American Idol Season 10 - Top 11 Part II: March 30, 2011

Top 11 Part II - Elton John Week - March 30, 2011

With the judges choosing to save Casey last week, the Top 11 will live to see another week. Two contestants will go home tonight. In an ideal world, it will be Thia and Jacob. But I know not to get my hopes up!

1. Scotty McCreery - "Country Comfort" B

I liked that Scotty broke out his guitar for the first time on the big Idol stage. Yet I was left wondering what would have happened if Scotty had taken a better-known Elton song and put his own country spin on it? It seemed awfully basic to take a song with the word "Country" in the title, basically just for that fact alone. I would have loved to see Scotty take a risk. "Crocodile Rock", anyone? (My favorite Elton John song of all time.) That would have been upbeat, exciting, and different. What about the amazing and highly underrated 2002 hit "Original Sin"? I did agree with Randy when he said it seemed as though Scotty seems extremely comfortable up on the stage, which is an amazing feat for a 17 year old in any genre, really. Scotty is a cheeseball when he performs but I like it, mostly.

2. Naima Adedapo - "I'm Still Standing" B+

It is no secret I have not been a fan of Naima in, well, any performance of hers so far. I expected to hate this performance but I was pleasantly surprised. She is a consummate performer and I do believe that any concert she put on would be highly entertaining and creative, much like this performance. It is clear she knows who she is (a rarity on the Idol stage in the past few seasons) and is comfortable in her own skin. On paper, I never would have wanted to hear a reggae version of "I'm Still Standing" but in practice, it was pretty excellent. This performance worked very well for me, and I was confused as to why the judges criticized it heavily. They've praised performances by her that have been downright awful, so who knows. Would I buy Naima's CD? Probably not. But I respected her for taking a chance with a very popular Elton song, also a favorite of mine, and twisting it in an unexpected and original way.

3. Paul McDonald - "Rocket Man" B-

I can't lie, seeing Paul in that white suit again was probably one of the highlights of this night for me. I would have loved to see this song be completely acoustic, no accompaniment by the band. It would have really put the focus on Paul's unique voice. I was waiting and waiting for the performance to finally reach that place where it sailed perfectly away, and I don't think that moment ever came. It wasn't memorable over all, and sometimes that hurts a contestant's votes more than having an absymal performance. I wouldn't have picked this song for Paul at all. Probably my least favorite performance of his, "for me, for you", but I've gotta say he's still one of my favorites in this competition.

4. Pia Toscano - "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" A-

Like many loyal Idol viewers, I have the curse of not comparing current contestants' versions of songs to the original artists, but instead to the version previously performed by past Idol contestants. I know this song has been sung many times, many ways by contestants on Idol in the past, but the definitive version is, of course, Clay Aiken's crowning moment in Season 2.

Of course, Pia chose the Elton John showstopper for this night. I am left wondering what she could have done with a more understated song, something piano driven, stripped down, quiet and pure. What about "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"? Am I the ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD who remembers this single from 2002 where Justin Timberlake portrayed a younger, 1970's era Elton John in the fascinating video? What about "Sacrifice"?

Pia has a gorgeous voice and, I believe, a true contender for the Idol crown. She puts true emotion into everything she sings and I liked the small changes and inflections she incorporated into the melody. She has the sort of one in a million voice that the rest of us would die to have. Was this song as good as her version of "All In Love Is Fair" from last week? No, but it was pretty damn good.

5. Stefano Langone - "Tiny Dancer" A-/B+ (yeah I couldn't choose a grade here)

Stefano wins this week's Most Improved award. It is clear that being in the Bottom 2 last week shook him up and gave him more of a will to try even harder this week. His enunciation was also much clearer and more carefully executed. A pretty and exceedingly competent song from Stefano. And you know J. Lo was melting when he approached the judges' table to hold her hand at the end of the song.

6. Lauren Alaina - "Candle In The Wind" A-

I was fascinated that Lauren chose to sing the original Marilyn Monroe version for this performance, I just automatically assumed that she would sing the Princess Diana version. For anyone of my generation, we will never forget where we were when the beautiful, larger than life Princess died. Then I realized that Lauren was born in 1994, making her just 3 years old when Diana passed away. (For point of reference, I was 11.) That fact both terrified me and explained why Lauren chose the original version of this song to perform.

However, it was nice to hear Lauren sing something emotional, soft, and poignant and give a quiet country twist on the song. I love her voice and I really think she will go on to be immensely successful in the country world.

7. James Durbin - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" A

Now THIS was a performance by the contestant that was tailor made for me. I loved everything - the attitude, the clothes, the way he worked the crowd and the stage. This is someone I would LOVE to see in concert. Let's just put it this way, I rocked out so hard to this performance that my hair clip fell out. Now that is a compliment of the highest order. A spectacle that was both visual and aural, that was literally on fire. AWESOME.

8. Thia Megia - "Daniel" C

Oof. Where do I start? I don't like the tone or sound of her voice. I don't like her performance style. I am not convinced that Thia is not a robot. Poor little Thia, who dedicated this song to her brother who "moved away". Cry me a river, "sixteen year old" Thia. Call me when something really tragic happens to you. It was such a blatant ploy to garner votes after she landed in the Bottom 3, so very saccharine. It all rang false to me. She gave, I guess, a better performance than she has in the past. I GUESS. There was one pretty moment where she went up into a falsetto, towards the 2nd half of the song. Other than that, I could deal with never hearing the words "Thia Megia" again.

9. Casey Abrams - "Your Song" A-/B+

It seems Casey really took the judges' advice (OK, J. Lo's advice) to heart this week. He stripped it down to just him singing and a piano. He trimmed his beard! He got rid of the ridiculous and out of place growling! It all added up to a great performance. I saw in his eyes this week a hunger that had been missing before. Up until this point in the competition, I know he believed his own hype and wasn't taking the competition seriously (kiss of death to Idol voters who, like me, take this show very seriously). Was this vocal absolutely perfect? No. But I felt a sense of emotion behind it and it was understated and musical. And just what we needed from Casey this week.

10. Jacob Lusk - "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" D+

I am SO very ready for him to be gone. Again, like Thia, I just don't like the tone of his voice. Too much emotion and theatrics disguises real emotion. I am also tired of Jacob's crying faces and how I am convinced he is going to burst into sobs at any moment. I never want to hear or see this performance again. I actually yawned during this performance. Sorry, Jacob, it is time to go.

11. Haley Reinhart - "Bennie & the Jets" A

A true Idol moment for Haley. I honestly have not liked Haley very much at all in this competition, but I must give credit where it is due. She gave a sexy, unique vocal and performed it perfectly. Haley definitely had fun with this performance and it showed. Was it gimmicky? In a sense, yes, of course. But, by far and away, a great way to close the show on a high note.

Best of the night: James
Worst of the night: Jacob