We knew he was a bit edgy and a little different when he auditioned in Austin, especially when he growled out Ray Charles’ classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and played that little harmonica/keyboard instrument (melodica). And we saw that Casey Abrams wasn’t afraid to stay different, playing up his vocals with the unconventional use of the stand-up bass during the Hollywood rounds, not to mention his amped up Beatles duet with Chris Medina in Vegas. But was anyone really expecting such a powerful performance? He belted out “I Put A Spell On You” for audience votes during the Top 12 guys sing-off on “American Idol” Tuesday evening and possibly positioned himself as the frontrunner in the competition.
Although host Ryan Seacrest informed the audience after the number that Casey Abrams had had a stomach ailment late last week, it was nice to see that the scruffy bluesman dismissed it and didn’t milk it for the sympathy vote (he was hospitalized for nearly 48 hours). But why should he? Besides Jacob Lusk’s uplifting version of Luther Vandross’ “This House Is Not A Home,” nobody in the Top 12 guys came close to his performance. Only Brett Loewenstern’s oddly captivating rendition of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” came close to the original vocal spin that Abrams put on the old Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic.
But Abrams knew he had to bring it home. Lusk had set the bar immeasurably high in the eleventh position of the night. Abrams had the pimp spot, the coveted singing slot, the anchor to the show. And anchor it he did.
He growled and howled his way through the number, putting his own confident spin on the song, perfectly matching the ferocity of the big band horns backing him. It was glaringly obvious that he is comfortable in front of an audience. And he had fun with the tune as well, looking directly at the judges panel at one point and smiling mischievously before singing the title line. But he added a vocal coup de grace to the performance when he stopped a growling scream in mid-line, ending the song that had been nothing but a declarative powerhouse with a softly offered assumptive “you’re mine.” It was vocal genius.
The “American Idol” live audience gave him a standing ovation.
The judges ate it up as well. Steven Tyler said, “Casey Abrams, you are in your mind good and out of your mind unreal… Crazy good.”
Jennifer Lopez told Casey he was sexy — a reference to his final Hollywood performance, where he appeared with his stand-up bass, nicely suited up, and said he was going to show that a guy playing bass could be sexy. She said he was on his way to redefining the “American Idol,” something Abrams has said he wants to do. “Casey wants it bad. I loved it.” Lopez finished.
Randy Jackson, who told the 19-year-old singer when he made the Top 24 that he might be the most talented contestant in “American Idol” history, was all praise: “I love how you transformed yourself into the spirit of that song… You are so different. So unique. I love it. I applaud it. More, more, more!”
But did Abrams put a spell on the “American Idol” audience? That remains to be seen. The results of the vote, which this year will pare the Top 12 guys down to five for the Top 10, will be announced on Thursday night’s live show.
“American Idol,” Fox Television
American Idol, “Casey Abrams, Top 12 Boys — American Idol 2011,” YouTube.com