American Idol 10: Top 11 Redux

Notes: I was remiss last week in noting yet another huge influence by the most awesomest judge J.Lo.  We overheard her at the end of Top 12 week saying to Naima and her pitch problems during the post elimination scrum “I’ll talk to Mark….”  At the time, I assumed she was talking about someone on the sound crew.

Nope, she meant Mr Jennifer Lopez himself Marc Anthony, who came in and did something I’m not sure has been done in the history of the show–he taught them how to use those goddamn ear monitors properly.  The difference it made last week was why it was so hard to chose who went home, since everyone sounded great.

This is a good problem to have.  We have it again this week.  Seriously, Jennifer Lopez? She keeps paying off in spades.

On to Elton John 80s Elton John week: 

Scotty – “Country Comfort” I ranted a couple of weeks ago in my Glee post that picking a not-well-known song from an artist is always a bad choice for an Idol wannabe.  I don’t think Scotty disproved that tonight.  It was a largely forgettable performance that went first and sounded like every other Scotty performance we’ve heard so far.  One thing that is important was that this marked the first time Scotty seemed fully comfortable up on stage, and that could be dangerous to the other contestants.  I felt tonight like he’s one break-out-of-his-mold song choice (like when Carrie sang “Alone” in season four) to suddenly swooping into unassailable front runner status.  Can he actually take the plunge and risk it?

Naima – “I’m Still Standing” Done in a reggae style, this was an idea that sounded great on paper….and then the moment she started singing, I heard the sound of the sandbags collapsing upon her head.  It wasn’t a disaster, not by a long shot.  In fact, it was pretty damn good, for what it was.  But in a night where two people are up for elimination, and we didn’t have much in terms of weak performances, this was enough of a sore thumb that I would squarely assume her to be in the bottom three, and probably a high risk to go home.  Difference Brought, Mischief Managed.  Idol producers ready to move back to their comfort zone.

Paul – “Rocket Man” Oy.  So, this was a both good and bad performance.  It was good in that, for the first time I really got a sense why there are idol watchers who have big old hard ons for this guy.  It was bad in that I felt like it just didn’t hold up throughout the entire performance.  The whisper-singing at the end especially didn’t read well.  He himself stated “This is the song you sing at the encore, right before you break into the good one.”  Yes, well, maybe you should have sang the good one instead, hmmm?  I would not be surprised if he were in the bottom three tomorrow, for reasons we will see down the line.

Pia – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” They told her not to sing a ballad.  So she sang…a ballad.  It was technically perfect.  It belonged on the radio…in 1994.  It was the sort of thing that walked away with winning this show…in season three.  Idol has gone through several permutations since then, and we are long past this being the sort of thing that wins the show.  Sadly, no one has bothered give Pia the memo.  All that being said, she will be here next week to deliver another ballad.  (She claimed she would do “River Deep Mountain High.”  I guess since Celine did it, that’s an acceptable uptempo in the Pia-verse.)

Stefano – “Tiny Dancer” This was a half step up from the lounge act of last week.  He opened his eyes, but barely.  It was well sung, but I really felt that his urgency came more from wanting to not be in the bottom than feeling the lyrics to the song.  Also, Dave Grohl and Almost Famous totally ruined any version of this song for me that isn’t a crowd sourced choir of drunken lusty singing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Stefano is safe purely from his bottom three visit goading the fan base to vote.  Hopefully he won’t take that as he did what was needed to stay in the game.  Improvements are definitely still in order, starting with choosing a song that he really connects with.

Lauren – “Candle in the Wind” I know we’re not supposed to like the young ones, but Lauren is growing on me.  Like fungus.  She still needs massive help in the on camera personality department (Paging Ms Lopez–since you seem to be able to fix everything else so far, can we get a little help with this too?  You can do it!  You HAVE the POWER!)  Horrible interview skills aside, her performance tonight was one of the top three on the night.  Practically flawless.  It’s the first thing I’ve heard all season I would consider downloading, and it’s from someone I don’t even want to like.  Consider that a warning to all the other contestants.

James – “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” Now what the hell am I supposed to do with this?  James finally tried to tone down the abrasive obnoxious egocentric personality, with mixed results.  But then the performance was kind of listless, which was frustrating–it seems the more I like what he does on the mic, the more grating he is afterwards.  Perhaps in order to give a fantastic performance he must be unbareable beofre and after?  What a terrible thought.  Either way, this second round of pimp pyro followed by a tongue bath from the judges tell me that I really need to find a way to like James, and soon, because he’s here for the bulk of the duration of this season, barring some sort of “pepsi moment” miracle.

Thia – “Daniel This was, by far, the best Thia has been all season.  It turns out that PageantBot does minor chords and dark tones with the sort of gorgeous grace one usually expects from Annie Lennox.  I don’t know if it’s too little too late, but if this was Thia’s swan song, then she should be glad.  It was a lovely one.

Casey – “Your Song” Well, whaddya know?  Casey is here for a reason, and that reason is he can sing without playacting, growling or otherwise clowning around.  It only took nearly making him vomit on stage to get him to settle the frak down and show us he has the goods.  Not only does he have the goods, but tonight he showed us what I had first suspected, but had lost sight of in the playacting-growling nonsense. Casey and Paul occupy the same Predetermined Idol Box–and Casey, it turns out, does it MUCH BETTER than Paul, or at least he certainly did tonight.  The problem is, as we discovered last year, this is a Predetermined Idol Box that does not have a large voting fanbase.  If Casey sucks up all those votes tonight, Paul is going to be in trouble.

Jacob – “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” Oh Jacob, I love you and your gospelly self.  Tonight you accidentally caused Randy to say something valuable. Restraint, as we learned last week, is your friend.  But restrain too much, and you don’t give yourself an idol moment, and your whole song is forgotten for the want of a note that punches you in the gut.  He held that last note for god only knows how long, but because there was no jump, no progressive movement upward into a crowning moment, the whole thing didn’t soar.  Frustrating.

Haley – “Benny and the Jets” The HELL?  We’re closing the show with Haley?  With Haley practically lolling about on top of a piano like she wants to be Jessica Rabbit? With Haley screaming her growliness at us like she’s going to take that note from the judges and ride it to Timbuktu?  …..and then the judges are going to give us over the top praise for this hot mess they just accidentally closed the show with, like maybe we won’t notice?  Is this reverse psychology?  Are they that determined to be done with Naima now that she’s made the tour?  WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Bottom three: Oh for the love of Elvis, I have no idea.  Naima for sure.  Thia most likely. Paul if my rudimentary Nate Silvering of the numbers is right.  Haley if there’s any justice in Idol–but we all know there isn’t.

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