American Idol: Top 12 Compete Recap 3/16/2011

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After a completely unsurprising elimination last week, we are down to the Top 12 contestants. This week the contestants must sing a song from their birth year (which I am slightly horrified to find is later than mine in all but two cases).

Before starting the show, the judges send their condolences to the people of Japan and inform us that we can buy tonight’s songs and the money will go to support the people who have been hurt by the tragedy. This is one of the things that I love about these big reality shows (Idol and So You Think You Can Dance), they have taken it upon themselves to be more than simply a TV show. We have Idol Gives Back and the Dizzy Feet Foundation, showing how fame and pop culture can be used for the positive.

Now back to the show…time to see how cute the contestants were as babies.

Naima Adedapo, born in 1984, chooses Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” This sounds no better than the average person’s rendition, which is disappointing because I do like her. Contestants, you can sing whatever you want on your album, the point right now is to earn the album by showing off your talent.
Judges Say:
Steve: You’ve got a sorcerer’s grasp for melody.
JLo: You bring your flavor to everything you do. Pitchy though.
Randy: (What, someone used my word!?!) Got the energy, look hot, but vocals are a mess.

Paul McDonald, the other oldie born in 1984, apparently spent much of his childhood in a cowboy outfit. He chose Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” Jimmy Iovine says Paul is meant to sing his own songs and tells Paul to come with his full voice (not the sore voice he had during rehearsal). It’s an okay performance but we have heard better from him. He still sounds very sore, which isn’t his fault really.
Judges Say:
JLo: Baby. Baby. Your star quality overcame your voice struggles. Baby.
Randy: Disagree! Pitch issues but I like how you make it your own.
Steven: You define a cool dude in a loose mood.

The baby of the competition, Thia Megia was born in 1995, “just a few years ago.” She was apparently a happy baby, always smiling, which makes me wonder where that smile went. She chooses Vanessa Williams’s (Pocahontas!) “Colors of the Wind” which is an interesting idea. She sounds great and though it never really feels like she connects to the songs she sings, this song suits her voice completely. I do wish she had done a little more to it to differentiate it from the original though.
Judges Say:
Randy: Yo yo. Vocals were ok but…too pageant-y, there was nothing unique about it. Maybe something other than a ballad.
Steve: You sang it beautiful but is that song who you think you are. (Thia “thought it suited perfectly with what happened in the world with you know…”)
JLo: You have a quality in your voice but we want you to stop being safe.

James Durbin, 1989, looks oddly the same as he did when he was younger and blonder. He has selected Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You.” (Not the Friends theme song.) Jimmy Iovine recommends that James not kiss anyone and watch out for germs. He sounds fine but I’m less impressed with this performance than I am with some of his other performances. JLo was clearly enjoying as she danced/fist-pumped through the second half of the song. His high note in the end is solid.
Judges Say:
Steven: How do you do that? (James says “from watching you.”) Don’t get too poppy on me.
JLo: I loved that! Every time you get up there, it brings me so much joy.
Randy: A couple of pitch spots in the beginning, you did it justice.

Haley Reinhart, of the year 1990, chose the Whitney Houston song “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (unexpected). She has also not really changed much since she was a baby and she gets her talent from her musical parents. He tells her that even if she doesn’t win, she has the potential to get a record anyway. Even though I still found it hard to understand her at points during this song, I think she sounds better here than she has in a while. Finally showed off both her unique voice and her range.
Judges Say:
JLo: You look great. You are still a little tense in your body but your voice comes so naturally.
Randy: (Ryan interrupts to fix her lipstick.) I’m confused by your song choices. (Let her experiment!) The vocals were ok, it wasn’t a great performance.
Steven: Sweet and tough, we want to hear more blues.

1989 baby Stefano Langone‘s first memories are his dad and grandfather playing music. He had so many great options and ultimately found “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Red. Because he doesn’t know all the words, it makes it hard for him to get the vocals right, but he works on it with Jimmy. He sounds good but it isn’t my favorite performance from him (more because I don’t like the actual song than because I don’t like his performance). On the upside, he’s got the words down and JLo is so into she’s singing along with what might be tears in her eyes. (Seriously Jennifer, this love fest is a little much.)
Judges Say:
Randy: Yo yo yo yo, listen man. The best performance of the night so far. Slayed the song with the highest degree of difficulty.
Steven: Beautiful phrasing. Wonderful. You will make Jimmy Iovine more famouser.
JLo: You could take this thing. Sing to me more and look into my eyes.

Pia Toscano, born in 1988, was singing like a diva when she was little. Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is Pia’s choice. Jimmy maintains that the one who shows growth is the winner (which is why frontrunners have such a tough time actually winning). This is a bit more uptempo for Pia but she still shows off her powerful voice.
Judges Say:
Steven: You are why the show is called American Idol.
JLo: I’m so glad you did something uptempo, it was perfect for you.
Randy: Yo listen, every week you’re producing amazing vocals.

Scotty McCreery, born in 1993, used to be obsessed with Elvis.”Can I Trust You With My Heart” by Travis Tritt is Scotty’s song of choice. I love Scotty’s voice. He may not have a lot of variety in his style, but he’s so good with what he does that I’m not upset. Carrie Underwood, we have found your new duet partner.
Judges Say:
JLo: You pushed it out there, keep going in that direction.
Randy: Yo listen man…you can sing anything and you know who you are. Take chances to hit bigger, longer, higher notes.
Steven: Really good, thank you.

Karen Rodriguez, born in 1989, chooses “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne to show America that she can sing non-Spanish songs. (Thank you!) I like her better here than last week, though I wish she was bit more powerful throughout. Never mind, she switched to Spanish midway through, once again.
Judges Say:
Randy: Started rough, got better, better than last week but not jumping up and down.
Steven: I love it when you jump into your ethnic whatever it is ness.
JLo: I could see that you were nervous in the beginning. Don’t expose your weakness. Perform from your heart.

Casey Abrams, of the year 1991, chooses Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He plays electric guitar (base?) for this song. He seems fine after last week’s hospital trip, which is a relief considering how solid his performances have been.The performance ends up a bit crazed (which I supposed is appropriate). He sounds good, but somehow I expected more form him.
Judges Say:
Steven: You are so good man. You’ve got the goop the great stuff is made from.
JLo: It was a risk and there were a few scream-y screechy parts.
Randy: I’m most impressed with the fact that you love taking risks. It wasn’t your best performance but it was fearless.

Lauren Alaina, born in 1994, has hopefully not lost her spark after the harsh critique next week. Lauren has the flu so hopefully that won’t mess up her performance too much. “I’m The Only One” by Melissa Ethridge is Lauren’s choice. Well, the flu doesn’t seem to have hurt her very much (she sounds a lot like Kelly Clarkson here).
Judges Say:
JLo: Very nice. You made it your own.
Randy: Yo, have a cold every week.
Steven: I agree. You’re beautiful, you did it again.

Lastly, we have Jacob Lusk of the year 1987. He picked “Alone” by Heart and I’m hopeful for this to be great because I think of Kristen Chenoweth on Glee when I hear this song. Unfortunately, still not loving it. I really want to love Jacob, I know he’s talented, he’s got range and power, there’s just something…Am I the only one who feels this way?
Judges Say:
Randy: Yo (how many times can you say “yo?” Let me count the times?), Jacob, you were off at points but you brought it back and then you caressed it…genius dude.
Steven: The gospel had a baby and named it Jacob Lusk.
JLo: I love that you give yourself to every song and moment that you are up there.

Overall, I think this was a better group of performances than last week’s. (Not sorry that Ashthon is gone. Also, seeing Tamyra Gray in the audience reminds me of what a fantastic contestant she was–where did her career go?) At the moment my top are Lauren, Pia, Scotty, and James. (I like Casey a lot too.) Would probably make my bottom three Naima, Paul, and Thia, Who do you think will be the bottom three tomorrow night? Another all-female bottom three? Who were your favorite performances?





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