Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'American Idol 10' - Top 9 performance recap

Naima and Thia are gone, and the 'Idol' herd has been culled to nine. At this point, no clear front-runner has been identified, rather there seems to be a lead "pack," which consists of James, Pia, Scotty, Lauren, and Casey (yes, Casey, despite his close call two weeks ago). I think Paul and Jacob are on the borderline, and Stafano and Haley are hanging in by their fingernails.

All this can change, of course, depending on their performances tonight.

Cold opening with Ryan and the Top 9 with a promise of a "rockin' party."  Voiceover man welcomes the judges and Ryan. Ryan welcomes us and tells us we have 90 minutes of show (yay). Gwen Stefani is styling the ladies. The theme centers around rock 'n roll. Steven narrates the video about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He and Aerosmith have been honored. The Hall has outfits from James Brown, Michelle Phillips, Paul McCartney, and Elton John. There's even a Steven Tyler outfit. He shows us a bust of who else, Steven Tyler, of course. "Long live rock and roll," he shouts!

Ryan brings out the Top 9. Signs abound in the audience. The group looks strangely smaller tonight. Stefano is jumping around. Will.I.Am came in to coach.

Jacob Lusk - "Man in the Mirror" (Michael Jackson)
Jacob tells us he's not a rock and roll guy. He started out with "Let's Get it On" but didn't think it fit him morally.  He tells us if he's in the bottom three, it's because America wasn't ready to look at themselves in the mirror. Sing it Jacob. You're in the death spot tonight. It's a good choice. He's singing with a backup singer, with whom he does a little duet. Jacob prances around the stage with great energy. It's a fine performance. He really does connect to this one and his vocals are on point. Good job, Jacob.

Steven introduces Syeda Garrett who wrote the song and says it was beautiful. JLo says it was perfect on every level. Randy says he appreciates Jacob changing the song to something that meant something to him. He says he is proud. Randy said he found lots of "Jacob" moments in the song. "That was hot."

Haley Reinhart - "Piece of my Heart" (Janis Joplin)
Haley says the judges have been throwing around Janis' name all through the competition. Will.I.Am says she needs to sing it to the guy who took her heart. Can she do it? Janis you ain't, Haley. She overdoes the growl and doesn't have the oomph or conviction. She's wrings all the blues out of the song and it comes off as very karaoke. . But then again, no one could sing this like Janis. Syeda's still singing. Would rather have heard her. Sorry Haley. This was not all that.

JLo says "Okay, we're off to a bit of a strong start... you're showing everyone you're a contender... you keep going like that, you're going to be around for a minute." Randy says what they were referring to is the bluesy, soul thing she has, and he thinks she pulled it off. "Welcome back, back, back." Steven says Haley took it up a notch. "I loved it, you nailed it."

Casey Abrams - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (Credence Clearwater Revival)
Casey is on stand-up bass. It's an interesting arrangement, with a mandolin, percussion, and rain in the background. I love it. He's smiling and right in the pocket. Casey's having fun with this song and it's infectious. His vocals are so interesting. I want to hear this again! A+ for you Casey!

Randy says Casey made CCR proud and did justice to the song. He says Casey is making upright bass cool! "Casey's revolutionary." Steven thinks Casey should put it on wheels and ride it around town. He appreciates that Casey is a real musician. JLO says this is exactly where Casey belongs. "I'm paying top dollar to be in the front row."  Ryan asks if he puts extra pressure on himself because of the save. He says yes, he wants to make the judges proud. I think you did tonight, dude.

(From Kelly Clarkson on Facebook: I might have a bit of a crush on Casey on American Idol this season. He's super cute and obviously super talented. Great job tonight man!)

Lauren Alaina - "Natural Woman" (Aretha Franklin)
Remember, this was the song that put Kelly Clarkson in the race Season 1. Can Lauren do it? Yup. She does it. She's got enough of a combination of country and soul going on that it works. No KC scream, though, and her high notes are a tiny bit off.  But seriously, I get one of those "moments of recognition" here.  Very, very good.

Steven says Lauren's grown up. He loves her voice and thinks she is great. JLo wondered what Lauren was going to do with this. Randy says Lauren picked on of the most difficult songs and while he wasn't jumping up and down, she did a good job.

So far, they've all done quite well. Ryan asks the judges how he would score the night so far. Steven says it's been great. JLo agrees. Randy is looking forward to James.

James Durbin - "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison)
Will.I.Am says he respects the danger in doing this song. He hopes James doesn't take the steam out of the audience. James says he won't advance as an artist if he doesn't take chances. It's an Adam Lambert kind of moment. James is accompanied by strings, guitars and green lights. I want to like this, but it's a little loungey.  The song exposes some wobbly-ish vocals, and while he clearly connects with the lyrics, it's just a little off for me.  He closes strong, though. Not my fave from him.  James starts crying.

JLo says it's nice to see the other side of him. She babbles something rather strange about exposing the "thing" inside. Randy says he loved seeing the emotional side of James Durbin. He likes he engaged emotionally with the lyric. Randy says if you want a long career you have to take chances. "Very nice." Steven says it's good to see that James gently wept as well. "It's really a proud moment." James says he was thinking about his family. He says he's worked on his own version of this song for five years and it shows what he's been through.

Scotty McCreery - "That's Alright Mama" (Elvis Presley)
Will.I.Am says Scotty has to figure out how to combine country and rock. Scotty thinks he needs to give it an edge. If Scotty doesn't make it in country he could get a gig as an Elvis impersonator! He looks a little ridiculous in his attempts to move flirtingly, but his vocals are sharp. Where the hell does this voice come from? I can't help but laugh! Girls come up on the stage when he's finished and squeal! Weird.

Randy says, "Scotty is in it to win it." He says it was amazing and fun. "This was like a new Scotty. We've never seen this side of you." Steven says he thought Scotty was "all hat and no cattle" but has changed his mind. JLo says Scotty is funny. She wonders if he watches rap and hip-hop. Scotty says it's his Puerto Rican blood!

Christian Slater is in the house with his daughter who is a huge fan of Lauren and Pia. 

Pia Toscano -  "River Deep, Mountain High" (Tina Turner)
Will.I.Am wants Pia to "wow 'em." Pia is all glammed up in a one-piece jump-suity looking think.  Her voice is so strong and so well-modulated. JLo is jumping up and down as Pia moves to the judges' table to sing to them. She then moves into the audience. I love the tone of her voice on this one. Really powerful and commanding. I don't think she could have done any better on this.

Steven is shouting "Murderer, murderer, you killed it." JLo says Pia proved she could sing up-tempo. She's going to keep pushing. She wants Pia to start researching great singers, like Tina, to get to the next level. "Get greater." Randy says they all believe it her, but that she showed she could do something uptempo. "Yo, Pia's in it to win it!" Ryan says Pia makes it looks seamless. She says she's terrified every time. Christian Slater's daughter gives Pia two thumbs up.

Todd Rundgren is in the house. Did you know he produced Janis?

Stefano Langone - "When a Man Loves a Woman" (Percy Sledge)
Stefano ignores Will.I.Am's instructions about emphasizing the song's opening. I hate when that happens. I'm not convinced and that was Will's point. Stefano's vocals are fine, but he's working too hard. It should come more effortlessly. I still think "boy band" when he sings. Not wild about this performance.

JLo is screaming "I knew you had it in you... that was beautiful." She says this had another layer of emotion to it and that he was really singing it to someone. "Magic, very beautiful." Randy says the first part felt jerky to him. The audience boos. JLo is trying to shush him. Steven says he liked the old timing and he likes Stefano's range. Thank goodness for Randy.

Paul McDonald - "Folsom Prison Blues" (Johnny Cash)
I still have problems with Paul's weird phrasing, but his energy on this is enough to make me grin. He has so much fun  and even gets a little dancing in. He engages and energizes the audience. Paul, baby, that was crazy, but  great fun!

Randy says, "I loved it." Steven calls him "My perfect imperfect boy." JLo says it was right in his lane.

Ryan is jumping around and challenges us to beat last week's 55 million votes.The other Idols are up and jumping around. Everyone is freaking out, dancing and leaping. I've never seen anything quite like it. But then again, I've not seen anyone quite like Paul on this show either! Long may he rock!

In the recaps (from rehearsal), Haley is so much better than she was in the live performance.

Performance report card
  • Jacob Lusk - A
  • Haley Reinhart - C
  • Casey Abrams - A+
  • Lauren Alaina - A-
  • James Durbin - B-
  • Scotty McCreery - B+
  • Pia Toscano - A+
  • Stefano Langone - C+
  • Paul McDonald - B
Oh, man... if we go by my report card, we'd have Haley, James, and Stefano in the bottom three. James will not be there, though. Instead, based on his placement and for that reason only, it'll be Jacob. In the end, though, I think Stefano will be the one to go home. Fun show, though. This season has really stepped it up.

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