And so, tonight, our American Idol Top 13 was cut down to 12, and honestly, after Wednesday night’s semi-disastrous performances, a few more contestants could have probably gone.
But, I’ll get to that.
Last night’s theme was “Idols,” meaning the contestants performed songs by their own musical idols, which translates pretty directly into medium-high caliber karaoke. For the sake of brevity, I’ve decided to review the top 13 performances, Twitter-style, meaning that I’ll spend 140 characters on each performance, because, let’s face it: I could ramble about Idol for hundreds and hundreds of words. So, here we go:
Lauren Alaina, singing Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine“: The judges gave her more crap than she deserved. Yes, it was karaoke and boringish, but it was better than the majority of her competition.
Casey Abrams, singing the Joe Cocker version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” originally by The Beatles: My honest opinion? Casey is better than this. It was still great by comparison (Top 3 of the night, even), but I want that string bass back.
Ashthon Jones, singing Diana Ross’s “When You Tell Me That You Love Me“: With this performance, Ashthon proved that she stole the spot that Kendra deserved in the Top 13. Sub-par black diva who yells top notes.
Paul McDonald, singing Ryan Adams’s “Come Pick Me Up“: PMcD is one of my favorites, but this was an off night for him. Wonky low register and left-field choice of song, though I loved the dance.
Pia Toscano, singing the Celine Dion version of “All By Myself,” originally by Eric Carmen: Best vocal of the night. The key should have been a half-step / step lower, but Pia stepped out of the pack and knocked it out of the park.
James Durbin, singing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed“: James managed to show control and restraint (though not quite enough), and his flip into falsetto was pure and nicely in tune. Solid vocal.
Haley Reinhart, singing Leann Rimes’s “Blue“: Winner of the most improved award. The yodeling twang was startlingly good, and though I’m still not a big fan, she’s better than I thought.
Jacob Lusk, singing R.Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly“: Jacob’s tone is so velvety and rich, but he needs to tone down the histrionics/melisma/divaness. That last 15 seconds was quality, though.
Thia Megia, singing the Michael Jackson version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile“: Thia’s better than this god-awful arrangement. Who was responsible for that heinous jazzy take on a classic melancholy ballad? Vocal was meh.
Stefano Langone, singing Stevie Wonder’s “Lately“: Stefano, though he does belong in the finals, just has a voice that is too thin/flimsy to carry such a big, iconic song. Worst of the boys.
Karen Rodriguez, singing Selena’s “I Could Fall In Love“: My least favorite performance of the night. Schmaltzy, boring, and the song got away from her at the end and even in the beginning. Yeesh.
Scotty McCreery, singing Garth Brooks’s “The River“: It may not be my cuppa tea, but I can’t deny that Scotty knows his niche and performs it well. I just wish he’d stop mugging for the camera.
Naima Adedapo, singing Rihanna’s “Umbrella“: She didn’t deliver a great vocal, but she had the most “original” cover of the night, and it’s better to be awesomely bad than forgettable.
In the end, America voted and sent Ashthon home tonight, out of a bottom three of Haley, Karen and Ms. Jones (An appropriate bottom three, most certainly). As I said at the beginning, all of the bottom three could have gone, and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. If I had to choose, I was really hoping that Ashthon or Karen went home, and I would have probably preferred Karen to go (I really don’t want to have to sit through another mediocre schmaltzy ballad), but Ashthon simply didn’t have the pipes and the charisma to be the show’s token black diva. (This season, that title strangely belongs to Jacob Lusk.) Her cover of a lesser-known Diana Ross number didn’t seem to connect with the voters, and she also really was just yelling the notes in her upper range. I will give her credit, though: her more impassioned performance tonight on the results show was much better than her first one, and at least she has the satisfaction of letting America know that Karen should have gone home instead of her. After the disastrous choice to put Haley through last week, my confidence has been boosted in America’s ability to separate the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. Let’s just hope that next week the theme and the contestants make for a better two hours of TV. The show needs a performance like Adam Lambert’s “Mad World” to elevate this season to classic status, like seasons 5 and 8. Come on Casey/Paul/Pia; you can do it.