‘American Idol’ Top 12 Performances: Smells Like Casey Abrams

Becky Bain | March 17, 2011 5:00 am

During last night on American Idol, the Top 12 contestants had to sing songs from the year they were born. This theme has been done in seasons past, most memorably (for us, anyway) with David Cook delivering a haunting twist to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Well, Casey James may have given a just as awe-inspiring a performance with the off-kilter song from his own birth year, though for entirely different reasons. Nirvana, meet Idol. Idol, Nirvana. Head below to see how the hopefuls handle grunge, Disney showtunes and Whitney Houston.


Pia Toscano, who’s sitting pretty on the top of our Idol Power List, not only manages to pull off a bright white jumpsuit with cutout shoulders (!!!), but sings Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” with perfection. She’s just about the most consistent, marketable contestant Season 10 has to offer. Keep it up!

Scott McCreery delivers another great performance with the 1993 country tune “Can I Trust You With My Heart”, though admittedly, Scott’s tendency to smirk-and-lean  is becoming distracting. Stefano Langone has finally suffered the fate many Idols have over the years – gossip rags. But he still managed to shine while singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, though we would have been just as thoroughly entertained if he did the David Brent version. And We kind of wish James Durbin did another one of Bon Jovi’s songs from 1989 other than “I’ll Be There For You” – or how about Aerosmith’s “Love In An Elevator”? Steven would’ve loved it! Or take it down a notch and do Debbie Gibson’s “Lost In Your Eyes”, since he’s about due for a ballad. Anyway, James’s vocals were confident and his performance was fun, but we want something a little different from him to see his range.


Paul McDonald rasps through Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. We know his dancing is kind of goofy, as well as easily mock-able, but we find it endearing. This is a dude who loves to perform and be in front of an audience. His voice is certainly an acquired taste – this night it came off as a little bit strained – but we have a feeling that his self-penned songs are probably a better match for him than songs written for artists with a different vocal tone.

Other “meh” performances included bee-hived Karen Rodriguez taking on Taylor Dane’s “Love Will Lead You Back” (again, with a verse in Spanish), and she does a much more convincing job than last week when she tried to channel Selena. Lauren Alaina put a country-twang twist on Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One” but falls short of having a true “moment”, and Thia Megia took us back to Disney’s golden age of movie musicals with “Colors Of The Winds”, from the 1995 animated flick Pocahontas. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s an age appropriate ballad and she sang it well – too bad it was also a bit on the boring side.


As Nirvana’s 1991 classic goes, “Here we are now, entertain us!” and entertain us Casey Abrams did by being the first contestant to ever sing a Nirvana song on the show. There’s a reason no other hopefuls have tried to pull off a track by the grunge band before – their songs aren’t exactly designed for a singing competition. We’re glad he’s feeling better after a stay in the hospital, but this whole performance was making us run for our remote to turn the volume down.

Haley Reinhart‘s voice – which sounds like a baby breathing in a helium balloon – finally went from “unique” to “full on annoying” with her performance of Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight”. Naimi Adedapo was called out by J-Lo to be pitchy during her performance of “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, and you know it’s the truth when only one person in the audience manages to boo. And maybe we’re being hard on Jacob Lusk, or maybe we’re getting a bit sick of his BOOMING voice piercing EVERY SONG, but whenever we think of American Idol and Heart’s “Alone”, we think Carrie Underwood back during 80s week in Season 4.

THOUGHTS ON THE NIGHT: In a way, Casey’s decision to take on Kurt Cobain was actually a smart risk – he’s one of the frontunners at the moment, so he can spare a week to do something entertaining and memorable (and maybe a little embarrassing). On an unrelated note, his parents are adorable and need their own podcast.

TONIGHT: The Black Eyed Peas perform their new single “Just Can’t Get Enough”, last year’s winner Lee DeWyze shows up to remind people he’s still managed to squeak by another year without reapplying for his old job as a paint salesman, and somebody’s sent packing. We have a feeling it’s going to be Naimi. Who do you think is going home?