I'm back after missing my first performance night blog post in three seasons. Last week was all sorts of chaotic for me. After getting all my stuff that had been in storage for a year, it took a little while to get it organized. Then my laptop died last Tuesday night. Fortunately, my desktop has been restored to its former glory after about three years of being inoperable. Of course, it's been restored to the glory of a computer I bought five years ago. Be that as it may, I'm back. Just like the six contestants we'd thought we'd seen the last of until the finale and the tour.
I don't know if that unprecedented performance was inspired by Pia's premature elimination or not, but it felt really unnecessary and random. And with all due respect to Steven, with the exception of Ms. Toscano, no one is rethinking their decision about any of those people. Who else was vaguely surprised that Ashton and Karen had actually been in the top 13? I was thinking, “Oh yeah. They did make it out of the semi-finals didn't they?”
Songs of the 21st century. Whenever they do this theme I always end up wondering why there hasn't been any decent music recorded since the turn of the millennium. Let's see what happens tonight, shall we.
Scotty McCreery (Swingin') – They did a really good job of showing off his personality in the pre-song clip. He's really grown on me as the season has progressed. More importantly, I feel like his vocals have improved significantly since the beginning of the season. The first few weeks on the live shows, he was literally hit or miss with the notes. He's much more consistent now.
As for this performance in particular, I'm mostly underwhelmed. I've said this before but when they have too much leeway with song choice, they really show how little they understand what they're trying to do up there. I don't know what I would have chosen for him instead, but I bet you if they gave me a list of 50 country songs from the last 11 years, I'd have picked at least 42 of them before this one. 75
I was pleasantly surprised at how rough Jennifer was on him. But I was even more delighted that we almost got a “for you for me” from Randy (it was actually for me from you, but close enough).
James Durbin (Uprising) – Let me get my two criticisms out of the way first. He said he was glad to be showing he could be contemporary, but that song had such a 30-years-ago feel to it, I would have never known it was from this century if they didn't tell me. AND, they need to do something about his ears. One strong wind and he's going to take off over the audience.
If I were 20 years younger, I'd totally be buying tickets to his first concert. I mean, if it weren't for all that loud rock music and noisy kids. I love him. It's like Adam Lambert paved the way for me to like him. I thought Adam was way over the top too often, but I get mesmerized by James. And I LOVE his voice. I feel like he's the only one of them that really understands who he is and what he wants to do out there. With Pia gone, he's got to be my number one choice to win the whole thing. (Random stupid moment from me – I spent almost the entire song wondering why he was swinging a golf club around before I realized it was the mic stand). 90
Haley Reinhart (Rolling in the Deep) – I'm sure there are people that think this song choice was too obvious for her and that it verged on karaoke, but I'm not one of those people. I love this song and I love that someone had the balls to do a recognizable song. It's a big risk to do a song that's on the chart right now. So, I'm giving her some extra credit for not being afraid of it.
Now, if I thought she had done an awful job with it, I'd be criticizing her stupidity for opening herself up to comparison to Adele, but fortunately I thought she did a beautiful job. There have been contestants in other seasons (Fantasia, Siobahn) that had different voices that other people loved, but I never warmed up to really. But I'm all aboard with Haley. I think that after Benny and the Jets, this is her next best performance of the season. I know it'll never happen, but I'd love to see her in a showdown with James in the finale (now that Pia isn't here to do it). 88
Jacob Lusk (Dance With My Father) – Damn, that is one shiny suit. I will never forget that the first time I ever consciously heard this song was in the bodega underneath my apartment in Manhattan two days after I returned to NYC after my dad's funeral. Then Tamyra Gray sang it on an episode of Boston Public that same year. I must have played her version of it on my iPod a million times that year. I mention this because Sunday was the seventh anniversary of my dad's death and as soon as Jacob said he was singing it I started to well up. It's funny. I was 40 when my father died, but I don't think he ever read anything I wrote (mostly because I never encouraged my family to read my writing at all until a few years ago). I sometimes wonder what he would think of it.
I don't think anyone will disagree that this was not one of Jacob's strongest vocal performances. But even though I'm not a fan, I was totally feeling for him as he struggled through it. I know how hard it is for me to write about my dad. I have no idea how I'd sing something that reminded me of him. So I'm going to give Jacob a pass on this one. 85
Casey Abrams (Harder to Breathe) – So, even though I didn't blog last week the one comment I did make was that I didn't get Casey's performance at all. Of all the people left, I feel like he would be the one most likely to get the “that was indulgent” comment from Simon. Sometimes he's just way off in left field.
Tonight wasn't one of those nights, though. It was a really good song choice for him (even though I didn't know the song) I thought. His vocals were cleaner than usual too. One thing though. The way he stalks the stages sometimes reminds me of how I used to move from room to room on meth. It looked like it had purpose but really I had no idea where I was going or why. Still, he was in the top three tonight. 87
OK. This is super hypocritical coming from me, who can barely order coffee without dropping the F bomb, but Steven's excessive and gratuitous cursing gets on my nerves. I know he's Steven Tyler and you can't really expect to censor him, but he has got to be alienating a lot of families that watch this show with their kids. I suppose Fox is really good at bleeping him (at least in the west coast version that isn't live), but it still has to be an awkward explanation to have to make to your six-year-old kid every week.
Conversely, kudos to Ryan for having enough of a sense of humor to make that oblique beard reference when Casey asked him if he was going to kiss J-Lo too.
Stefano Langone (Closer) – Ultimately, does it really matter how he sounded? There are more 14-year-old girls watching and voting than any other demographic so he's probably headed to at least the top four. Vocally, it was ok for me – nothing special. His dancing, however, reminds me of a really bad actress that is so busy trying to find her mark that she almost trips over her own feet getting to it (yes, Paige McGowan in season four of Charmed, I'm talking to you). 82
Lauren Alaina (Born to Fly) – It was an interesting production strategy they chose, bookending the show with tepid country performances. She is really lucky that she got to go last, because that is probably the only thing that is going to save her this week. It's a shame too, because I really thought she had Kelly Clarkson / Carrie Underwood talent. But she's just another one of those people that can't produce it under any kind of pressure. She'll probably get through tonight, but she's probably only got another week or two at the most. 80
Now that we're down to seven (and Pia's gone – that's right, I'll be beating that into the ground the rest of the year), it's a lot harder to choose who should, and will, go. But they don't pay me nothing for nothing. I'm here to make those tough calls. If I were omnipotent, I would relegate Jacob, Scotty and Lauren to the bottom three tonight. Honestly, I have a feeling that's exactly who America is going to send as well. And even though he's never been in the bottom three before, the combination of poor comments from the judges and going first is going to spell H-O-M-E for Scotty McCreery. Who's with me? More importantly, who's against me (I want names)?