All right gang-- as much as I'm loving the artist-producing mentor vibe Idol's got going this season (and the seriously fun/informative pre-performance packages), I do have one serious contention: most of the contestants, via this producer guidance, seem to be choosing/crafting songs based on what will make viable singles, as opposed to fantastic live performances. The over-emphasis on production value seems to have seriously harmed the live performance quality of many of these songs, which is a bit troubling... I wants some organic Idol moments, and I wants them fresh (not pre-packaged).
That being said, the judges are indeed correct-- we have ourselves a real competition. A solid half of the contestants have a really even shot at basking in confetti rain come May, with the other half seemingly capable of upping their game (even if they haven't quite shined yet).
And despite the terribly weak/outdated song list on tonight's broadcast (who really preaches of the musical genius produced between 1984-1995?), I was thoroughly entertained-- so I will keep my snarky mouth shut and get to the good stuff:
Pia Toscano: “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” Z's list of ideal Idoldom: Show-stopping vocals? Check. Heart of gold? Check. Focused dream drive? Check. Affinity for 90s diva balladeering? Check. I could go on for days, but you get the point-- Pia is bringing traditional Idol female fire the likes of which haven't been seen for seasons, and I'm loving every moment of it. Work. It. Out. Girl! (Though slapping a dance beat on a Whitney ballad doesn't quite count as switching it up--let's see you sing something totally unexpected, next time? I'm counting on you!)
Stefano Langone: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Talk about making lemonade out of lemons-- all of the contestants likely faced equally dismal track lists, but Stefano proved that even mediocre songs can be used to create fierce, fiery Idol performances. While I thought Stefano's delivery was a bit truncated and choppy, his passion and talent is simply undeniable. He's one of the select few this season that not only presents himsalf as a relevant/distinct artist, but also knows exactly what it takes to craft movingly memorable Idol performances-- he leaves it all on the stage every week (and America has come to accept nothing less).
Scotty McCreery: “Can I Trust You With My Heart.” Scotty really is proving to be the perfect Idol package: young, cute, genuine, talented and oh-so-country. And while I can't say I'll ever enjoy his brand of twang, I must respect his considerable talent (which was indeed stretched a bit further for all to see this week). At this point, the only way he's not going to win is if he's the butt of a surprise elimination, Tamyra Gray/Jennifer Hudson/Chris Daughtry style.
Lauren Alaina: “I’m the Only One.” Well played, Lauren--this was the only song choice of the night that felt pitch-perfect and relevant, to me. I loved Lauren's tone on this song, and it reminded my why I liked her in the first place. Now if she cuts back on the babygirl pouting and ramps up the crystal-clear country-diva singing, she'll knock herself back up into frontrunner status (sans producer pushing).
Jacob Lusk: “Alone.” Even though this song's been done-t0-death on Idol, it has never been sung by a male singer. And while I can't say it was my favorite Alone rendition (whatup Carrie & Allison!), I can say I will certainly remember Jacob's take in years to come. It was insanely over-the-top and mostly unpleasant to the ear, but no one can deny that Jacob births little song-babies every time he hits that stage. This paired with an unexpected rock song-choice and a few fleeting moments of vocal restraint keeps Jacob out of the red... this week, at least.
Casey Abrams: “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While I respect any contestant's attempts at "risk-taking," this performance falls squarely into the fail category dawg, for me, for you. Casey's trademark charm, passion and grit turned straight creepy under the harsh Idol lights. I'm excited that I can't necessarily predict what Casey will do next after this, but am worried that he doesn't quite understand what works/doesn't work on the Idol stage...
James Durbin: “I’ll Be There for You.” I'm not sure whether to blame this melody-less bit of Jovi on James, the overblown band or the return of the man-scarf tail. Whoever may be at fault, James is certainly not deserving of a sparks-spraying finale, nor the announcement of what he'll be singing at the finale. If you keep up the pretender posturing, these five words I swear to you: America will cut you, son.
Paul McDonald:“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” Can you differentiate between any of the three floppy live performances Paul has served up so far? While I'm craving a buffet of raw acoustic goodness from Paul, I keep getting the same reheated dish of overcooked antics. If he doesn't find a way to craft some kind of memorable moment (use. your. guitar! lose. the. band!) and make a strong impression, he'll never break from his current mid-pack status.
Karen Rodriguez: “Love Will Lead You Back.” She's never going to out-diva Pia with these competent showings, so she really needs to find a way to work her Latina charm vocally if she's going to make the Idol tour. In a season where there's lots of distinct flavors (pop/r&b/rock/gospel/country/reggae/disneyprincess), Karen needs to embrace her strengths and stop pushing into too-deep diva waters.
Thia Megia: “Colors of the Wind.” The good news: Thia understands the power of freeing herself of the mighty bandzilla wall-of-sound and sometimes-wonky production "updates," all while rocking a well-cut, nude-colored dress (that's two, and counting). The bad news: this performance was unexciting and musically irrelevant, and it's sleepy delivery only reinforced my view of Thia as a somber sally. She keeps claiming she's going to bring the fire/passion, but you can only cry wolf on the Idol stage so many times before getting the boot.
Haley Reinhart: “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” Wait, was Haley sober for this one? Between the red-lipstick explosion, near-tripping stage runs, ignored/missed notes and random microphone abuse, I don't know that anything will salvage Haley's sinking ship (which is so sad, because I want to be a fan). But perhaps she's looking to work the as-of-yet underutilized "vote for the worst" voting block... sigh. And anyone else wonder where Jimmy's dig against Haley's "work ethic" came from?
Naima Adedapo: “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Every week I feel the same way about Naima: love her, but not her voice. Without some umbrella-swishing, tear-breakdowning tricks up her sleeve, Naima's voice simply leaves me wanting more. She needs to finds songs that will support (and not stretch) her limited instrument-- not to mention define her as an artist (does she belong in a cabaret? church? club? cruise? Jury's still out).
Predictions: I think Haley will bite the dust this week, since her loopy showing won't merit a bottom 3 rebound (whereas Karen's more discernible fanbase will probably resurge after her brush with elimination). I'm also thinking Naima will come dangerously close to elimination (if not pulling the boot, herself), with Thia joining the Bottom 3 pack... but we shall see!
Till elimination night,