Only in the world of American Idol would switching from guys to girls mean less theatrics, histrionics and fewer diva-ish performances. But with the number of guys who seem to be auditioning to be Jennifer Hudson's Dreamgirls understudy, let's hope the girls tonight can show some restraint and class.
Ta-Tynisa Wilson opens with “Only Girl” by Rihanna. She's got great hair and she apparently stole the fluffy baby pageant dress that Lauren Alaina wore last time. I really want to like her. But her voice is grating. She seems to be just off each note she's going for. The judges argue about her performance and I'm sad to note that I'm in Randy's camp. She was sharp and she's no Rihanna. Is this the first sign of the apocalypse or is it okay to occasionally agree with the Dawg?
Naima Adedapo has some balls to tackle “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. One of the few indelible American Idol performances is Fantasia Barrino's powerful, emotional take on this old classic. She goes for light-hearted, not touching, and it's a mixed bag. Her vocals are impeccable. She can sing! But she misses the visceral connection that Fantasia found with the song.
Kendra Chantelle Campbelle sings “Impossible” by Christina Aguliera and I'm starting to wonder if this will be a girl's year. She sounds amazing and looks great in her sexy Catwoman get up. She goes for it -- big notes and all -- and is visually stunning, oozing slinky sexuality, while her vocals are equally red hot. I was impressed. Can't believe I put her on the bottom of my list last week.
Rachel Zevita is singing “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. Okay, so I was wrong. She's not really singing so much as delivering the lyrics accompanied by the music. And wrong, too, was I that we were done with Broadway. Rachel is amping up the theatrics. From doffing the cape to parading around with her apple red lipstick and 40's 'do, Rachel had the strut and swagger, as Steven said, but what happened with her vocals? She was the great singer, operatically trained, and now she switched to a caricature of a lounge singer. Not on the Strip, but in some rundown, downtown Vegas casino. It was shockingly disappointing.
Como se dice, she doesn't sing very well? No canta buena? Oh, well, Karen Rodriguez is singing “Hero” in both Spanish and English, but her voice just isn't strong enough. She's gorgeous and her last note was nice, but -- JLo's wow not withstanding -- that was just an average vocal.
Lauren Turner sings “Seven Day Fool" by Etta James and when she's finished with her rousing take on that song, JLo says she reminds her of Bette Midler. Honey, you remind JLo of the Divine Miss M because you're slightly chunky and Jewish, not your voice. We all look alike, apparently. But even though she's no Bette, I think she did a terrific, exceedingly confident and entertaining, job! I might be accused of hypocrisy, but I liked her bombastic take on this song. It was exuberant and powerful. She dominated the stage. I liked her command of the stage and the song.
Next up is Ashthon Jones who is singing a song I'm unfamiliar with, “Love Over Me” by Monica. Ashthon has been great and consistent to this point. I'm not into the talking in the middle of the song ("You know what I'm talking about") and I really want to like her. But, I have to be honest. I'm a lawyer and not about to lose my bar card over a reality TV show blog. This performances is not working for me. Too screechy. Her voice simply wasn't up for the challenge of the song. What do the judges think? Oh, no! Again I'm agreeing with Randy. Has he taken smart pills or am I losing it?
Is this the Miss American Pageant or American Idol? Where's the sash? Julie Zorilla is gorgeous, but she's no Kelly Clarkson. She does fine with “Breakaway” but by no means will she put the original out of my mind. I'm chalking it up to nerves since she's sounded so much better earlier in the competition. She pulls out some nice notes by the end, but it was all-in-all much less than I expected or hoped for.
Haley Reinhart sings "Fallin” by Alicia Keys. Hasn't this song suffered enough? Who doesn't think they can sing it better than the original, only to find out that they end up...wait for it -- fallin'--short? Well, to be fair, Haley doesn't fall, but neither does she soar. It's okay, it would be a nice, safe performance were it not for the fact that only five girls will go through. She apparently studied under the Scotty McCreery school of facial expressions and she mugs a bit too much to the camera. Her voice is almost there, but just...doesn't make it all the way.
Fame is one of my favorite movies. I don't know it it's as great as I think it is, or if I should consider it a guilty pleasure. But one of the movie's musical highlights is Irene Cara's simple but haunting performance of "Out Here On My Own.” Thia Megia had big shoes to fill and the song could have swallowed her up...but she was spellbinding from the first moment. She did exactly what I hoped some girl would do, just sing, beautifully. It was pitch perfect, rich and powerful.
I did not see this one coming. I've been a fan of Lauren Alania from day one, but never would have put her name in the same sentence as one of the queens of country, Reba McIntyre. And yet there they are together as Lauren chose “Turn on the Radio” as her Top 24 song. Lauren can sing anything. She sounded great -- like an old pro and now someone who should be getting fitted for a retainer. She looks like the missing third Judd sister and sounds just as good (as Wynonna, not Ashley -- who knows her country singers).
In the unfortunately named pimp spot comes Pia Toscano singing perennial wedding song, “I’ll Stand by You.” That song is trite and corny and should be put out to pasture. Yet here it is again and I don't hate it. Because Pia is magical and can transform the cliched and make it sound fresh. But first, a comment on the unfairness of life. Pia Toscano is an utterly beautiful specimen. Why does she also need to sing well? Spread it around, Pia -- we need natural gift reallocation. Let's get the socialists on this, forget about sharing the wealth. I want to look or sound half as good as Pia! This was an amazing performance, obliterating everything that came before it. How will they get a top 5 with Pia getting every vote. Even Rachel's gramma will be voting for Pia.
My Top 5:
Pia Toscano (shocker)