We may have goofed on the remaining Top 13 American Idol contestants by pairing them up with their look-a-likes, but last night the real deals took the stage for their live performances. Well, okay—maybe it wasn’t exactly live. But there were several hopefuls who brought their all and kicked butt. Usually at this stage in the Idol game there are maybe two possible winners in sight. But last night proved anything goes when dealing with Season 10′s pool of talent!
First off, let’s all raise a glass to judge Jennifer Lopez for, as Ryan Seacrest points out, having the #1 download on iTunes with “On The Floor.” Now let’s swat her on the wrist for admitting after Paul McDonald performed that not only does she not know any Ryan Adams songs, she does even know who Ryan Adams is.
That brings us to last night’s theme. The Top 13 contestants were all instructed to choose songs by their own idols. And Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine brought a team of producers to mentor each of them while they rehearsed.
Pia Toscano informs us that she has loved Celine Dion since she was 8 years old, so she opts to do the Canadian songbird’s version of Eric Carmen’s melancholy ballad “All By Myself.” She’s paired up with industry veteran Ron Fair, who helps her get the song down—and, boy, does she get it down. Pia gives the first truly “Wow” performance of the night when she not only nails the high notes, but glides right into the octave change with ease.
James Durbin also stands out with his rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which producer Jim Jonsin helps him prepare for. Randy Jackson is duly impressed that James can do Judas Priest one week then turn the cheek and show his sensitive side the next. J.Lo tells him he has what the greatest rock singers have.
Others who have impressive showings are Casey Abrams, who sings Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” (causing J.Lo to grab Randy and say she’s “watching somebody important”), and Scotty McCreery, who goes for the obvious and croons Garth Brooks’ country classic “The River.”
For the first time in the competition, bubbly Tennessee teen Lauren Alaina seems to stumble. She does a take on Shania Twain’s “Any Man Of Mine,” and certainly looks the part. But her singing just comes off kind of shriek-y. Like Steven Tyler says, we wish Lauren had been more “kickass.”
Jacob Lusk, who is mentored this week by Rodney Jerkins, also screams his way through R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” Jacob is usually right on target, but this time around he just seems all over the place. That said, the judges all enjoyed it, so we have a difference of opinion with J.Lo & Co.
Haley Reinhart gives what Randy calls a “sleepy” performance of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue,” Thia Megia does just okay with “Smile” (which she attributes to Michael Jackson, but is informed that the song actually originated with Charlie Chaplin) and Stefano Langone sings Stevie Wonder’s “Lately.” Stefano’s performance is alright, but ultimately forgettable, which seems to be the Wild Card pick’s main problem in this competition.
Two other so-so turns come from Ashton Jones and Naimi Adedapo. Ashton goes with Diana Ross’ 1991 single “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” and Jimmy Iovine and Rodney Jerkins are so impressed during rehearsals that Jimmy invites Motown legend Berry Gordy to watch on performance night. The judges offer kind criticism (J.Lo says she wants to start hearing Ashton sing songs we can all sing along with her). But overall she was just kind of bland.
As for Naima, she busts out some dance moves and a brief reggae bit while singing Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” And while the singing suffers somewhat because of the dancing, we at least have fun watching her.
Look, we like Paul McDonald, but his take on Ryan Adams “Come Pick Me Up” is just way too subtle, and we’ve definitely heard him sing better. Likewise, Karen Rodriguez falls completely flat while tackling Selena’s “I Could Fall In Love With You.” Maybe she thought she’d win a few points at least with Lopez, who played the Tejano star in the 1997 movie Selena, but J.Lo just tells Karen that she came across as being uncomfortable when usually she’s so spot-on.
THOUGHTS ON THE NIGHT: So far it seems as if the handful of ones to beat are Pia Toscano, James Durbin, Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk and Scotty McCreery. And that’s what makes this season much more exciting than last—we have absolutely no idea yet who might possibly win this thing. On the flip side, while we also have no clue who’s going home this week, we’d venture to say Karen Rodriguez had probably the worst performance of the night.
TONIGHT: Someone is sent packing, and Diddy-Dirty Money and Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert are scheduled to perform.