American Idol, Season 10: Top 11 Performances – “The perfect mix of crazy ass, out of control ego.”

American Idol, Season 10: Top 11 Performances – “The perfect mix of crazy ass, out of control ego.”

This week saw the American Idol contestants take on the songs of Motown.  It’s become a popular theme week over the years, showing up in 4 out of the first 9 seasons (in fact it was the theme used for the very first top 10 show in season 1.)   With the deep and impressive catalogue that Motown brings to the table, it was set up to be an entertaining night – and it didn’t disappoint. Ryan chatted with the judges a bit, gave a quick shout out to Liv Tyler in the audience, and then brought the contestants out on to the stage.  Casey was up first.  Let’s see what happened.

Casey Abrams – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye

Casey cleaned up a little this week – slicked his hair back, trimmed his beard – and also cleaned up his vocal.  It was a potent combination.  Kuk Harrell, Casey’s producer this week, worked with him on harnessing his voice – controlling the passion, and making sure he didn’t cross over into screeching and yelling.  Casey listened.  He took the advice and turned in one of his best performances to date. He sounded absolutely incredible. He took the time to sing to one his friends in the audience – a nice touch.  It was a perfect song for him – allowing him to be himself, but really showing America what a truly great singer Casey is.  As Steven said, “I think you’re the perfect entertainer – perfect pitch and the perfect mix of crazy ass, out of control ego.”  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – vote for Casey.  Idol needs him.

Thia Megia – “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas

This week was Thia trying to cut loose, have some fun, and step out of her comfort zone a bit.  Instead, it was just Thia being slightly less bland than usual.  Sure, the crowd was up dancing during the song.  That’s because it’s a great song – not because Thia turned in a great performance.  The judges did their best to give her good marks and acknowledge that she took their advice last week and did an up-tempo number this week.  It just didn’t work for me.  Her voice is just not rich enough to pull off the song – and for the cherry on top; she forgot some of the words.  My wife hit in on the head – Thia just doesn’t seem to have any passion or soul.  Even during her interviews, she seems overly subdued.  We’ll see what America thought about the performance.

Jacob Lusk – “You’re All I Need to Get By “ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Jacob got some good advice this week and showed great self-awareness in admitting he was using the vocal fireworks a little too much.  A treat isn’t special if you get it all the time.  Well – this performance was definitely a treat.  Jacob was restrained, he was controlled, he was passionate, and he absolutely sang the doors off the song.  Not only was the vocal strong, you could see Jacob growing as a performer on stage.  He was having fun, and the fun was translating directly to the audience.  For the first time in Idol history, one of the judges (Steven) came up on stage to congratulate him right after he finished.  It was a tremendous moment for Jacob, and Steven dubbed him “Baby Luther” (a nickname I think might stick.)  Jacob then gave his grandmother a hug, and Ryan invited almost every teenage girl in the audience up to give Jacob a hug on stage.  It was a great moment for Jacob, and a great moment for Idol this season.  As I’ve said before, I don’t know that I would buy any of Jacob’s music – but you can count me solidly in the “fan” column.  It’s impossible not to respect and respond to such a tremendous talent.

Lauren Alaina – “You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes

Lauren started the song off with a great slow intro – then kicked into the version that we all know and love.  You could tell Lauren has recovered from the flu this week.  She packed her performance with the attitude and spice we saw through the auditions.  Her voice sounded the best it’s sounded in weeks – controlled and solid.  It was a very mature performance (although I was convinced she was going to trip over her dress as she took a turn around the judges table.)  You could still see the teenager in her when she took the judges criticism – but I think it was clear this week that Lauren is back.

Stefano Langone – “Hello” by Lionel Richie

So let me get this straight – Stefano grew up on Motown, yet chose to do a song he’s never hear before?  And that song was “Hello”?  My wife and I looked at each other and said – “How is he going to top David Cook’s version?”  The short answer is – he didn’t.  He did an okay job with it – but I really didn’t care for the arrangement.  It was a pseudo-Spanish version, and he way overdid it with the stylized phrasing – and he still wasn’t able to keep his eyes open during the performance.  Jennifer gave him some GREAT advice – she wants see him do well not because he wants to do well, but because he FEELS the song.  He could look to Jacob and learn a lot about how to connect with a song.  I think Chandler is worried this week.  (By the way – after talking about how Stefano’s mom made food for the whole house, I thought it was tacky to have Gordon Ramsay take a shot at the food during the show.  I’m just saying…)

Hailey Reinhart – “You Really Got A Hold On Me” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Hailey told us she wanted to prove that she really wanted to be here this week.  I don’t doubt she really wants to be here.  What I doubt is that she deserves to be here.  Whoever dressed her this week didn’t do her any favors, setting her up to look like a bad circus ringmaster in her shorts/pantsuit.  She again decided to go crazy with the vocal gymnastics; growling a lot and just sounding cheesy.  If Stefano didn’t connect with the audience and Thia was robotic – then Hailey was both.  I just didn’t feel anything from her again this week.  Randy, Steven, and Jennifer all loved it.  I think they were being overly optimistic about her potential.  We’ll see if their herculean effort to rehabilitate Hailey keeps her out of the bottom three this week.

Scotty McCreery – “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder

Scotty told us he didn’t listen to much Motown growing up, but his Dad was a big fan of Michael Jackson, and the Jackson Five.  So, of course, he chose a Stevie Wonder song.  I said last week that Motown was going to be a giant trap for Scotty.  I was right.  He did a really good job giving the song a country vibe, and sang it well – but his performance was lacking.  Too much head movement, too much looking at the audience slyly from the side, and too much fake intensity.  (Jimmy Iovine was spot on when he said, “My biggest fear is “the lounge singer”.  He was right).  I still like Scotty, and think he did more than enough to be safe this week – but Motown exposed the weakness in Scotty’s game as a performer.  I know Scotty’s praying they don’t have a disco week this year…

Pia Toscano – “All In Love Is Fair” by Stevie Wonder

Right off the bat, Jimmy gave Pia some great advice, “Don’t get caught up in your head.  Don’t overthink it.”  As usual, Pia sounded great – but for the love of God, will someone please strap her arms to her side so she’ll quit waving her hands up and down during every song?  (And maybe, just one week, we could have a song without a key change at the end?)  Jennifer got to the heart of it – she sang great, but the performances are getting a little stale.  Standing at the center of the stage, arms waving, key change, and high note at the end.  It’s great – but we need to see a little more from Pia.  As Randy said, “You can’t live on ballads alone.”  Very true.  The real question is – can she “step out, put her sneakers on, and kick some ass” as Steven said?  Time will tell.

Paul McDonald – “Tracks Of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Paul gave a shout out to the audience again this week – I still love that.  My very first thought (again) was – how would Paul top what Adam Lambert did with “Tracks of My Tears” two seasons ago?  The answer was -he didn’t.  The good news for Paul was – he made the song his own.  He said he was going for a folk rock vibe and he nailed that vibe dead on.  He really constructed a version of the song that suited his voice.  It wasn’t Paul’s strongest performance – but I went back and listened to it again, and it’s a version that will grow on me.  I want to hear the studio version and see what he did with it.

Naima Adedapo – “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas

Completely ignoring the advice of the judges last week, Naima decided to dance during her song once again this week, instead of concentrating on singing.  During the song, Naima brought African drummers out and “treated” us all to some African dancing.  My only thought during the dancing was – couldn’t they have found her some pants with bigger legs?  The stagecraft was good, but it was not a very strong vocal performance.  Again, the judges seemed to like it far more than I did.  Was it good?  Yes.  Was it great?  Not even close.  Ryan gave the performance a sideways compliment, wondering if Idol had morphed into “So You Think You Can Dance?”  Indeed.

James Durbin – “Living For the City” by Stevie Wonder

James got the pimp spot this week with his version of “Living’ in the City”.  He deserved it.  He worked the stage like a true professional, showing off a funky strut that seemed natural – not rehearsed.  His voice was spectacular and he found a way to use his high register in a controlled manner, without screaming.  It was brilliant.  If James can continue to hone that, he could ride all the way to the finals and his promised duet with Steven.  It was a great moment for James, and a great way to end the show.  (And just one last observation.  Is it just me, or does James remind you of Mark McGrath?  Take a look at the picture; you’ll see what I mean.)

On balance, Motown turned out to be a great week for the contestants.  There were some misses, but there were far more hits.  The judges didn’t have much bad to say about any of the performances.  It will be interesting to see how America votes – it will determine who goes on tour this summer.  Who does America want to fork out their hard earned dollars to see?  We’ll find out soon.  Until then – Word Zombie out.

© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

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