American Idol took on the artists that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for the most part, the show actually rocked. Aside from a few questionable dance moves (I'm looking at you, Jacob!), the judges' utter lack of useful feeback, and will.i.am's puzzling presence in all the pre-song packages, there was plenty to like. So let's get right to it.
Jacob Lusk, "Man in the Mirror"
Jacob originally wanted to sing Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," which I am fairly certain he would have slayed. But that song is too naughty for Jacob. So, instead he decides to sing Michael Jackson (still a fine choice), but Jacob also decides to say that if America doesn't like the song it won't be because he sang it badly, but because America is "too afraid to look in the mirror." Sure, insult the people voting for you! That always works! Although the song started a little rocky due to some in-ear issues, Jacob pulled it together for one of his more enjoyable performances. But, please, Jacob, don't thrust your hips like that ever again.
The Judges Say: Steven said it was beautiful. J-Lo said it was perfect in every way and Randy, who last week wanted a "Jacob moment," said there were Jacob moments all over this performance.
Haley Reinhart, "Piece of My Heart"
Haley followed up her breakthrough performance from last week by caving to Steven and Randy's remarks about Haley's similarity to Janis Joplin. I get what they're saying, but I also don't necessarily agree. Luckily, Haley didn't just try to mimic Janis. And while she hit the big notes, I wouldn't call much of what she did tonight singing. More like melodic shouting. But hey, if she insists on growling through every performance, this was the right type of song for that.
The Judges Say: Jennifer said Haley is breaking out of her shell and becoming a contender in the competition. Randy loved the bluesy soul of her voice and said he was glad to have Haley back. Steven said "there was nothing wrong with that."
Casey Abrams, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain"
I think Casey made the absolute perfect song choice, as he got to highlight the best qualities of his voice but also didn't delve back into shouty serial killer mode. And like the judges note, it's always fun to see him slapping the upright bass. That said, no matter how much the judges (and seemingly many viewers) love Casey, I don't see many record companies lining up to sign an upright bass-playing act. In any case, I thought it was yet another strong performance from Casey.
The Judges Say: Randy said Casey has made upright bass cool. Steven said he's a true musican, and Jennifer said she would pay top dollar to be at any show Casey was playing.
Lauren Alaina, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Lauren shouldn't focus so much on being a country-ish artist. All of her best performances this season, including this one, have come when she strayed from that. Although I think she's a little too young to really pull of this song, she went after some big notes and made some interesting melodic choices. It's been sung better (including on Idol), but it was a good moment for Lauren.
The Judges Say: Steven said she started as an immature little girl (harsh!) but has grown into a natural-born woman. Jennifer said she was amazing and Randy said she did just a good job on one of the most difficult songs ever.
James Durbin, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Sorry, folks. As Jimmy Iovine predicted, I found this ballad to be more like "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps." James has grown on me more than I ever thought possible and he sang the song pretty well, but I was bored by it. When he tried to jazz it up at the end (by hitting a crazy high note-- how else?) it felt tacked on, like he knew he had to end an otherwise lackluster song with a bang. Just didn't work for me. But I don't think he's in any danger of going home.
The Judges Say: The judges all fawned over the fact that James was emotional, even shedding a tear or two at the end of the song. (I get it, but the guy's been emotional pretty much all season.) James said this was a version of the song he's been working on for five years and he dedicated it to his family, thus all the choking up. Good on him for that.
Scotty McCreeey, "That's All Right Momma"
While Scotty certainly didn't break new ground (will he ever?), this song was the first time I have enjoyed Scotty's voice when it broke out of the lower register. That said, Scotty's performance (particularly his jerky movements and facial expressions) felt a bit like I was watching the drunk guy who wanders on stage during karaoke.
The Judges Say: Randy says Scotty is in it to win it, and that he's not a one-trick pony. (Um, what?) Steven also thought he saw a different side to Scotty, and Jennifer liked that he always has fun. (That's right folks, not one thing was said constructively about Scotty's singing.)
Pia Toscano, "River Deep Mountain High"
So, the song was upbeat, but Pia's performance was still something out of a beauty pageant talent competition. The good news for Pia, as usual, is that she absolutely blew the doors off the place with her vocal. I am glad she mixed it up a little bit, but at this point, I think she stands as the clear favorite, no matter what she sings. (Then again, voters have been pretty tough on female singers in recent years; note that all four eliminees this season have been women.)
The Judges Say: Steven called Pia a murderer because she killed the song. (Get it?) Jennifer said it was spectacular, though she wants more performance. Randy said Pia was in it to win it. That sounds familiar, no?
Stefano Langone, "When a Man Loves a Woman"
I didn't hate this performance, but I wasn't wild about it either. I think Stefano has really tried to incorporate the judges' advice to him, and even though I often like his voice, there have been a number of songs where his tone wasn't always pleasing to my ears. He didn't make any huge blunders here, but on a night where the competition is pretty even, I think Stefano could be in danger.
The Judges Say: Jennifer felt Stefano added another layer of emotion to his vocal. Randy thought it was a bit "jerky" in the beginning. Steven, who played rock 'n' roll historian all night, liked the old-timey feel and said Stefano nailed it.
Paul McDonald, "Folsom Prison Blues"
Paul doesn't have a shot at winning this competition in my opinion, but his performance tonight showed why that doesn't matter at all. After a couple of less-than-memorable weeks, Paul was back to doing what he does best: Performing a song with an insane amount of wacky joy. It's tough to do Johnny Cash, but Paul made the song his own (in a way that wasn't blasphemous like Adam Lambert's "Ring of Fire" fiasco). And he looked like he was playing his own concert, which I predict he will be doing, regardless of the outcome on Idol.
The Judges Say: Randy loved it. Steven said Paul rocked the house. Jennifer said it was amazing and that Paul was right in his lane.
So, who rocked you? Who do you think is in danger of going home? Share all your thoughts in the comments below.
American Idol took on the artists that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for the most part, the show actually rocked. Aside from a few questionable dance moves (I'm looking at you, Jacob!), the judges' utter lack of useful feeback, and will.i.am's puzzling presence in all the pre-song packages, there was plenty to like. So let's get right to it....