Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Idol, Season 10 -- Top 11 Perform

Remember when the leaks of all the show's changes dribbled out over a number of months starting last fall?  One of the more intriguing leaks suggested that the era of the "Theme Night" was over and that contestants would no longer be forced to sing outside of their musical comfort zone.  For American Idol Season 9, that would have meant Crystal Bowersox would not have had to sing any song where wearing shoes or brushing your hair was required and Lee DeWyze would only have had to sing songs that had no discernible key.

But lo and behold, theme nights are back with a vengeance and tonight's was Motown.  Now, being of a certain age -- and, yes, I do love the daily AARP Spam I get -- means that I relate to these songs and probably hold them to a higher scrutiny than I would a theme such as Flo Rida collaborations or songs GLEE has yet to cover.

Ryan Seacrest reminds us of the stakes tonight.  There are eleven contestants, but only ten can be part of next summer's disappointing, many shows canceled, half-empty theater tour.  You won't want to miss that.  Haley, I'm talking to you.  Spoiler alert!

So first up is the living Wookiee, Casey Abrams.  He lumbers on stage after a brief backstage look at his interactions with the producers where they beg him, for the love of everything holy, do not sing like you tonight.  Please, no growling, screeching, screaming, yelling, or any of those things you feel obliged to do because you are not actually a gifted vocalist but a sideshow act waiting for the next circus to roll into town.  Casey decides to try and sing a Marvin Gaye song because, other than being killed by his father, the thing we best remember about Marvin Gaye was that he had the most beautiful and evocative voices in all of music.  It is such a natural choice for someone who can barely hold three notes in a row melodically to try and take on one of music's greatest vocalists!

I cannot pretend to be surprised by his painful, toneless, shouted-word take on the classic "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."  I was surprised, however, by two things.  One, how hard his buttons had to work to keep his shirt together.  (My daughter, who actually came up with that joke, has threatened to hire a lawyer to send me a cease and desist order, preventing me from using her source material to try and make my lame AI post funny.  I'm keeping the joke in, hoping we can reach a settlement at the mall.)   Two, how the judges continue to trip all over themselves and each other in their attempts to heap undeserved praise on this guy.  The only one Casey Abrams pleases when he sings is himself and after watching the 90 second masturbation sequence, one of the people I was watching with in the chat room suggested that he should smoke a cigarette and then roll over and go to sleep on the stage. 

Thia Megia has been one of my favorites from the beginning.  Cute with a big, clear, ready to sing the next Disney princess movie theme song, she's been consistently great.  But the judges have been less than wowed by her playing it safe (translation: singing well week after week).  So she tried to shake it up and take on the smoky, sultry, sexy song "Heatwave."  Now, it was sold as "Martha and the Vandellas'" song, but for me, the definitive version is Linda Ronstadt's.  This is what "Heatwave" should sound like:

Instead, sweet sixteen-year-old Thia performed it like she was at her high school talent show.  She sang the notes but not the words.  There was no passion, feeling or... heat.  She might as well been singing "Pleasant weather, about 72."

Next up was Jacob Lusk, who every week oversings and overemotes on his way to being overpraised by the judges.  Tonight was no exceptions what with Steven Tyler practically dry humping him after his performance and Randy Jackson tearing open his Thesaurus of Undeserved Compliments so he can find new unwarranged superlatives for Jacob's performance.  I appreciate Jacob's attempts to listen to the producers suggestion that her dial it back from Broadway Show Stopper meets Gospel Revival on acid to merely self-indulgently over-the-top.  It was a nice change of pace.  One of the judges said Jacob was a baby Luther (Vandross), I'd say he's more Liza than Luther and that his grotesque, burlesque kitsch started out old and now is getting really scary.

Also scary is how the not-so-subtle pimping of past years has turned into a blatant coronation this year.  First, they give Jacob his own choir.  Then they give him a spotlight.  Tonight, they dragged up on stage a dozen extras from Beatlemania to come worship him and wrap him in their fanatic embraces.  Do we still need the next nine weeks?  This has as much suspense as the second viewing of the Sixth Sense.

Just when I'm considering giving up on American Idol, help comes along in the form of Lauren Alaina.  Now this next joke, I am not taking credit/blame for, but when she came out on stage someone in my house wondered when they changed the rules and allowed you to be on two reality shows at the same time.  When I told them that Lauren was not in fact Kirstie Alley, I felt a little guilty figuring out the punch line so quickly.  But Lauren, really, walk a little.  It's good for you!  Putting the superficial aside, Lauren has an amazing voice and she is back on top for me.  She nailed "Keep Me Hanging On" and if it were a little later and I was desperate for material I would say that she had me hanging on to her every distinct, electrifying, powerful note.  This was her best performance to date.

Stefano Langone chose one of the most annoying songs ever recorded, Lionel Richie's "Hello," which reminds me that the last Lionel Richie song I liked was when he sang "Brick House" with the Commodores.  Stefano talked about his mother's cooking, in another blatant attempt to make us forget his DUI, but chef Gordon Ramsey later tasted the leftovers and deemed them a felony in their own right.  Stefano has a really great tone to his voice, yet week after week I'm not sold at all about his potential.  There's some weird disconnect between the sounds he can produce and the final product.  But he's a relatively cute male which means he'll get enough votes to give him a couple more weeks to try and figure this out.

The combination of the arrangement of "You Really Got a Hold on Me" and Haley Reinhardt's slow, seductive strut brought to mind Natalie Wood's portrayal of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.  This could not have been her intention as American Idol is good, wholesome viewing, suitable for the whole family.  I expected Howard Stern to come out and emcee the rest of the show.  Haley committed another sin -- straightening her signature hair which will just confused voters who won't know what happened to that cute, curly haired girl, and will have to give their votes to Kirstie Alley instead because she was so good on Cheers.

My boy Scotty McCreery was up next and all I can say is yee haw, I'm starting to love me some country music.  Scotty sang "For Once in My Life" and one of the members of the peanut gallery here at my house offered that he sounded like Glen Campbell -- which was what Steven Tyler said.  Score!  I loved Glen Campbell, back before he ruined it all with "Rhinestone Cowboy," so that may explain why Scotty's voice does not cause me to react like the Manchurian Candidate after seeing the Queen of Diamonds.  But the mannerisms have got to go.  I'm assuming the best (yeah, there's a first time for everything) and thinking that his difficulty holding a microphone and singing into it without looking like a deranged Howdy Doody is because he's used to playing a guitar when he sings.  That or he really is possessed by the ghost of some creepy lounge singer.

Pia Toscano continues to be perfect in every way.  One does wonder how someone who is gorgeous and sings like an angel had to come on American Idol to be discovered.  Has she no friends who could have videotaped her and put her up on YouTube singing "Friday, Friday, Gettin' Down on Friday?"  Let's compare and contrast Pia with Rebecca Black and you will see all that is wrong with the music industry -- and the record-buying public and America. 

So my daughter wondered why Daniel Negreanu was on the show and I told her that wasn't the Canadian poker pro but another of the judge's inexplicable favorites, the follicly-challenged Paul McDonald.  No, I explained to her, he doesn't have a good voice.  And, no, he doesn't really look good on stage.  But he's different and that is a buzz word meaning he's not boring and might be discussed in the morning around some proverbial water cooler, which is all that reality TV shows really care about.  So let's discuss.  Paul, may I speak to you directly?  When you are a singer and the judges compare you to Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, that is their way of telling you that you can't sing.  It may seem a little subtle, a little over your head, but if you think back to the last time you heard Willie or Bob, remember that pained expression on your face?  That's what the rest of us look like when we listen to you.

So Paul tried to sing "Tracks of My Tears," and it was less awful than in previous weeks if only because I wasn't also forced to watch his uncoordinated gyrations around the stage.  He croaked and brayed and warbled so much that I expected Jack Hanna to come out on stage.  But at least it was over quickly.

I said it last week, I will say it until she leaves.  I love Naima Adedapo.  She is a performer who is captivating to watch.  I don't know that she'll sell a lot of albums, but if the choice is between going to see a concert with her or any of the arguably better female vocalists left on the show, I'll take her.  She's got "it" -- that undefinable something that makes some people stars despite not being as gifted naturally as some others.  Tonight she actually had the vocals to back up her cover of "Dancing in the Street," so I will be very surprised and disappointed if she is again in the bottom three. 

Last up was James Durbin, rebounding from last week's less-than-stellar performance with a kick-ass version of "Livin' for the City" (probably my favorite Stevie Wonder song).  When you think that James' can't go any farther with his voice, when you think it will give out or fall short, he surprises you by nailing it.  He sings with reckless abandon and it is a little like watching a net-less high wire act.  It's daring and scary but oh so exciting when you see he's made it to the other end.  I really like this kid a lot and hope that the invariable Adam Lambert comparisons don't derail him early in the competition.

So my top three:  Lauren, James and Scotty
My bottom three:  Stefano, Haley and Paul
Alert the media, Jacob and Casey were spared bottom three this week!!
My predicted bottom three:  Haley, Thia and Stefano, with Haley getting the boot

What say you?


  1. My top four : Scotty,Haley,James, Lauren !!!
    My bottom three :Paul, Thia, Stefano !!!
    Sorry...but Paul is the worst singer of all absolutely !!!Paul getting the boot I hope !!!It is not singing, but cat's miaow...sorry...

  2. I think Casey Abrams is going home tonight.

  3. Shari, you have a wicked sense of humor! I snorted coffee through my nose this morning while reading your review! Excuse me while I clean off my monitor. ROFLMAO!! *grin*


  4. My sides are splitting from laughing so hard. I agree with everything you wrote with the exception of Naima and Casey. Naima is painful to watch for me. She is too over the top and exaggerated. Casey is good if he doesn't growl. He is comfortable on stage and it shows.

    Top 3: Lauren, James, Scott/Casey (tied)
    Bottom 3: Haley, Naima, Stefano/Thia (Another tie because they were both stiff and boring)

    Please, for the love of god, send Haley home! Her sex kitten act is embarrassing to watch along with her growwwwwl. Ugh.


  5. James is NOT Adam Lambert, but he is my favorite, and has been from the beginning!

  6. P.S. I've been calling Jacob, Liza, from day one! As of last night I've added Jerry Lewis to his name too. He will now be known as Liza/Jerry. Think about when Jerry Lewis says "hello ladies" and you have Jacob. LMAO


  7. Question: Are the contestants being allowed to sing longer than they have in past years?

  8. my top 3 are james,Naima,and pia.hope Casey goes home tonight or Paul or even Jacob.something about Lauren just gets on my nerves maybe it's because i'm not a Kristy Alley fan, not sure.Haley was not good tonight
    she will probably be the 1 to leave,i'd rather see her get another chance.i look at it like who would i spend money to see in concert,who's entertaining and it's Naima,and James for me.

  9. does anyone else see that Scotty just looks so awkward on the stage?his hand jestures his facial expressions look strange to me.Pia you look so gorgous but please do something different next week maybe some Heart (Ann and Nancy Wilson)they are awesome.Naima do the same thing next week i loved watching you on stage.and Casey A.quit looking so much like the geico caveman and quit growling when you sing.

  10. Casey won't go home even if he's dead last in the voting...they'll use the save on him. DialIdol has Casey last,Lauren second-last, and Paul third-last. They'll save either Casey or Lauren, but not Paul (thank Ceiling Cat). Also in trouble at DialIdol are Thia, Haley and Naima. They won't save any of these girls, so I really hope Naima makes the tour...she's amazing!

    I totally don't get the JacobFest that went on last night...his performances are histrionic at best. But he will be around for quite some time and may even end up in the finale...he's got a fan base.

    Pis is extraordinary but she's gonna be in trouble if she keeps doing ballads. And it is her professed desire to bring the big ballad "back"...this may be her downfall.

    James is IT for me...he's got it all, the incredible voice, the stage presence and the attitude it takes to be a rock star. Other than range, there is no comparison to Adam Lambert, imo. James has that rawness necessary to be a rocker, while Adam was always so polished no matter what genre he performed.

  11. Apparently Nigel tweeted about "SHOCKING!1!" news on tonight's Idol show. Of course, that could be Nigel-speak for "someone we've been pimping hard unexpectedly makes the bottom 3" rather than a "fan favorite" getting the boot or leaving due to health concerns (i.e. Casey or Paul). But we'll see.

    I fear this season you and I will be in different camps, Shari... I like Paul's croaking quirkiness but only because I like his orginal music. He surely hasn't done much to stand out favorably on the show with his cold and vocal chord nodules. That said, my first prediction is that the "shocking" news is that Paul is eliminated or withdraws from the competition because the nodules on his vocal chords are making it increasingly difficult to sing at all.

    I find Lauren to be just okay and she would have benefited by a few more years of training, not just being a kareoke queen. I think Scotty has great potential but maybe he is... a bit too much mimic and not enough matured into his own country style. He's good now - for 17 - but he'll be a great singer in a few years.

    Pia and Thia have nearly pitch-perfect vocals and both are beautiful and I'm sorry but they bore me. Pia can at least sing with the right emotional resonance but I could hear their vocal perfection in any elevator. I guess I'm not really interested in yet another Celine Dion or prococious Disney princess.

    Stefano needs to nail it every single week to make headway in a competition with bigger personalities who've had more face time. He did NOT nail it. Flailed it, maybe. It was limp and I really, really am sick to death of that overplayed song. And I have to say to Gordon Ramsey: F*ck YOU. Stefano's mom isn't a contestant on American Idol or any other reality show. Asshat. And F*ck you American Idol for embarrassing her that way.

    Haley coulda been a contenda, but she's not resonating with America and has had to resort to the hot-pants of desperation. She's the logical choice to go this week if we don't get a SHOCKING! boot.

    I did like Casey in Hollywood when he was jazzy, and playing the bass in a spare and stylish way. But lately he's been acting like this is a playground and he's a hyperactive 5 year old on a sugar high. Maybe something about not enough time to rehearse between hospital stays? I don't know...Prediction number 2: If it's not Paul, Casey goes home tonight, either because his health is interfering with his ability to keep up or because it will become a problem on tour over the summer...not that he'll be booted against the will of the voters, but he'll "voluntarily" withdraw.

    I'm not totally on the James love train yet but he's won me to his side, musically anyway. He's got a strong instrument for sure and can probably find a profitable niche, but his behaviors come across as cocky and overconfident to me... could be his Aspergers, but he needs to be careful. "America" likes its Idols to be humble.

    Jacob - Well, I'm with you on this one. I thought his performance had moments of loveliness this week, but he is highly over-rated, at least by the judgery and I don't like his voice recorded. I wouldn't be surprised if he was booted tonight, but I think Nigel would so...Prediction #3, if it's not Paul or Casey, it will be Jacob.

    Finally, Naima. I like her. She entertains me. She's not always perfectly on pitch but she knows who she is as an artist and has brought something fresh to the Idol stage. I truly hope that she is safe this week.


  12. Shari, I love ya and I agreed on a few things, but not much.

    Your description of Casey as a Wookie was spot on. I was thinking werewolf myself, but same idea. He needs a good haircut, beard trim and decent fitting clothes. Agreed he does lumber around and he comes across a bit like a high school kid trying to be a jackass. On the other hand, he is entertaining b/c he provides very unique spins on songs and likes to express sexual angst. I actually think he is taking this more seriously than he comes across. He needs to show that he can give a mature performance that shows serious emotion. I think he has it in him.

    Thia. Eh. all I could think was she was trying very hard to sing well, look pretty and not mess up her hair. she needs to figure out who she is.

    I hated Jacob before last night, but last night I was BLOWN AWAY! He really got me hyped up and into that song. The way he made it his own was so entertaining. You could tell he was having a ball and really into the lyrics. Loved him!

    Lauren Alaina gave a total karoake performance. That song is about being emotionally crushed by a guy that is stringing you along and she sang it like a lounge lizard.

    Stefano, I agree with what you had to say.

    Haley, tries too hard to be sexy, and doesn't know how to interpret songs.

    I have loved Scotty all along, but agree with a lot of people who call him a one note. I think it's b/c he's so young, doesn't have the life experience to connect with lyrics and is still finding his singing style. Last night was his worst performance, but I absolutely give him credit for trying something new. he needs to to find himself. his lack of comfort with the genre caused him to come across as awkward and you're description of him looking like a deranged Howdy Doody was spot on.

    Pia. great voice and I pick her to win. but my favorite of hers is still I'll Stand by You. I haven't liked the arrangements of the last two songs she's sung.

    Didn't really like Paul until last night. Paul's take on that song soooo rocked! Loved it! and he showed a very sexy charisma on stage. still don't love his voice, but I'm wondering if it's partially b/c of the nodules issue.

    Naima- I give her credit for taking risks and being herself, but other than the dancing, it came across as karaoke to me.

    James - last two weeks he's really showed restraint and a great tone to his voice and he can really rock out.

  13. please let it be Casey,Paul,or Jacob leaving tonite!!!!!like i said before Casey=Taylor hicks,Paul=Chris Allen,Jacob=Rubin Studdard

  14. I dont appreciate your mean spirited snark, Shari. Every one of these kids are talented and deserve respect!

  15. Come on anonymous peeps, let us know who's behind the comments! lol Shari is honest & has her opinions. I don't agree with all of them, but sure is funny to read. Love it! Ok I disagree about the Lauren comment. The clothing she chose maybe didn't do her any favors, but curves are fine. (coming from someone who has some) :) I'm right there with you about Naima, I really like her. Up until last night she's had very poor live performances but the studio versions of the songs are really polished. Same with Paul. He is so different & doesn't have that typical strong voice but I really dig him. They are the only two I've purchased from, well besides the first Casey A single. Lord I want my money back on that one. I know I said I liked him in the beginning but he has fallen so far off for me. That ego, all that growling & Awww after every line makes me puke. I write this after his meltdown on last nights results show. That was a funny piece of reality TV gold. He was white as a ghost. Way to compose yourself there buddy. Funny stuff! Well any Shari, keep on doing what you do its great.