Casey Abrams was first up and Ryan Seacrest was right; he certainly “unleashed the beast” with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” to rave reviews. There was nothing to criticize as Casey made the song his own and worked the crowd like a pro. “I think you’re the perfect entertainer, perfect pitch and perfect mix of crazy-ass out of control ego” said Steven, and as Randy pointed out, Casey is no imitator: “You know what’s so perfect about you? You can only do you, and that you is great.”
Thia Megia has had her sweet 16th this past week and sweet is about all that can be said of her singing “Heat Wave”. All power to her for going up-tempo rather than doing another ballad but she didn’t look comfortable and she admitted she forgot some lyrics. But as J-Lo reminded her, “Part of performing is acting and you have to bring that every time — always make sure you connect with your lyrics,” and she didn’t do that.
If ever it was going to be Jacob Lusk’s night on “American Idol” it was going to be Motown night and he brought it all to the party with “You’re All I Need to Get By”. He finally showed he can control that big voice but he let it rip in all the right places too. Steven was so excited that as soon as Jacob was done he ran up on stage to hug Jacob, yelling “Baby Luther!” Randy loved it too, saying, “You know what was wrong with that performance, guys? Absolutely nothing!”
Lauren Alaina failed to impress anyone but Steven with “You Keep Me Hanging On”. It wasn’t her best performance, just solid, but the slowed-down beginning was better than when she upped the tempo closer to the original. Steven liked it, though, telling her, “Well, baby, you ripped that song another beauty mark, didn’t ya?”
Stefano Langone took on Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” which “David Cook had a huge moment with in Season 7.” Unfortunately, Stefano didn’t impress and Jennifer advised him to work on connecting emotionally with the song, rather than trying to impress vocally. Just tell him he’s shallow, J-Lo; Randy almost did.
Haley Reinhart’s performance of “You Really Got a Hold on Me” was a little hit and miss but overall the judges liked it. “By the middle of the song, the Haley that we fell in love with… came roaring back, and I’m so happy,” Randy said. But when Steven sang a few notes and Ryan encouraged him to sing more, the contrast with Haley was clear. Sing for us again, Steven!
Scotty McCreery (excited squeal) time! Scotty showed his smooth moves with a basketball and then he performed some more on stage. We know what we’re getting with Scotty and he put is own Country stamp on Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life”. He was scared of seeming all lounge singer and there was a touch of that but his vocals were amazing and he looked adorable. Steven called the performance “beautiful” and Scotty “a young ladykiller”. We’re not disagreeing!
Then it was time for me to calm down. Pia Toscano took to the stage for another Stevie Wonder song, “All In Love Is Fair”. She looked gorgeous, sang stunning vocals, and I had a little nap while she finished. Joking! But please – another ballad? Randy and Jennifer agreed. “You’re phenomenal, you’re beautiful, you’ve got the talent, you hit the notes… the only thing for me, if I have one criticism: ballad, ballad, ballad. Come on, give me a midtempo, give me an uptempo — you can’t live by ballads alone,” Randy said. Well said!
Paul McDonald looked so much more comfortable this week with his acoustic guitar to keep him grounded. “The Tracks of My Tears” was a perfect choice for him with the cool, folky feel he brought to it, it sounded like his own song. Paul’s best performance in weeks! Steven hit the nail on the head, saying, “Like Dylan, like Willie Nelson, your voice is that different; it’s beautiful in that sense.” Yup!
Naima Adedapo finally impressed me and the judges. For once there were no pitch issues in “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas. In fact, she put in a smooth and sexy performance and even gave us some African dancing at the end. “E to the Z to Tweedly Dee,” Steven said, which sounds like high praise. Jennifer got the night’s first goosebumps for “exciting performer”.
Last up was James Durbin with another Stevie Wonder song, “Living For The City,” which may just have been the best song choice of the night. Not the best performance, though, although it was good. James owned the song but stayed true to the original’s spirit. “It’s just an incredible thing to watch, honestly. You leave me speechless; that’s not easy to do,” Jennifer said. “I think sometimes it takes a little bit of being crazy to make a difference in this world, and that’s what you’re all about,” Steven said.
So, that was it for maybe the most important night of the season, excluding the final. Only the Top 10 contestants go on the summer American Idol Live tour. Who won’t make it?
We wrongly predicted Haley to go last week but with no lipstick sympathy moment this week, we think it’s looking dodgy for her.