American Idol Season 10 - Top 9: April 6, 2011

Top 9 - Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame Night - April 6, 2011

So by now we all know that the amazingly talented Pia went home last night...I am writing this blog post a little late. I think it has taken me this long to calm down. I am sure that my writings here will be influenced by how mad I am about this, but here goes anyway.

1. Jacob Lusk - "Man In The Mirror" C

Was it as bad as his rendition of "Alone"? No, nothing is! (Trick question, duh.) I kept thinking about Kris Allen's vastly better rendition of the same song during the semi-finals of Season 8. I absolutely hated when Jacob started waving his arms back and forth, and doing some sort of suggestive pelvic thrust at the backup singer/co-writer of the song! UGH UGH UGH. Every song he performs comes off way too dramatic. My original grade was a C+ which was far too generous.

2. Haley Reinhart - "Piece Of My Heart" B+

Overall, a little too growly throughout the whole song, but I was fascinated to watch her. I found myself surprised to realize that she was one of the singers I was really dying to see perform on Wednesday. She brings a grit to her performances I don't see in any of the other contestants. I like that she isn't afraid to get a little messy and dirty with her vocals. She really has grown on me over these past couple weeks and I am glad she is still on the show. Must say though that I prefer the studio version to the live performance.

3. Casey Abrams - "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" A-

I am a sucker for classic rock and unique weird people and this performance combined both of those things. I liked that Casey (finally) broke out the upright bass on a song that lent itself to that kind of arrangement. I also liked the guy with the ukelele sitting beside him. There was an intimate feeling to parts of the performance, but it's hard to achieve true intimacy with that fake rain drop background on giant HD screens behind you. I thought the second part of the performance was where he hit his stride with some awesome classic-rock-style moments in his voice.

4. Lauren Alania - "Natural Woman" B+
It is tough to go out there and sing a song that was done so memorably in the very first season (perhaps the first true "Idol Moment" [TM]??) by Kelly Clarkson. I think Lauren has a great tone to her voice that I find really nice to listen to. Did Gwen Stefani do any of the girls any favors tonight with their awful wardrobe and styling? NO. Maybe she wanted to make herself look better in comparison. That said, I liked Lauren's performances of "I'm The Only One" and "Candle In The Wind" much better, but she is still one of my favorites to watch.

5. James Durbin - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" B

It is clear James put a lot of emotion into this song; he truly felt the lyrics in his interpretation (something that is missing from some of the other contestants). I loved the staging of the song, the all black background and just sitting on a chair with the violinists and guitar players. It truly did feel intimate, unlike the staging of Casey's song. Did James sort of fall flat at several moments? Yes. But I loved his song choice if I didn't perfectly love his rendition of it. I originally gave this a B+ but on second listen, there are some places where his voice comes off a bit jarring.

6. Scotty McCreery - "That's Alright Mama" B-

I hate to admit this but sometimes I feel like I should like Scotty more than I actually do. This truly wasn't my favorite performance but he did put a bit of a rockabilly edge in the song. I would have liked to have seen him take a bit more of a risk with arrangement - maybe taking a rock n roll song or even something by Lynyrd Skynyrd and changing the arrangement to seem a bit more country. This performance came off a bit repetitive at parts to me, which isn't good for a 2 minute performance. I could definitely see the influence of Elvis on his singing style. (Original grade was a B.)

7. Pia Toscano - "River Deep Mountain High" A-

Oh beautiful, doomed Pia: I am keeping my original grade for you. Did Gwen Stefani's hideous styling hurt your votes? You looked amazingly fabulous on the night you were eliminated. If only you had worn that during your song. Of course I would have liked to see you not wearing 6 inch heels that inhibit your ability to walk. Maybe you would have been able to work the stage a bit better. Your voice is phenomenal, as are you. And I am hanging my head in shame as I admit I did not vote for you on Wednesday night. Instead I voted for Stefano, James, and Casey - all of whom I realize did not deliver the kind of performance you did. Yes I gave Casey an A-, and James a B+ originally (which I then changed to a B). I gave Stefano an A/A- originally, which would have been a higher grade than I gave you, but based on my grades alone, if I voted for 3, it should have been you, Stefano, and Casey. So I am ashamed beyond belief to say that I thought you were safe and that Stefano was in more danger of going home. I should have voted for you. My heart breaks. God, I love this crazy show but I sure hate it sometimes.

8. Stefano Langone - "When A Man Loves A Woman" A/A-

The first time I watched this performance it made me cry and the second time I watched this performance it made me cry for different reasons. The falsetto part of the song was beautiful and I loved the staging of this performance. Stefano still needs to work on his enunciation. But there were some true moments of beauty in this performance that I thought was stunning. I really felt the passion behind his vocal, perhaps for the first time, and maybe that is what moved me to tears the first time around. But the second time I watch it back, it makes me cry because at the heart of it, I would have rather seen Stefano go than Pia, and yet I didn't vote. I do have to say the last note he held reminded me of someone singing in a school play.

9. Paul McDonald - "Folsom Prison Blues" A-

I must disclaimer this by saying the first time I watched this I had two glasses of wine and I must have been blinded and hypnotized by Paul's shiny teeth. I originally gave him an "A" and wrote "OMG" and lots of other things in ALL CAPS. Would I give him an A again now? No, probably not. But I still stand by the fact that I thought it was a good performance and at least one that embodied the qualities of rock 'n roll to a much greater extent than many of the other performances. Did I feel the lyrics from Paul? No, but I'm not sure I'd want to. I will go back into caps to repeat this sentence from my initial notes: I LOVED THE END! (And I still do.)

Best of the night: Pia or Stefano
Worst of the night: Jacob