Thoughts On American Idol Top 12: The Year You Were Born

March 16, 2011

Yeeaaooww! Stephen Tyler is dressed in super late 60s gear, like some rich entitled boomer. Also, it might be from the ladies’ department – the old ladies’ department. We also see that Casey is still alive, much to my relief!

The week’s theme allowed for a lot of possibilities: contestants must play songs from the years they were born. I suspect a lot of people watching this episode felt really old.

Naima Adedapo – “What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1984)

This is a good song. Her arrangement stuck to the original with a little bit of punched up drumming. If she wasn’t hiding behind the backup singers she might have kicked it out like Tina Turner both with the belting and the little vocal asides (of which we know Naima is capable of doing from last week). Otherwise it just feels like a good game of Singstar Legends. She’s good, but she can be better. If she parlays a career out of her stint on this show, hopefully she’ll get with a producer who can process her voice well or build beats to fit her range.

Paul McDonald – “Also What’s Love Got to Do with It I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” (1984)

He’s singing really thinly. More so than normal. It’s revealed he is a little under the weather. Hopefully he isn’t the harbinger of a strep throat epidemic. Is Chris Klein one of his backup singers? Despite his limited pipes, Paul is mainly on key. His stage moves aren’t nearly as drunk as they have been the past few weeks, which is kind of appropriate give the more mellow nature of the song. Randy calls him an ingénue.

Thia Megia – “Colors Of The Wind” (1995)

And now I feel old! If they could get the rights to the Beatles catalog, I suppose it makes sense that they could get the rights this Disney ballad. The way she is dressed and her hair is styled, Thia is a blue necklace and a raccoon away from Pocahontas cosplay. Her voice is overwhelmed by the band, yet again, and her smiling is inappropriate for the passion and wonder that’s in the film version of the song. The judges are getting more critical now, as Lopez really goes to town on Thia. Stephen brings out the old chestnut “is this song who you are?”

James Durbin – “I’ll Be There For You” (1989)

Other than the off key start, James has one of his best performances on the show. He looks like he’s having a good time vamping up the crowd and coming out of his shell more, which also makes him more fun to watch. He’s sticking to the lower end of his range, building up to the cannon towards the end. He is taking the lessons of Adam Lambert to heart and I appreciate this. His performance was good enough to get Tyler to swear and get bleeped.

Haley Reinhart – “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (1990)

I would have liked to hear her parents’ singing more in the intro montage, just to see if her mush mouth is genetic. Her outfit is tres hiddy (just because you’re singing 1990 doesn’t mean you have to dress like it’s 1990), but at least she’s enunciating more this performance. Her voice is thin and a little husky, so picking a Whitney Houston song may not have been the best choice for her, though it is a more downtempo song so she kind of held her own. Her makeup gets a little messed up at the end of the song, so she gets Seacrest to help clean her up at the end which is a really nice thing to do.

Stefano Langone – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (1989)

He mentions all these great dance pop and R&B songs in his intro that would have been fucking AWESOME for him to cover (especially New Kids On  The Block’s “The Right Stuff”), but he picks some boring, snoozy ballad with a straightforward arrangement, so it’s no surprise that boring old Randy loves it. He’s technically on, but it’s no fun at all.

Pia Toscano – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” (1988)

Pia’s mutant power is belting. Seriously, that video of her singing and hitting the notes as a little kid is uncanny like X-Men. Her baggy white onesie of an outfit is worse than Haley’s. Her song choice is a little more upbeat than what we have been hearing so far, and unlike Haley she actually has the chops to take on the Houston. She rocks the song.

Scotty McCreery Bush III – “Can I Trust You with My Heart” (1993)

From his montage, I totally could see this kid as an Elvis impersonator when he grows up. His performance is still full of that George W. Smirk but it doesn’t seem as annoying. There’s a little more passion this time. I have to give him points for having backup singer support and still managing to stand out on his own. He even builds to a belt at the end and it works! I think this partially because as he grows as a singer and lives up to his potential, he gets more serious and less “heh heh tacos rule!” Lopez also complements Scotty on expanding his singing range.

Karen Rodriguez – “Love Will Lead You Back” (1989)

Her rhinestone dress, knee-high boots, big earrings, and bigger hair make her look like Judy Jetson. I just wish she’d pick something a little more uptempo, especially given her wardrobe choice. Her singing was solid, but it just didn’t leave me feeling anything.

Casey Abrams – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

Finally, something new! This song is practically classic rock by now, so it’s a fairly safe choice. Still, Casey shows guts. That he rocked the coiled stance instead of a wider power stance and had a little horn section in the song’s outro is proof of that. Also, this has been the most enunciated version of the song since Tori Amos covered it. So often when “rocker” Idol contestants perform newer stuff they do Staind or Fuel or Creed, which is more “nu grunge” or “post grunge” or “shitty grunge.” Go Casey!

Lauren Alaina – “I’m The Only One” (1994)

Iovine sounded angry at her during the montage. I think she made a good song choice tonight. She doesn’t have the growl of Melissa Ethridge, but at least she wasn’t smiling the whole time. She channeled her drawl a little bit and kicked it out with a modicum of passion. The Chosen One kind of made good tonight.

Jacob Lusk – “Alone” (1987)

I agree with Iovine’s comment that Jacob is making a good move taking on a power ballad. I just didn’t care for his near constant full-power singing. I dinged James for it the past few weeks and I’m dinging him for it now. Show some range and control, dude. The emotion was there but Jacob was off the rails until the end. If he keeps stepping out like this he’ll recapture some of the goodwill from earlier in the season.

Top 3 Performances

  1. Casey Abrams
  2. James Durbin
  3. Pia Toscano

Bottom 3 Performances

  1. Thia Megia
  2. Stefano Langone
  3. Karen Rodriguez

This week was interesting for me because other than Casey’s home run I found myself liking performances from contestants I’ve rooted against. I also found myself down on contestants who have been past favorites. That’s a bummer because it means this season’s contestants are very inconsistent this season, but it keeps things exciting!


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