I missed Simon Cowell when the top 11 "American Idol" contestants performed Motown tunes Wednesday night. I mean, it was a good night...but the judges' comments were slightly inflated. More than once, I found myself desperately yearning to hear the word "cabaret" in a critique.
Don't get me wrong: Wednesday's show was hardly a train wreck. Most contestants delivered strong performances, though it might be time for some early favorites to vary their routines.
Take, for example, Pia Toscano. Did we really need to hear another ballad? No. From strictly a vocal standpoint, she's this season's front-runner. Unfortunately, good vocals alone rarely win the "Idol" game. She needs some personality ASAP.
Here are my rankings; share yours in the comments section:
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1. Jacob Lusk, "You're All I Need to Get By"
2. Naima Adedapo, "Dancing in the Street"
3. James Durbin, "Living for the City"
4. Paul McDonald, "Tracks of My Tears"
5. Lauren Alaina, "You Keep Me Hanging On"
6. Pia Toscano, "All In Love Is Fair"
7. Scotty McCreery, "For Once In My Life"
8. Haley Reinhart, "You Really Got a Hold On Me"
9. Thia Megia, "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"
10. Casey Abrams, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
11. Stefano Langone, "Hello"
Thursday's results show airs 8-9 p.m. on Fox. Sugarland and Jennifer Hudson will perform. I think Stefano, Haley and Thia will be in the bottom three. Here's a full recap of the performance show.
Casey Abrams, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
This performance is OK, except for the fact that Casey seems so...angry. Maybe I'm just getting tired of Casey's "thing," but I'm not going crazy right now. It really seems like he's just trying a little too hard. His attempt at audience interaction is kinda scary. My four-word summary: Tone it down, dude.
Steven: "I think you're the perfect entertainer."
Jennifer: "You can really, really carve out a niche for yourself."
Randy: "You can only do you and that you is great."
Thia Megia, "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"
Ugh. This song usually doesn't do well on the "Idol" stage. Thia's performance isn't a total train wreck and yes, I'm happy to see her sing a faster tune. But at the same time, she really adds nothing new to the song. Also, she seems to struggle a bit on some of the higher notes. Make no mistake, though: I like this MUCH BETTER than her ballads.
Jennifer: "It was great to see you let loose like that."
Randy: "You took a chance tonight...You can dig deeper."
Steven: "You've taken a step out. I love it."
Jacob Lusk, "You're All I Need to Get By"
No, Jacob. No other "Idol" contestant will ever match of this song. Once again, Jacob initially has a tough time holding back at the beginning of the song. He hits his stride at the big notes, though. It's not as over the top as the past two weeks. So, um, I guess he did well. Steven gets on stage and hugs him after the performance. Seacrest invites the entire front row of the audience to come on stage and hug Jacob. Really?!?
Randy: "You were like a true professional."
Steven: "You did it, man."
Jennifer: "You made us beg for those notes."
Lauren Alaina, "You Keep Me Hanging On"
Wow, Lauren is trying a little too hard to be sexy. I'm not into the whole raspy voice. Overall, this performance is fun. I have no major complaints. My biggest concerns about Lauren come more with her personality than her vocals. So we'll just focus on the singing for now. I'm a fan.
Steven: "That was just beautiful."
Jennifer: "You brought it to life for everybody."
Randy: "She's now got her swagger on...She's ready!"
Stefano Langone, "Hello"
Sorry, guys, I'm not a huge Stefano fan. This performance does nothing to change my mind. He just seems like too much of a sleepy lounge singer. He offers absolutely no personality tonight. I used his performance as a time to spell check my previous posts. Forgettable.
Jennifer: "We want you to connect."
Randy: "The only thing you're missing is that connection."
Steven: Agrees with the other two judges
Haley Reinhart, "You Really Got a Hold on Me"
Can Haley expand her fan base enough to last another week? Well, she flaunts short shorts and straight hair tonight. Oh yeah, she sings, too. Hands down, this is Haley's best song choice so far. She gets to showcase those gritty vocals that make her unique in this competition. Unfortunately, she's still doing the weird facial expressions and stage movements. Sadly, I'm not sure this was good enough to secure her a spot in the top 10.
Randy: "It started a little bit rough (but got better)...This is exactly the kind of singer we always thought that you were."
Steven: "That was beautiful. You sang your heart out."
Jennifer: "You have that effortless control in your voice...I think you may have the most soulful voice of anybody in the competition."
Scotty McCreery, "For Once In My Life"
Scotty says he's worried about sounding like a lounge singer. Don't worry, dude. Stefano already has that title. Scotty applies his deep country vocals to the tune. It starts off a little rough, but it grows on me. Would I actively seek out a country cover of this tune? No. But Scotty's version isn't a total train wreck. And hey, at least he's vocally consistent.
Steven: "That was beautiful."
Jennifer: "You really made it your own."
Randy: "I don't know if it was your strongest performance." Calls him a young lady killer.
Pia Toscano, "All In Love Is Fair"
Big surprise. Another ballad from Pia. Once again, Pia's vocals are excellent. Judging vocals alone, she's the best of the night so far. But she needs some serious personality. We've only seen her perform ballads at the voting phase of the competition. She's seeming less and less marketable. Bring some fire next week, Pia. Thank you.
Jennifer: Says Pia needs to incorporate more personality into her performances
Randy: "You're phenomenal...You can't live by ballads alone."
Steven: "Right now, you are the closest star in this American Idol universe."
Paul McDonald, "Tracks of My Tears"
Adam Lambert did a great job with this song on the "Idol" stage. Will Paul be just as solid? Well, this performance is pretty good. Paul plays his guitar and offers a nice, pure rendition of this tune. Plus, since he's playing the guitar, he can't do goofy dance moves. Are his vocals out of this world? No. But I actually stay awake during his performance, which is saying a lot.
Randy: "You're so unique."
Steven: "I love it...It's just great."
Jennifer: "You're kind of the complete package."
Naima Adedapo, "Dancing in the Street"
I have serious concerns going into this performance, especially when Naima says she'll be dancing during the song. I'm pleasantly surprised with the final product. Naima isn't the greatest vocalist. Still, she brings some uniqueness and her vocals don't have the pitch problems we saw in previous weeks. The African dance break? It's pretty awesome.
Steven: "Once again, we see the whole package."
Jennifer: "You're an exciting performer...It was my first little goosebumps of the night."
Randy: "Finally, tonight all of Naima showed up."
James Durbin, "Living for the City"
James really channels Adam Lambert on this one. He pulls out lots of screaming and big notes. James is a strong vocalist, but he kind of over-sings this performance at times. Other than that, I have no major complaints. James deserves to stick around. I like his clothes, too.
Jennifer: "You are serious business up there."
Randy: Says it was rough at the beginning, but when James hit his stride "it was unbelievable."
Steven: "You are great. Your voice was incredible."