It is being said show after show during Season 10 of “American Idol” that all the finalists deserve to be there. That being said, then their ability to move forward in the competition should basically come down to two things: personality and performance. And it is in the performance where song choice, the one particular that the “American Idol” judges are constantly harping on, becomes a crucial factor. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter that all of the Top 13 finalists can sing the phone book, as the saying goes; it only matters that the performance of the phone book be suited to the singer. During Wednesday evening’s Top 13 performances, some were full-on great choices while others seemed to have missed the mark.
One of the problems with choosing songs is bowing to the pressure of the judges’ expectations. With “American Idol” judges constantly contradicting themselves and each other on a week-to-week basis, not to mention the pressures of hoping to gain the support of enough fans to move into the next round of the competition, finalists have it rough when it comes to choosing songs to sing within the given themes. For Top 13 Week, the contestants were told they could choose a song by their personal idols. Two of the contestants, Ashthon Jones and Thia Megia, missed their mark.
Ashthon Jones, who was told by judge Randy Jackson that she was a little Diana Ross, chose a Diana Ross song. Jones has a more powerful voice than Ross and came out flat in a few places in her rendition of “When You Tell Me That You Love Me.” Although the judges mostly praised her, you could see that they weren’t impressed, asking for more from Jones.
Thia Megia, whom Randy Jackson said (finalists should be warned that Jackson is an incorrigible name-dropper and given to comparisons, so they should be careful taking his criticisms to heart) reminded him of a young Michael Jackson, said that Michael Jackson was her idol and sung “Smile.” (Does anybody else get the impression that Randy choosing both these young girls’ idols as comparisons are a bit too coincidental?) Despite not knowing that it was a Charlie Chaplin tune (not to mention not knowing who Charlie Chaplin was — but, hey, she’s just 16), she seemed to be doing great until she decided to jazz it up after the first verse. Bad move, and the judges let her know about it (and she practically begged the voting audience to give another chance).
Among other idols the finalists chose and shouldn’t have was Naima Adedapo’s rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” which was nothing short of several musical arrangements poorly linked together in one song. To make the convoluted mess worse, she lost her breath as she moved around. Judge Randy, though, had a point when he said she should have went with the reggae theme.
And then there was Karen Rodriguez’s version of the Selena song “I Could Fall In Love.” She’s a competent singer but the song seemed to get the better of her.
There were two performances that were passably forgettable, both in the country genre. Lauren Alaina, the odds-on favorite to win Season 10’s “American Idol,” pulled out “Any Man Of Mine” by Shania Twain and really shouldn’t have. She’s 17 and trying to push that empowered swagger evident in the song was beyond her. She sang it alright, but it was an unconvincing alright. The second was Haley Reinhart’s “Blue,” made famous by Leann Rimes. She started out terribly flat but progressed into a pretty good version of the song. Judge Randy called it “sleepy” and he may have been right.
Among those who performed music from their idols and were shockingly good were Scotty McCreery, who did Garth Brooks’ “The River.” The more one hears McCreery, the more one hears a Randy Travis-like quality to his vocals, only deeper and smoother. He didn’t stray from the original and that made it a winner, especially with McCreery’s own vocal stylings.
Year after year, someone does a Stevie Wonder number and Guinness World Records are set in eye rolling in the U.S. But when Stefano Langone performed “Lately,” he did so with a different arrangement. Although it sounded as if he was trying to imitate Wonder in a few places, he made it work. The judges applauded him for it as well.
And then there were the performances that were simply stunning. Casey Abrams continues to delight with his Scatman Crothers-meets-Michael Buble style, bringing to declarative life and channeling the legendary Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles classic “With A Little Help From My Friends.” In that same winningly different way, Paul McDonald skip-strutted across the stage to Ryan Adams’ “Come Pick Me Up.” James Durbin truly amazed with his rocker-esque edged version of Paul McCartney’s tender “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Jacob Lusk nearly brought the house down with his atmospheric “I Believe I Can Fly” (R. Kelly), and probably deserved a standing ovation. And Pia Toscano, who got a standing ovation from the judges and the audience last week, may have deserved another as she flawlessly performed Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.”
At the end of the night, some great performances, some not so great, and a couple that should have never been. All in all, a typical night on “American Idol.”
So, with all the performances behind them, who’s going home on Thursday’s results show? Based on performances, it very well could come down to Ashthon Jones, Thia Megia, and Naima Adedapo. Ashthon may be on borrowed time as it is, considering that she was in the bottom 14 finalists who were cut in the Top 24 vote. She made the Top 13 due to a Wild Card save by judge Randy Jackson. The same can be said of Adedapo, who was saved by Steven Tyler. But the worst performances by far were those rendered by Megia and Adedapo.
Still, the voters just might send someone else home. We’ll find out Thursday evening on the results show. Besides downsizing the current finalist list, the results show will feature performances by past finalist and 2010 Grammy nominee Adam Lambert and the multi-platinum artist Diddy and his group Dirty Money. The show will also feature the premiere of Season 10’s farewell song, David Cook’s cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
“American Idol,” Fox Television
“Top 13 Performances,” AmericanIdol.com