Last night, the “American Idol” contestants chose songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being able to choose from great, iconic songs that shaped the music business obviously helped them along as there was no performance I could have said was not done well. Maybe we’ve just eliminated the rotten eggs by now. Anyway, it was a great night, and here’s why:
Jacob Lusk started the night off for us with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” after having a crisis of conscience earlier in the week. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” didn’t fit his morals. Some Jacob arrogance surfaced when he said it wouldn’t be the vocals that sent him home if he was voted out this week, but that “America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.” Oh come on! You’re not a star yet, Jacob and if you don’t ditch the mini gospel choir, over-dramatic performances and appearing likely to break into hysterical tears every performance, you never will be! He smiled this week, though. Well, that’s my ten cents on Jacob, but the judges liked him. Jennifer called the performance “Perfect on every emotional level.” And Steven said, “Every time you sing, you bring another piece of yourself to the party.” I think it’s the same old jigsaw, but what about you?
Haley Reinhart continued to ride the crest of her own personal wave from last week with Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”. She kicked ass in a slightly awkward performance redeemed by her growly, sexy vocals. Steven “couldn’t find nothin’ wrong with that” and Randy welcomed back “the Haley that we loved when we first saw you!” Jennifer declared her a “true contender”.
Casey Abrams also changed his song this week. I’d have liked to hear him perform The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” but his cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” was a good choice for him. He did a great job on a chilled out performance of the gritty yet sweet vocals that are becoming his signature. He even showcased his instrumental talent, breaking out the upright bass. “You’re such a true musician, man,” Steven said. “That’s exactly where you belong — right there, with your bass, I’m playing top dollar to be in the front row,” Jennifer agreed. Randy declared that Casey made the upright bass cool again!
Next up, Lauren Alaina was pretty brave to cover Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” but it worked. It was a solid performance that showed off her voice well. It didn’t have Randy jumping up and down, but Jennifer said the performance was “amazing.” I’m kind of with Randy on this one but I can’t stand Lauren sulking again so yeah, what Jennifer said…
By this point, I was excited to see James Durbin up on stage and I thought he’d have rocked it out. He didn’t, really. Maybe it’s because he was feeling the emotion but his rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison was much shakier than his last Beatles’ outing (McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”). His signature Durbin high notes seemed a little unnecessary but the studio audience loved that. Steven loved “seeing the real true emotional side of James Durbin”. Randy congratulated him on taking chances and he did a “good job” on it. I just think he should harness his emotion like he can control his rocking. But, I wanted a still performance with less rushing around so we can really hear James’ voice, and we got that.
Next up, the Prince of Country tackled the King of Rock and Roll, as Scotty McCreery covered Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right, Mama.” And we got to see how good he is at covering the King, whom Scotty credits for his deep voice and singing out of the side of his mouth. I’m not sure if Steven was impressed or not (“I thought you were all hat and no cattle, but you brought Elvis into the house,” he said) but I was hyperventilating at the time. As Randy said, “Scotty is in it to win it, y’all! This was amazing!” This performance was as smooth as butter and Scotty’s Elvis enthusiasm was really catchy. Something different but still so Scotty.
Woohooooo! Pia Toscano finally did something uptempo: “River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner. But while it made a change, it was lacking, somehow. Pia has a powerful voice and the judges loved her (“You killed it,” said Steven), while also saying the performance lacked something. I can’t be bothered to work out what it is! Randy did encourage Pia to work on her movement, though, and that would be good.
Stefano Langone gave us really nice vocals on Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He looked young and a little vulnerable in a performance that was part boy band, part nervous high schooler singing to his girlfriend, but he sounded pretty good! “Baby! Baby baby baby! I knew you had it in you,” Jennifer said. Again, Randy wasn’t jumping up and down, although he liked it, but Steve complimented Stefano on having “a great range and it’s beautiful.”
The show’s producers had Paul MacDonald sit this week, so we were spared the crazy Dad dancing. But he clearly had the music in him for a fabulous performance of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Surprisingly, there were no comments about not connecting to the lyrics, even though Paul characteristically smiled the whole way through, even when he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. That said, these were Paul’s strongest vocals of the finals and Randy said “I got three words for you — I LOVED IT!” Steven loved his “perfect imperfect boy” too as he “rocked the house.”
It is a shame after a show with no stand out bad performances that someone has to leave tonight – but they do. This is a difficult one to call, especially as the two I’m tired of most likely won’t sink to the bottom three, unless Jacob Lusk is hit by the curse of going first and heads for the Stools of Shame. On a lighter note, check out Paul’s performance: