American Idol: how do you choose?

I told Mrs. Mike last night that the episode of “American Idol” that ended as she arrived home was the best episode of the show I’ve ever seen. And I mean the talent was all good…so good that trying to figure out who might go home was a major chore. Like J-Lo said, the voters are going to have to just pick their favorite and see where the chips fall. And I guess I can throw a few names out there but it’s going to be difficult. Here is how it all went down….

THE EXTRAORDINARY
There is only one contestant in this category, and that is Jacob Lusk. In the interview, Jimmy Iovine made note of the fact that he wants Jacob to tune down the screams and runs, and just sing the song. Jimmy felt Jacob would accomplish that with “You’re All I Need to Get By” (it was Motown night, by the way!). And Jimmy was right. It was so nice to see Jacob just sing, and boy can he do that, and save his runs for the end of the song. Steven went up on stage and hugged Jacob, saying into the mic, “Baby Luther!” Randy said Berry Gordy is watching this somewhere and saying, “Oh my God!” and J-Lo said that Jacob just moves people, and he certainly moved her as a judge. Yep.

THE EXTREMELY GOOD
Casey Abrams kicked off the night, which could be bad for some contestants, but not for Casey. He followed up last week’s Nirvana tune with a super cool version of Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it through the Grapevine.” It was kind of like that guy who sings the Dolly Madison “Snackin’ Dude” song, but the bottom line is it was very entertaining. Steven said Casey was the perfect entertainer; J-Lo said Casey is very original and there is no one out there like him right now; and Randy said he loves the fact that Casey is just always himself.

Stefano Langone, who Ryan Seacrest likes to refer to as “Ste-FA-no” in a horrible Italian accent, did Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello,” and it was a very nice, Stevie Wonder-ish version. And I think the reason it was as good as it was, is because he claimed to have never heard the song before this. His parents must not listen to light rock radio, and he couldn’t have seen David Cook do it in Season 7, or maybe he just wasn’t paying attention. J-Lo said she loves his voice but that Stefano isn’t quite putting personal feeling into his performances; Randy agreed, saying the feeling is the only thing missing from Stefano’s ability right now; and Steven said Stefano just needs to pull back a bit instead of trying to sing so hard, which is basically another way of saying what Jennifer said. But here’s the deal…it was really good.

Scotty McCreery I think is fast becoming a dark horse to win this thing. He did Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life,” but somehow made it into a country version. I think I’ll call him Scotty Wonder. Steven said it was beautiful and that Scotty may cross over the way Glen Campbell did; J-Lo said it was a great version though not Scotty’s best vocal performance; and Randy agree it wasn’t Scotty’s strongest but he still loved it.

Pia Toscano also did a Stevie Wonder tune, “All In Love Is Fair,” and it was once again spectacular vocally. This girl, when she belts it, is stronger than any woman this show has had on. But then J-Lo said that while Pia “just killed us” vocally, she wants to see something other than a ballad; Randy completely agreed, saying it was phenomenal, but he also was tiring of her ballad choices; and Steven said Pia is the brighest star in the American Idol universe right now. That is exactly right.

Paul McDonald did Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears,” but did his own version while playing the guitar. It was really great….Paul looked very comfortable and hey, he couldn’t do any weird herky-jerky dance moves. Randy said Paul is so unique and cool and he loved the version; Steven said Paul is different in the vein of Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson; and J-Lo said Paul is the most seasoned performer among this group and that all he needs is a producer.

Naima Adedapo did Martha and the Vandelas “Dancin’ in the Street” complete with interpretive African dance. And she just nailed it–everything about it. Steven said Naima is the total package; J-Lo said it was such and exciting performance and gave her goose bumps; and Randy said Naima is so smart and has the whole package.

James Durbin did Stevie Wonder’s (this group is fearless, isn’t it?) “Livin’ For the City” and it was just awesome. James closed out the night so he had the pimp slot, and he made the most of it, playing to the crowd after he finished, even doing a “backstep on stage. J-Lo said James is serious business, and incredible to watch; Randy said it was rough at the start but unbelievable; and Steven said James has a bit of crazy in him that he just loves.

THE GOOD BUT NOT AS GOOD AS EVERYONE ELSE
Thia Meghia turned in what I thought was her best performance with “Heat Wave.” I kept thinking, “Is she really 16?” Because her voice is so mature. Of course, it was the slightest bit pageant-y. J-Lo said she loved how Thia dug deeper this week but wants to see that even more; Randy said Thia took a chance but he also thinks she can do more; and Steven agreed with both other judges.

Lauren Alaina did “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and said it was dedicated by some guys who said bad things to her a few weeks ago. Say what? Do I have to fly out there and beat some dudes senseless? Lauren is still one of my favorites, but I think she may get caught up in a sheer numbers game here. She did the song with a nice growl, and it was one of her best, but even so still not as great as most of the others last night. Steven said he loves that Lauren is just herself; J-Lo said the performance had so much attitude; and Randy said he loved the swagger.

Haley Reinhart did “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and it was nice as usual from her, with a trademark growl, but I thought for some reason there was something missing. Still, the judges loved it. Randy said it was rough to start out but turned into the Haley they all came to love in the first few rounds; Steven said it was beautiful; and J-Lo said that Haley has the most soul among the ladies that are left.

So there you have it. I know Haley is going to be pissed, because she always seems to be angry about being in the Bottom 3, but she will be there again. And that’s not a knock on her, but a testament to how amazing the field is. I think you’re going to see the three I have in my last category, with the possibility of Stefano or Paul landing there as well. In my mind, Casey, Jacob, Scotty, Pia, Naima and James should all be safe. Well, maybe not Naima but the other five for sure.

Thanks for reading everyone…let me know what you thought about last night and we’ll see you back here tomorrow with the results.

  

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