American Idol Season 10 - Top 12: March 16, 2011
Top 12 - Songs From The Year You Were Born - March 16, 2011
Yes, I am back. And yes, I have missed this crazy show more than even I care to admit. Hard to believe this is my 3rd year of blogging about American Idol and my 4th straight year of watching it obsessively. Yes, I admit I only watched the finale episode of Season 1, where Kelly Clarkson won the crown and I cried. And I watched every single episode of Season 2, loved Clay, but for some reason was out on the night of the finale episode and never saw it. I skipped Season 3 (Fantasia), but tuned back in for Season 4 (Carrie Underwood & Bo Bice - awesome). Skipped most of Season 5 but loved Taylor Hicks. Skipped Season 6 (Jordin Sparks) entirely except for the Bon Jovi episode. But, yes, I found my obsessive way back to the show for David Cook, Kris Allen, and Lee Dewyze and all the people we loved and lost along the way (Michael Johns, Carly Smithson, Matt Giraud, Tim Urban).
So here goes, without a delay, the redemption season!
1. Naima Adedapo - "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1984) C
I was not impressed by this rendition by Naima of one of my favorite songs from childhood. Should I feel old now? (No let's wait until we meet a contestant born in 1995. WOW.) Naima brought nothing exciting to this song, except a bit of way-too-obvious pitchiness. That is not to say it was a disaster but it was instantly forgettable. The first contestant of the night is always in a bit of a precarious spot - that they might be forgotten by the audience when it comes time to vote. Well, I think Naima just might be in that spot.
2. Paul McDonald - "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" (1984) B-
Oh Paul, you are so unusual and offbeat, but those eyes, that smile, you remind me of every guy I've ever had a crush on and wondered why because they were just so damn weird. Luckily "for you, for me" that works well. I'll give you a free pass because you were sick this week. But please work on those weird hand gestures. You have such a unique, distinctive, and awesome voice that I will keep voting for you, but please bring it next week.
3. Thia Megia - "Colors of The Wind" (1995) B
A competent, pleasant, and unoffensive performance. Yet, this is not the stuff of dreams, or what should win American Idol for that matter. The Pocahontas soundtrack was one of the first I ever purchased, mind you. Personally, I feel Vanessa Williams's version of this song is much better. Randy gave Thia a good piece of advice when he said that she has been sticking to ballads and not showcasing all of her ability. All in all, an ok performance, but nothing too memorable.
4. James Durbin - "I'll Be There For You" (1989) B+
OK, here we go. The moment the show really, truly started (you know I love you, Paul). I think James could have honestly done better with this song. It seemed the tempo and lyrics were sped up in a way that was unnecessary and even irritating. But there were...these moments...in the song that were just so good (OK, not so much the chorus). I agreed with Steven Tyler when he said James should not make something so poppy and just stick to his roots.
I felt the tempo and arrangement of this song definitely leaned more toward the pop side, and really made me appreciate the genius that is Richie Sambora as one of the greatest guitarists of the past 30 years. I don't think James brought the sorrow and regret of this song to the forefront, or even anywhere in the song. I was disappointed the scream James went for fell mostly flat when I knew he could bring it the whole way (ok, here I am talking like Randy again). But I want James in this competition, more than anything, because he said he would sing Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Skid Row. If there was ever a contestant made for me (besides Matt Giraud and Tim Urban), it was James Durbin.
5. Haley Reinhart - "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1990) D+
Her voice sounded so bizarre here. Half the time she is trying to take a jazzy affect with her voice, a la Adele, and the other time she is trying to attempt some sort of sex-kitten growl. This is a performance i never hope to hear again. Her performance illustrated what a wonderful vocalist Whitney Houston was and what a hard song this is to sing. Could this be her last performance on the Idol stage? I wouldn't be surprised. If Simon were here (and he was allowed to say this), I am sure he would say this performance was something you would hear at a strip club. A classy one.
6. Stefano Langone - "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (1989) A-/B+
Thank you Stefano for redeeming the night. A beautiful and distinctly R&B take on a song we've all heard many times (even by Carrie Underwood on this very stage). Is it truly the kind of performance we'll remember long after this night? Perhaps not, but it was lovely and that is the highest compliment I can give Stefano in this moment. As Randy might say, "Dawg, you can really sing!"
7. Pia Toscano - "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" (1988) A-
An interesting arrangement of this sad Whitney Houston classic. At this point, I am convinced Pia is our Whitney-Mariah-Celine savior we have been looking for since 1993. I say that without the slightest trace of sarcasm. Pia is beautiful, poised, and sings those heartbreaking notes the rest of us only dream of reaching. She is my odds on favorite to win.
8. Scotty McCreery - "Can I Trust You With My Heart" (1993) A-
Wow, Scotty has progressed quite a way from "Baby, lock them doors". I can picture myself listening to him on Sirius Channel 60 The Highway (New Country), if he gets the right songwriters and production team. He could be the Next Big Thing. I always enjoy listening to him and his deep tone. He also makes the songs sound like his own (to be fair, this may be because I don't know a lot of the original recordings) and I always enjoy hearing him perform. Great job Scotty!
9. Karen Rodriguez - "Love Will Lead You Back" (1989) B
OK, let's just get it clear, Karen chose one of my favorite power ballads here. She started off the song strong and had me singing along. I was extremely disappointed with her turn into Spanish, as A) this is not a song that lends itself to that, and B) her voice and pitch faltered greatly in that part of the song. The first time I listened to it, I gave it a B+, but based on a second listen, I may have to give it a B.
10. Casey Abrams - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991) B+
This gave me the chills. All over. Unusual and awesome. Maybe one of Idol's darkest moments besides Adam Lambert's haunting rendition of "Mad World" in Season 8. Was Casey really on pitch? No. Did he take the song into a screaming sensibility that may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing? Kind of. But who else had the balls to perform Nirvana on Idol? No one. Casey is fascinating and the kind of Post-Empire contestant Idol so desperately needs. Crazy crazy good.
11. Lauren Alaina - "I'm The Only One" (1994) A
One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers of all time (Melissa Etheridge). Lauren gave the song a country edge that worked so effortlessly it stunned me. One of the rare songs I increase a grade on after listening live the first time around. I honestly like her rendition more each time I listen! Amazing! Do I think she put the passion Melissa has naturally into the song? No, of course not. But who would? Lauren gave the song a twang I loved and will listen to over and over again on iTunes. Excellent!
12. Jacob Lusk - "Alone" C+
His voice is shaky (always) and weird (perpetually). This performance almost sounded like a parody to me. A ballsy choice after listening to Carrie Underwood truly sing the hell out of this song back in Season 4 (the performance, you may remember, where Simon correctly predicted she would win the whole competition and go on to sell more records than any other Idol). His voice always sounds like it is about to break and I am always turned off by his theatrics.
Best of the night: Lauren
Worst of the night: Haley