Pia Toscano tore the house down for the second week in a row. I say it all the time, don’t ever take Celine, Barbra, Donna Summer, Anne Wilson, because you are almost guaranteeing yourself a failure. But, every so often someone comes along that can actually pull it off. Pia chose Celine Dion as her Idol, and sang Celine Dion’s version of Eric Carmen’s power ballad All by Myself. It was really a great song to showcase her mad vocal abilities. And that’s exactly what she did, starting off in a slow tempo, then picking up and adding the strength in the chorus. This girl has some serious power and control in her voice. A tough combination to beat. Best performance of the night for the second week in a row. Judge #4 (wife Lynn) has informed me that Pia is going to win the competition. 1
James Durbin went with Paul McCartney as his Idol and sang Maybe I’m Amazed (one of my all-time favorite songs, by the way). His voice was clear and strong. This was a nice departure from last week’s near perfect performance of Judas Priest’s You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and showed some great versatility. He hit every note effortlessly. Slid into the falsettos and back down again with ease. We were all waiting for the trademark screeching and none really came. He surprised us at the end with a nice, soft ending. So far this is a two man, one woman competition. Nobody else is even close. 2
Haley Reinhart is a Leanne Rhimes fan. She picked her song, Blue. The first note was rugged and sounded to me like it was warbly and off tune, even with the yodeling that was supposed to be there. But then it smoothed out from there. The rest of the song maintained some serious country twang even more than the song asked for. I think if she toned it down a little it would have been a lot better. 10
Jacob Lusk sang I Believe I Can Fly, by his idol, R. Kelly. Truly a song of inspiration. The tone of his voice really was perfect for this song. The bridge was very pitchy, but the rest of the song was fantastic and his range is so versatile. He started off so low, then went to the higher register with such ease. 5
Thia Megia chose Michael Jackson as her idol, which is ironic since Randy said that her tone reminded him of MJ just two weeks ago. She sang the beautiful song, Smile, written by Charlie Chaplin and reported to be MJ’s favorite song. It was also interesting, if not a little sad, that little Thia had never heard of Charlie Chaplin (she called him Charlie Chapman at one point). Thia’s tone was near perfect, especially in the beginning. She still needs some work. If she stayed true to Jackson’s version, instead of going a little jazzy after the first verse, it would have been amazing. The jazzy version was a nice try, but it was a little too and really did nothing for her voice. 11
Stefano Langone picked Stevie Wonder as his idol and sang his song, Lately. He characterized Stevie Wonder beautifully and captured the essence of his voice with no problem. He showed soul and pizzazz as he changed up the song, something that Thia could not manage to pull off. He really had no problem moving from the slower tempo to the up-tempo and back down again. 6
Karen Rodriguez picked Selena as her idol (big shocker there after last week’s English/Spanish version of Hero) and chose her song I Could Fall in Love with You. Fortunately she didn’t go do the little known English/Spanish version. She also didn’t show off her vocal chops like she did last week. It might have been the song, but she was much weaker than we’ve heard her in the past. She said that she couldn’t hear herself well and was missing the upper and lower notes. That could explain why she wasn’t going there. It certainly affected the song. Either that or she just couldn’t sing the song she chose. It’s happened before, you know. Never a good sign when the judges start your critique with “You look beautiful up there tonight”. 12
Country crooner Scottie McCreery’s idol is Garth Brooks and his song choice was The River. For a country song, it was very good. It was soulful, meaningful and heartfelt. He just wasn’t singing, and we knew it. I like Scottie, I really do. My biggest problem with him continues to be, I don’t know that he will be able to do anything but country. And while that worked for some (yes younger daughter Nikki, I’m talking about Josh Gracin), I don’t know if it will work for Scottie. His voice is TOO COUNTRY. 4
Naima Adedapo’s idol is Rihanna, and she chose her song, Umbrella. I think it was almost as good as the original, which I really don’t like (no fault of hers). I did like the reggae tilt she threw on it. It really added to it. She did have some issues with breathing, however, but the arrangement was great. There is a reason that Rihanna uses auto-tune when she sings live. Her songs are hard to manage. There’s a lesson there somewhere, like, you shouldn’t do them live. But that being said, it was still kinda cool. There was firebolts, rain, there was a whole video going on out there. Not sure what “overstand” means, but what the hell. Go right ahead and make up new words. 7