Recap: 'American Idol' Top 9 - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Night
It's Songs Related Vaguely to The Rock -n- Roll Hall of Fame Night on "American Idol." How would the Top 9 handle the nebulous possibilities?
Click through for my recap of Wednesday's (April 6) show...
Singer: Jacob Lusk
Song: "Man in the Mirror"
My Take: Jacob was originally going to sing "Let's Get It On," but he wasn't comfortable asking America to get nasty with him. Because Marvin Gaye only did one song in his career? It's was the sex song or nothing? Instead, Jacob basically says that if America rejects this Michael Jackson cover, it's because we're racist, homophobic hates. Thanks Jacob. The performance begins with Jacob struggling with his In-Ear. He eventually casts it aside, no harm done. After last week's allegedly Understated Jacob (who wasn't really understated at all), tonight he's truly shockingly under control. He lets loose a bit in the last 30 seconds, but it's straight-forward and -- boy I hate to say it -- just a little bit karaoke. It's great, strong-voiced karaoke, but it's just a "How would it sound if somebody with a Luther voice sang the exact Jacko melody?" performance. It definitely feels properly sincere, but I never need to watch Jacob doing hip thrusts ever again. And given the earnestness of the subject matter and performance, why was Jacob thrusting at his backup singer anyway?
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Apparently the song's co-writer was singing back-up with Jacob? Nice. "Every time you sing, you bring another little piece of yourself to the puzzle," gushes an appreciative Steven Tyler. J-Lo admires that Jacob stuck to his guns, calling it "perfect in every way." You know what Randy loves? He loves that Jacob stuck to his moral convictions. "Dude, I'm so proud of you," Randy says.
Singer: Haley Reinhart
Song: "Piece of My Heart"
My Take: "American Idol" has never suffered from Janis Joplin-esque female vocalists and Haley seems almost reluctant to be doing what the judges already seemed to expect of her. It's an odd persona. More '80s rock vixen than Janis, right down to the ruby-red lips, the teased hair, the rubber pants and the guitar-driven bridge. Haley definitely has the lungs for this song and she gets real points for not doing a Janis impression in any way. The arrangement forces her to be a bit more "shout-y" than "musical" at times, but she hits the notes pretty pure. I'd also add that this is the most energetic Haley has been in her stage-craft all season. That's not saying a lot -- she's often frantic -- but I'm never afraid that she's going to fall down. This is a dangerous placement in the show for Haley, but this is the sort of performance that should hold onto whatever fans she made.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "OK. We're off to a bit of a strong start," J-Lo says, calling Haley a contender. This was the Haley Randy loved when he first saw her. Randy welcomes Haley back. Even though he called her last week's best. Steven loved it.
Singer: Casey Abrams
Song: "Have You Ever Seen The Rain"
My Take: I'm very, very, very glad that Casey changed from The Police to CCR. And I'm also mighty pleased that he's brought on the standing bass. It's a perfect choice for his voice, though the arrangement is cheesy as heck, complete with rain coming down on the video screens around him. I'm not convinced Casey knows what this song is about, but I like the way he performs it. Some funny faces at the end, but Casey's still my boy. Beardo, represent!
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy thinks that Casey did "well justice" to that song. Randy's also overjoyed that the upright bass is now cool. "You're not just a singer, you're a true musician," Tyler raves. Tyler loves Casey's "full package." If you know what I mean. J-Lo says she'd pay top dollar for Casey.
Singer: Lauren Alaina
Song: "Natural Woman"
My Take: I feel like the judges have compared Lauren to Kelly Clarkson before. As she reprises one of Kelly's standout "Idol" moments, Lauren even looks like Ms. Clarkson tonight. This is a good moment for Lauren. She's really not in Kelly's class in terms of sheer pipes, but she isn't trying to doesn't show off too much. The purpose of Kelly's performance was, "Yo, you think Tamyra's the only one who can sing? Suck it!" The purpose of Lauren's performance is, "I can do Aretha with just a little twang and I could practically do it with my eyes closed." Maybe Lauren *should* be trying to throw down a gauntlet of sorts? Instead, she just does a nice, simple cover. We've had a pretty good night of performances so far and I wonder if "nice and simple" won't be remembered as "underwhelming" when the performances are through.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "Tonight, you are a natural, born woman," Tyler raves. "That was very nice," J-Lo says. Randy wasn't jumping up and down, but he says Lauren did a good job.
Singer: James Durbin
Song: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
My Take: Interesting. On the night that invites rocking, our resident rocker decides to go with a ballad. Even Will.i.Am and Jimmy Iovine mock the potential downside of the choice. There are tortured souls trying to escape from the video screens behind James. Somebody thought that was a good idea. Perhaps the same person who said, "More fog!" James has actually reminded us a couple times that rock affectations aside, he's got a good voice and an immaculate sense of pitch. He builds to a trademark wail and for the sake of this performance, we'd probably call it a lamentation? It's actually a really beautiful note he hits at the end. As he ends, James is wiping away tears.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo thinks it was special to watch James vulnerability. You know what Randy loved about that? He loved seeing the emotional side of James. "Taking chances like that are extremely important and you won, dawg," Randy says. "Not only did your guitar gently weep, but you did as well," Tyler says.
Singer: Scotty McCreery
Song: "That's Alright Mama"
My Take: I really hate to say this, but Will.i.Am is actually being funny tonight. He's unnecessary, but funny. Argh. Scotty's atrophied microphone claw-grip is back. This is actually a performance that should temporarily silence the "Scotty does the exact same thing every week" haters. Yes, he's got a deep voice. What? You want him to not have a deep voice? There's an entirely different tone and pacing to his voice this week and he sounds great every note of the way. He looks ridiculous, but he also doesn't try to do much. There's no painful dancing, just a little awkward strutting. But boy oh boy, I want Scotty to always play a guitar, just to correct his posture. How can nobody have coached him out of any of these tendencies yet? There is was a performance that existed only so that Scotty can go back to being Scotty next week. As such, it's effective. As he ends, Scotty's attacked by a swarm of young girls.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "Scotty is in it to win it," Randy raves. "I thought you were all hat and no cattle, but you brought Elvis into the house," Tyler gushes. "That's what entertainment is," J-Lo says, before asking Scotty about his hip-hop swagga.
Singer: Pia Toscano
Song: "River Deep, Mountain Hight"
My Take: Jimmy Iovine and Will.i.Am both warn Pia that she's unlikely to equal Tina Turner. And Pia wants to shock everybody. Oh. Good. Gracious. What the heck is Pia wearing? Is she wearing cow-printed puffy capris? And African tribal neck-rings? The song is up-tempo, but is this really an up-tempo performance? Yes, she's bending her knees. And yes, she's growling a little. But her feet still are glued to their place. Whew. OK. Pia's moving down the stage and toward the audience. Yup. This is stretching the definition of up-tempo. But I guess this is about all that Pia feels comfortable doing. She seems almost shaken when she reaches the end. There is a size and scope to Pia's voice that none of her female rivals can even sniff. Jacob's her only competition in terms of range and while he purposely makes everything look ultra-difficult, Pia makes everything look ultra-easy. Why do I feel that after removing the cement from her shoes tonight, Pia's gonna return to ballads for the next month?
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "Murderer! Murderer! You killed it," Tyler says, before implying that millions of men will be jerking off to her tonight. J-Lo sees greatness in Pia, so while she thinks Pia was spectacular, she wants her to be greater. Randy wants more work on the movement, but "Pia's in it to win it!"
Singer: Stefano "The Aneurism" Langone
Song: "When a Man Love a Woman"
My Take: [Weirdness. Todd Rundgren is in the house tonight. Steven Tyler's daughter Liv believed that Todd Rundgren was her biological father for much of her childhood. I'm not sure why this interests me, but if the choice is listening to Stefano.] At least Stefano chose a song with easy-to-mumble lyrics this week. It's full of big, heady notes for Stefano. On at least one, his face turns an indelicate shade of aubergine and I have legitimate fears that the vein in his forehead is going to pop and his eyes are going burst and ooze their jelly down his face. I'm getting a sinus headache watching and listening to Stefano. He's causing me pain. Stop. Breath. Stop hurting me. From now on, I'm nicknaming Stefano "The Aneurism."
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo is overjoyed, calling it "beautiful" repeatedly, also "amazing" and "magic." Randy wasn't jumping up and down, because the first part felt a little "jerky." Randy liked it, but J-Lo tries to silence him. "Are we through?" Tyler sighs. For Tyler, Stefano nailed it tonight.
Singer: Paul McDonald
Song: "Folsom Prison Blues"
My Take: What a marvelously loopy song choice. This is just about the happiest performance of a song complaining about a lengthy prison term that I've ever heard. Oh Paul. So happy. He's overjoyed about that man he shot in Reno just to watch him die. But I guess we could say that Paul's playing the song's narrator as an unhinged lunatic. If that's the case, then the smiles make sense. Kinda. He's a killer, but he's unrepentant. And the word "blues" in the title? It's ironic! And this is definitely Paul's best vocal and musical performance of the season.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "I. Loved. It." Randy says, tearing Paul to shreds. "You rocked the house," says an angry Steven Tyler. J-Lo demolishes Paul's ego with a trenchant, "I loved it." BURN!
TONIGHT'S BEST: Twas another solid "American Idol" evening. I'm not sure if I'm giving out any A's, but I've got plenty of B's to give out. I liked Casey, James, Pia and Paul the most, probably. But I'm not exactly filled with hatred for Jacob and Haley.
TONIGHT'S WORST: I hated Stefano's performance. Judges loved it. Oh well.
IN DANGER: This is another tough one. And no thanks to the judges. Nine performances. 27 judicial evaluations. Not a single negative critique. Not ONE. I think Stefano Langone's going home, but I couldn't tell you why. I think Haley joins him in the Bottom Three, but I couldn't tell you why. And for the third Bottom Three position? Jacob Lusk. Would I be even slightly shocked if Jacob went home? Nope. But I don't have the guts to predict his elimination. I wish I did.
Who did you like? Who did you dislike?