Well, American Idol survived Motown Week. And so did all 11 contestants! Read on, fellow Idol obsessives.
Motown Week has notoriously been one of my least favorite weeks on Idol, and of course, the show brings it back from the dead every single season. But if all Motown nights were as great as last night’s was, I might have to change my mind about the theme. Without question, last night’s performance show was the best of the season (probably because Ashthon and Karen are gone, but that’s beside the point). It was really nice to watch a show early in the finals where nobody completely ruined any performances, and I think it’s a testament to the talent level of the singers this season. My critiques are going to sound more negative than they should, because all of these contestants are leagues above Paige Miles and Tim Urban. Remember those lovelies from the blight that was last season? You’ll probably wish you didn’t. This season has already produced more memorable performances than season 9 ever did, so here’s to you, Idols. Keep it up.
Since I’m getting this up a day late, I’ll condense my critiques to 140 characters per contestant, because I definitely want to spend some space on tonight’s results show. As always, the links will take you to a video of the performance.
Casey Abrams, covering Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine“: I wish he’d tone down the growls and tuneless screams, because I really think he’s the most talented from this season. Where was the bass?
Thia Megia, grooving along to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave“: Poor Thia covered the song that has steered many an Idol wrong, and the repetitive chorus made for more mediocrity. She’s better than this.
Jacob Lusk, tossing his Lusky stank on Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need To Get By“: Who was surprised by Jacob voraciously (and successfully) ripping his teeth into this classic? Motown Week was made for the guy. Controlled.
Lauren Alaina, channeling The Supremes with her cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On“: Just a solid vocal from Ms. Alaina. The end riff was a little much, but the slowed-down intro was on point. She looked age-appropriate, too.
Stefano Langone, squeezing out Lionel Richie’s “Hello“: Stefano is a good singer, but his pinched vowels on his high notes, combined with his over-resonant, rounded tones are getting to me.
Haley Reinhart, growling her way through “You Really Got A Hold On Me” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: Pros: This was Haley’s best performance. I was entertained. Cons: She growled approximately 45% of the song, and squatted/twitched the rest.
Scotty McCreery, singing/mugging along to Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life:” My issue w/ Scotty is identical to my issue w/ Haley: a talented singer hiding behind ridiculous stage antics. Hold the mike straight, dude.
Pia Toscano, belting out Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair:” That last phrase blew me away. Girl can out-belt all her lady peers. And she’s not singing ballads every week, dawg. Last week was mid-tempo!
Paul McDonald, strumming his way through Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears“: Would have been much better without two things: Paul’s smile (it’s a melancholy song!) and those awful backup singers. Still quality, though.
Naima Adedapo, flinging herself around the stage to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Streets“: I actually enjoyed the African dancing and drums, and she was much more in tune than last week. Despite that, she’s still one of the weakest.
James Durbin, screaming his way through Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City:” Pretty solid vocal from this season’s screamer with only one big scream, so he should be safe for at least a few more weeks. No complaints.
And so, we come to tonight’s results show. It was probably the most entertaining results show I’ve ever seen, complete with two quality cameo appearances from some celebs (Stevie Wonder sings “Happy Birthday” to Steven Tyler! Hulk Hogan rips off his shirt and throws Ryan Seacrest into the audience!) and two solid performances from the special guests: Sugarland, singing their ubiquitous country/pop (with a rapping section thrown in for good measure) smash, “Stuck Like Glue” and Idol alum/Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson with “Where You At,” her new single from I Remember Me, her sophomore album.
But, the exciting part: the results. This was an especially big elimination, because the Top 10 contestants go on tour this summer, where they are able to build their fan bases and drum up support for their (sometimes) upcoming albums. Ryan was being suspiciously coy all night, which usually means that some serious stuff is about to go down. And, oh boy, some serious stuff was definitely about to go down. After sending Lauren, Pia and Scotty back to the benches safely, and blowing James and Paul’s minds with the aforementioned guest appearance form Hulk Hogan (both gents are big fans of professional wrestling), and the knowledge that they both were also safe, “Peaches” announced that Stefano and Thia were in the bottom three, while Jacob was also declared safe.
My ideal bottom three tonight was Naima, Haley and Thia, so while I was happy to see Thia on a Silver Stool of Doom, I was displeased to see Stefano there, even if his resonance gets out of his control occasionally. So, when Casey, Naima and Haley were all invited to join Ryan center stage, I feared the worst. And indeed, Casey was sent to join Stefano and Thia, while Naima and Haley both were guaranteed spots on the summer tour. After another commercial break, Thia was sent safely back to join her fellow contestants, and (of all people) Casey was announced as the lowest vote-getter of the week.
America, you got it wrong, child. Since this blog is already breaching the 1000-word mark, I’ll spare the sprawling Casey defense that I’d like to write, but I will say that Casey is a surprisingly individual and forward-thinking Idol contestant, and that is something the show desperately needs to keep around. As much as I like Pia, she is not challenging the show’s boundaries of what is accepted. She’s instead putting out expert covers of tried and true Idol anthems, which is getting a little tired by season 10. Shouldn’t the show try to represent the popular music climate of 2011? I’m not saying Casey is akin to Ke$ha or Katy Perry, but between him and Paul, they represent genres of music that need to be given airtime on Idol. If the show is really going to reinvent itself like it is so desperately trying to do this season, Paul and Casey need to crack the top 7 or 8 to really make their impact felt for future seasons.
All that said, the judges decided (in the most dramatic fashion possible: interrupting Casey’s sing-for-your-life performance to say it was unnecessary, as they already knew who he was as an artist) to keep Casey around. Thankfully, he will also get a spot on the coveted summer tour, so America’s oversight was corrected as best it could be.
And so ended a thoroughly satisfying week of American Idol. But I’m left with some burning questions:
- Will Casey gain some momentum and coast into his deserved spot as an upper-level finisher, or will he be voted off next week as one of the two contestants who will be chopped by the Idol guillotine?
- Will James Durbin sing a song without screaming a note that only dogs can hear?
- Will Stefano manage to hit a high note without tilting his head back, again revealing that unfortunate facial hair?
- Will Haley growl and sashay her way to yet another week of safety?
- Will Paul bring back the McDonald strut?
- Will Thia be so boring next week that I actually forget to include her in my recap?
- Will Naima sing at all next week, or will she just leap around the stage, forgeting that she’s on American Idol, and not So You Think You Can Dance?
- Will Pia startle the entire studio into silence by bursting their eardrums with a single powerful belted note?
- Will Lauren give every contestant their own unfortunate and awkward fruit nickname?
- Will Jacob actually bloom into the female black diva we all know he is?
- Will Scotty unbutton one too many buttons on his shirt, allowing his likely hairless chest to be seen by hordes of teenage girls, securing his spot as Season 10 champion?
Only time will tell, Idoloonies. Only time will tell.