Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Idol -- Top 11 Performance Show

After last week’s mediocrity, I’m lowering everyone’s score by at least five this week. You want a good grade? Earn it by having more than one good performance. The problem here isn’t talent. This batch is at least 30 percent more talented and memorable than last year’s drones. Case in point, Casey James finished third last season and I literally had to google “Idol season 9 Casey” to remember his last name. And I LIKED him!

The problem here is consistency, charisma and risk. Every one of the contestants that are left (except maybe Thia Megia) could blow the roof off the Kodak Theater if they put their mind to it. But so far, we’ve seen manic or spastic performances from out-of-breath and out-of-tune singers, dreary dirges that have us reaching simultaneously for no-doz and anti-depressants and – worst of all – completely in-their-pocket and safe song choices from the best of the best.

With the chance to go out on tour with the whole gang this summer riding on tonight’s performances, let’s hope they decide to bring something extra special. Let’s get to it.

Casey Abrams (Heard It Through the Grapevine) -- My favorite part of this performance happened during the rehearsal clip so you might have missed it. Casey is singing his little heart out while the producers are sitting on a sofa chatting aimlessly with each other. As he finishes, the one producer turns to him and says (in the most bored voice he could muster): Amazing, great. We’re done.

Bash and boo me if you want, but I was even more bored than the producer during this. I suppose it’s not completely his fault since we saw Jimmy Iovene telling him to rein it in and not oversing, but dude didn’t even phone this in, he just sent a text. And his hair – DREADFUL! I am still trying to figure out what Randy was talking about when he was going on about how Casey always takes chances. What was risky about this performance? I take a bigger risk by leaving the top down on my car when it’s cloudy outside. 77

Thia Megia (Heatwave) -- Even when her mouth is saying she’s excited and thrilled, her face and body are saying she’d really like a nap right now. If she were in therapy, her flat affect would have her on suicide watch on a weekly basis. She can be thankful Simon is gone because I don’t remember him ever commenting positively on anyone’s performance of this song. It’s one of those songs that seems exciting (and is when you’re dancing at a wedding) but is deceptively dull as a performance song. This time is no exception. Her performance here is really no different (and certainly no more exciting) from when she’s doing a ballad. There are some notes in that song that she could have stretched and at least showed off her voice – which is good by the way – but she didn’t even bother to do that. 70

Jacob Lusk (You’re All I Need) -- Look, I just don’t like this guy. I don’t even really know why anymore. He walks out on stage and I have an overwhelming urge to slap the shit of him. But let’s give credit where it’s due. He took the criticism he was given last week (and by Jimmy Iovene in rehearsal) and showed he actually knows how to control a song. I still don’t like his phrasing or the look on his face when he’s singing, but this was light years better than last week’s fiasco (which I graded far too generously) and better than Casey and Thia combined. 85

What the hell was that procession of teenage girls about? Ryan is on way too much cold medicine tonight.

Lauren Alaina (You Keep Me Hangin’ On) -- This song choice worried me a little for the same reason I wasn’t keen on Heatwave. It’s easy to think because it’s up tempo that it’s exciting, but it’s really what you do with this song that makes it either very good or very bad. What Lauren did tonight made it very good. It was her best performance since Hollywood week.

As an aside, her comments before her performance didn’t make sense to me at first, but then all of a sudden I felt like I understood. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she was talking about the things people can say about you when you’re in the spotlight (and how she was going to forget about it) and the fact that she was dressed better tonight than any of the previous three weeks. I have a feeling the message board have been calling her fat and she was reading it. I hate that kind of shit. It’s bad enough when real celebrities have to deal with that, but she’s only 16. Leave her alone. 85

I wrote in my notes, “Ryan is [an idiot]” but I’m not sure what he did to prompt that and I’m not near my television to review right now. I’ll check later and add it to the comments.

Stefano Langone (Hello) -- When he said he’d never heard this song before, my only thought was “Don’t you watch American Idol?” If he did, he would know that we all were going to be judging him more against David Cook’s version than Lionel Richie’s. Either way – in the vernacular of kids today – EPIC FAIL.

First of all, I could barely even hear him because I was so distracted by his eyes. They made such a big deal about him keeping his eyes open during the rehearsal clips. Then he came out and he couldn’t even keep the beginning of the song in tune because he was working so hard to not close them. It was actually hilarious (in a mean-spirited way). Once he gave up on that futile endeavor, he sounded better. But really it was too little, too late. This was a mess with a capital HOT. It’s a good thing he’s cute. 60

I don’t think anyone on this (or any previous) judging panel has ever given a more accurate, well-crafted critique than J-Lo did after this performance. [Paraphrasing] We want to see the emotion coming out of you not because you’re working so hard to be good, but because the song is breaking your heart. Amen sister!

Did Randy just out Stefano and Ryan as lovers? I guess anyone that is actually shorter than Ryan is his type.

And WTF Chef Ramsay?! That whole Mama Langone pasta debacle was way out of bounds. What was Ryan thinking letting Gordon “Douchebag” Ramsay appraise that poor woman’s cooking. I doubt she’ll be making dinner for the contestants again any time soon.

Haley Reinhart (You Really Got a Hold on Me) -- Poor Haley. I guess because she realistically can't finish any better than 7th anyway, no one really sees what's happened to her as unfair. But really, there's no way she should be the next one to go home. And she probably will be. She's been better than Thia and Naima every week; more consistent than Stefano; and far less annoying than Jacob and Old McDonald (come on, admit it -- I'm not the only one that keeps expecting him to end his performance with e-i-e-i-o).

Be that as it may, she keeps plugging away. If the major voting bloc were adolescent and just-post-adolescent boys, she'd be a lock for the finale. But her sex appeal isn't appealing to the tween girls that dial and text their fingers to the bone. As always, she looked great. I love her hair straightened (even though I'm partial to curls). More importantly, she sounded good -- more like the girl that auditioned than she has since Hollywood. This was a solid effort for her. I hope she sticks around because I like her, I really like her (how she could reference Sally Field's Oscar speech from before she was born I'll never know, but I loved it). 81

Scotty McCreery (For Once in My Life) -- Most confusing moment of the night, by far: During the pre-song clip Scotty says, "I didn't really know much about Motown, but my dad was big Michael Jackson fan. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson." He then went on to say he was singing For Once in My Life by Stevie Wonder.

I don't have much to say about this. I feel like I'm not equipped to fairly critique him. I know his voice is good and I'm certain he will have a career as a country singer after Idol. But unlike the female country singers that have been on the show, I just don't get his brand of music. I think his fans will like it a lot though. There was definitely nothing about it that I can say was bad. 80

Pia Toscano (All in Love Is Fair) -- First the good news. She looks amazing. I love the dress. And I LOVE the pulled-back hair. Way less pageanty than she's looked previously. Brilliant voice. Maybe one of the five best voices in ten years of Idol. OK. Great.

Now come the hell out from behind that mic stand! The only public performance she's ready for right now is to sing the national anthem at sporting events. It is actually painful to watch her stand there extending her arms the same exact way every week. This is someone that I have picked as a top three finisher, but she's going down in flames before the top five if she doesn't step it up. 80

Paul McDonald (Track of My Tears) -- Thank God he was using his guitar. As much as Pia needs to get away from the mic stand, he needs to stand right there behind it a hundred times more. Of course, it was fitting that he got to sing the lyric "my smile looks out of place" because his always does. Still, this was his most watchable performance so far. E-I-E-I-O. 80

Someone should tell Steven Tyler than it is not a compliment to tell someone his voice is as distinctive and unique as Bob Dylan's.

Naima Adedapo (Dancin' in the Streets) -- I was worried about this. If there is anyone that shouldn't be picking a song that requires her to move around the stage, she is the one. But as usual, I was wrong. It was a really fun performance. She picked a key where she didn't have to try to find her breath AND the note at the same time. Plus, the dancing was placed appropriately throughout. A strong outing for her tonight. 83

James Durbin (Livin' for the City) -- I love him. Everything that was missing from the other performances tonight, he had in spades. To steal J-Lo's convention: Charisma, check; in tune, check; performance, check; connection to song and audience, done and done. 90

This week more than any so far, I think there will be a disparity between the should and the will. Stefano Langone, Thia Megia and Casey Abrams should be in the bottom three. However, more than likely Haley Reinhart, Lauren Alaina and Thia Megia will be. So far I've been right every week about the bottom three, but I really hope I'm wrong this time. The only good news here is that I'm fairly certain, mostly because everyone knows Haley's in danger, Thia will end up standing there watching her life flash before her eyes while David Cook sings Don't You Forget About Me.

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