American Idol: back down to earth

Last week, the performances on “American Idol” were among some of the best the show has ever seen. So where would they go this week, singing the songs of Elton John? They had to at least, to some degree, stumble back to earth. Right? Well some did, but some stayed on the same level they were on or even climbed higher. This is just a remarkable group of singers. Anyway, here is the recap as I saw it…….

THE AWESOME
I’m going to put one singer in this category today, and that was pimp spot lady, Haley Reinhart. Haley has been in the Bottom 3 multiple times, trying to find herself. But this time, she flew away, literally, singing a lounge version of “Bennie and the Jets.” I’m not keen on the Amy Winehouse impersonation thing, but Haley nailed the song, showing incredibly dynamics, and then just nailing the “Ben-Nay! Ben-Nay!” parts. J-Lo said “that was IT!” and that it all came together for Haley; Randy said it was the best performance of the night; and Steven said it was a well-placed chorus and added, “You sing sexy!” All of them were correct, and it was great to see Haley hit a home run in honor of baseball season starting today.

THE JUST ABOUT AWESOME
Pia Toscano did another ballad, even after the judges told her not to, choosing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and she just nails these songs every time. Steven said Pia did it again; J-Lo said Pia takes her audience to another world with those high notes; and Randy said Pia just slays it every time and compared her to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Indeed.

Lauren Alaina did “Candle in the Wind,” a song Randy Jackson called great, but to be honest, I was so burned out on that one after it was released a second time and played out on radio. Anyway, Lauren added a hint of country twang and just sang it pure and dynamically. Randy said it was one of Lauren’s best; Steven said they have loved her since the season began; and J-Lo said it was amazing and the best of the night to that point (Lauren went sixth).

James Durbin did a Bon Jovi-ish version of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” complete with having a piano that appeared to be on fire. It was great as usual. Steven said James brought the heat, literally, and that he loves his rock voice; J-Lo said she forgets this is a competition when she hears James sing; and Randy said it’s clear that James is enjoying himself when he is up there performing.

Jacob Lusk once again hit it out of the park with “Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word.” At times he can also be a one-trick pony, like Pia, and I’m starting to be just slightly annoyed by the way he appears to be crying every time he sings. Steven said Jacob just gets so far “out there” when he sings and that he just “slayed me”….J-Lo liked the arrangement and that the last note was amazing; and Randy said the first half was brilliant but that Jacob needs to pick one big note instead of having several of them in one performance. Yep, exactly.

THE REALLY GOOD
Scotty McCreery kicked off the night with “Country Comfort,” which was no doubt the perfect song choice. He even broke out his guitar on this one, but I couldn’t help feel that it was the slightest bit safe. Steven said he loves everything about Scotty; J-Lo said he has amazing instincts on stage; and Randy said it’s amazing how seasoned Scotty has become so fast and that he was just in the zone once again. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it was really good.

Paul McDonald did a cool version of “Rocket Man” and it was a bit rough in spots but mostly cool and an original arrangement. Randy said there is a comfort when Paul sings quietly, and that it was great despite being pitchy here and there; J-Lo said Paul seems to be holding back just a bit; and Steven said they have always believed in Paul and that he always does something cool.

Stefano Langone did “Tiny Dancer” and it was good but I couldn’t help but feel, for some reason, that something was missing. J-Lo said she felt like Stefano was taking their advice to heart, connecting more with the crowd; Randy also said he loved the “connection” and Steven said there is a sweetness in Stefano’s vocal.

Casey Abrams played it just the slightest bit safe last night with “Your Song,” and that is understandable after he hung on for dear life while the judges saved him a week ago. But of course, Casey added his trademark growl at the end, taking it up a notch. Randy said it was a great save last week (duh) and that he loved the song choice; Steven said the save last week was one of the finest moments on “Idol” and that Casey was a true artist; and J-Lo said it was not a hard decision last week and that Casey proved again last night that he belonged in the competition.

THE JUST OKAY
Thia Meghia, in my opinion, is the weakest link in this bunch. But for some reason, she is always safer than she should be, and I believe was only in the Bottom 3 once. So last night she did “Daniel,” and once again, I thought it was just okay, and very safe. J-Lo said it was beautiful, Randy said there was something relaxed about it, that there were some pitch issues, and that it was very safe; and Steven said Thia found the right song. I mostly agreed with Randy.

Naima Adedapo did a reggae version of “I’m Still Standing” and, um….it was weird, pitchy and mostly just sleepy and mediocre. J-Lo said she loves Naima but said she wasn’t sure the song was suited for her; Randy said it was kind of corny and not really who Naima is; and Steven said he liked the choice and that he thought it was a good fit for Naima. I agree more with Randy and J-lo on this one.

So there you have it, folks. Quite honestly, I think Thia and Naima, just as I have them graded here, will be the two going home tonight. Are there other possibilities? Sure…..Scotty, because he went first. But that would be the only reason, as we saw with Casey last week. Paul, because he had maybe a couple of rough patches. Stefano, because among some amazing talent he doesn’t quite measure up. And, well, Casey…because he has been there before and because, in my opinion, his song choice last night was ever so safe. But I’d be really, really surprised if it’s anyone other than Thia and Naima. I’d also be willing to bet that Haley had the highest number of votes last night, though they never tell you that.

So what do you think, America? Who did you vote for and why? Who do you think is going home? We’ll see you back here tomorrow with the results!

  

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