American Idol 2011: Last Night, Pia Toscano Took Over AGAIN

Last night on American Idol the 12 remaining contestants got to choose songs from the year they were born. Again, the show wasn’t live, even though Ryan Seacrest said it was. Maybe next week??

As the show opened, the three judges opened with a plea for pledges to be made after the show for the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But, that’s for after the show. Once again, all of the songs will be available on iTunes with a portion of the proceeds going to the relief efforts in Japan.

OK, this was not a great show, by most Idol standards. With very few exceptions, Pia and Stefano, the rest were only OK or not so good. A couple were downright lousy and I wish I could pick two to go home. But like the American public, I only get to select one. So, here we go:

Naima Adedapo started the show off with the indomitable Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do with It, from 1984. She started off with the same sharp Tina vocals, but quickly faded and flattened out. In no time at all she was all over the place. Bravo to Jennifer Lopez for calling her out on her pitchiness. 12

Paul McDonald drunk-swayed his way through 1983’s I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues by Elton John. Suffering through the flu, he still sounded pretty good. Like most weeks, this was all about song choice. Paul consistently selects great songs that highlight his unique vocals. I really wish he would pick up a guitar or sit behind a piano, or something. His marionette routine is starting to wear thin. 7

Thia Magia sang a beautiful, pitch-perfect version of Vanessa Williams’ Colors of the Wind from the 1995 (What??? I have underwear older than that!!!) Disney movie Pocahontas that was very true to the original and very safe and boring. Oh, did I mention that it was BORING. She really brought nothing new to the song. But she didn’t do any damage to it either, so I guess something can be said for that. 9

James Durbin took a turn with 1989’s Bon Jovi’s classic rock ballad, I’ll Be There for You. And in what has become now typical James fashion, he totally killed it. Yeah, he had some pitchy moments, especially in the beginning, but the chorus was great. And by the time he got to the second verse, he was on fire. The second chorus he gave us his signature James shriek, but it seemed to fit right in with the rest of the song. In a pretty cocky moment, James vowed to sing an Aerosmith song in the finale, and Steven Tyler promised to join him. Now that may be worth keeping young James around for. I don’t know what ST was saying to him, but it must have been a doozy because about 5-6 seconds of their conversation were edited out. Either that or the guy with his finger on the button was still drowsy from Thia’s snoozer of a performance a few minutes earlier. 4

Haley Reinhart went with the vampy and throaty I’m Your Baby Tonight by Whitney Houston, from 1990. Like last week, she oversold it. And once again, Jennifer started her critique with, “You look amazing tonight.” Never good. She followed that by telling her that she forced it. Which is her way of saying that she oversold it. I said it last week and I still say, she needs to tone her stuff down a bit and she’ll be much better off. Someone should have told her she had lipstick on her teeth and chin before she went out on stage. Even the young girls on that crazy TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras know they’re not supposed to eat the lipstick. Get a grip, girl. 11

Stefano Langone sang Simply Red’s If You Don’t Know Me by Now number one hit from 1989. As Randy pointed out it was a remake of a Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes number one hit before that. The first few notes he seemed hesitant and uncomfortable but he quickly compensated for this downfall with his great vocals and was in command in no time. By the second verse he was showing tremendous control and vocal range with a nice run at the end to wrap it up. The judges loved him. 2

Pia Toscana sang Whitney Houston’s 1988 Where Do the Broken Hearts Go. This girl has got some pipes, and as video tape proves, she even had ‘em when she was just a little tyke too, belting out some serious Whitney as a child. I’m not sure the AI stage has ever seen any female pull off the runs and pure vocal range that she pulls off regularly with ease. Not even the great Carrie Underwood. 1

Scottie McCreery took his deep country voice and used it to sing 1993’s Can I Trust You with My Heart, by Travis Tritt. OK, I have to admit that my knowledge of country music can fit in a thimble. For elves. Very, very small elves. With unusually small hands. This sounded suspiciously to me like last week’s version of The River by Garth Brooks, but it had some nice tone changes and runs toward the end and last week’s didn’t. It’s not that it sounded bad, because it didn’t. It’s just that he sounds the same every week and he’s pigeon-holing himself. Anyone want to take any bets that he sings some Toby Keith or Trace Adkins next week? I’m just sayin… I will say that the Elvis montage before the performance was one of the best montages of the season so far. Thank you very much…. 4

Karen Rodriguez sang 1989’s Love Will Lead You Back to My Heart, by Taylor Dayne. It wasn’t great, but it was OK. Like Thia, she’s getting boring. She said that she wanted to be known as more than just the Spanish singer, and then halfway through she broke into a Spanish verse. It’s almost like a nervous tic with her. “Oh my God!! I’m not hitting my notes the way I’m supposed to. I better switch languages to something I’m more comfortable with. Maybe no one will notice. Maybe they’ll think it’s cute. Maybe J Lo will say something nice again. After all, she did a whole movie based on it.” Not the way I would go about trying to change my image, but OK. I give her one more week, then, bu-bye. 10

Casey Abrams went grunge this week with Nirvana’s 1989 hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit. And look, he brought his bass out with him. Yes, for the first time, a contestant came out with an instrument. I hope this is a new trend. I love it. His performance had just the right amount of pissed off anger that the song called for and that Kurt Cobain was probably going for when he wrote it. We could have done without the screaming, but overall, very nice. The green background lighting was kinda weird too, but I’m not going to hold that against him. 3

Lauren Alaina sang Melissa Ethridge’s 1993 super hit, I’m The Only One, which is really perfect for her voice and range. Like Paul, she said she had the flu, but she actually sounded stronger and showed more range than last week. Of course, this ended up being a much better song choice than last week’s Any Man of Mine. This was right in her wheelhouse (I thought last week’s was too, but guess not) and she made the most of it. 5

Jacob Lusk got the pimp spot and sang Heart’s super power ballad Alone from 1987. Actually, this would have been a fantastic song for Pia to sing one day and I still would love to hear her do it. Jacob was a little too rangy in the first verse and the bridge, but once he got into the second verse he was in a groove all his own. If he could have dropped off the first half of the song and just kept the second, it could have been the performance of the night. 6

GOING HOME: Naima Adedapo