And then there were six. Just under a month to go until the finale of American Idol, Season 10. With the eliminations getting harder to predict, this week saw the Idols singing not only solo, but also in duets on the live performance show. After weeks of current and contemporary themes, Idol chose this week to turn the clock back and appeal to the soccer moms in the audience. This week’s theme? The songs of Carole King.
There is no doubt that Carole King is an amazing artist and songwriter, but still I found it curious Idol decided on her music as the centerpiece for the final six. There were some good performances and some not – but overall the songs didn’t grab me this week. Why you ask? A myriad of reasons – but first a few random observations about the show –
- Was Randy going to audition for the new C-Lo Green video after the show? What was with that outfit?
- There were a few interesting signs in the audience. The grandmother holding the sing saying “Steven: Walk this Way” was a little disconcerting. And to the guy hold the “I’m Here” sign. Yes, yes you are. But we still don’t care.
- Nice to see Constantine Maroulis, Penny Marshall, and the tall guy from “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the audience.
- Babyface was a surprisingly good guest mentor with Jimmy this week. Of course, anyone is an upgrade from wil.i.am.
Now on with our regularly scheduled recap…
Jacob Lusk – “Oh No, Not My Baby” by Carole King
Last week, the judges decided they wanted the over-the-top, theatrical Jacob back. It seems Jacob listened. Wearing a jacket and bowtie ensemble that would have been at home at “Nation of Islam Day” at the Ringling Brothers Clown College, Jacob screeched, scatted, and sashayed his way through the song with wild abandon. It was a tiring performance that didn’t have the same emotional resonance for me as his earlier work on the show. Jacob is starting to wear thin with me, but the judges loved the performance. In the intro, Jimmy told America that Jacob was in jeopardy this week. I think he was right – we’ll find out tomorrow night.
Lauren Alaina – “Where You Lead” by Carole King
Lauren is still playing the part of shy country girl each week, but continues to show that, when she’s on stage with a microphone, she’s anything but clueless. During rehearsals both Jimmy and Babyface pushed her to stretch her voice. When she expressed fear about the notes, they asked if she had ever gone for them and missed. She replied, “Uh, no.” To which Babyface replied, “Duh.” Best observation of the season so far. Jimmy then brought Miley Cyrus in to talk to Lauren about nerves. I’m not a big Miley fan, but it was worth it to see Lauren so excited and Miley jab Jimmy on his comments about her a few weeks ago. The performance itself was nothing to write home about – but Lauren sang the song well. She worked the stage, even pulling up an unsuspecting boy from the audience to sing to (is it just me, or has there been an inordinate number of audience members on the stage this year?) Alas, he was 19 and Ryan quickly squashed any romantic aspirations he had after the song was over. Lauren has an amazing voice and should do well with her eventual country record. After all, Idol made Kellie Pickler a star.
Hailey Reinhardt and Casey Abrams – “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
So is there something going on between Casey and Hailey? The Internet has been abuzz with rumors and Ryan did his best to fan those flames with the introduction and post song chat with the duo. The entire performance took me back to weekends in my childhood – with no TiVo and nothing on TV, I would be forced to watch either “Solid Gold” or “Star Search”. It was just painful. The “choreography” would have been at home in a Ford music video and the last note was not even in the same zip code as “in tune”. When Steven told them there was nothing in the performance that wasn’t good, my wife turned to me with a stunning revelation – “Steven is Paula”. Ouch.
Scotty McCreery – “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King
Last week I jumped off the Scotty McCreery bandwagon. This week failed to change my mind. Scotty finally received some mild criticism from the judges last week, but it really didn’t matter. The hordes of teenage girls dialing across America continued to support Scotty like a drunk supports Happy Hour. Jimmy did give Scotty some good advice this week and had him start his performance in a more intimate place. He took the advice to heart and started off the song beautifully. He took his time, felt what he was singing, and delivered a pretty mature performance. I could feel myself inching closer and closer to the bandwagon with each note Scotty delivered. As the song drew to a close, I was taking by final step back into his corner – when Scotty’s eyebrows jumped like a stray cat licking a taser. There it was – the George W. Bush / Alfred E. Newman facial tic that totally disconnected me from Scotty last week. I just couldn’t stomach it. Scotty is in no danger of going home. I fully expect to see him performing with George Straight or Trace Adkins at the finale – but I just can’t take him seriously.
James Durbin – “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by Carole King
I’ll just go ahead and say it up front – James should win American Idol this year. I don’t know that he will, but he’s going to be getting my votes from now on. As Jennifer said in her critique, he hasn’t had a bad performance yet this year. James introduced his song by saying, “No marching band, no flaming piano – I believe I can put on just as big a show, just being myself.” How right he was. Starting off the song essentially accapella brought back echoes of Bo Bice’s “In a Dream” from season four. James sounded tremendous and, as Randy pointed out, proved he is not just a great rock singer – he’s a great singer. It was a throwback rock-n-roll performance that felt 100% authentic, even coming from this year’s heavy metal master. Out of everyone this season, James seems to have the best idea of who he is and what he wants to do. On top of that, he just seems like a stand-up guy. Someone you want good things to happen for. Someone you want to win. I can’t wait to see James’ duet with Steven at the finale.
Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery – “Up On The Roof” by Carole King
Oh look, Scotty and Lauren are singing together again. Even Ryan was forced to observe this was their third time singing together. Of course, he had to ask if there was something romantic going on between them. Both were quick to dispel that rumor. When they finally got to the performance two things became quickly apparent. First – it was a terrible song choice for them. To call it boring would be to be generous. Second – Lauren absolutely sang circles around Scotty. He had the cheese factor turned back up to 11 in his performance. The producers didn’t do him any favors pairing him up with Lauren again this week. (If you want to hear a great cover of “Up On The Roof”, check out the Persuasions version below.)
Casey Abrams – “Hi-De-Ho” by Carole King
Casey chose perhaps the most obscure Carole King song this week – and while I liked much of what he did with it, I’m not sure how it’s going to play with America. I loved the piano riffs he played with Ray Chew at the beginning of the song. I loved his progression to through each member of the band (and look – the hot saxophone player was back this week.) I loved the band surrounding him at the end of the song. I didn’t love the goofy, one size too small hat he wore for the beginning of the song. I didn’t love some of the “Angry Casey” faces he made during the song. All that put together – I still liked the performance. It was spicy and rich, like a thick creole gumbo. The only problem is – not everyone likes gumbo. There’s no question Casey is brimming with talent, and I like him. The question is – will he find a wide enough audience this week to keep him out of the bottom three? Time will tell.
Hailey Reinhardt – “Beautiful” by Carole King
Another week and I still have to write about Hailey. What can I say this week? First – what the hell was the thing on her head during the pre-song interview? It looked like a headband adorned with crocheted salad toppings. Second – technical difficulties hit for the second week in a row. Come on Idol – get better roadies if you have to. Third – even with the sound turned down, Hailey’s awkward swaying and “dancing” still annoy me as much as her singing does. Fourth – the judges and producers really want Hailey to stick around. They gave her the pimp spot again this week, and Steven told her he “saw God” when she sang. Hyperbolic much?
Jacob Lusk and James Durbin – “I’m In To Something Good” by Carole King
By process of elimination, James was stuck singing with Jacob this week. What a train wreck. I’m not sure why the producers chose to end the show with this song, but it was not exactly a high note. First, they came out dressed like Warblers from the St. Mary’s School For Wayward Boys. Both seemed to know going in that it was not going to go well, so they decided to try and take it completely over the top. They pulled Jennifer out on the back stage to sing to her and both worked out their top register to full effect. Mercifully, it was over quick.
That was the show. James and Jacob delivered a mediocre closing number for what was a mediocre performance show. Aside from James’ solo performance, nothing really moved the needle for any of the contestants this week. Hopefully next week will find us back to a theme that allows each remaining Idol to better show the artistic direction they have all worked so hard this season to develop.
Tomorrow’s night’s results show will find half of the remaining contestants on the stools of doom. My prediction is – Jacob, Casey, and Hailey, with Jacob’s journey finally coming to a tearful and emotional overwrought ending. Am I right? Am I wrong? Will Crystal Bowersox blow us all away with her return to the Idol stage? Tune in tomorrow to find out. Until then – Word Zombie out.
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