American Idol 2011 recap: Casey Abrams sings Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

Wednesday wasn't a great night for "American Idol" fans. The weak performances alone were bad enough, but contestants' birth years had a way of making us feel painfully old.

When the 12 contestants sang tunes from the year they were born, we got two hours of mainly snooze-worthy ballads. It was somewhat of a letdown, especially on the heels of two strong performance weeks.

Here's how I'd rank Wednesday's performances; share your rankings in the comments section:

1. James Durbin, "I'll Be There For You"

2. Pia Toscano, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"

3. Scotty McCreery, "Can I Trust You With My Heart"

4. Stefano Langone, "If You Don't Know Me By Now"

5. Casey Abrams, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

6. Jacob Lusk, "Alone"

7. Lauren Alaina, "I'm The Only One"

8. Paul McDonald, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues"

9. Haley Reinhart, "I'm Your Baby Tonight"

10. Naima Adedapo, "What's Love Got To Do With It"

11. Thia Megia, "Colors of the Wind"

12. Karen Rodriguez, "Love Will Lead You Back"

One contestant will be eliminated on Thursday's results show, which airs 8-9 p.m. on Fox. Here's a full recap of the episode:


Naima Adedapo, "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1984)

Naima still has her quirky vibe going on, except this week it doesn't seem to work as well. Last week, it was easier to embrace Naima because she sang a contemporary song and looked like a contemporary artist. This week, she still has personality, but the performance style seems a little off. It doesn't make me hate her, but I wish she would have delivered something a little more unique. There's nothing special about this.

Steven: "Nice going."

Jennifer: "You bring your specific flavor to everything you do...You're consistently pitchy and that's hurting you."

Randy: "The vocals were kind of a mess...They were all over the place."

Paul McDonald, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (1984)

Apparently, Paul has been sick all week. He obviously struggles at the start of the song, yet picks up some energy as it progresses. But once again, it doesn't seem like an incredibly challenging performance -- vocally, that is. What's more, Paul looks uncomfortable on stage. It's a little "all over the place," as Randy would say.

Jennifer: "It sounded good."

Randy: "I kind of differ with Jennifer a little bit."

Steven: "Your swagger up there is way cool."

Thia Megia, "Colors of the Wind" (1995)

A song from "Pocahontas"? Really?!? I'm DONE with Thia. This performance is super boring and very pageant-inspired. She does absolutely nothing new with the song. She sounds fine, but she demonstrates why I sometimes prefer an energetic pitchy singer over an on-key boring one.

Jennifer: "It's a little safe...Push out of the box."

Randy: "I think the vocals were OK...For me, this was very boring."

Steven: "I think you sang it beautifully...Is that song who you think you are?"

James Durbin, "I'll Be There For You" (1989)

James is really growing on me. He does a nice job with this Bon Jovi tune, even if it does get a bit too loud at points. He brings a high level of energy, and even interacts with the crowd a bit. I enjoy the performance enough to think James could actually be marketable. Probably my favorite so far.

Steven: "Don't get too poppy on me." While critiquing James, Steven suggests he'll perform on "Idol" this season.

Jennifer: "Every time you get up there, it brings me so much joy."

Randy: "You figure out how to make it your own...Very tastefully done."

Haley Reinhart, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1990)

I really want to like Haley -- and not just because we're both Illinois girls with curly hair. However, her song choices are killing me! You just don't succeed with Whitney. And the thing is, I think Haley has potentially one of the strongest voices in the competition. I like parts of this performance, but Haley gets out of breath and the tune ultimately loses its energy. She also has lipstick on her chin.

Jennifer: "Don't force anything, just do what comes naturally."

Randy: "I'm just a little confused here...It wasn't a great performance."

Steven: "We want to hear more blues...Dig into that a little bit more."

Stefano Langone, "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (1989)

Yawn. This performance is a little boring, but I'm not Stefano's biggest fan in the first place. His vocals are fine. My biggest criticism? He really over-sings this song. Once again, it's a contestant on a quest to have the elusive Moment. You're good, but I'm not going crazy tonight, dude.

Randy: "The best performance of the night so far."

Steven: "It was just wonderful."

Jennifer: "You could take this thing."

Pia Toscano, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" (1988)

Wow, Pia's singing a diva ballad. I'm totally shocked. Note the sarcasm. She changes the arrangement a bit and tries to make it a dance tune. I'm not totally convinced. As usual, Pia sounds great on the big notes. I just wish she was a little more unique. She needs a little more personality, too. She's the strongest female so far tonight, though.

Steven: "You are why this show is called American Idol."

Jennifer: "It was perfect for you."

Randy: "Every week you're producing amazing vocals."

Scotty McCreery, "Can I Trust You With My Heart" (1993)

Once again, it's standard Scotty. He delivers his standard deep country vocals -- maybe not incredibly challenging, but still entertaining. I still give him props for knowing his musical identity and sticking with it. There's just one problem: I feel like I'm giving the same critique every week. Um, maybe that's a good thing?

Jennifer: "Keep growing, keep learning."

Randy: "You can sing anything...You know who you are."

Steven: "Really good."

Karen Rodriguez, "Love Will Lead You Back" (1989)

Groan. I'm really not enjoying this episode so far. I wish there was a week when contestants could only sing upbeat songs. Tonight is a total snooze fest. Anyway, Karen's performance is better than what we saw last week, but that's not saying much. It still has a very strong pageant vibe, even when Karen busts out a few verses in Spanish.

Randy: "It started a little rough...I'm still not like jumping up and down or whatever."

Steven: He appreciates her "ethnic what-it-isness" Huh?

Jennifer: "You attacked it...You sing beautifully, everybody knows that."

Casey Abrams, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)

I have pretty high expectations for this performance. On the plus side, it's risky and has lots of energy. Also, Casey's vocals are pretty solid. That said, it seems like he's trying a little too hard to be "rocker guy." And there's only so much you can really do to make this song your own. In the end, I feel a bit let down. But I still love you, Casey.

Steven: "You're so talented...You got it, man."

Jennifer: Says he screamed a bit too much

Randy: "It wasn't your best performance...but I like that you're fearless."

Lauren Alaina, "I'm the Only One" (1994)

Lauren is sick this week, but still delivers a pretty solid performance. Lauren adds some country grit to the Melissa Etheridge tune and it turns out pretty nicely. She hits some really good notes and has her usual high-energy stage presence. Like some "Idol" fans, I often perceive Lauren as arrogant. But at least for tonight, I'm a fan.

Jennifer: "Very nice."

Randy: "That was very nice...I liked it."

Steven: "You did it again."

Jacob Lusk, "Alone" (1987)

Wow, this is one of the most frequently performed songs on "American Idol." Jacob starts off a bit too strong, and I'm immediately critical. Then, he redeems himself with some awesome big notes on the chorus. I'm impressed. I wouldn't expect a gospel rendition of this tune. Do I like it as much as Carrie Underwood's version? No.

Randy: "Very, very nice performance...Jacob is in it to win it."

Steven: "Gospel had a baby and they named it Jacob Lusk."

Jennifer: "So good...We have a competition."