Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Top 11 Perform Again...A Night of Neverending Ballads

Article first published as American Idol: Top 11 Perform Again on Technorati.

The Top 11 Redux begins with a montage of last week’s show with a prophetic pre-results Casey saying they will not use the save – it’s too early.  Ryan takes us through all the drama that was last week’s results show, and then, we’re ready to get started.
The Idols come out and the first thing I notice is that Paul is AGAIN wearing his Rose-embroidered suit.  Somebody should really take that guy shopping.  Maybe it’s a lucky token, like the stuff superstitious athletes wear over and over.

Jennifer looks lovely tonight but I did notice that her earrings seem to get bigger with every week.  Maybe she’ll be able to hula-hoop through them by the finale?  I think I could slide the current ones pretty far up my leg, and that’s saying something!  Also, Ryan has something odd going on tonight with his whole hair and make-up combo.  What is happening behind the scenes here?  Ok, back to business…

I have high expectations for what Jimmy can do with these kids this week, as I adore Elton John’s entire catalog.  But first, we get to see the young idols glam it up with the stylists at the fashion shoot…yada yada yada.

Finally, Scotty is up first.  He does “Country Comfort” very authentically, and I love the slide guitar. I really like that Scotty is totally just himself.  More than almost any other contestant, he knows exactly who he is as an artist. (Uh oh – I sound like Randy). I’m not a country fan but I really respect his commitment and his vocal talent.  The judges agree.

Naima is next with a reggae version of “I’m Still Standing”.  Hmm….bold choice. OK – she introduces the song and dedicates it to troubled folks out in the world, but she does it in a Jamaican accent.  Why?  Maybe she’s thinking that adding a British accent worked for Madonna?   I give her props for trying it, but she’s really cheesy.  J.Lo  and Randy didn’t dig it either, saying it was corny.  Steven begs to differ and says something like “boom shakalaka laka baby.” Wow, I just can’t get enough of him.

Next up is some songwriter who has something to do with a Coca-cola commercial that I believe Idol is crowdsourcing.  Maybe? I don’t really know because my daughter wanted to debate the merits of Justin Beiber, and I just couldn’t let that go, so I was distracted.  Alright, back to the singers.

Onto Paul who goes with “Rocket Man.”  Nice. One of my top 3 Elton tunes.  He’s really in his element on this kind of song, with his guitar.  I wanted so badly to love it as much as the young girls in the audience do, but I’ll give it’s a little off. I did like that he steered clear of his stage jig, which was a plus. Randy is a bit lukewarm on it as well.  They all agree that he has to take it farther, and then – Steven comments on the suit!  Awesome!  I love that he got called out on wearing the same thing 3 times now, but it is a little ironic coming from Tyler, who’s wearing yet another slightly metallic leopard print.

Pia is next and shares with us that she’s totally comfortable getting glam.  Is there anyone out there who hasn’t already figured that out?  She already looks like she could own a Vegas stage.  As for song choice, she chooses yet another ballad, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” but I think it’s a good choice.  Jimmy advises her to take it somewhere between “Fergie and Axl Rose”.  How would that sound?  Seriously? Like P!nk maybe?  Pia sounds more like Celine than P!nk, but she’s good and they give her the full choir just for good measure.  Tyler adores her and digs the rendition. So do the others.  She’s not going anywhere and can get used to getting glammed.  By the way, I don’t usually pay attention to the mini-interviews backstage after each break but I caught Pia’s and she told us that she’s doing “River Deep, Mountain High” next week.  Spoiler alert! Does that mean Tina week?

Stefano, the comeback kid, decides to take on “Tiny Dancer.” Yes, another ballad.  I don’t love it, but what do I know.  I think you have to be a teenager to fully appreciate his charms.  He ends stronger than he started, and you have to give him credit for kissing up to Jennifer with the hand squeeze at the end.  Naturally, she applauds him.  Randy thanks him for keeping his eyes open and Steven says his voice is “sweet.”

Lauren is all sorts of glammed up this week.  She really has a Real Housewives’ vibe working.  She’s going with “Candle in The Wind” in a very stripped down country-western way with a piano that sounds terrific.  The judges eat her up, she’s so cute and Randy tells her it was one of her best performances.  Steven and Ms. Lopez are also on board the Lauren train.

Next is James, indulging us with “Saturday Night’s Alright.”  Good choice for him.  He’s really trying to bring home this year’s bad-boy title by tossing the mic stand, climbing on the piano, using pyrotechnics and throwing in his signature scream on the last note.  He’s pulling out all the stops.  Tyler loves it – it’s totally in his wheelhouse. Randy and “Hoops” Lopez both concur.  Ryan calls him fearless, but then quickly regrets it when James makes reference to a possible Pepsi moment with the stage fire and his hairspray.  Ryan rapidly has to dance around the P-word and remind us that Coca-Cola is the main sponsor of Idol.  I’d truly have loved to be in the production booth at that moment.  Great TV.    

Thia tries for “Daniel” and Jimmy wisely coaches her to sing from her heart and get in touch with the poignant lyrics.  I’m no fan of hers, and while I think it’s a little safe and boring, it’s spot on pitch-wise, and she is visibly trying to connect with the song.  J. Lo says it was beautiful.  Randy’s feedback was mixed – saying that it was a good song choice, but safe and pitchy (I didn’t hear the pitch problems myself, but I didn’t play with Journey and Mariah, so I’ll take his word).  Steven says unenthusiastically that she sang it well.

Casey’s up next.  No pressure, right? He’s got to prove that the judges didn’t waste their one-and-only save on him last week.   He picks “Your Song” which is one of my all-time faves.  Oh, and he gets his beard trimmed.  He no longer looks like Zach Galifianakis.  It’s tender and powerful and notably, on key.  The judges all pat themselves on the back for saving him and give Casey his due for the performance.   I think Casey’s back!

Jacob is next and Ryan prepares us for a “softer, gentler Jacob.” I remain skeptical because I don’t think it’s physically possible for him to sing anything restrained.  He chooses “Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word,” the Mary J. Blige version.  She even shows up in his practice studio to cheer him on.  Jimmy warns about over-dramatizing the song, securing his spot for me as Idol’s Best Mentor Ever.   I wouldn’t say that it was restrained, but it was restrained for Jacob.  The judges adore him.

Oddly, they’ve given Haley the pimp spot tonight.  I’m really curious what she’s bringing, because she’s been in trouble before.  Not surprisingly, she shares how at home she feels getting the glam treatment, like she’s finally being treated as she’s always deserved.   She does “Benny and the Jets,” undoubtedly my favorite Sir Elton number.  She really gives it her all, and while I thought it was a little cartoon-y, it certainly had its moments and the judges are all enthralled.  Randy calls it the best performance of the night.  Tyler says, she “sings sexy.”       

 Okay, so Bottom 3 is a tough call tonight.  I think Pia, Lauren, Scotty, and James are totally safe.  I think the audience will rally behind Casey for his dramatic improvement and I’m betting that Jacob and Paul both have loyal enough standing fan bases to stick around for another couple of weeks.  That leaves Haley, Naima, Thia and Stefano.

I’m going with Stefano, Naima and Thia, because I think Haley showed dramatic improvement and I believe there’s an advantage to going last.  I’m not totally confident though this week.  Paul could be on the bubble too. Honestly, nobody was terrible, which makes it really tough to choose.  I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Naima and Stefano will need to pack up and move out of the plush Idol crib.  Tune into Fox Thursday night to find out for sure.

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