American Idol: Season 10, Top 12 Guys – “That was f*@#ing crazy good!”

American Idol: Season 10, Top 12 Guys – “That was f*@#ing crazy good!”

After weeks and weeks of audition, it’s finally time for the live shows to start.  Well, I guess live on Thursday – the performance shows this week were both taped earlier.  But why quibble – the live performances are here.  Along with them come a few changes to the Idol stage and the Idol format.  Gone is the small studio stage for the semi-finals.  Gone are the three weeks of semi-finals themselves.  Gone are Kara, Ellen, and Simon.  It’s a year of change for Idol – and so far it’s going well.

Ryan introduced us to the new stage – the stage that will be used all the way until the finals.  It’s far more open, the band is off to the left side (glad they aren’t above the stage anymore), and there are seats both beside and behind the stage for the audience.  The biggest change is the semi-final format.  The contestants get one shot to perform, then America votes for the top 5 guys and top 5 girls, and then the judges get to choose a few wildcards.  It makes this round much more high pressure, but also lessens the chance that one of the lesser shown contestants could make a splash over the course of three weeks (remember Kris Allen?  Didn’t hear much from him until the semi-finals.  You may recall that he won.)  They’ve got one shot to state their case.  They better make it count.

Before the singing got started, the judges were introduced.  Steven got the largest applause, by far.  (I will say though – do we really need the “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” announcer to intro the judges??) .  Ryan helpfully provided Steven with a self-censorship aid – after dropping the F-bomb himself.  Nice.  A little build up, a little talking, and it was time for the singers.  How did they do?  Let’s find out.

Clint Jun Gamboa – “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder

Just for the record – not a fan, never will be.  Regardless of what talent Clint may have (we can debate that if you want), his attitude soured me weeks ago.  He started the show of with a screeching rendition of “Superstitious”.  Although he jumped around the stage like a nervous duck on meth, Randy still said it was brilliant.  I wouldn’t go that far.  A decent way to start the show, but –it’s still early.  I’m just going to move on.

Jovany Baretto – “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain

Jovany started out a little shaky.  The background singers seemed to really help settle him down and smooth things out, but they were far too loud – for Jovany and for the rest of the night.  Once he hit the money note, he seemed to start believing he could do this, but I don’t think it was a good song choice for him.  Steven opened with “Holy shipyard!” and that was the most memorable moment of the performance.  Randy was the only one who got things right – it seemed a little karaoke.

Jordon Dorsey – “OMG” by Usher

The crowd responded well when they heard the song Jordon was performing, but cooled off considerably once they heard the way Jordon performed it.  He sounded lost in the song.  It was clear he made a calculated decision to try and put on a show – not sing.  The problem was – he just didn’t have the star power to pull it off.  When they cut to the judges, only Jennifer was clapping – Steven and Randy were disinterested at best.  Steven had it right – he danced a lot, but didn’t really sing well.  He immediately started making excuses for not choosing a song that showed who he was as an artist.  I wonder whose fault that was??  The same Jordan who ran roughshod over other contestants during group week chose that song.  Here’s hoping we don’t see much more of Jordan.

Tim Halperin – “Sweetcorner Symphony” by Rob Thomas

I like Tim’s voice, but this song was pretty unremarkable.  He sang it well, but I didn’t remember it at all 20 minutes later.  He fell victim to trying to “entertain” instead of just showcasing his voice.  It’s a shame.  I think he had his big chance and blew it.  If I had to pick a word for this performance it would be – filler.

Brett Loewenstern – “Light My Fire” by The Doors

Brett was singing far too soft at the beginning of the song, and I have no clue what those “dance moves” were.  It was clear Brett had neither the voice nor the attitude to pull off this song.  To do justice to Jim Morrison, you need to exude a machismo and subversive sense of barely controlled danger.  That’s not Brett – he’s just too nice. (I also really hated the way he repeatedly pronounced “Fi-yer” – it just seemed contrived).  Brett may look the part of a rockstar – he just doesn’t sing like one.  Brett might be the “safe” and non-threatening rock choice for teenage girls everywhere, but that sound you hear is me stepping off of the Brett bandwagon.

James Durbin – “You Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest

James gets huge bonus points for being the first person ever to perform a Judas Priest song on American Idol.  He had the right attitude and used his higher register in just the right way.  A standing ovation from the judges led Steven to exclaim – “That was %@#-ing crazy good!”  (I’m pretty sure if you can get Steven to curse, you’ve turned in a great performance).  James got an unprecedented second round of bonus points for bowing to Steven as if he were Alice Cooper (if you don’t get the reference – I really fell bad for your musical and movie education).  This was an authentic performance that really showed who James is.  Let’s just hope they don’t roll out Broadway show tunes week this year (Bo Bice singing a song from “Pippen”, anyone?).  It looks like James is going to be the “dangerous” and threatening rock choice teenage girls will secretly vote for everywhere.

Robbie Rosen – “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan

I could not get past the ridiculous amount of reverb on Robbie’s voice.  I still love his voice and his poise, but the production on this song destroyed it for me.  His falsetto didn’t work, and the entire song fell flat.  It was an interesting arrangement, but I guess the judges and I saw different things – Jennifer and Steven liked it.  For the second time of the night – Randy was the only one who really called it right – “You never settled in to the song.”  Maybe there is hope for Randy this year after all…

Scotty McCreery – “Letters From Home” by John Michael Montgomery

Scotty really did himself proud with this song.  Even though he sat on a stool for the entire performance, his voice filled the stage and drew the audience in.  It’s just so smooth and effortless – like a slice of warm pecan pie.  I would like to see him learn to tone down the facial expressions just a bit – but that will come with time, he’s only 17.  The high note at the end was a good choice. Randy again had the best insight – Scotty is a throwback country singer.  As long as he can stay in that lane, he will do well.  (A Hip-Hop week could be trouble, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there…)

Stefano Langone – “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Stefano started in what sounded like the wrong key, but dialed it in pretty quick.  He has a very nice upper register, but there is something about the way he phrases things sometimes that seems a bit cartoonish.  He looked forlorn for the entire performance – but I think that’s part of who he is.  I think he’ll make the cut, but can he be original enough to make a run to the finals?  I don’t know.

Paul McDonald – “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart

Paul was the only singer all night that treated his performance like a true live performance, not another audition for the show.  I love the way he shouted, “What’s up TV Land?” at the beginning of his song.  He definitely knows who he is and what he wants to do.  I don’t think this was the best song to show off his voice, but when I watched it back again I enjoyed far more than the first time.  There is no doubt Paul is an artist and his crooked smile and easy delivery are something I want to see more of.  I hope the voting public rewards his quirkiness and puts him through.

Jacob Lusk – “A House is Not a Home” by Luther Vandross

What can I say – Jacob brought down the house again.  I would have to say I’m well on my way to becoming a fan. I love the fact that he wore a coat and tie, I love the fact he sang a classy arrangement of the song, and I love the fact that he made the song his own.   (I’m not sure he’s quite in the league of Luther Vandross – but he’s damn good.)  Steven told him – “I’m not sure where you get, but I would bathe in it.”  Without hesitating, Jacob starting pointing to heaven as the source of his talent.  Very classy. Very classy indeed.

Casey Abrams – “I Put a Spell On You” by Screaming Jay Hawkins

Casey was the first contestant to get the “pimp spot” this year.  I was hoping for big things and I was not disappointed.  He tore through the song with a zeal and heat that few before him matched.  His personality is as big as his voice.  What I loved the most how he screamed and growled his way through the song, then pulled it all the way back for that soft, final note.  In a word – brilliant.  If you don’t vote for anyone else this year, vote for Casey – and vote often.

That was it for the top 12 guys.  Only 5 are going to make it through based on America’s vote.  That’s a lot of dreams coming to an end on Thursday.  Next up are the ladies.  Who will rise to the occasion?  Who will get swallowed up by the stage?  Who will make Steven curse?  Tune in to find out.  Until then – Word Zombie out.

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