Judging American Idol: Motown Night

American Idol Season 10 contestants try their hand at the classic Motown songbook...
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Tonight on American Idol contestant sing songs from The Book of Motown. We are reminded that these votes are important because it decides the Top 10 and those are the contestants who go on tour this summer. The show starts with some history and pictures of Motown and Hitsville U.S.A. and I got a little nostalgic for Detroit. I loved living there, it’s nothing but a shame how far it’s fallen from its glory days. As we know, Motown and its artists shaped music from the get-go. Over 400 songs on the Billboard 100 and over 50 number ones- that’s unheard of.

Steven says Motown music made him want to make out with girls, Ryan says he thinks he did more than make out with them as the camera finds his daughter Liv Tyler in the audience; on that note – let’s get started!

Casey Abrams opens the show with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” a song I had a hunch he would do but I wanted him to do something less obvious. First off, his hair looked ridiculous slicked back but as he moved around it looked better and some curl came out.  He was pretty good tonight; it was a huge improvement over last week but, not his best so far. I didn’t like how he was in the audience and moving around quite so much.  Steven Tyler likes it and says he has an out-of-control ego and knows who he is and that is what makes great artists. The judges loved him, as usual.

Thia Megia chooses “(Love is Like A) Heatwave” by Martha & The Vandellas, which I had chosen in “What Should They Sing?” for Pia but Thia really made it work for her. She looked adorable, young, and confident. This is her best performance since auditions and was absolutely the best song choice for her.  She performed like I expected her to all along. I’m glad she’s rebounding and wonder if she’ll continue on this route or revert back to how she’d been more recently. JLo was very excited and told her to keep it up. Randy said he’s been tough on her but, this is why- he knew she was capable of so much more. He said “take some chances… push, push!” Steven Tyler called it a step in the right direction.

“You’re All I Need To Get By” is the song Jacob Lusk chose. Jimmy iovine said Jacob’s the most natural choice to sing these songs.  Iovine agrees with most of us who have commented here and would like him to hold back a bit and control his runs because they start to lose their specialness. He was wonderful and fun to watch for the first time in a long time! Steven even said “Baby Luther!” when he was done. Randy said the great Berry Gordy is somewhere saying, “oh my God!” The judges loved it! It was strong, beautiful, and they were gushing all over the place. For some odd reason, Ryan was letting people come up and hug Jacob one-by-one.

Lauren Alaina sings “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which was my pick for her! I’m excited to see what she does with it. She starts off slow and a little sultry, looking absolutely adorable! Lauren walks around, works the crowd, judges and stage. Her vocals weren’t the best ever but she was purely in the moment and seemed to be true to her personality. It was adorable, fun to watch. and I’m a slowly emerging Lauren Alaina fan! Steven said she ripped that song another beauty mark, and that she doesn’t listen to anyone and he loves that about her. JLo said it was a good job, Lauren looked adorable and even threw her neck and head into it. Randy said her “Swagger is on high.”

Stefano Langone picked “Hello” by Lionel Richie and admits that while he grew up on Motown music he had never heard that song, which seemed a little weird to me. Jimmy Iovine said that Stefano has suddenly jumped to the top of this competition and he was a little worried because this song is huge and all about emotion. I had picked this one for Paul McDonald but Stefano did okay with it. He sounded great as always but didn’t feel connected to me. It seemed like he was just focusing on singing it beautifully, which he did, but it lacked some emotion and heart. JLo says to him, “Fine-check, sing like crazy-check… America knows you can sing, and now you need to connect.” Randy agrees with me too, saying the singing was completely on point, now pull back and make it your own. JLo ends with “But you’re so…I just love you.”

Haley Reinhart is doing “You Really Got A Hold On Me” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. She started off okay but it never really got any better. She looked great, her confidence seemed to be through the roof, I think I just cannot handle the cat-in-heat growling. Randy loved it and said he loves the bluesy feeling, the growling and strutting. Steven said “you don’t look a day over fabulous” he loves her growl, and showed us how he can growl… I like his better. JLo said Haley has one of the best voices in the competition and by far the most soulful on the girl’s side, which isn’t saying much, frankly.

Scotty McCreery is singing “For Once In My Life” and Jimmy Iovine addresses the smirky, lounge-singer thing he’s been coming with for the past couple weeks.  He was amazing, confident, and only a little smirky but so cute. His voice is solid- he showed more dimension and had high notes and holds that were so good. Steven Tyler likened him to Glen Campbell, JLo said it wasn’t the strongest but she loved it and when he hits the low notes he gets her all over again. Randy said his low note is the “young lady killer.”

Pia Toscano chooses to sing Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair.” Jimmy and her producer tell Pia to make the song her own and show herself to the judges and America because we already know she’s technically perfect and can hit all the strong notes but we can’t really connect to her. She’s not the style of singer I gravitate toward but her voice and passion are undeniable! Her ending note was out of this world! She was fun to watch for the first time. JLo said, “once again you kill us with your amazing ballads!” She also said she has all the components but now needs to add power and presence and stomp the stage like Celine Dion. Randy says “ballad, ballad, ballad… you can’t live by ballads alone” and says he loved it but would love even something mid-tempo for a little change. Steven says, “you’re the closest thing to a star in this American Idol universe.” She is classy and knows what she’s doing; my guess is that she’ll be the last girl standing.

Paul McDonald says Motown is good times and you have to move around when you’re listening to it or singing it. He chose “Tracks Of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (which I chose for Casey to sing). He wasn’t chicken-dancing around the stage (which I knid of missed) but stood at the mic stand with his guitar and delivered an amazing performance. I LOVE watching this guy and would go to a Paul McDonald concert right this moment. Randy said he’s got a distinctive, unique voice and he was worried about some moments but he pulled it out and the tender parts at the end were the highlight. Steven Tyler compared him to Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson saying he’s “just great.” JLo said he’s the total package, coming out like he’s having a concert and he already had all the parts to be a great artist, he just needed this show and a great producer.

Naima Adedapo selects “Dancing In The Streets” (which I chose for Paul) and decides to literally interpret the dancing part and incorporate some African dancing. At the urging of Jimmy iovine, she practices it so she knows when and how to breathe during it. She comes out looking beautiful with some fun bellbottom, flowy pants- she starts off pretty strong, I really like her voice. You can tell she has practiced her control and pitch, even over last week's performance there was a marked improvement. I wish you all could have seen my face when she busted out her dance moves, though. I’m still processing my feelings on that. Steven says, “E to the Z Tweedly Dee” and that she ate the stage. JLo said she gave her goosebumps with the dance moves and she’s the whole package, she has “that thing.” Randy said “all of Naima showed up, the singing, the dancing…good lookin’ out!” I know she rubs a lot of people the wrong way but I love her and think she’s always memorable.

James Durbin is doing “Livin’ For The City” and Bob Babbit, who also played bass for Stevie, gave James a thumbs up after working with him in the studio. I’m in love with this kid’s voice, his story, and how he moves the stage. He’s a bit awkward but that’s what I love the most. I’m always leary of the too slick, polished Idol contestants. He had his crazy high notes but it was perfect and the right amount at the right time. He feels everything he sings and his passion is palpable. JLo says “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!” She told him he’s serious business and loved his funny little dance moves. Randy said it started rough (JLo interrupted and disagreed), but that once he was in his pocket it was unbelievable. Steven Tyler says sometimes it takes a little bit of crazy to make a difference in this world and that James has the crazy and he loved it.

Overall I loved tonight’s show; it held my attention the entire time which is hard to do. Casey, Stefano, and Haley were the weakest links with Scotty, James, and Paul being my favorites. I'm going to cast my votes now! I hope you did the same. Check back tomorrow to find out who went home and who is in the Top 10 and will be on the American Idol tour this summer.