The Top 7 Take A Shot At Relevancy

The Idols all did their best to prove to America that they are relevant! current! artists! So it makes absolute sense that we got a song that was released in 1983 and a Luther Vandross song. I mean, what screams “music today” more than the 80’s and Luther? A group sing to “So What” by rejected contestants, that’s what! Seriously, though, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when the performance show started off with a pointy-pose group performance. And not any pointy-pose group performance, but a pointy-pose group performance featuring Ashthon Jones and Naima Adedapo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved the excuse to have Pia back on the show group performance, but why on earth does Idol insist on shackling anyone with “So What”? The only good thing that “So What” has given us is Scott MacIntyre’s dance moves during the Season 8 finale. (Seriously, if you’re ever bored just youtube Season 8 group performances and play “follow the blind guy.”)

Someone apparently reminded the judges that they could judge things! They actually critiqued people tonight other than Haley. (Haley included, of course.) Now, they still didn’t critique everyone. Nor did they really have any rhyme or reason to their critiques, but at least they’re trying again. Baby steps, people. Maybe next week they’ll go a step further and judge based on the performance they just saw! Wouldn’t that be crazy? We can dream, can’t we? *Sigh* Until then, the Idolsphere will have to do its best to sling critiques that are at least partially based in reality at these contestants…

Scotty McCreery – “Swingin'” (LeAnn Rimes)
First things first, “Swingin'” was originally recorded and released in 1983. (No, I didn’t know this off the top of my head, but Wikipedia is a life saver.) I don’t know if it’s really the smartest song to pick for this week. Like, c’mon. You couldn’t think of a single song that was written in the last ten years to sing? Regardless, the song choice was all sorts of awful anyway because it went nowhere. It was boring and meandering and had a terribly weak melody. The song just isn’t very compelling and his arrangement and staging did him no favors. He ended up T.I. sing-talking through the middle portion of the song. Now, if Scotty was a normal contestant he would be in total danger this week – he went first and he was absolutely forgettable. Scotty isn’t a normal contestant, though. He is a Lockthemdoorsbot crafted with the sole purpose of garnering votes on American Idol. He raking in the country votes and the good-American-boy votes and the isnt-he-precious grandma votes and the hes-so-hot!1one! tween girl votes. In fact, the only flaw in his manufacturing seems to be his nutsofwonder allergy. Also? Let’s let Randy critique this one!

James Durbin – “Uprising” (Muse)
I hate “Uprising” with a passion. It was easily my least favorite song of 2009 and let’s remember that “Hotel Room Service,” “Fireflies,” and “Boom Boom Pow” were all released in 2009. It feels like it goes on forever and just drags itself down into plodding noisy oblivion. It’s like a sonic black hole dead set on devouring all the pleasing sounds of the world. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to James’s performance. It started off well. And by that, I mean the drumline was awesome; all it needed was a little more Nick Cannon. This was really the next logical step after Lee DeWyze busted out the bagpipe player a year ago. Maybe next year we’ll just get a full Scottish marching band to parade around the stage. James’s vocals started off a little shaky and then eventually devolved into a shriek-filled mess. I can only guess that the judges were deafened by the drummers strategically positioned right behind them, else they never would’ve praised those high notes that James hit. (I’m using the word “hit” loosely here. And the word “notes” really.) Because… well, you can just listen for yourself.

(I’m done with videos now, I promise.)

Haley Reinhart – “Rolling In The Deep” (Adele)
Ah, I loved this so much it was unhealthy. If you cannot stand the thought of gross hyperbole and effusive praise for this performance, I suggest to scroll right on by it because that’s all you’re getting from me. This was far and away my favorite performance of this season. This was also way better than anything last season. It was this season’s Idol moment for me. It was just such a perfect song for Haley’s voice and she sang it nearly to perfection. Her melodic choices were killer and the rawness in her voice really accented all the right parts of the song. She replaced some of the original’s gut-wrenching emotional force with some sassy attitude that just worked. Her choice to sit behind the judge’s table and then just use that small stage was smart. She didn’t have any room to awkwardly flail around like she usually does. I have already watched and rewatched the performance more times than I’d care to admit and can’t imagine getting sick of it any time soon. Amazing song. Amazing rendition. Amazing performance. Her phrasing! Her dress! Her growls! I can’t get over any of it, really. I’m worshiping at the altar of Haley Reinhart for a week. It’s the first time I’ve liked her no ifs, ands or buts and I loved it. Drink the Kool Aid with me! It’s so much better on this side. So, so much better.

Jacob Lusk – “Dance With My Father” (Luther Vandross)
Really, Jacob? You have a decade of current music to pick from and you drag out the sentimental Luther Vandross number that has never had any place on contemporary radio? Of course, crying in your pre-performance package is a surefire way to stick around, so I’m not entirely surprised. I do think the song is emotional for him, I still do not approve of the stupidly blatant pandering for votes. Would it kill him to try to stay in the competition by being relevant instead of manipulative? I would’ve been less annoyed if he had picked a predictable Mary J. Blige jam and gospel-hand, melting-faced his way through a caterwauling version. I’ll admit that I thought the vocal this week was pretty good and mostly toned down. But the hyper-emotional state he was in noticeably screwed up his breathing throughout the first half of the song, letting us hear his gasps in their full glory. (Between Jacob’s gasps and Casey’s throat clears, I think Idol could have a The Sounds Of Bodily Functions (Flatulence Not Included) theme week.) Whatever. I don’t know why I’m even writing about this. He cried y’all! Vote for him!

Casey Abrams – “Harder To Breathe” (Maroon 5)
I don’t know what I can even say about Casey any more. I find that I am generally throwing my hands up in disgust during the judges’ critiques of him every week. He goes up there and gives a phlegm-coated, off-key, serial killer-infused rendition of a pop song and the judges tell him he’s the bestest mostest originalest thing ever. He was straight up about to go all Dementor on Jennifer Lopez’s face at the end of that performance and she still praised him. Wait… maybe he did suck out her soul! Maybe he did it to all the judges the week he got saved and that’s why they’ve all been such useless sandbags for the last few weeks. His voice was so terrible for the last two thirds of that song (and middling-to-shaky on the first third) that there really is no other explanation. I’m not really up to par on my Defense Against the Dark Arts skills, though. Is there anyway to reverse this ish? I’d really like a competent judging team back. (Well, at least a competent J. Lo. The other two are kind of lost causes.)

Stefano Langone – “Closer” (Ne-Yo)
I wanted Stefano to do some Ne-Yo, so I was pleased when I heard his song choice. I think Ne-Yo’s brand of R&B is the style of music Stefano needs to pursue and Ne-Yo’s voice is nothing special so there isn’t a whole lot to be compared to. I think Jimmy’s advice to Stefano to be a cool, confident ladies’ man was spot on. To pull that song (and a whole plethora of Ne-Yo songs) off, you really need to act like you’re the greatest thing to happen to mankind since sliced bread. (So, like a step below Kanye’s ego.) However, instead of “cool,” Stefano could only manage to pull off “sleazy jerk.” He skipped straight past swagger and found himself in smarmy frat boy territory. It was a decent enough vocal, but a really poor performance. At this point, Stefano has proven that he only has two ‘tudes: “I am needy and desperate. You can tell I’m desperate because I am showing you my molars and neck veins” and “My gross facial hair tells you everything you need to know about me.”

Lauren Alaina – “Born To Fly” (Sara Evans)
I really wanted Lauren to pick a song that wasn’t country and rearrange it to fit her style. I think that would’ve gotten her more points with the viewers and the judges. But instead she picked some country song I’ve never heard before and just sang it really well. The problem with Lauren every week is that she just sings really well. It does feel like she’s holding back or is being too tentative. I don’t know if that’s a stage confidence issue or if she’s not sure that her voice can handle it or what, but it needs to change immediately. She always sounds good and pretty but she still hasn’t given a performance that anyone is going to remember in a year. J. Lo’s criticism was pretty much spot on; Lauren needs to stop worrying about missing a note or two and just throw herself into her song. Until then, she’ll just be good and never great.

I hope tomorrow’s group performance can live up to the vocal masterclass we were treated to tonight!

Bottom 3: Stefano, Jacob, Casey (if there is a god)
Going home: Stefano

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