Wednesday, April 20, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 7 Perform

The theme for tonight was songs from the 21st century -- apparently an effort to get the contestants to consider for a moment being at all relevant to the music industry today.  You have one who thinks he's Al Jolson (get it, the Jazz singer?  Too obscure?), another who looks like he's ready to appear on the Gene Autry show, and third who should be wearing a mink stole, sipping a martini while singing about the man that got away (and, here'a hint, it's neither of the girls).  Now, finally, we will get an idea what kind of a record they would be putting out when the show is over (assuming the record industry can hold on that long).

But first, they (whoever they are that aren't us because we wouldn't have done that) decided to bring back the first six fallen idols, Paul, Pia, Naima, Thia and those other two girls.  Somehow they missed the point that we didn't like them enough to vote for them in the first place and decided that we just had to see them again, including the ones whose names we can't remember.  So they go with the Pink song "So What?" and it was actually an inspired song.  They were all, "yeah, you kicked us off the show, but we don't care," even though you know they're devastated and if they had any money -- which they don't and now won't thanks to you America -- they'd be on a therapist's couch at least two days a week wondering why the voters hate them.  Naima strutted her stuff and Pia sang beautifully and Thia was adorable and the other two were there too. 

The recently departed Paul comes out on stage and once again I'm temporarily blinded by his awful sartorial choice for the night.  He opens his mouth and, though I find it impossible to accept, it appears that Paul's voice has actually gotten worse since he left the show.  Whatever was plaguing his vocal chords has called in for backup and has now taken his entire voice hostage.  He faintly squeaks and croaks and creaks out something not at all resembling notes to the song and even the most fervent Paul supporter has a WTF moment.  He talks through the rest of the song while the five more talented vocalists around him, who he outlasted, wonder if they should add a third session with their therapist.

Finally, it's over and we start out with the front runner so far this year, seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery.  Before he sings, the other contestants have an opportunity to talk about Scotty and they each choose to mention something I've never noticed before.  Apparently, he holds the mic oddly.  Hmm, completely missed that.   OMG, people, if everyone sees it, why has no one been able to stop him?! Would you let him smoke cigarettes?  Take drugs?  Drink and drive? Vote Democrat?  Of course not!  So please, let this be the night he breaks that horrible habit!

Tasked with making it current, Scotty picks the song Swingin' by Lee Ann Rimes, which sounds like it was first recorded before I was born.  He actually starts off sounding great and I'm once again surprised how good his voice is when he's not digging deep for those subterranean notes.  But then he starts two fisting the mic and tilting his head and making goofy faces at the camera.  It's the same performance on a loop week after week, with the added touch this week of making a recent song sound fifty years old.

The judges, who normally wouldn't say anything bad about Osama bin Laden (you're really rockin' that beard, dawg) decide to go after Scotty this week for playing it safe.  Fair criticism, but unfair when you pick and choose when to be honest.  And I wonder why the fix might be in for poor Scotty? 

The next one up is James Durbin and his fellow contestants kid him about being a rock star and wearing too many scarves oddly positioned around his body.  James decides to tackle Uprising by Muse and I immediately recoil.  Yes, I know, Muse is great, blah blah, epic, sure, visionary, whatever, but that song drives me up a wall.  The singer has zero breath control so he gasps and wheezes and loudly inhales all through the song and I keep expecting an oxygen mask to fall from overhead whenever I hear that song.  But I digress. 

James has a vision for the song and from his outfit to the drum line accompaniment it's brilliant.  He sounds amazing, nailing the passion of the lyrics and the intensity of the music.  He takes it up to dizzying heights then brings it back down and always stays on pitch and in the zone.  He made me forget all about the original and really see the beauty of this song.  This is something I would actually download.  The judges rave and I can't argue (which puts me in a weird position!).  But I did find it odd that they seemed to be reading their comments and also that they were so sure this was the best performance of the night -- psychic or scripted?

Haley Reinhart next gets ribbed by her fellow contestants and it appears that she and Stefano have some issues that definitely deserve further investigation.  They both seem like nice enough kids, yet they apparently have a teensy problem getting along.  I think I see a RomCom in their future -- she first hooks up with the goofy side kick (Jonah Hill), while loathing the flirtatious Lothario (Jake Gyllenhahl) then realizes in the last reel that she was in love with the hotter guy all along (shocking ending!!).  Speaking of Jonah, where was Casey's comments on Haley?  Curiously absent.  Hmmmm.

Going with Adele's Rolling in the Deep was a risky choice and so was wearing the table cloth from Daisy Duke's Italian restaurant, but I thought Haley sounded great.  Someone else listening along with me thought it was unfortunate that she was going through puberty while singing the song, but I enjoyed the yodel.  This unnamed someone thought I might have been swayed by the original and so wowed by the song and Adele's voice that I didn't realize it was being butchered on stage like some poor animal that I don't want to think about because once you cook it and add a nice sauce it's really tasty.

Anyway, I loved Haley tonight and I'm sticking by my decision. 

Next up was Jacob Lusk and I was shocked that the word his fellow contestants used to describe him was Diva.   Was it the bombastic oversinging, the arrogant attitude or the feather boas that first tipped them off?  Having nearly derailed his AI choo choo with his hubristic attack on America two weeks ago, Jacob decided to pull out the stops to beg for votes.  He chose a Luther Vandross song (one point for Luther being dead), on Luther's birthday (2 points), called Dancing with My Father, (3 points for tear-jerker song), after mentioning his own father died when he was a child (4 points).  Wait, there's more!  He then dedicates the song to anyone with a father.  Well, that's pretty much every voter.  Brilliant.

He sang the song fairly straight forward and didn't do too many runs or his usual, unnecessary excesses of vocal gymnastics.  He didn't try to swallow the audience and he didn't make facial expressions like some smallish parts of him were being squeezed in a vise.  I still don't like the tone of his voice, he always sounds like he's underwater, but I didn't want to throw anything at the TV either, so for him that amounts to a good performance.


Jacob was followed by Casey Abrams who chose a Maroon 5 song, Harder to Breathe, that I was unfamiliar with.  I hear I've been riding Casey Abrams all year.  If so, he doesn't seem the worse for wear and I don't seem to be any farther along.  He's just as arrogant and self-satisfied as he was the first time we saw him and I'm still at my computer having to write about another performance of his.  He decided to switch it up tonight, bringing out a guitar as a prop (the only time I saw him playing it, he was fingering it like a bass) and cut down on his usual array of grimaces, grunts and growls (which sounds like a really unpleasant law firm).   But when he sings straight, it only highlights the fact that he has at best an average voice and, at worse, one that he can't stop from drifting off-course repeatedly.  If he didn't do the bit -- the teeth gritting, the random guttural sounds, the mugging, the Sammy-eque mannerisms, the scatting -- he'd just be some dude with an ordinary voice and an oversized instrument.

Begin rant:  As the song continued, manic Casey came out and he started moving menacingly towards the judges.  He finished his song literally right in Jennifer Lopez's face.  As he sang, looking right at her, she turned her head uncomfortably away from him, averting her gaze from Casey and looking (for help?) at Steven Tyler.  When Casey finished, he kissed her on the cheek.  I was aghast and it took at least an hour for me to calm down.  This is not shtick and this is not a bit.  I was truly upset.  I am sick and tired of men objectifying women, of thinking women are their property, and they can do whatever they want whenever they want.  I didn't think it was cute, I thought it was a horrible message to send to both sexes.

Sorry for the digression, but it reminded me of when actor Adrian Brody kissed Halley Berry during the Academy Awards and that offended me greatly and still does.  Women are not men's toys and they don't get to do with us what they want because they want to.  When I complained, I was told "she didn't object" and "it's not like he tongued her."  So apparently, a little inappropriate physical contact is a-okay?   End rant.

Stefano Toscane picks the perfect song, going with Ne-Yo's Closer.  In his pre-performance package the other contestants mention that Stefano is a flirt and he does try to make out with the camera when he sings, which you might think would get him some votes as he's not bad looking.  But, it all comes off more like a hunk of Velveeta than, well, think of some romantic cheese.  Fondue?  Okay, let's go with that.  A nicely melted Gruyere.  Stefano has zero sex appeal, but ranks pretty high on the ick meter.

This is my complaint every week with Stefano, he has it all but just can't seem to put it together in one cohesive package.  It's frustrating.  He's got a great voice, but doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with it.  I'm tired of repeating this.  The sound is there, the tone, the notes. But something just doesn't quite click.  They've been working with him for weeks now and they're just not making any progress.  Let's bring out Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, cuz it's Time to Say Goodbye.

Last up is Lauren Alaina who sang Sara Evans' Born to Fly.  I've loved this girl from the first time we saw her.  I thought she had such a strong voice and was so confident.  But that girl is less and less the girl I see on the screen.  She's just almost there, but not quite.  Every week, she starts out a song really strong, you know she's just going to nail it, and then she just lets it hang there. Where's that breakout performance that she is so obviously capable of? 

I'm waiting for that one note, that one moment, where she just grabs me by the throat or touches my heart or makes me feel something.  Instead, I sit dispassionately and think, well, that was nice.  She sounded really good.  And then I realize that words like nice and good are not the words that describe someone whose record you can't wait to buy or whose concert you're dying to go to. 

Then it occurred to me why Casey Abrams and Paul McDonald have such fervent followers.  You can't describe them as nice or good.  Whatever you think of them, and I think you all know pretty well my opinion of both, you're not going to damn them with faint praise.  You'll either excoriate them as a plague, a scourge on humanity, as I've been known hyperbolically to do, or you'll praise them as unique and electrifying and breaking the mold.  There's no safe, boring, middle ground.  And that's where, I fear, Scotty, Lauren and Stefano fell tonight.  Fine, good, okay, nice. 

My Top Three of the night: James, Haley and ... crickets??  Make that top two, unless I can say Pia.
My Bottom Three: Stefano, Casey and Jacob
Predicted Bottom Three: Stefano, Scotty (gasp!) and Lauren
The boot?  Stefano



  1. Listen to Paul and Kendra singing "Like you loved me then". Its beautifully written by Paul and beautifully sung by Paul and Kendra. Amazing, hopefully things to come from Paul.

  2. James Durbin was amazing i'd pay to see him in concert anytime.I disagree with anoym paul is where he aught to be off the show.Scotty hopefully will at least be in bottom 3.Stephano
    was pretty good last nite.pretty sure Lusk will be gone tonite.thank goodness.

  3. I agree that Stefano will probably get the boot, but I don't agree with you re James. I feel he was pitchy especially on the high notes and screamed the whole song. If you can sing good, sing loud!

  4. Now that Paul, the escapee from an Arkansas barn dance, has left us, we can focus on the remaining hopefuls.

    At this point, it appears that James Durbin is going to carry the show and the subsequent tour. He takes chances and is not afraid to appear in public dressed like your favorite Harry Potter character.

    When Scotty sang the first few bars, I didn't like it. But then later, I hated it. This is the kind of country song that should be banned permanently. Unless, of course, it's the backbone of a Bud Light commercial.

    Each week, I expect Jacob to go evil alien on us by ripping off the outer skin and revealing that it is actually Fantasia under there screeching out those notes that can kill dogs at 200 yards.

    I thought Casey did a good job, all the way up to the scripted closing theatrics. "Okay, J, on my cue, turn and face Steven...counting...GO!".

    Haley did well with a nondescript Adele tune. I was hoping for something a little more interesting...maybe a Red Hot Chili Peps tune, and it wouldn't have to be "Californication". But it was not to be.

    Lauren did her Scotty - Part II. It was probably as well as one could do without a Chevy pickup truck or a barn or a hillside dotted with bales of hay. It was as expected.

    Stefano was okay, but his dance moves are a carbon copy of Eric Estrada climbing off that big CHIPS motorcycle and walking over to a puffy blond to tell her that she needs to "slow it down" and "take it easy".


  5. That fervent Paul supporter with the WTF moment ... yup ... that'd be me. He tweeted later, "taking a shower and going out." Good plan. Hope he had a drink or two and got over his WTF was I doing there?! It was a song obviously chosen for the girls, and he appeared to be an afterthought. I felt sorry for him, but he probably had no choice in the matter. Give him a break, however. He's doing some good stuff outside of Idol! Thanks!

    Here's the scoop on the song plus the lyrics. v=yWo_nXNFHMQ

  6. My hope is that they bring Paul back EVERY week so I can read your comments about him on this blog! You're killing me over here! My stomach hurts from laughing!

    My top 3: Haley, James, uh I guess that's it
    In the middle: Lauren Scotty
    Bottom 3: Jacob, Casey, Stefano
    Going home: Stefano

    Maybe they'll pull the ole three over here and three over there and then tell the last person to head over to the (supposed) top three. Then, surprise, the top three is really the bottom three. you know the rest...

  7. PS ... the link above is for "New Orleans," a song he and the Grand Magnolias recorded with proceeds going to Red Cross - Japan. Nice guy! Good song. At least I think so. Shari??! :-)

  8. You want to get Casey's schtick?! I read somewhere he's a Jack Black fan.
    Take a look at this.
    Hmmm .... make sense now?

  9. Karen Smith from HillsboroApril 21, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    That kiss had to be staged. She poised herself to get ready for it and laughed when it was over. I'm probably wrong but it looked scripted to me. BTW, I have several friends who think Casey the "A" is the best thing to ever come out of Idol. However, I'm still on your side. Haley was my favorite. Thought she did a wonderful job with Adele's song. But I feel Stefano has reached the end of the line. Great recap, Shari.

  10. what is about this Casey A.guy?what do people see in him.he hides behind his singing with talking thru his songs and growling out his songs how can anyone say he is good.there is nothing about him that says he's idol material.
    where will you hear his music?somebody will have to start a radio station up just to play what ever it is he sings.he's just plain creepy.kinda like that Iggy dude that appraoched Jlo that night.

  11. Here's my take on Casey's performance. My initial reaction to his stalking around stage, getting up in JLo's face and kissing her was that it was really creepy and the JLo interaction was inappropriate. I still feel that what he did to JLo was inappropriate. That said, I really liked Casey's performance. I believe that what Casey did to JLo was artistic expression, acting out the histrionic, stalkerish lyrics of the song. So Casey clearly meant for this move to be creepy and "unacceptable" as the lyrics state. The question is, "Does it make what he did right?." He does not have the right to do something that would make someone uncomfortable just for artistic expression. Only if he had JLo's permission ahead of time should he have been allowed to do this. I don't think he did. Check out this article. Debra Bryd thought the kiss was adlibbed. I think JLo was uncomfortable, but played it off like she was delighted.

  12. what else could she do?slap him,run,tell him to back off,give the evil eye?I would like to think all of the above,or maybe even call for security.haha.maybe producers should have a talk
    to contestants about keeping their distance from
    judges,which only makes wouldn't have bothered me if any of the others did what he did
    theres just something about him that doesn't look right

  13. And... it's down to the wire... they're neck and neck... and... and... it's Stefano! LAdies and gENtlemen, StefANo has been corrECtly preDIcted to BE our wiNNer this EVening! HOw abOUt thAT? The tRUthiness is fLOwing and the fUNnyness is gROwing! Now, let's hEAr what SHAriiiii is prEAching toniiiiiight...

    "He opens his mouth and, though I find it impossible to accept, it appears that Paul's voice has actually gotten worse since he left the show." Out of the mouths of babes comes the reality of the reality show itself. Yes sir, she says what we feel, as though she resides within our minds themselves. Wotta gal! Wotta gal! (translation: I agree with you.)

    "It's the same performance on a loop week after week, with the added touch this week of [Scotty] making a recent song sound fifty years old." That's what IIII was thinking. How did YOU know? But hey, who cares? That's his schtick! Oh, and it can be either "schtick" or "shtick", though "shtick" historically occurred first. That all comes from Pat O'Conner herself (author and former editor of the New York Times Book Review). She also mentioned to me that "shtik" works as well. I happen to prefer how the word looks with the "c" in there, but that's just me.

    "This is not shtick and this is not a bit. I was truly upset." Just like Paul, Casey is a lousy actor who has charm, musical chops, and a standard voice. And so, he chose to get into his performance, acting as he believes his favorite rock stars act - as a social provocateur (even though he's clearly a band camp nerd and a dorky drama student, while rock stars actually ARE social provocateurs). Well, when you've got a zillion girls screaming for you from the studio audience, and the lead singer of Aerosmith (for Steven, a kiss on the cheek would just be a decoy for his busy hands) is sitting right in front of you, rooting for you, Casey-the-actor will not be channeling a respectful choirboy. Like it or hate it, traditional rock n'roll music is mostly about the sexual attitudes of dominant males, and Casey is nothing if not traditional. If you feel so strongly about this misogynistic aspect of our culture, maybe you should write a book about it. (I'd buy it.) I have a feeling a hundred blog entries just wouldn't be long enough. Suggestion: When you write this tome, please be sure to let your anger flow through you; embrace the dark side... and feel its power. Seriously, it would sell.

    "I still don't like the tone of [Jacob's] voice, he always sounds like he's underwater, but I didn't want to throw anything at the TV either, so for him that amounts to a good performance." Heh. Nice. You know, I'd hate to see your last TV on its final night alive.

    Kudos on predicting Stefano's departure, by the way.

  14. rar745, I look forward to your comments like other people look forward to Santa! I might take your advice on the book -- it's a topic that sure gets me going!

  15. stefano was not that bad I split my votes between him and Durbin,I coudn't tell you what Casey or Lusk sang within the last 3weeks i turn the channel when they both appear.i would stick to my guns and boycott the show but i can't wait to hear Durbin now that's intertainment in a big way.i still miss Pia