Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'American Idol 10' - Top 11 (again) performance recap

After last week's dramatic save of Casey Abrams, the Top 11 remains standing and tonight, the Idols will perform songs from Elton John's catalog. Two people will be leaving tomorrow.

This theme hasn't been done since Season 3, and that night, there were some memorable performances (Jennifer's Hudson's "Circle of Life" and George Huff's "Take Me to the Pilot" to name a couple). What will the Idols sing tonight? Will Scotty break out "Country Comfort?" Let's find out!

We open with dramatic footage of Casey's save and the ominous  warning that "There are no second chances."  We got it. Scary voiceover man intros the judges and Ryan, and the judges take their seats. Ryan loves that Adam Lambert Memorial staircase. The energy level is high tonight. Ryan says everyone is still buzzing about last week's results show.  Ryan presents the Top 11 ("For the second week in a row").

There's video of Elton John. Elton started out in 1970 and has produced over 30 albums. His influence on today's artists is obvious (Lady Gaga). Jimmy Iovine tells us the contestants really have to sell the lyrics. The kids went to an Entertainment Weekly fashion photo shoot to get a lesson in style.

Scotty McCreery - "Country Comfort" 
Scotty tells us the lifestyle is totally different from things back in North Carolina. And sure enough, he's doing the only country-ish song Elton ever wrote! Scotty is strumming his guitar tonight. A little too much twang. He gives his Grandmother, who's in the audience, a shoutout.  He sells it and he sells it convincingly. The song is right in his wheelhouse, and he makes no mistakes. Good job Scotty.

Steven says there's nothing he can say that an old-fashioned pair of cowboy boots wouldn't fix. "You did it again for me, Scotty." JLo says Scotty has amazing instincts for what's good for him. She encourages him to stay grounded. Randy says Scotty's seasoned so fast, he felt like he's already watching him as a performer. He says this song sounds like it could be on his record. I agree.

Naima Adedapo - "I'm Still Standing"
Naima chose this song because of the lyrics (she's still standing), but she's put a reggae kick to it. And she's got the Jamaican accent to go with it. She stays in tune and seems to hve gotten her dancing breathing under control. She urges the audience membert to get up and dance. It's odd, but good. Naima is probably the most marketable of the entire group, actually. I'm digging her more each week.

JLo says she loves Naima and her reggae swag. She's not sure this song was suited for the flip. "Better idea than payoff for me." Randy agrees with JLo. He loves reggae, but thinks it came off kind of corny. The audience boos. Steven says, "Boom chacka lahka baby... good for you for picking a song that fit you!"

In her post-performance clip, Naima says this is who she is and the song was great for her.

Oh no... there's a new songwriting contest to help Taio Cruz write a song for Coca-Cola. You write the lyrics and the song will debut on the finale. At least the winner doesn't have to sing it. Or does he/she?

Paul McDonald - "Rocket Man"
Paul says his band used to do a cover of this and it was a disaster. Jimmy says Paul should act as if he just performed before 20,000 people and this is his encore. Paul asks how we're all doing. He's wearing the bizarro white embroidered suit again (for the third time). And guess what? I totally love this performance. He's finally connected with me. No dancing, just Paul singing. Sure, his voice is kind of wonky, but it's got an interesting tone to it. I love his little whispered ending. His best performance ever.

Randy says when Paul gets into the tender zone, it's infectious. JLo wonders if he's holding back and there's more to his voice than he's showing us. "We believe," says Randy. Steven wonders if Paul's been watering the suit because there's more flowers on it. I don't think Steven liked it. He says he likes that Paul sometimes hits the notes and sometimes doesn't.

Pia Toscano - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
She really is stunningly beautiful. Too many people have sung this before. Jimmy wants her to go somewhere between Fergie and Axil Rose on this! She promises something other than a ballad next week. But it's Elton John week. No real surprises here.Pia gets a choir behind her. . Her vocals are spot on, her delivery impassioned. It's a moment.

Steven says Pia's done it again. He says it might prove someone might be wrong in asking her not to sing ballads. "It's just about as good as it gets." JLo says the notes take us to another worldly place. She says she felt Pia trying to break the barrier. JLo is excited. Randy says she's slayed every ballad she's sung. He just wants her to switch up gears. He says he heard some Whitney and Mariah in there. JLo wants her to fill up the stage - get to the next color of performance. JLo is really on tonight. Randy wants something mid-tempo next week. Steven agrees. JLo wants to be surprised.

Stefano Langone - "Tiny Dancer"
One of Stefano's problems is that he doesn't connect, and this song really isn't one to which one can connect. The lyrics are odd. That being said, there's a warmth in Stefano's voice tonight that's been missing. His phrasing is much better. He closes by singing to Jennifer! Good move Stefano! 

JLo swoons! She says she could really feel him connecting with the audience. "Amazing, really good." Randy says he loves that Stefano connected and kept his eyes open. He says he was right on when he hit the money notes. Steven agrees. He likes the sweet in his voice. "You nailed it. I thought it was really good."  Stefano says he's his own worst critic, but had to move away from last week's debacle.
 
Howie Mandel is in the house and sitting with Stefano's dad,. whho looks just like him. Howie has a chance to plug his new show, 'Mobbed,,' which premieres tomorrow night on Fox right after 'Idol.' 

Lauren Alaina - "Candle in the Wind"
This is the best-selling single in Billboard history. Jimmy thinks Elton's songs play to Lauren's strength. Her interpretation is interesting and her enunciation quite good. The song works well as a country tune, and Lauren's voice is clear and clean. She does "get" the song. This is her best performance to date.

Randy says this is one of the greatest songs ever written, and agrees with me. It's her best to date. "Very hot." Steven says he's loved her since the first moment she laid eyes on him. "That was just perfect... that was beautiful... you keep singing like that and you'll be able to afford the rest of that dress." The dress is long but has shorts undernearth.  JLo says it's the first time everybody in America got to hear the first time they heard her. Lauren says she can't believe she's standing there. She's such a kid, but she looks about 30!

This show is actually very good tonight. Who'd a thunk it?

James Durbin - "Saturday Night's alright (for Fighting)"
Jimmy isn't sure of this song, but James says he needs to be true to himself as an artist. An artist, eh? James is starting out in the audience and descends the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase. He hits the stage at the right time. He flings the mike stand, stomps his feet, and leads the audience clap. Fire brims from the stage. He writhes a bit. And the scream in the end. His vocals are a tad under, but otherwise it was a very good performance.

Steven says "James you brought the heat." He thinks James has a very good rock voice and warns him not to wear out his rock welcome! JLo says she forgets it's a competition show when she watches James. Randy says he loves how much James enjoys himself. "Dude, that was a great, great, great performance." James says he was worried about having a Pepsi moment (hairspray, fire, MJ). Ryan reminds him the show is sponsored by Coke! "A Coke moment."

Thia Megia - "Daniel"
Jimmy urges her to sing the lyrics. She's going to try to channel her brother moving away. She succeeds. I'm feeling it. This girl has such a beautiful voice. I don't care what anyone says! Her performance is moving and I seriously get a little teary (I'm such a sap).

JLo says it was beautiful. "It was a beautiful moment for you." Randy says it was a relaxed side of her and he liked that, but thought the song was safe. He sucks his teeth. Steven says when you find the right song, the voice appears. Thia says she knows her brother is watching and love him.

Casey Abrams - "Your Song"
This is my favorite Elton John song and I'm glad Casey is singing it. Jimmy says it's time for Casey to come back and earn the "save." So does that mean Casey will become a robot? Rodney Jerkins wants Casey to trim the beard (which he does). As for the song, Casey doesn't stray from the original. The arrangement is simple, a piano. The lyrics are perfect for the moment. It's really the first time Casey's voice is right up front and he hits some very interesting notes at the end. Thing is, I prefer him to be a bit more, well, Casey. It was kind of boring, actually. Well sung, but boring.

Randy says he's sure he speaks for the other judges that saving him was one of the greatest saves. He calls the performance brilliant and well done. Steven concurs that one of the finest moments of the show was putting him through. Steven says Casey sings different every time and that shows he's a true artist. JLo says they've had to make hard decisions and she's lost sleep over it, but she didn't lose any sleep over saving Casey.

Jacob Lusk -"Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word"
Jacob says the first time he heard the song it was Mary J. Blige's version. Mary J. is in the studio with him. Jimmy says Jacob tends to over-dramatize! He starts out in his falsetto. When he digs into the song, he kills it (in a good way). He pleads, he begs, and makes strange faces. His last note is wow.

Steven says he watches how far out there, or in there Jacob gets. "Once again, you slayed me." JLo gives Tricky Stewart a shoutout for the arrangement. "That last note, you don't see that every day." Randy says it was a beautiful song for him, but wants one spot where he goes all the way up.

Haley Reinhart - "Benny and the Jets"
So Haley gets the pimp spot? This better be good! Jimmy says some part of her has been missing every week. She starts out lounging on the piano. It's a bit slowed down from the original. Haley works out all the interesting parts of her voice, including the growling. She sounds a bit hoards. SHe also reminds me a bit of Maria Muldaur ('memba her?). She shouts too much at the end. JLO is digging it. Not pimp-spot worthy.

JLo shouts, "Yes, that was it Haley." She thinks it all came together. "Great way to end the show... it was amazing." Randy says this was another amazing song. "Best performance of the night right there!"  Steven says, "You sing sexy."

Grades
  • Scotty - A-
  • Naima - B-
  • Paul - B
  • Pia - A+
  • Stefano - B-
  • Lauren - A
  • James - A-
  • Thia - B
  • Casey - B-
  • Jacob - A-
  • Haley - B-
 Using my grading system, four are in the bottom Naima, Stefano, Haley, and Casey. I think they've done enough pimping of Casey this week so he should be safe. I'm sticking with the other three, though. Going home? Stefano and Naima.

Fantasia will be on the results show singing her new single, "Cornbread and Collard Greens" (really).  Will.i.am is also on (again?).

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