After last week's roller-coaster results show, American Idol wants to make it clear: There are no more second chances. Facing a double elimination, this season's crop of wannabe singers turned to the Elton John songbook. While I've been dreading this show all week, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of the renditions. But of course, there were a couple that no amount of sunglasses and feathers could save. (But there was fire!) So, which singers are at risk of walking the proverbial Idol plank? Let's break it down.
Scotty McCreery, "Country Comfort"
Scotty quickly confirms what I instantly thought: He picked this song simply because it had the word country in it. But hey, it works for the one-trick pony. (As Jimmy Iovine noted, it's OK to only have one trick when it's a really good one. I personally wish he had a couple more.) In any case, he got to say hi to his grandma on TV, so there's that. Otherwise, it was simply a safe choice that should keep him around for a while longer.
The Judges Say: Steven loves everything about Scotty's voice. J. Lo said Scotty has amazing instincts and is able to do what's right for his voice. Randy said he is in the zone and that it felt like he was playing his own concert.
Naima Adedapo, "I'm Still Standing"
I will say one thing for Naima: She's not afraid to take chances. Even when they fail spectacularly like this one did. Her reggae version of the song was both ill-advised and poorly sung. She said she chose the song because of the lyrics, it's just too bad no one could understand half of them. This was absolutely not for me.
The Judges Say: Jennifer likes Naima's reggae swagger, but she said that it wasn't right for this song. Randy said it was corny and Steven said he liked that she tried to make the song fit her.
Paul McDonald, "Rocket Man"
I really liked Paul's folky take on the song, but part of this song's appeal is those high notes that Paul didn't even attempt. (I'm not sure he would have hit them had he tried.) The end result was a version of the song that didn't really add up to anything that memorable. Gotta love that jacket, though.
The Judges Say: Randy, like last week, really enjoyed the quiet qualities of Paul's voice, even though overall it was "pitchy." Jennifer, however, wanted Paul to push into that upper register. Steven said it wasn't a perfect vocal, but that he wouldn't like Paul if he sang every note perfectly.
Pia Toscano, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
I honestly could copy and paste my reaction to Pia every week. It goes like this: Pretty girl stands center stage. She sings a ballad and waves her pageant arm. She kills the big notes, and exhibits effortless control throughout the melody. While Pia again delivered one of the night's best performances, she must do something different if she really wants to win.
The Judges Say: Steven liked that she did a ballad again after Randy told her not to. Pia gave J. Lo her contractually required case of goosebumps for this week. (Seriously, maybe she just needs a sweater.) Randy backpedaled from his "no ballads" comments by reminding us that Pia can really sing and that she slays it every time. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Stefano Langone, "Tiny Dancer"
I didn't completely love Stefano's performance. In fact, it was pretty boring. But vocally, it was a marked improvement from a week ago, and for the first time his performance didn't feel so forced. I think he did enough to stay, but after falling to the Bottom 3 last week, he may have needed to do more to win America over again.
The Judges Say: Jennifer said he moved the crowd, thanks to their notes about connecting to the audience, of course. Randy and Steven both wasted lots of air saying he finally connected to the audience, since they seem incapable of saying anything else about any of Stefano's performances this season.
Lauren Alaina, "Candle in the Wind"
I won't argue with anyone that Lauren has a great voice, and I predict she will be in the competition for many weeks to come. But I wasn't as blown away by this number as the judges were. It was nice to see Lauren do something with some feeling for a change, but it felt like 2 minutes of Ambien for me.
The Judges Say: Randy said it was her best performance yet, while J. Lo said it was the best of the night (so far). Steven said it was perfect.
James Durbin, "Saturday Night's All Right"
I don't always like James' melodic choices (namely always going for the glass-shattering note) or his complete self-assuredness. But the guy knows how to pick the right song. This was appropriate for the artist he clearly already imagines himself to be, and he sang it quite well as usual. I think the flaming piano was over the top times 10, but that pretty much applies to James in general, right?
The Judges Say: Steven said James brought the heat. (Get it? Because there was fire on stage! Oh, Steven.) Jennifer said she forgot she was judging the competition and rocked out at a concert. Randy likes how much James enjoys himself on stage.
Thia Megia, "Daniel"
Thia is the exact opposite of James: Her song selection is killing her. This song, while sung mostly in tune, was right back into the string of snoozy ballads Thia sang for the first three weeks of the competition. Also, I don't think she gets the emotional aspect of the song, no matter how much she tries to make her face appear like she does. If I were picking, I'd say she's heading home with Naima.
The Judges Say: Jennifer said the song suited her voice, and Steven said she sang the song well. Randy, however, said it was safe.
Casey Abrams, "Your Song"
Well, if America didn't scare Casey enough by almost sending home, Jimmy Iovine was up to the task. "Do you know what was wrong with that performance?" Jimmy asked Casey of his previous outing. "Everything." Casey decided to leave the shouty theatrics at home, and he also got a haircut and trimmed his beard at his producer's request. I really enjoyed the tame Casey performance, and I hope he continues to mix things up as he goes along. I rarely care about a contestant after they are saved (and I hate the whole saving concept), but I think Casey is the exception.
The Judges Say: Randy really enjoyed the tender side of Casey's voice. Steven said he was worth saving if only for the last two notes of the song. He called him a true artist. Jennifer said he proved why the judges saved him by being "very Casey." And that comment was "very J. Lo."
Jacob Lusk, "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"
Jacob wanted to do something understated. I think he might need to take a look at the dictionary again. While the song didn't feature the hyper-dramatic caterwauling of earlier weeks, there was still plenty of drama, and it was written all over Jacob's "I'm about to sob for hours any minute now" face during the second half of the song. Had I been listening to this on my headphones, it would have been great. (Really, I think I enjoyed this vocal more than most of his others.) He just needs to find a way to access the voice without going into "ugly cry" mode.
The Judges Say: Steven said it blew him away. Jennifer said it was beautiful, especially the big note at the end. Randy liked the restraint Jacob has shown, but thinks he still needs to find a "Jacob note," or a place to really shine, in each performance.
Haley Reinhart, "Benny and the Jets"
I honestly can't believe I'm typing this, but I really kind of dug this song. I still think Haley's growl becomes obnoxious after the third or fourth use of it in any song, and that her slinky sex kitten routine atop the piano (and camera mugging while Ryan reads her phone numbers) is tired. But she really delivered a performance that was solid and should keep her out of the Bottom 3 for yet another week.
The Judges Say: Jennifer said it all finally came together for Haley. Steven said she sings sssssssssssssexy. Randy said it was the best performance of the night.
So, who did you love? Who do you think should have their bags packed? Share all your thoughts in the comments below!
After last week's roller-coaster results show, American Idol wants to make it clear: There are no more second chances. Facing a double elimination, this season's crop of wannabe singers turned to the Elton John songbook. While I've been dreading this show all week, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of the renditions. But of course, there were a couple that no amount of sunglasses and feathers could save. (But there was fire!) So, which singers are at risk of walking the proverbial Idol plank? Let's break it down...