American Idol, Season 10: Top 9 Performances – “That’s the second prettiest bust I’ve kissed all day.”

American Idol, Season 10: Top 9 Performances – “That’s the second prettiest bust I’ve kissed all day.”

The theme for Idol this week was the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.  The funny thing was – there were precious few rock and roll songs performed on the show.  That’s not to say there were bad songs this week.  The Rock and Roll Halle Of Fame cuts a broad swath through music in America, and the contestants took full advantage of the breadth of music available to them.

After Ripley’s guy brought the judges out, they ran a montage setting up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  For the first time I can remember, Ryan didn’t narrate the set-up piece.  They wisely decided to let Steven do the set-up.  It was a little disconcerting to see him posing next to a wax replica of his head – made even more interesting when he kissed it and said, “That’s the second prettiest bust I’ve kissed all day.”

There were two celebrities involved this week.  Gwen Stefani was brought in to style the ladies in her new fashion line (more on that later), and joined Jimmy Iovine to help with the song prep (much more on that later – but can we all agree that one time on the show was too much for him this year; three times is just ridiculous.  What can he really help them with – autotune etiquette?)

Jacob Lusk – “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Jacob was going to sing “Let’s Get It On” – but told us he couldn’t get on stage and sing something that wasn’t him.  (“It’s very blunt – it says, let’s do it; let’s do the nasty.”)  So instead, he decided to sing “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.  He then proceeded to tell us – “If I end up in the bottom three, it won’t be because I sang the song bad; it won’t be because I sang the song wrong – it’ll be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.”  Oh really?  Arrogant much?  I completely disengaged from the performance at that point – before he even sang the first note. Jacob sang the song well, but it was not his strongest performance.  Was I the only one who found just a pinch of irony in Jacob choosing not to do “Let’s Get It On” because it was about “doing the nasty” – and then proceeding to grind his hips against the back-up singer during “Man In The Mirror”?  (For a minute I thought Naima was onstage singing backup for Jacob, then I realized it couldn’t be her – it was in tune.)  We’ll see what happens with the voting.  For me – I just took a long look in the mirror – then wished again there was a number to vote AGAINST a contestant.

Random observation: Hey look – Christian Slater is sitting in the audience behind Randy.

Hailey Reinhardt – “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin

Who didn’t see this coming from about 37 miles away?  The judges have only been comparing Hailey’s voice to Janis all year.  There was only one problem – Crystal Bowersox set the bar pretty high on Janis Joplin songs last year with “Me and Bobby McGee”.  Could Hailey reach that bar?  Not so much.  The song gave her every opportunity to growl and scream her way across the stage -and she took EVERY single opportunity.  The only thing more awkward than the vocal gyrations was her half-hearted attempt to grab the mic stand, a ‘la Bo Bice, and rock out.  The judges loved her (as usual) – me, not so much (as usual).  My wife looked over at me when the performance was done and said, “I just don’t believe that from her.  She’s like a little girl playing dress-up.”  Exactly – it’s all a little too contrived and too desperate for my tastes.

Casey Abrams – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Let’s clear up one thing first.  Even though Casey didn’t do “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – it was by The Police, not by Sting (Sting was in the Police, but The Police released the song).  Now that we have that cleared up – on to Casey’s performance.  I wasn’t sure what Casey was going to do with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, but as soon as he started I realized – he really does have a John Fogerty quality to his voice when he hits the aggressive, higher register.  (Now his falsetto – that was a total train wreck.)  Still, on balance the song worked pretty well.  Just as Steven said last week, each week shows a different side of Casey.  This week was perhaps the best blend yet of the sensitive Casey of “Your Song” and the crazy Casey of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  It was the blend that might take him to the finals.

Lauren Alaina – “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

At the beginning of the piece, said something ALMOST useful – “When you combine Country and Soul, you get Countr-oul.  Control”.  Almost helpful – but I think ultimately confusing for Lauren.  When the song started, the only thing I could think was – that outfit really wasn’t all that flattering for Lauren (thanks Gwen Stefani).  She’s a cute girl, but why not just wear a sign that said, “look how wide my hips are”.  Is Gwen Stefani putting out a line of adult diapers now?  But I digress.  The song started off somewhat sedate and boring, but after the key change she really kicked in to high gear.  Hailey could learn from Lauren about when to use a growl and when not to.  Steven loved it as much as he loves Lauren. Jennifer was happy with the performance.  Randy told her she did a “good job”.  A less than an enthusiastic endorsement from Randy – but pretty spot on.  (By the way – was her mom wearing some sort of tiara in the audience? Seriously?)

James Durbin – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles

Again – a point of clarification; George Harrison wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, but it was performed by The Beatles (with Eric Clapton joining them on lead guitar). threw out – “Everybody’s wearing blue, so I’m wearing purple” as an analogy for James doing a ballad this week.  What?  Why is he on the show?  Before the break, Ryan promised us a very different James Durbin – and he delivered.  Everyone seemed to think doing a ballad this week was a big risk for James.  Did they forget “Mad World” from Adam Lambert?  James still managed to get in his power note at the end, but showed a very controlled and sensitive side during the song.  Let’s face it – the biggest hit from most of the rock bands you know is a ballad.  (Kiss = “Beth”, Poison = “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, Aerosmith = “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”.  The list goes on.)  James had to show that he could dial it back and simply sing a song, and sing it well.  He did that – in spades.  It was a great decision by James.  Reward him for it – VOTE.  (And after you vote, go back and listen to the performance again – would it have killed the guitar player to actually TUNE his guitar before he started the song?)

Scotty McCreery – “That’s Alright Mama” by Elvis Presley

Can I get a button for the TiVo that automatically mutes the TV whenever is speaking?  Please?  Scotty promised us a little rock feel this week, instead of just country.  I must have missed that part of the performance.  For me, this was Scotty’s weakest performance so far.  He seemed to be much more interested in his stage antics than in the song.  What wanted to be fun instead came off as goofy.  (We also had our first fallout from the Jacob Lusk onstage hug a few weeks ago – when a roving pack of wild teenage girls rushed the stage to hug Scotty right after the performance.  I really don’t think it was planned.  I sense some much greater security on the floor in Idol’s future.)  Randy loved the performance far more than I did.  Jennifer was enamored with Scotty’s “flavor” and moves.  I just didn’t see it – it felt corny to me.  We’ll have to see what America thinks.

Pia Toscano – “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner

What did Gwen Stefani dress Pia in – an old set of zebra drapes?  There has been a lot of debate about whether or not Pia could perform an up-tempo song.  Well, let me answer that for you.  Yes.  Yes she can.  Not only can she perform one, she can slay one.  It was a great performance of a great song by Pia.  She has been solid every single week and I think she will ultimately be the last girl standing.  Do I think she can win?  I’m not sure – but she’s going to be in the mix.  Steven told her, “There’s a million guys out there, in a million bars, having a million drinks about you tonight.”  Was that a subtle double entendre that I’ve missed over the years?  Just asking…  Jennifer gave her some great advice – study some great performers and work on her stage presence.  With a little focus in that area, Pia could be a star.  No question.

Random observation:  Look – it’s Todd Rundgren.  Not sure anyone would have know that, had Ryan not pointed it out, but he was there nonetheless.

Stefano Langone – “When A Man Loves A Woman” – by Percy Sledge

The look on Stefano’s face while was “coaching” him told the entire story of the week.  That look said – “What the hell are you talking about?  I see your lips moving, but I don’t hear anything useful, constructive, or enlightening.”  This was a big song for Stefano to tackle this week.  As his producer said – you either own the song, or the song owns you.  Well – I think it was a draw, at best.   The falsetto in the song was painful to listen to.  Stefano tried very hard to emotionally connect with the audience – and succeeded on occasion – but failed at other times.  There’s just something about Stefano’s choices in phrasing and pronunciation that puts me off.  Randy was pretty spot on with his critique – it was just okay.  Somewhere out there, Chandler is confused and not sure if Stefano is safe or not.

Paul McDonald – “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

Paul got the pimp spot this week and made the most of it.  I guess it was a little too close for comfort last week, so he was given the coveted end of the show duties.  Jimmy gave him a great nugget of wisdom – “If you tone it down, people turn it off.” Indeed.  Paul came out, gave his customary shout out to the crowd – then gave the best performance of the night – by far.  There is no question that Paul is the most seasoned performer on the show, and he demonstrated those skills last night.  On a night themed around the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, Paul was the contestant who rocked the hardest.  It was high energy and infectious – as evidenced by the fact the band continued to jam on the song all the way through the recap to the end of the show.  I hope it keeps Paul off the stools this week – it should.  But just to be sure – GO VOTE FOR PAUL.

And that was that.  I’m glad we are in to the 90-minute performance shows now – it makes my night a little shorter and a little more manageable.  It had been promoted that Jeff Beck would be performing with the contestants this week, but he was nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps he will make and appearance on the results show?  We’ll find out.

So who will be in the bottom three on Thursday?  It’s getting to that point when each week is going to be tough, and a talented performer is going to end up in the bottom three.  For my money, the bottom three should be Jacob, Hailey, and Stefano – with Hailey going home.  Will America see it the same way?  We’ll have to find out together.  Until then – Word Zombie out.

© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

One Reply to “American Idol, Season 10: Top 9 Performances – “That’s the second prettiest bust I’ve kissed all day.””

  1. Ok Mr. Zombie, I’m usually in agreement with you. Most of your observations sound like you’ve been listening to conversations with my own family. We discussed Scotty looking like Bush, although a Mad Magazine version, and the next morning you mentioned it too. So why haven’t you called Paul out on the “blank” eating grin he sports during every song. It was odd enough during Maggie May and now Folsom Prison Blues? Sorry, while his tone is very unique, he can’t sing and his drunken stumbling is no longer entertaining.
    Anyway, I really enjoy your blog and I hope all is well with you and yours!

    Robin Kennedy

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