Scotty McCreery raised pandering for votes to an art form this week. A shout out to Grandma? Check. Introduce the new guitar which he calls his baby? Check. Sing a song with the words old-fashioned, home and truck in it? Oh heck yeah. I don't know how he managed to miss the chance to bring in the American flag and apple pie during the song that had the word "Country" so prominently in its title (talk about your obscure Elton John song!). It was a smart move putting the guitar in his hands as it kept him from ending up in some awkward, borderline risque poses with the microphone as he has done the last few weeks. He sounds good, but it's getting a little predictable and predictable is just a short trip over to boring which could spell trouble for him. He needs to take a risk and not just be the country ballad guy.
Naima Adedapo is apparently done competing on American Idol. That's the only rational explanation for why she would sabotage her chances with this silly reggae version of an originally silly song -- I'm Still Standing. She adopted a "pass me the ganja" accent and parodied a Jamaican wedding singer as she jumped around on stage in what she continues to think is dancing. This is the leading contender for ironic song choice of the night, because after this failed attempt to channel any of the Marleys (except, perhaps, the dog in that sad movie), Naima will not be standing tomorrow night.
Paul McDonald is doing Rocket Man and he tells us that his band covered it once before and it was a disaster. Well, that won't happen tonight, right! Oh wait, it's Paul singing. So, grab your life preserver, this ship is going down. Paul tells us he's going to approach this song like he's singing his encore. Oh, it's good to dream, Paul, but for you to get an encore the audience has to first sit through your whole set and then beg for more. Two of those things will never happen because you...can't...sing.
He starts out cheesily, with an awkward shout out to the crowd which is not something you would do during an encore unless you were stoned and had no idea where you were in the set. Hmm, this is starting to make sense. Maybe rather than a sounding like a creepy, breathy sexual predator whispering menacingly into the phone in a horror movie, the better description of his voice is someone who has smoked too many low quality doobies and is so fried he can't find his voice. Paul ignores the melody, singing whatever he can manage to squeak out raspily through his throat, randomly assigning notes as he sputters through the song.
For once, the judges seem less than enthralled and hint that maybe this wasn't the best performance ever. Maybe last week gave them a wake up call that unending, unwarranted praise is not the answer.
Pia Toscano is anathema to bloggers. She's pretty, she sings well, she's consistent. There is nothing you can do with her except heap praise. Boring. She sings Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and I wonder if the lyricist really intended the title to be as open to various funny, and a little dirty, permutations as run through my head every time I hear it. Probably -- those British guys do have a subtle, sneaky sense of humor. Regardless, Pia nailed it and looked great doing it and I'm bored.
The first time I heard Stefano Langone sing Tiny Dancer I was totally blown away. The second time, less so. There's just something a little forced about his performance and a little too Broadway. He has moments, don't get me wrong. Though the first couple of notes were clunkers, the way he sang "ballerina" gave me goosebumps. It's just that over a two minute song, the voice just doesn't hold up. And, note to his Italian father in the audience, it's pronounced kvelling, kuhvell, blurred together. Not felling which is what one would do to a tree. Kvelling is that feeling Casey Abrams' parents get every time they look at his cherubic punim, which is why his ego is as big as his head.
So country girl Lauren Alaina is tackling Candle in the Wind and it seems like a risky choice, especially when she starts out in a key that seems too high for her. But she pulls it out on sheer determination alone. She can belt like nobody's business and, even if she comes off like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Kellie Pickler, that girl is all business on stage. I love the little country "cry" in her voice and her tone and the Patsy Cline-ish breaks when she goes for the high notes. She looked great and sounded great and I'm inching ever closer to saying country music is not so bad.
James Durbin had a vision for how he wanted to do Saturday Night's Alright and though Jimmy Iovine seemed a bit dubious, Durbin was not to be deterred. And you know what? The kid was right. It was a fun, entertaining performance that showed poise and confidence beyond his years. Durbin is comfortable in the audience and up on stage (and even up on a piano that's about to burst into flames). He gave a thrill to some middle aged guy in the audience and recovered nicely from his Pepsi faux pas (a Coke moment is a good thing, he offered as an explanation, setting yourself on fire, not so much). He rocked the song, the hair, the scarf and the stage. He got my votes.
Daniel is one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written. The lyrics and the melody just tug at your heart. It is hard not to be moved by someone singing this and Steven Hawking's computerized voice could not dampen the emotional power of the song. Having said that, Thia Megia did not convey the feeling of the song as well as she could have. In fact, not until the very end did I feel any sincere emotion. Thia looks great, sounds great -- she has the best, purest voice in the competition -- but the emotional connection just wasn't there for me, for her, for you, for Randy, for whoever. It's a shame, because it's like all the parts are there but one and that one missing piece is crucial.
Look! It's Casey Abrams, brought back to life last week by the judges' save and fully aware that if he shows up, there is no way he is not getting enough votes this week to survive this week. Finally, Jimmy Iovine says what I and many others outside of the judges have been saying for weeks. Casey needs to tone it down, try to remember that this is a singing competition and not a carnival sideshow and, for crying out loud, show a little humility. You don't have this in the bag and if you keep acting like you do, you will manage to unite all of America on one idea -- this kid has to go. So, if Casey wants to last in this competition beyond the next two weeks worth of sympathy votes, he has to start behaving like the teenage band camp nerd he is and not like Justin Bieber.
Casey made the first step towards redemption by singing -- for the most part -- the tender ballad, Your Song. He cut way back on the antics and only brought out the growl a couple times. The plus was that this was less of a freakshow than what we've seen the past few weeks and his occasional bum notes were less off-putting than his screeches and shouting. But, on the negative side, it showed that even when he tries his hardest, Casey is not a great singer. He may be in an interesting musician, but his voice. unadorned with shtick, is just average. Liked the last note, though. Wow, I thought I'd be struck by lightening if I said anything nice about Casey, but no, I'm just fi
It's all I ask for. A simple, repeated apology for making me have to sit through another of his bombastic, overwrought performances. He starts in a key that seems to excite all the neighborhood dogs (didn't Mary J. Blige sing in a lower register?) and then he just lets go, crying about how it's sad, so sad. Yes it is Jacob, because you have the spot that Robbie or Jovanny or Brett should have had. When Jacob sings "what do I have to do to make you love me?" I yell at my TV screen, stop singing. That would be a great first step! But he doesn't hear me and he continues till he finishes with the money note that makes Randy all gooey inside.
The last performance of the night is by Haley Reinhart. Rumor has it that she and Casey Abrams are getting a little more than chummy and, aside from needing to add "eww" here, I wonder -- after hearing her feral cat take on Bennie and the Jets -- if the need to growl randomly during a song is a sexually transmittable disease. Haley, after turning that cute, retro pop song into some soft porn number, all I could think of was ba-ba-ba-bye Haley.
My bottom three of the night: Naima, Jacob, Paul
My top three: Lauren, James and... Okay, make it top two.
The voter's bottom three: Naima, Stefano and Thia
Going home: Naima and Stefano
Let me have it!