American Idol, Season 10: Top 7 Performances – “Mad Max meets Stormtroopers on Melrose.”

American Idol, Season 10: Top 7 Performances – “Mad Max meets Stormtroopers on Melrose.”

It’s Wednesday night here in the Word Zombie household and we all know what that means.  Ritz Cracker chicken for dinner!  It also means time for American Idol.  This week found the top seven vying for their place in the top six.  This is quickly getting serious folks – the votes are going to get tougher and tougher each week from here on out (except for Hailey – can’t we all agree she needs to be the next to go?)  Who would rise to the occasion?  Who would kiss one of the judges?  Who would be accompanied by a marching drum line?  Who would make a surprise appearance to open the show?  All these questions just happened to be answered in a short 90-minute jaunt with American Idol.

The theme this week was “Songs from the 21st Century”.  A rather broad category but I’ll hand it to the producers; they have gone out of their way not to box the contestants into strange genres miles outside of their comfort zones (Anyone remember Andrew Lloyd Weber night?)  Instead they have allowed the contestants room to establish what sort of artist they want to be after the show.  They’ve allowed them to begin building a fan base that won’t be disappointed with the eventual albums they release.  I think it’s been a brilliant move.

Before we get to the performances, a few random observations:

  • It was nice to be tonight.  Strangely, I didn’t miss him for a second.
  • Jimmy Iovine seemed to be much more supportive of the contestants tonight.  Think he had to eat a little crow after the stellar performances last week?
  • I guess if you are the “most beautiful woman in the world” you can pull off wearing a gold lamay shorts-suit.
  • I liked having the longer, 3-minute performances this week.
  • For all the talent this year, I’ve yet to buy a single studio track from iTunes.

No that’s out of the way; let’s see how everyone did.

The Bottom Six – “So What” by Pink

I didn’t much care for the song they sang, but found it interesting the bottom six was brought back not on a results show, but on a performance show.  Perhaps the producers are trying to drum up a little interest in the summer tour?  Naima reminded everyone that attitude still doesn’t equal the ability to sing in tune.  Ashthon sounded like Betty Boop, and looked like Betty Boobs.  Karen stole her wardrobe from Olivia Newton-John, and unfortunately didn’t get to sing in Spanish.  Thia evidently had nothing better to do and showed up to walk around on stage.  Pia wasn’t allowed to shine, and was sorely out of place; being stuck with mid-level talent around her.  Paul was completely out of place on that song.  My guess is he was happy to get off the stage and on his way to have a beer somewhere.

Scotty McCreery – “Swingin’” by Leann Rimes

For each contestant, the intro piece dealt with what the other contestants thought about each of them.  Let’s see if the contestants have been reading my blog and agree with your friendly neighborhood reviewer.  For Scotty we had – holds his microphone like a flute.  Check.  Does too much mugging for the camera.  Check.  Guess they know him pretty well.  Now, on to the performance.  First off, “Swingin’” is not by Leanne Rimes.  She may have performed it in the last 11 years, but John Anderson originally released it in 1983.  That’s right folks – this song was a hit when I was in middle school.  It’s a good song, but absolutely the wrong choice for Scotty.  It allowed him to turn the cheese factor up to deep-fried-state-fair mozzarella stick proportions.  He’s become a caricature of a country singer (as played by George W. Bush, impersonating Alfred E. Newman).  Anytime you have a country song that includes a guy playing the key-tar in the audience – not a good thing (unless you are at the Country Jamboree Cabaret at Dollywood). I have no doubt the teenage girl vote will keep him safe, but that sound you just heard was me officially pulling my last toe off the Scotty McCreery bandwagon.

James Durbin – “Uprising” by Muse

How did the contestants do with critiquing James?  Strange scarf tail.  Check.  Back bending, rock and roll vocals.  Check. Seems like they have him pegged.  Jimmy seemed much more supportive this week, even if he called some of the rock classics James has done so far – “fluff”.  James has shown incredible musical sensibilities so far, and again this week made the right move in doing something more contemporary.  I loved the marching band drummers that accompanied him on the stage.  I loved the arrangement of the song.  I loved the Sith inspired outfit he wore (or as Steven dubbed it – “Mad Max meets Stormtroopers on Melrose).  In fact, I believe I will have to refer to him as Darth Durbin from this point forward.  James wielded his short mic stand like the drum major in a black parade, owning the stage and turning in a masterful performance.  Both Jennifer and Randy said it would be the best performance of the night.  They were right.  If this is the album Darth Durbin plans to make after the show – sign me up.  I’m a fan.

Hailey Reinhardt – “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele

What did the contestants have to say about Hailey?  Annoying growls while singing.  Check.  Distracting arm waving during songs.  Check.  I’m not sure if Stefano was kidding about his love/hate relationship with Hailey.  Assuming there was a kernel of truth there – I like Stefano a little more.  As for the performance, well, at least it was over quickly.  We had more finger pointing at the camera, more arm waving, more awkward smiles, and more growling.  It all felt like a strange pageant performance to me.  My wife nailed it – she’s not an artist, she’s just a singer.  I’ve killed more digital trees than the performance deserved already – let’s move on.

Jacob Lusk – “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross

Do the other contestants know Jacob?  Biggest diva on the show.  Check.  Strange vocal ad-libs.  Check.  During his work with Jimmy, it was clear Jacob had an emotional connection to the song.  I’m not sure what planet Jimmy was coming from when he said – “Everyone knows Jacob can sing.  Tonight they find out Jacob can feel.”  I’m pretty sure Jacob has felt every song he’s sung this year.  At any rate, it’s a beautiful song, and Jacob sang it well.  I’m not sure what happened with the in-ear monitors at the beginning of the song (evidently they had only the drum track playing) – but he kept going.  After spending weeks telling Jacob not to do too much, Randy decided this week to tell him he wasn’t doing enough – that he wanted to see the old Jacob.  The old Jacob you thought was too over the top?  Crystal clear Randy.  I’m lukewarm on Jacob these days – but at least he didn’t tell us the only reason America wouldn’t vote for him this week was if they didn’t love their fathers.

Casey Abrams – “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5

The contestants (including Casey himself) had fun making fun of Casey.  Crazy beard.  Check.  Strange mouth keyboard.  Check.   I loved it.  When he hit the stage, I was blown away.  So much for the softer, jazz inspired Casey from last week.  He brought a fire and intensity to the song that really worked.  When he, the bass player, and the guitar player bounced down to the front of the stage, I looked over and my son was standing behind the couch grooving right along with them.  I really enjoyed the entire thing – even the contrived kiss on Jennifer’s cheek at the end of the song (although, evidently Casey has soft lips).  The crowd absolutely loved it.  But for Darth Durbin, it would have been the best performance of the night.  My only complaint was – you can’t play rock guitar in a song like that and strum it like a wandering minstrel at the Renaissance Fair.  I’m just saying.  Steven perfectly summed up the entire thing – “There are millions of people in America that are really angry, because you piss them off because you are so f*@king good.  You’ve changed so many people’s minds.” For Casey it was a great night.  “I kissed Jennifer Lopez and I made Steven Tyler swear.  That’s always a plus.”  (By the way – the Amish look really worked for Ryan.)

Stefano Langone – “Closer” by Ne-Yo

What’s the checklist on Stefano?  Super flirty lady’s man.  Check.  Thanks to Jacob’s impression of Stefano, my son now wants to know what estrogen is.  Thanks Jacob.  Stefano was trying REALLY hard to be sexy once he started with the song.  It was the right song choice for him and, again, I think it’s the direction he will go after the show.  Still, the whole thing was a little uncomfortable for me, feeling at times like a Chippendales routine in Vegas.  I’m just glad he kept his clothes on.  Stefano’s been flirting not only with the women, but also the bottom three for the last few weeks.  I’m not sure this performance is the one that will keep him on the couches this week.  Someone’s got to go home this week – it may very well be Stefano. Somewhere Chandler is both uncomfortably intrigued by Stefano’s performance, and worried about tomorrow night.

Lauren Alaina – “Born to Fly” by Sarah Evans

Lauren got the pimp spot this week.  What did her fellow contestants have to say about her?  Strong southern accent.  Check.  Likes to talk a lot.  Check.  No big surprises there.  When she was talking during the intro, it hit me again just how young she was.  She really didn’t understand how talented she was.  At the same time, Jimmy was right in his observation about Lauren holding back.  She hasn’t really cut loose much, and she didn’t on this song either.  “Born to Fly’ could have been a great moment for Lauren.  Instead, it was just good.  There was nothing wrong with it – there just wasn’t anything incredibly right with it.  I hope Lauren takes Steven and Jennifer’s advice and cuts loose next week.  I don’t think she’s in trouble this week, but the closer we get to the finale, the more she is going to have to step up her game.  (Just one last random observation – if Darth Durbin ever needs a fiddle player, we may have found him.)

And that was the show.  All in all, it was a pretty strong showing by the top seven.  With just under half of the remaining contestants being at risk this week, I would have to put Stefano, Jacob, and Hailey in the bottom three (although Scotty probably deserves a trip to the stools.)  Steven made an unprecedented pitch for Casey at the end of the show, telling him, “All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”  I guess Steven’s a fan.

Tomorrow night should be interesting.  We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty this season, and some shocking eliminations are bound to crop up again (Chris Daughtry in 4th place, anyone?).  I’m anxious to see if Hailey’s ridiculous run will come to an end.   I’m anxious to see David Cook perform his new single.  I’m anxious to see what Katy Perry is going to wear.  I’m anxious to see the new Ford commercial.  Okay – I lied about that last one.  So sue me.  Until tomorrow – Word Zombie out.

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