I’ll be the first to admit this episode was much more interesting than the last. The premise by itself, “Songs of the 21st Century”, made me smile a little, because this was the first real chance for most of these kids to be current (Miley Cyrus songs aside). They made me feel awkward, though: Of the seven songs, I only knew three beforehand so perhaps that gave them some advantage since I can’t compare theirs with the original performances.
Before I started watching this show, I did a little backtracking and noticed that, if this was one of the past seasons, we would’ve already witnessed outstanding performances [by this point in the competition]: Kelly Clarkson had already made us stand up with “A Natural Woman,” the Velvet Teddy Bear had taken many to “A Whole New World,” Fantasia & JHud had brought “Summertime” to a full “Circle of Life,” Carrie Under-bot had sung the hell out of “Alone,” and even Kris Allen had made us hear “Ain’t No Sunshine” like it was the first time while others melted with Glambert’s “Mad World.”
But not this season. There haven’t been many standout performances—none at all, for that matter. I even went back to last week with Casey’s “Nature Boy” and [decided] it wasn’t that much of an Idol Moment™. I’m still waiting…
Scotty McCheesy opened the show “Swingin’” on full Velveeta mode. C’mon! I thought he was pulling back! It was not good. His lower register only shone a couple of times and the whole thing was boring. I still think he’s got one of the most mature voices on the show, but he must do something else on stage pronto. He’s getting way too comfortable in his niche and there’s just no wow factor to it. I mean, I’m even starting to want to fast-forward through his airtime (a privilege only granted to the judges). Also, his song ain’t really from this century. Though LeAnn Rimes covered it, “Swingin’” was originally released in 1983! I call that cheating!
I didn’t think anyone would sing anything from Muse on AI but James “Sloth” Durbin did try to perform “Uprising.” He even brought some marching band drummers to the Idol stage. I’ll give it to him: He’s a showman, and a very good one, I must say. A good singer? Not really. He botched a lot of notes, especially the lower ones, but he sort of came together on the wailing. It wasn’t unpleasant, but good it was definitely not. And he’s absolutely got to stop eye-sexin’ the camera because it gives me serious chills.
Next was one of the most excellent song choices and the most current one in the show tonight: Haley Grrreinhart went blue-eyed soul and sung Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The Grrreinhart bandwagon keeps rolling, babe! Oh, my! Gotta admit that taking over Adele’s great soulful voice ain’t easy, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t say Haley did it nicely. It’s not tough to see Haley as the one who’s growing the most, and who’s less afraid of taking risks (“BENNY AND THE FRAKKING JETS”!!). The bridge started rough but she quickly managed it, and her falsetto and run at the end were things of beauty. This one paid off, in my book.
The Lusky Skank got overly emotional with “Dancing with My Father” by Luther Vandross. I will not argue about his connection to the song—it was definitely there. Hell, the emotion even overpowered his diva faces and took a serious toll on the pitch. I’ve been saying for quite some time that Jacob needs more control and getting that emotional on stage is not the way to find that.
Ca-sneer Abrams growled and sneered through Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” and though it wasn’t bad, his performance lacked something. He lacks the appeal and stage presence Adam Levine has, and that really hurt Casey’s take. Also, Casey’s vocals couldn’t match the high tempo of the song. It felt like he was singing after the beat and it sounded weird. The original is way better than his 90-second version.
When Stefano Long-gone took the stage for his take on Ne-Yo’s “Closer,” I thought I was watching some guy being left alone by the rest of his boy band. It wasn’t just the look, but the way he got lost in the song. He did seem more comfortable and relaxed on stage. He did go out of his boring balladeer confort zone but that didn’t pay off. On other songs it seemed he tried too hard to hit the glory notes; this time it looked like he didn’t even try.
And finally, another candidate for our annual election of “Best Musician Who Upstages the Contestant”: the violinist playing next to Wauwen Alaina while she sang Sara Evans’s “Born to Fly.” Lauren was actually very good, nearly excellent. She sang the hell out of the song and took the stage very well. Her only mistake was that she didn’t interact enough with the other performers and looked awkward when she sang next to them. Either she needs to put them violin players somewhere where they can’t bother her, or ask the producer to get duller ones. Or better yet, get to know them before they perform together.
So that’s my take of this week’s Idol. I expect Stefano and Jacob to be in the bottom 3, and I’d put Scotty there, too. I’d put Long-gone out of his “Misery” (ha!).