Thoughts On American Idol Top 11 Round 2: Elton John

March 30, 2011

OK, the judges have used their save on Casey (and rightly so!). There’s no place to hide anymore. Ideally the way this thing should work now is if your performance sucks, you are out (or at least on the chopping block). Of course, given the way this show has gone in the past, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Steven Tyler looks like a disco yacht captain. J. Lo is dressed like the Heidi Klum Barbie doll. Seacrest got a haircut and looks like a Mad Men reject. Ken Cosgrove he is not.

Tonight’s theme is the music of classic rock and glam icon Elton John. This could be cool. John has tons of hits in his back catalog and they range from singalong ballads to hands-in-the-air headbangers. True story: back when this show was first on and Kathy used to watch it with her parents, her dad would periodically yell “sing Rocket Man!”

Scotty McCreery – “Country Comfort”

He picked the song because it had “country” in the title. Well, at least he’s honest. Now Scotty is performing with an acoustic guitar. At least now he can’t hold his mic like he has a booger on his pinkie or throw up gang signs (though he did call out to his grandma in the middle of the song which was kind of cute). He also has to hit more high notes than normal, so there’s more work and less George W. Smirk. He didn’t feel like he was forcing anything. He had to put some effort into the deal and his performance benefitted. I kind of liked it,

Naima Adedapo – “I’m Still Standing”

Jimmy Iovine forces Naima to give a half-hearted intro about “a lot going on in the world and the people who are still standing,” which so not the meaning of the song. Fuck Jimmy Iovine. She complies, but brushes it off in a second. Her verses are nice and breezy, but her transition into the chorus felt a little forced. Her singing accent is more affected than it’s been in the past, but seeing as this is full on reggae she can rock it. I liked the half-time take on the piano banger. Naima looked like she was having fun, and in turn I was having fun.

Paul McDonald – “Rocket Man”

I think this could be a great choice for Paul. He’s wearing that stupid rose jacket again and he’s bent to one side for most of the verse, but it works for the tone of this song. Paul is comfortable here and plays around with the higher end of his range for the chorus. He didn’t hit some of the higher notes like I expected him to, but overall this was a good kind of mellow. It wasn’t plodding or saccharine like a James Blunt song. It felt honest, cloying side talk and all. It’s because Paul’s tortured voice fits with all the addiction and guilt and shame in the original song. As James said in his chat with Seacrest, it’s a singalong moment.

Pia Toscano – “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

Jimmy Iovine tells Pia to stick with the ballads. Fuck Jimmy Iovine. She walks out from a moving ocean backdrop and sings with a ten-person gospel choir. It felt like some of the weaker moments of Glee where Lea Michele is just belting out whatever and the more interesting characters are relegated to the background. I kind of felt nothing about this performance. She sings well, but I’m not buying it.

Stefano Langone – “Tiny Dancer”

Stefano kind of oversang on the chorus and trailed off for some of it, but overall he sang it well. The best part for me was when he came out from behind the mic and actually moved around the stage. I agreed with Lopez’s comment that Stafano did a better job of connecting to the audience. I feel like Stefano is best when he makes himself approachable and tones down his pageant tendencies (a lesson Pia would do well to learn). He does well when he has fun and doesn’t worry so much about winning.

Lauren Alaina – “Candle In The Wind”

This does not seem credible to me. Was she alive in 1997? She’s smiling inappropriately for most of the song as if she’s asking for approval. “You like this song, right? See me singing it?” Lauren’s singing felt a little off, not in key or pitch, but in synchronization with the music. She was kind of doing her own thing. To cap it all off, Steven flirts with her inappropriately (and illegally) when she’s done singing. And she’s back to being the Chosen One. Why is she all dizzy? Was she drinking with Paul before the show?

James Durbin – “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”

James rocks the choreography for the song. He has all the ridiculous stage touches (jumping off the steps, lighting the piano on fire, chucking the mic stand offstage) down pat, but his singing is the worst it’s been in weeks. The color of the song makes his voice sound ugly, like a goblin. It’s as if his logic was “Maybe if I light shit on fire nobody will criticize me for my voice.” Once again it’s all sound and fury but no music, no substance. He comes off really immature, like a 14 year old boy living out a hair metal fantasy onstage without having done any of the work for it. It makes me uncomfortable. How’s your kid doing? By the way, whatever happened to this guy’s family? It seemed like such a big deal in the audition rounds. A few seasons ago when Idol had contestants like Crystal Bowersox or Danny Gokey or that bald guy Phil onstage, they’d cut to their spouses and/or kids in the audience every chance they got. I haven’t seen shit like that this season. Is his family ok? Are they still in some crummy LA apartment struggling to make ends meet? Does the Idol machine feel James’s story is less Bret Michaels and more “father on 16 And Pregnant,”? What the hell? Oh and Indra Nooyi’s coming for your head for that Michael Jackson-referencing Pepsi diss, you asshole.

Thia Megia – “Daniel”

Thia’s channeling her personal story for this song, and maybe she’ll have some emotion. She still smiled too much, but dammit I actually saw a little bit of soul in Thia’s performance today. Her singing was competent and the arrangement was good but I think where she really developed was the emotional component. Her voice wavered, her smile cracked, and I could really hear the bittersweet tone.

Casey Abrams – “Your Song”

Rodney Darkchild Jerkins told Casey to trim the beard. At least he didn’t get rid of it entirely. That would not be good (“how did Zach Galifianakis get on the show?”). Casey tones down his dork swagger performance style for this song and it works for him. He plays it cool and honest (and that star backdrop kicked ass). The spectacle took a backseat to the straight up singing. I don’t want to hear that every week, but this week it really worked for him. I am reminded that Casey has the chops to be a solid performer. He just needs to keep the beard and keep mixing it up.

Jacob Lusk – “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”

And it was. Seriously, I didn’t feel a lot for this performance. Jacob is one of the most powerful singers in the competition, but his choice to sing a song that had already been done during the top 24 round by Robby Rosen had lost me. I didn’t care for the symphony arrangement and he was stiff as a board. He’s developing the same problem as Pia – too many damn ballads that are impressive but no fun to watch.

Haley Reinhart – “Bennie And The Jets”

Mush Mouth is back in effect! She starts off the song singing on a piano (which someone had to fix since it was last on fire) and gradually works her way to the stage. She slurs her words left and right and ends the song with a barrage of bleating like Paul on a bad day. This was a drunken car crash of a performance and there’s blood on the motorway. I am starting to think that the Judges got into Paul’s stash, because I certainly did not hear the same thing they heard. I am actually shocked and appalled at the praise they heaped upon Mushy McGrowlstein.

Overall the performance quality was about average with most of the contestants doing fairly well, a few kicking ass, and several colossal shit shows. I await the double elimination.

Top 3 Performances

  1. Paul McDonald
  2. Naima Adedapo
  3. Casey Abrams

Bottom 3 Performances

  1. Haley Reinhart
  2. James Durbin
  3. Jimmy Iovine, because I am tired of his attitude and voice and stupid hat and glasses. Fuck Jimmy Iovine!



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