American Idol – Top 11

I’m always a fan of a Motown show, because as I’ve said before (and I’ll say again): the songs are great. Great songs make for great performances, and here’s to hoping that holds true tonight. Also, here’s to hoping that Casey doesn’t do anything too strange. And that nobody sings “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.” And that somebody does a really cool cover of some old Motown song because oh my word, we are way past due as far as a cool cover is concerned.

There. I believe I’ve made enough demands. So here we go.

Casey Abrams – “Heard It Through The Grapevine” – My first reaction to this song choice is that I wish he’d picked something that hadn’t been featured thousands of times in California Raisin commercials. But I liked the little bit of blues infusion that he put into it, and I also liked how he stayed just a little bit behind the beat…it made a song that we could all sing by heart feel less predictable. All in all, nice job. Really good to see the “old” Casey this week.

Thia Megia – “Heat Wave” – I’m happy to see Thia sing a song that breaks her out of the Disney princess genre. And this particular performance was an important one for her, I think. She actually moved around the stage and showed some personality. The weakness was that her voice was weaker on the high notes – and did she forget the lyrics at one point? It sounded a little muddled toward the end, but good for her for mixing things up a bit.

Jacob Lusk – “You’re All I Need To Get By” – Now listen. I have been tough on Jacob for SCREAMING HIS HEAD OFF the last couple of weeks. But I adored the first part of this song. I loved hearing him sit in that pocket and build some momentum. And when he got louder, it wasn’t too much (save one section when it sounded like he and the background singers were cancelling each other out). All in all, it was an original, memorable performance – totally infectious and fun and sing-along-able. (Let’s just pretend that’s a real word.)

Lauren Alaina – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – It was fun to hear her do something different at the beginning of the song, and what I appreciated the most about this song was that she didn’t scream her way through it. I liked that she was confident without being over-the-top (as opposed to a couple of weeks ago, when she sort of skipped! across! the stage! and acted! very excited!). Nice to see her settle into the zone.

Stefano Langone – “Hello” – If y’all knew how many times I sang this song when I was in junior high? OH MY WORD. I recorded the video off of “Friday Night Videos” on NBC and watched it OVER AND OVER AND OVER. So all that to say: Stefano picked a good ‘un as far as I’m concerned. However, I didn’t really like the first part of the performance because it felt abrupt and a tad overdramatic, but once he got going it started to grow on me. He put a modern R&B twist on it, and he sounded great. If there was any drawback, it’s that it seemed very rehearsed – so while everything sounded okay, it didn’t really make me feel anything.

Haley Reinhart – “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Haley has an interesting voice, but this song was hard for me to follow. I never really figured out where she was going with it. And as much as I like her voice – which is unique and textured and controlled – I don’t have any feel for her personality, and in this competition, that’s important. So while I appreciated this performance, I can’t really say that I enjoyed it. And that makes me a little sad.

Scotty McCreeryBABYLOCKTHEMDOORSANDTURN“For Once In My Life” – When I was a little girl, my daddy had all sorts of country music 8-tracks in his car: Charley Pride, Ray Stevens, Kenny Rogers, etc. And honestly, that’s sort of what Scotty’s performance tonight reminded me of – something I would have heard in Daddy’s green Capri back in the early 70s. The arrangement was a little on the hokey side (all that harmonica? really?), and I guess I just would’ve liked to hear something more modern. He can sing, no question – but this wasn’t my favorite.

Pia Toscano – “All In Love Is Fair” – Well, after a one week break, it’s back to the power ballads for Pia. I thought the first few bars of this performance were rough – it was almost like she couldn’t find her footing – but she was back on course at the end. However, if at some point she doesn’t break out of this sing-a-moving-song-with-a-big-finish tendency, Chris Harrison is going to walk out on the stage, crown her Miss America and send her on her way. The big voice is great, but there also needs to be an element of fun and surprise, you know?

Paul McDonald – “Tracks In My Tears” – INTERESTING COVER ALERT! INTERESTING COVER ALERT! First of all, I think the having the guitar worked for Paul because it sort of anchored him on the stage. Second of all, tonight’s song choice – and arrangement – really capitalized on the qualities that make Paul unique. So for me, this was leaps and bounds better than last week. LEAPS AND BOUNDS.

Naima Adedapo – “Dancin’ In The Street” – The first thing I thought when Naima started to sing? Oh, I would totally wear those pants. I would, however, pass on the cropped top. There’s something about Naima that I just adore. She’s creative, original and fearless when she performs. And while I don’t think she necessarily put some big, memorable twist on the song, she clearly paid attention to everything the judges told her last week – and made changes accordingly. Smart girl.

James Durbin – “Livin’ For The City” – Let me just get this out of the way: THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS EVER. And all things considered, James did it proud. Parts of his performance were a little rough around the edges, but he has that thing – whatever you call it – that just compels people to root for him. It’s a combination of talent and personality and a very real sense that he’s doing what he was born to do. So fun to watch.

Best of the night: Jacob (I KNOW!)
May be in trouble: Thia, Haley (again, it’s the respectable-but-not-memorable factor)
And as a side note: There were a couple of comparatively weak links in tonight’s show, but across the board it was probably the strongest Top 11 show ever. Pretty impressive.

What did y’all think?

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  1. I have to say, I agree with you completely…spot on, as Simon would have said.

  2. I totally said the same thing to my girls(14,16) , I would absolutely wear those pants.. they thought I was crazy!!! Paul is my fav!! oh I better go vote!!

  3. I seem to be in the minority this year but no one really jumps out at me…I feel like the whole crop is sorta eh for the most part. There’s a bright spot here and there but not anyone who makes me want to rush out to buy their CD….I think the judges need to be a little more critical.

  4. Oh mercy, here’s what I think: Every time I read your take on the performances, I realize how absolutely CLUELESS I am about singing and song performance. Perhaps this is why I’ve never been an AI watcher. I love how you break down the nuances of each song and its delivery. I couldn’t do that if you paid me.

    The only thing I might be able to analyze is making a cheesecake or whipping up a mousse… AND HOW EXCITING IS THAT!

  5. I totally said the same thing about Naima’s pants!!! Loved them!

  6. Oh, Ray Stevens. *lurve*

    I wear only solid colors, so when I saw Naima I immediately thought, “Now this is more like it. Some calm and soothing apparel I can focus on.”

    I had no idea Liv Tyler was Steven Tyler’s daughter. And there you have it. That rock I’ve been living under.

    I feel like the boys are going to pull ahead of the girls this year. My favorites are Casey, James, and Stefano. The girls are kinda wearing on my nerves these days, but then again, what isn’t.

  7. Love reading your thoughts – we get all prime time tv a day later than you do in the States, so I can be watching for things like the pants and the screeching and the harmonicas.

  8. I loved Paul’s rendition. I think I liked him more this week because he had to stand relatively still while singing and playing guitar. So I vote for Paul to sing while playing guitar every week.

  9. I could have sworn Thia was having some lyrics issues, too, but then the judges didn’t say anything, so it made me doubt myself a bit. Glad I wasn’t the only one.

  10. I thought that Jacob was the best tonight. James did good to and when Scotty was singing, I cringed. I admire him for staying true to himself BUT with his voice, a little Barry White would have been perfect for his voice; but w/out the country spin on a Barry White song. Pia, another ballad, standing behind the mic = BORING. In my opinion, Thia, Pia and Haley in the bottom three tonight.

  11. Did Paul forget some of the words there about halfway through? I’m a huge fan of Casey and Paul. Lauren Alaina is super cute, too … Loved her attitude tonight!

  12. I have so many comments that no one cares about, so feel free to opt out of continued reading of my comment now.

    Haley – Reminds me of a previous season girl (whose name, I believe was also Haley, Scarleto, maybe? Sad, so sad, if that’s correct or even close- ANYWAY…) whose voice was good, but not outstanding so what does she do..flaunt her best asset, her figure. I expect Haley, if she stays in, to continue wearing the shortest of shorts and strutting her leggy self all over that stage to garner as many male votes as she can get.

    Stefano – I like to call him “Jersey Shore”, but he still doesn’t bowl me over.

    Pia/Thia – The pagaent thing has GOT TO STOP. If this were a pageant, I’d be thrilled with their choices of song, wardrobe, and style and probably have them down as winning a talent preliminary. But it’s not a pageant. (In my best Ryan Seacrest voice) This is American Idol.

    Jacob – WOW! This week he was good. So good, but if anyone should have nailed Motown week, it was him. I like him. I hope his good-singing-fortune-themed-weeks continue.

    Lauren – I know it’s just me because everything I’ve read and heard from anyone else has her way on the top of their favorites list. But I just can’t get it. I’ll agree she’s the best of the girls, but that’s not saying much. The middle-of-the-pack guys are better than that.

    Casey/Paul/Naima – As with Lauren, I get why everyone likes them, they’re just not my top picks. Talented, yes, very. But I’d rather hear…

    James and Scotty – James is all kinds of talented and every time he sings I find myself reaching for the iphone to listen to the original version to see, if in fact, I like his version better as I suspect. My adoration for Scotty comes from my new-found country music love. I almost want him to get eliminated so he can go straight to Nashville and sign his record deal so I can HEAR him on the radio. Today.

    IF you managed to stick with me during my epistle, thanks. Now, back to your day – and I hope it is a great one!

  13. My favorites are still Jacob, Scotty and James. I like Pia but she is too pretty and thin and that honks me off (I have shallow moments on occasion). Thia or Haley can go home tonight and I will be happy.

  14. I really need Simon to have a weekly blog!!! I want his thoughts on James, Pia, and Jacob! I am NOT NOT NOT a Jacob fan…boy can SANG, but not my style for the show. Haley’s growl is still KILLING me. I need Simon to put some of them in their place, though! I want to know if they are all as good as we think or if we are swayed by the judges. I think a mix of both…but SIMON, I need you!!

  15. Spoiler alert!!!!

    What? Casey was to be sent home? No way. I’ve got to start calling in my vote! I knew it when Ryan kept saying a big surprise was coming. I’m glad the judges saved him, but what’s going to happen in the next five weeks?

  16. Just found this post—should have told me on twitter that showstoppers blog about AI—that would be you.

    I think the judges and contestants this season have just reeled this twilight mama in. And I’m hooked. I jog the whole two hours on a treadmill at our high school’s trendy gym while watching. Ha.

    My take:
    *Pia is off-the-charts for people who watch Oprah and Discover Channel and yada yada…she’d be great on Broadway…not my cup of tea. She needs to rock…
    *Scotty—those low notes do slay me. And I swoon like a teenager again.
    *Lauren this week told me a story of someone finding confidence.
    *Casey. I was shocked that he was voted off. Shocked they saved him and lost future save. What drama do they hold that we don’t know?
    Jacob. My favorite but I didn’t get Stephen running up on stage quite yet. Wasn’t my favorite performance of Jacob.
    Why am I blogging about this? I am so taken with this season. I just love it. Even cheesy Hulk Hogan throwing Ryan into the first row. LOL> I’m signing out here. I’ll be back Wednesday looking for more. There is no one in Austin interested in talking about AI. Only the librarian at school. That’s it. My cute college son said — who is Lauren? Who is their audience? Not high school or college in ATX. If more than half of Americans are on facebook, what percentage is on AI?? Why am I still writing about THIS.

  17. PS—-Paul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would go see him do a concert over anyone. Entertainer who really enjoys it. Makes you feel happy watching him, his music, his swagger.

  18. Sorry: Not American Idol. Better:
    Chocolate Chip Cookies with BACON.