Motown is the salve that heals nearly all wounds.
After a mixed show last week, the cream rose to the top tonight for top 12 week, celebrating a segment of music that includes some of the most classic songs of all time. With everyone battling for a spot in the top 10 and the “Idols Live!” tour, most of the contestants stepped it up.
There was far less pitchiness than a week ago (the producers may have finally fixed the sound problems on the stage) and the quality of the songs could not be denied.
My favorites: Jacob Lusk finally dialed back the gospel excess, Lauren Alaina hit a home run with the Supremes, Scotty McCreery successfully countrified Stevie Wonder and James Durbin gave “Living in the City” a kick and then some.
My top 11 ranking: 1. James 2. Jacob 3. Lauren 4. Scotty 5. Casey 6. Naima 7. Pia 8. Paul 9. Haley 10. Thia 11. Stefano
Who will go home? My bottom three are Stefano Langone (dreck sung with great effort but no pizazz), Thia Megia (clean but theme park-esque) and Haley Reinhart (not bad for her but not good enough). It’s a close call but I’m going to say Haley goes home. Doing okay but not exceptionally great or bad can be a death knell. Thia seems to have a pre-existing fan base that might keep her around an extra week. I’d presume Stefano does, too. I’ve been on the money with my predictions two weeks in a row. It would take a miracle for me to hit it this week, too.
My quick assessments of the 11 in order of appearance:
Casey Abrams (”I Heard It Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye) – He moved around the stage well. He did a good rendition of the song, very faithful. It didn’t show off what I think is his range but it was solid, definitely an improvement from last week’s Nirvana mess.
Thia Megia (”Heat Wave” Martha and the Vandellas) – She sang it in tune, with some verve, some style. But she just sings the songs. I don’t feel like she feels the songs. It has that very pleasant theme-park feel. (Think a better version of Lisa Tucker.)
Jacob Lusk (”You’re All I Need to Get By” Marvin Gaye & Tammie Terrell) -He has been going from 0 to 90 and staying there most nights. Tonight, he deliberately dialed it back 87 notches and it worked. He had control, he had emotion, and he had the audience in the palm of his hands.
Lauren Alaina (”You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – Supremes) -She started really strong. It wasn’t her best performance but she sprang back nicely from her illness last week and showed confidence and stage presence. She won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. (I also give her points for selecting the song I recommended on Monday.)
Stefano Langone (”Hello” – Lionel Richie) – A terrible song choice that David Cook salvaged by turning it into a rock dirge. Stefano could not salvage this. He is too internalized in his singing. As J. Lo said, he didn’t connect with the audience or the viewer. He closes his eyes too much.
Haley Reinhart (”You Really Got a Hold On Me” – Smokey Robinson) -She has a really impressive vocal instrument. But for some reason, she seems awkward on stage and a bit too studied in her mannerisms. She doesn’t seem to have an idea who she is as an artist so it just ends up being okay. If all else fails, she worked the hot pants (though not as well as that other Haley from season 6 – Scarnato).
Scotty McCreery (”For Once In My Life” – Stevie Wonder) -He really did turn this classic into a country song. Overall, it worked. Unlike Stefano, he has an immediate connection with the viewers and audience. He’s confident without being arrogant. He’s likable. He’s got enough of the “it’ factor to win this. This performance nailed it.
Pia Toscano (”All in Love is Fair” Stevie Wonder) – Everyone on this blog and elsewhere wants to see her move around the stage and do something upbeat. But no. She wants to be a torch singer. She wants to be the next Katharine McPhee. She does this well but she, like Stefano, has a bad habit of closing her eyes too much and ignoring the audience.
Paul MacDonald (”Tracks of My Tears” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) – He has great poise and stage charisma. But that voice has me confused. Sometimes, when he goes soft, it sounds cool. When he tries for any volume or range, he strains. And this is no different. It’s a good enough performance to keep him around for the top 10.
Naima Adedapo (”Dancing in the Streets” – Martha & the Vandellas) – She needed a good outing to survive. No more pitchiness! And she managed to stay in tune, staying in her lower register most of the song. She also did a little African dance that gave the song some needed flavor. Overall, she kept herself alive and showed who she was as an artist.
James Durbin (”Living in the City” – Stevie Wonder) – He is yet another singer with great stage presence, something sorely lacking a year ago. He did some fun dance moves and possessed a confidence that just reached out and grabs you. Vocally, he was spot on. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Best of the judges’ comments:
“You’re the perfect entertainer. Perfect mix of crazy out of control ego.” Steven Tyler to Casey
“I need you to dig deeper.” – Jennifer Lopez to Thia
“The great Berry Gordy is saying ‘Oh my God!’ ” – Randy Jackson to Jacob
“We want you to connect. You’re writing a letter. You’re telling somebody a story. I don’t want the intensity coming from you wanting to do well. I want the intensity to come from your heart is breaking.” – J. Lo to Stefano
“Just like Glenn Campbell. He took country a whole different step… you know more than anybody that you can’t hit a three-point shot from under the net. You ripped it!” – Steven to Scotty (Scotty is shown doing a huge three-point style shot from the 2nd floor of the mansion)
“We’ve seen you sit there three times and do a ballad. You need to start incorporating that other dynamic.” – J. Lo to Pia
“When you sing tender, oh my God dude!” Randy to Paul
“It was my first little goosebumps of the night!” J. Lo to Naima
Cover it Live polls
Singer, % who wanted to vote, % who liked it but wouldn’t vote, % who didn’t like it
James 58, 21,21
Jacob 57, 30, 13
Lauren 57, 30, 13
Scotty 41, 27, 32
Casey 39, 57, 4
Pia 30, 52, 19
Paul – 25, 21, 54
Naima – 18, 43, 39
Thia 15, 73, 12
Stefano – 10, 42, 48
Haley 0, 48, 52
Who will be the first man to get eliminated?
Paul – 40%
Everyone else: 0%