Wednesday, March 23, 2011

'American Idol 10' - Top 11 performance recap

The Top 11 of 'American Idol 10' after Thursday's results show

Time flies when you're having fun, right? We're down to 11, and this week, the Idols will tackle a Motown theme. I thought I read somewhere that Nigel was eliminating these theme weeks and allowing the contestants to sing songs that worked for their voices and personal styles. So much for that. As 'Idol' has evolved, however, contestants have figured out how to twist any genre to fit their styles, so don't be surprised to hear Motown with a country twist from Scotty and Lauren. There's plenty of material for the rest of the crew (I desperately want Paul to do "Dancing on the Ceiling"). Let's see how it all shakes out!

We open with a black and white shot of Ryan with the Idols dancing in a line ala 1960.  It's Motown night, kiddies. Voiceover man intros the judges and Ryan. Someone is holding a sign that says "Steven Tyler, Walk This Way." The judges take their seats and an old dude with a fedora is dancing in the crowd.

Ryan welcomes us and lets us know we have an important decision as to who makes the Top 10. There's a video about Motown. Barry Gordy borrowed money from his family to start the label in 1959. Ryan tells us Motown blurred social lines and made hit music that brought people together. This really was the most influential much the country had ever heard.

Ryan talks to Randy and asks him why this music has stood the test of time. He says it was music that brought people together. Jennifer wants to see the contestants make the songs their own. Steven (who gets screams from the audience) says the Motown music made him want to make out with girls! "It was the rhythm of the kiss!" His daughter Liv is in the audience.

Ryan brings out the Top 11. Lots of signs in the audience. Jacob is wearing a pink tie. He alwasys dresses so nice.

Casey Abrams - "Heard it Through the Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye)
Casey says he was raised on Motown. He says he needs to harness the energy of the song. Casey looks nice tonight. He's rocked the song up a little bit, but stays pretty true to the melody. He walks out into the audience and past the string section. Nice. Moving around doesn't seem to affect his vocals at all. It's tight, neat, and solid as a rock. Good Job. I say "Yeah!"

Steven says Casey is the perfect entertainer. Jennifer says Casey is already so specific to who he is. She wonders if there's anyone out there like him right now and doesn't think there is. Randy says Casey is a true original. He says Casey can only "do you," and "you is great!"

Thia Megia - "Heat Wave" (Martha and the Vandellas)
Thia says this was a tough week for her. She sing-songy and it's rather karaoke for me. It's totally the wrong song for her - too old, not a good singer's song. She's missing cues too. Nope, pretty bad. Sorry Thia. She looks cute, though.

Jennifer says she feels like we're scratching the surface with Thia. She wants her to dig deeper each week and connect to the lyrics. "Now I know you got it in you." Randy says she's there because they new she had it in her. He stills feels she can take more chances, but is happy she moved up a notch with something different. Steven agrees. "I'm good with it."

Jacob Lusk - "You're All I Need to Get By" (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)
Jacob says he grew up singing in church and only sings song that have meaning.  Jimmy wants Jacob to show some restraint. And he does show some restraint in the beginning, digging into the song before he lets loose on the chorus. He has such great range and this time, he's tempering it, letting his voice soar in the right places. Finally, we have something that's not ridiculous. Excellent!

Jacob's grandmother is hopping around. The judges give him a standing ovation and all is well. Randy says this is his best performance and calls him a true professional. HE says there was absolutely nothing wrong with the performance. "You did it man," says Steve. JLo says Jacob made them beg for the notes. Randy gives a shout out to the great bass legend, Bob Babbit, who performed with Jacob. Grandma gives him a hug. Then Ryan invites the whole front row to come up one at a time to hug him. All these girls are hugging Jacob!

Lauren Alaina - "You Keep Me Hanging On" (The Supremes)
Lauren is aware people are putting her down and she's just plain not going to let it bother her any more. So there. Her mic is too high and you can't hear the band. She sings to Randy. Thing is, the song works with a little country twang to it. It's a bit pageanty, but an improvement over the last few weeks.

Steven says every time he sees a little more come out of her. JLo says she like the attitude and that Lauren brought it to life. Randy says last week the girl they fell in love with in Nashville returned. This week, she's got her swagger on and is ready.

Stefano Langone - "Hello" (Lionel Richie)
Stefano says he grew up listening to Motown. He is warned to keep his eyes open. Ryan reminds us that David Cook killed this one in Season 7. He's singing too high. He oversings it and he doesn't really connect. He sounds very boy band to me. He's good on pitch, though, and that's a good thing.

JLo says Stefano can sing like crazy, but wants him to connect. She's firm about this. Randy says the connection is the only thing Stefano is missing. He says Stefano sounded good, but didn't feel the emotion. Steven says Stefano needs to pull back a little. Stefano seems confused. Randy says they want him and know he's great. JLo says it's like acting and if he can't connect, he needs to do another song.

Otis Williams, one of the founding members of the Temptations is in the house. He says he's enjoying the show "immensely."

Haley Reinhart - "You Really Got a Hold on Me" (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)
Haley's going for the Haley Scarnato shorts look. Maybe that'll save her? They've straightened her beautiful hair. She puts too much of the raspy, snarly stuff into this and it's not convincing.  She's all over the place vocally, and seems to be trying too hard to sell us that she's a hard ass. I like her voice, but I didn't like this performance.

Randy says by the middle of the song, the Haley they fell in love with came roaring back. He's happy to see her return to that form. Steven says he felt Haley. "It was beautiful... you don't look a day over fabulous." JLo says Haley has the most soulful voice of any of the girls.

Scotty McCreery - "For Once in My Life" (Stevie Wonder)
Jimmy Iovine fears he's going to sound like a lounge singer! The song starts with a harmonica riff. If anyone was worried about Scotty and the Motown theme, relax. He takes the song, countrifies it, and yet stays true to the vibe. He staggers a bit on a couple of notes, but those low notes save him every time.

Steven compares Scotty to Glen Campbell and says he loved it. "You really ripped it... when you go down to the low notes, you tweak everyone." JLo says it wasn't his strongest, but the low not at the end gets her all over again. Randy agrees. He says he felt the song should have peaked a little earlier, but by the end, he got the "young lady killer note."

Pia Toscano - "All in Love is Fair" (Stevie Wonder)
I love this song. Jimmy warns her not to overthink it. She's got the string section and it's a soft, gentle arrangement. I am reminded a bit of Beyonce. Her ending is powerful. I think she nailed it. She looks amazing too. This girl can sing anything.

JLo says Pia killed us again. She goes through the same checklist she went through with Stefano. She thinks Pia can have a career like Celine, but she wants to see Pia own the stage. JLo has some very constructive criticism. Randy says JLo's right. He loves that she incorporated a little more falsetto in the beginning. His only criticism is that she's singing too many ballads. "You can't live by ballads alone." Steven says he thinks Pia is the closest star in the 'American Idol' universe. Ryan has her turn around to reveal the low cut of the dress.

Paul McDonald - "Tracks of my Tears" (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)
Paul also grew up with a lot of Motown. I wonder if Paul knows that Adam slayed this one during his season? Paul's playing guitar tonight. He greets the audience. His hair looks weird. The song is a good choice and he's turned it into a folk-rock number. He messes up the lyrics, though. He has such strange enunciation. Actually, though, it's probably his best performance to date.

Randy says he likes Paul didn't dance around and he likes the guitar. He notes Paul's voice is unique and that he took the song to a cool, Rod Stewarty place. "When you sing tender, at the very end, oh my God." Steven compares him to Dylan, Willie Nelson... he loves what Paul did with the guitar. JLo says Paul is the most rounded, seasoned performer and calls him the "complete package... all you need is a good producer."

Naima Adedapo -"Dancing in the Streets" (Martha Reeves)
Naima has the perfect voice for this song. Perfect. And she's doing this right, bringing the one and only real Motown performance of the evening. Sure, she hits a couple of bum notes here and there.  but when she kicks into some wild African dancing with drummers, she keeps her breath to finish the song. I applaud. That was fun.

Steven says "It's E to the Z with the tweedly dee!" JLo calls Naima an exciting performer and she got goosebumps! Randy says finally all of Naima showed up. He says the arrangement was brilliant. "Very smart tonight, good looking out."

James Durbin - "Living for the City" (Stevie Wonder)
James is a bit sloppy with the notes in the beginning, but he sure has the rocker moves down. He's a band boy to be sure. I am so hearing Adam Lambert right now. James has so much polish and charisma. It's amazing. He rocked it.

Steven is shaking his head in disbelief. JLo lets James soak it up for a minute. The audience is crazy. She says he's serious business. "It's an incredible thing to watch... you leave me speechless!" Randy says it was rough in the beginning (I agree), but when he finally hit the pocket it was unbelievable. Steven says sometimes it takes a little bit of crazy to make a difference in this world. "You nailed it."

This week, I thought I'd try something different and grade the Idols' performances. Here's how I think they did:
  • Casey - A-
  • Thia - C
  • Jacob - A-
  • Lauren - C+
  • Stefano - C+
  • Haley - C-
  • Scotty - A-
  • Pia - A-
  • Paul - B-
  • Naima - A-
  • James -A-
Grading really helps to pick the Bottom 3 - Thia, Haley, and Stefano. I really think this is Haley's last week.

Tomorrow night, Jennifer Hudson will perform "Where U At" and we'll also get a chance to see George Huff who's been backing her on this week's promotional tour. Now that's worth watching!

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