American Idol Top 9 Recap

I have a feeling I’m going to overuse the word but tonight. After an hour and a half of solid singing, it’s really hard for me to figure out just what’s not clicking. Is it the lack of a signature Idol moment? Is it the fact that the judges are wildly inconsistent? Is it that Gwen Stefani is apparently a Haley Reinhart fan, since she gave Lauren terrible hair and Pia a terrible outfit?

I don’t know.

As per usual, I’m going to give a rundown of the events of the night, with a few words for our esteemed judges at the end. (With a wild stab at my dream bottom three.)

Jacob Lusk “Man in the Mirror”. Look, I’ve already put myself out there as a Kris Allen fan. I’ve heard him sing this song live two different times. And it’s amazing. So when Jacob said he was singing this it was hard to listen objectively. It definitely avoided some of the melodramatic Jacob, and for the first time, I sort of saw where Jacob could be successful. It was a very straing vocal, and I did like the vibe he gave to it. But. But I’m not sure if the performance was a little too much, and he went first, and he still was a little shouty on some of the verses.

Haley Reinhart “Piece of My Heart.” Look, this song is oversung. And Haley did go a little out of tune towards the end. But, I give her full credit for really connecting with the audience in a new way, and if you’re going to go out of tune, when better than singing the hell out of some Janis Joplin is any better time? (Yes that sentence was awkward. No I’m not fixing it. I’ve sipped the Kool-Aid, get me on the phone @MichaelSlezakTV, @jambajim, I’m on #teamhaley)

Casey Abrams “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”. Way to finally show amazing musical instincts, Casey (and ditch a terribly karaoke song) Loved the bass playing, loved that you upped it a notch from last week and still remained you. But. But he needs to watch himself perform, because he’s almost becoming Scary Face Casey again, which would not be fun at all.

Lauren Alaina “Natural Woman” This is why 15 year olds should not compete. Violation 1: taking a song Kelly Clarkson killedin season one, 2: singing it competently, 3: never really connecting to it. On paper this was an excellent idea. Lauren has the vocal chops to sing this song, but it’s just another variation of her picking something she likes, not something that fits her, and it comes off as emotionally empty and just not good enough. I have no doubts she’ll survive, but I wish I could tell what her musical instincts were.

James Durbin. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” My heart literally stopped when he said he was going to sing this. I think maybe his emotion got in the way, because there was a waver in his lower register, a weakness I really haven’t heard before. I definitely felt a connection, and I sort of appreciate that James zigged instead of zagged, but it wasn’t great. Good. But not great.

Scotty McCreery “That’s All Right Mama”. Scotty did the one thing I’ve been wanting him to do all season: he sang uptempo, kept his phrasing, and above all, had fun. Sometimes I think Idol gets so serious, and this kid just puts a smile on my face. But… I kid, I kid. Scotty has an awkward stance, and doesn’t quite move too well, but that’s part of his charm. He’s going to go to Nashville and make more money than I could dream of, so… (But I will give him points for finally stretching himself, even if Elvis is one of his favorites. It’s a move in the right direction)

Pia Toscano “River Deep, Mountain High” I don’t know what to make of Pia. If any contestant embodies the word ‘but’ it’s her. She’s beautiful, but she’s sort of bland. She has an amazing voice, but stil hasn’t found the right song. She seems everything an Idol contestant should be, but hasn’t found what it is yet.

Stefano Langone “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He hit most of the notes reliably. He really showed a lot of improvement. It felt more emotive than the last two weeks. But why is it, when I listen to him, it’s the equivalent of musical white noise? I don’t know, but the fact that I only remembered him because he sang next to last does not bode well.

Paul McDonald “Folsom Prison Blues”. This was crazy, fun, interesting, and probably Paul’s best performance to date. But he seems to be trying too hard to rev up the audience, and I’m not sure he got all of the lyrics in there.

Before my dream bottom three, I’d like to have a word with the Judges. Steven Tyler: it’s possible to be nice and whacky and still offer up relevant critique. Go watch the early work of Paula Abdul. She was an expert at complimenting someone while avoiding the issue of their vocals. Randy Jackson: Go back to the way you were at the beginning of the season. There are a few too many yo-yos and you are one molten hot lava bomb away from being my least favorite judge again. Jennifer Lopez: what you said to Pia tonight was so perfect and on point, I wanted to cry. But if you’re going to be constructively critical, you have to do it for everyone, and no one was perfect tonight.

My dream bottom three would be Jacob, Paul and Stefano with Stefano going home. I’m a realist though, so I’ll put Lauren or Haley in there instead of Paul, but I really don’t see how Stefano can survive another week.

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