Judging American Idol: Top 13 - Live

The Top 13 sing live for the first time in Season 10 of 'American Idol.'
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Last night’s American Idol contestants were choosing songs from their idols, some choices were obvious, some were surprising in a good way, and some were severely misguided. We also got to see a bit of their rehearsal footage, Jimmy Iovine’s opinions, and see them working with producers.  I’ll review them in order then at the end, I’ll give my picks for who is safe, who isn’t,  and who I think will go home. It should be noted this is the contestant’s first time performing live in front of America, last week and all auditions prior were pre-recorded.

Lauren Alaina goes first, and no surprise to anyone her idol is Shania Twain. The producer she worked with was the legendary Don Was. He had high praises for her as did Jimmy Iovine, who says she’s special with a huge future ahead of her. I didn’t like her performance of “Any Man Of Mine” at all. Her voice sounded so subdued and it was a very low-energy performance. She seemed swallowed up by either the song or the stage; I’m not sure which. Steven Tyler said it was “not kickass enough” and JLo found it to be low on energy as well, and even added, “it was almost like you weren’t trying.” Randy agreed with his cohorts and said she sang it well and her voice is big but tonight she didn’t shine.

Casey Abrams’ idol is Joe Cocker because he thinks he has a voice you feel and he may not look pretty but you feel what he’s singing and Casey wants us to feel him, too. I expected to not like it because this song’s been so overdone (thanks,  Wonder Years).  And I didn’t like it- I LOVED IT! Casey stayed true to the Joe Cocker version (for those who don’t know, it was first done by Ringo Starr, and for those who don’t know, he was the drummer for The Beatles). Casey has such a distinct sound and approach to music that it ended up sounding like a bit of a mix between the two versions.  JLo said she felt it and was blown away, and felt like she was watching somebody important. Randy said it's fun to listen to him, and crazy Uncle Steven said he was “a rainbow of talent and a plethora of passion.”

Ashthon Jones did the most predictable thing she could have done and picked a Diana Ross song. If you’re compared to someone that amazing and iconic you should embrace it but stay away from that artist’s songs. Too obvious. However, Jimmy Iovine was so impressed with her voice that he invited Berry Gordy to sit in the audience to hear her sing “When You Tell Me That You Love Me.” It felt like Lauren’s performance to me, like she phoned it in. The energy was low, and aside from a couple impressive, extended high notes, it was nothing special and franky off-key more often than not. I did like that she was more understated and not stomping the stage shouting at us bu, I do not think it was enough to keep her on another week. Randy said she played it safe but he liked it, JLo said she liked it and would like for Ashthon to pick more well-known songs we can sing along to. I’m wondering why no one apologized to Berry for showing up for that.

Paul McDonald loves Ryan Adams, which is funny to me because Paul is heads and shoulders above Ryan, vocally.  Jimmy Iovine said his unique voice and rasp are wonderful and if Paul opens his voice up he will do very well. Maybe I’m moody tonight but I didn’t like the “How are y’all doin’?” at the beginning of his performance (I loved it last week). But moody or not,  I love his voice! He is an oddball; the way he moves on stage is so awkward but adorable and suits his personality perfectly.  Steven Tyler said, “I love the character and rasp in your voice.” JLo thinks he makes the audience smile and moved the crowd. “I don’t know Ryan Adams or that song; I hope America gets it.” Randy said, “I get it, I hope America gets it, I think you’re great!”

Pia Toscano cites Celine Dion as her idol because of her huge career and being able to balance it with having a family. Pia chooses  “All By Myself” which is actually an Eric Carmen song but who cares, right? I do! Pia says she’s always wanted to sing this song for her father, and now because of American Idol and Interscope producers, she can. I was wondering how she was going to top last week’s performance that got a standing ovation and so much praise.  She had big notes and a couple nice moments, for me, the high parts were the highlight of the song and her lower notes were only average. If I were rating this I’d give it a big, “eh” with a shoulder shrug. Of all the performances I looked up on YouTube this morning to hear again, hers was not one of them. Judges didn’t agree with me and for some reason. JLo was almost speechless and says Pia topped last week: “Really really beautiful.” Randy said, “you tackled a big song, you have such a natural gift, I’m in awe. Very hot, dope, cool performance.” ST tells her, “Happy International Woman’s Day today by the way. You slammed that song.”

James Durbin’s idol is Paul McCartney (you didn’t see that one coming?). Yeah, neither did I. He says Paul is not only one of the most amazing singers in history but he envies his songwriting abilities as well and would love to be like that one day. Hey, I guess if you’re going to dream, dream big. James tackles “Maybe I’m Amazed” and at the risk of sounding like a Ryan Seacrest cliché, I was amazed.  Jimmy Iovine didn’t know kids were out there singing like James. He was very impressed.  It was so nice to hear him actually sing and not scream, squeal, or screech. this kid has a killer voice. He had a few chances to showcase his amazing high range but kept it mostly soft and sweet, and proved to everyone he isn’t just a screamer and can not only control his voice but has a wonderful singing ability in there. My favorite performance of the night up to that point, and I will sum it up with one word- MEMORABLE.  Randy told him, “back in the day I loved the kind of voices that can sing anything. Last week you killed Judas Priest, tonight you do Paul McCartney and SLAY it?! James Durbin is dangerous, America!” JLo told him to get used to this praise, and that he has what all the great rock singers have, he can REALLY sing as well as scream. Steven Tyler tells him, “You have taken everything you ever felt and kicked it into next week, if there was ever a review to be said about you, you just sang it. So good." Now I want James to do “I Remember You” by Skid Row and I will die a happy girl.

Haley Reinhart says her idol is LeAnn Rimes and she’s been singing  “Blue” since she was 8.  Jimmy Iovine said it’s a tough song but “she’s doing a great job.” I hated it. I don’t like her voice although I think this is the best she has ever sounded. This type of song suits her voice. I just happen to not love her voice at all. I did love her dress, her hair looked great, she’s actually a cute girl, I never noticed. The judges were a little mixed on her, JLo and Steven liked it, Randy wasn’t feeling it.

Jacob Lusk tells us R. Kelley is his idol. I’m hoping it’s for his voice and not the “dating under aged girls and peeing on them” thing. He sings “I Believe I Can Fly” and has the whole choir thing behind him. it was just beautiful. I wasn’t blown away or shocked because he sounded as clear and pure as he always does. The judges say he is hard to judge because he’s so spot on and technically perfect, he feels so much and makes them feel so much when they listen. Randy says he has a signature sound that you will recognize right away when it comes on the radio.

Thia Megia says Michael Jackson is her idol. Hmm, how convenient since just last week she was compared to him by Randy. She chose “Smile” which is actually a Charlie Chaplin song, or Charlie Chapman according to Thia. Jimmy thinks she will blow us away with this version. She started off slow and pretty, then got a little ramped up, stepped up the energy, even did a little dancey dance. I didn’t like the change, it felt disconnected, like two different songs, to me.  Randy says, “I loved the intro, got pitchy in spots with the jazzy arrangement, and you lost me.” ST agrees with us and says he “liked the front more than end but you gave it up.” JLo tries a gentler approach and tells Thia, “The beginning is obviously where your strength is. You sing like an angel, I liked to see you move.” For me she has NO personality, no charisma, and I think despite her amazing voice, she’s too immature for this competition right now. She was devastated after the critiques which weren’t even that bad!

Stefano Langone idolizes Stevie Wonder; as well he should. He sings “Lately” because it tells a story he can connect to. Stefano’s producer and Jimmy Iovine are so impressed with him that Jimmy says he belongs here in the competition and no one in America knows how well he can sing yet.  The low spots seemed like they went off a bit but they were actually solid. Stefano moved all around that stage. He actually got me jazzed and excited! James Durbin is my favorite performance of the night so far but Stefano got me excited! He proved he should be here and I hope he lasts deep into the competition.  ST told him, “it built from beginning to end… so well done, you pulled it off, beautiful!”  JLo said “you had me dancing there baby! WOW! It was you, and you sounded great.”  RJ thought it started off rocky and thought to himself, “where’s dawg taking this? But, you slayed it!  WOW WOW WOW.”

Karen Rodriguez  tells us she idolizes Selena (how shocking). I hate to be a hater but I’m already over her Spanglish flavor. She (of course) sang “When I Fall In Love” and was even dressed a lot like JLo was dressed in the Selena movie. Karen had a ROUGH start- low notes in beginning were definitely not her strong spot AND she was shaky when she sang unaccompanied. She was much better with the backup singers. She was pretty and did her “Jennifer Lopez clone” thing pretty well. But, even though she’s adorable and so likable I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes home tonight; it fell way short for me. JLo said, "Baby, you look so beautiful. For me, I could tell you were uncomfortable with lower and high notes. You’re one of the strongest girls, I hope you make it.” Randy says “it felt like you were fighting the song. You had a short run at the end. It was a copy.” Steven said “I feel the same…low energy.”

Scotty McCreery’s growing his hair out and he looks more like Alfred E. Newman than ever. Don Was told us he has worked with Willie, Garth, and Waylon, just to name a few and he says they are great storytellers and Scotty is, too. He was very impressed with young Scotty’s talent.  His idol is Garth Brooks and chooses to sing “The River,” which he does flawlessly. He likes to stay close to the original when he’s covering songs but the quality and tone in his voice is so amazing it never sounds like a copycat. I love listening to this kid! His pale blue denim shirt and the tree/river landscape footage running behind him made me think of Bob Ross and his happy little trees a tad. He has more levels to his voice than I think anyone knew and when he finished the room went crazy. Randy says, “Yo, Scotty, I liked that you are being you, if it ain’t broke, don’t even think about fixing it. You could put that on a record right now. I love it.” ST had some weird Roy Rogers quote but ended with, “you’re riding high.” JLo felt like he embraced the audience, and told him “you’re taking us on the ride with you.”  

Naima Adedapo gets the pimp spot and she’s not doing an obscure song! YAY! She sings Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and working with the actual guy who produced it for her single. Jimmy says he was scared to death for Naima last week but that after Tricky had worked with her and hearing what she’s done with this particular song, he sees her in Top 5. She has never looked prettier and I swear my jaw dropped when she got all funky with it. I had her pegged for an old standards kind of singer. I know her voice is special but I never considered her shining on a more contemporary song. She’s way more diverse than I ever imagined. She was dynamic, she can MOVE and I think the lightning effects and crap going on was unnecessary but she blew me away. I have a feeling it was too much dance and not enough clear, strong, singing for the American Idol audience and most importantly, the voters but, it would be a shame for her to go home after that little treat she gave us. I love her even more than before. Steven tells her, “I love you, it was a little pitchy but I adore you for being you.”  JLo – “I don’t care about pitchy…you were on fire, girl...you danced, you rapped, you had reggae flavor, just work on control, I loved it.” Randy tells her, “I care about pitchy; you need to breathe and concentrate on tone when you move. But, you need to make a whole reggae “Umbrella”! I loved it!” Of the three saved last week, I think she did the most with her second chance.

Out of all the performances, my top three are: James, Casey, and Naima. I think the three at the bottom and in danger of going home are: Thia, Karen, and Naima although it should be: Thia, Ashthon, and Haley. I will be surprised if any one of the guys go home. If I had to pick one in danger it would be Paul but, he doesn’t deserve to be sent home. He just might be a little too different for Idol fans. The first five or so eliminations should be females, but we’ll see how it goes! I loved watching the contestants get feedback from Jimmy Iovine and work with producers to fine tune their sound.

Very excited for tonight’s elimination show!