Now that we have a Top 13 in place, the American Idol season kick off the season with a theme that helps us figure something more about each of the contestants of the tenth season. As usual, Crusty starts the program with "This is American Idol," only to have a generic announcer's voice introduce the judges and him. I find that quite odd. I just do. Crusty mentions J-Lo had a #1 song on iTunes, and tells us the kids were asked to sing a song by "Your Personal Idol." We jump right into Lauren Alaina. She sings Any Man of Mine, a pure country confection written by Shania Twain and her then husband, Mutt Lange. It was released on Shania's album in 1995, the year after Lauren was born. I get the idea now that Lauren is a Country girl, while at the audition, I was thinking she was a Rock girl. She does a fine job with the song, although it is a bit on the unexceptional side. Soon, I am scared, as all three judges agree with me. [Shudder!] Thankfully, it is time for a commercial break.
Back from the commercial, it is time for Casey Abrams, and he talks about his idol, Joe Cocker. He is singing With A Little Help From My Friends is part of rock/pop history, part of the Lennon/McCartney songbook. It was released in 1967 on the great album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 24 years prior to Casey's birth. In 1968, it was recorded by Joe Cocker, who might have had the greatest success with the song. He discusses with the producer how Cocker was over the top with his emotions, and that is what he wants to do. Casey goes into the song, and is running with high octane fuel. The performance is energetic and emotional, although lacking in the actual singing ability of a master like Cocker. Frankly, I am already getting weary of the angry singer. To make me feel better, the judges disagree with me, the world is right once again. Casey says he feels as though Cocker inhabited his person while singing. I roll my eyes. The designated diva for this season, Ashton Jones, comes out preparing to own the mantle. When You Tell Me That You Love Me is a power ballad by one of the original divas, Diana Ross. The song was released in 1991, the most successful single off The Force Behind The Power album. Her producer and Jimmy Iovine are excited about the performance, while right off the bat, I am thinking she is missing the notes, and remains flat for most of the song. Berry Gordy is in the audience, as Randy told us. The judge's reviews are lukewarm, and they are struggling to come up with the positive. I think they were too kind. Soon, Crusty brings us to the next commercial break.
Paul McDonald is up next, and will be singing Come Pick Me Up, a 2000 release by Ryan Adams, an interesting quirky performer often considered Alternative Country, bringing some Blues and Rock to his music. Paul was 16 when this was released. Funny, I get why I got a bit confused, cause Paul would like to fuse some musical genres. Well, Paul is letting the quirk flow in a big way, with is odd stage mannerisms and that voice of his, kinda like Rod Stewart on helium. I love the song, though wasn't completely sold on his performance. The judges love him, although Steven Tyler points out there were pitchy moments, and J-Lo had no clue who Ryan Adams was. Randy had his good guy hat on, ignoring the missed notes and talking of his love. Crusty tries for a dance lesson, which is just, well, awkward. All are grateful for the commercial break.
After the break, Pia Toscano has her turn in the spotlight. Her idol is Celine Dion, and she sings a song that has been heard a fair share on the Idol stages. All By Myself was written and sung by Eric Carmen in 1975. The music, inspired by the work of Rachmaninoff. It was the first single off the debut of the singer/songwriter, who had just left a successful run with the band Raspberries. Thirteen years after the song was released, Pia was born. In 1996, Celine released a cover of the song, with much success. She is a producer favorite, and is very shiny on the stage. She sings the song, and once again she trades emotion for sheer volume, which makes the crowd go crazy. For my ear, she gets a bit shrill on the very high end. Of course, the judges just love her, and thought it was a total win. [Heavy sigh] Crusty brings us to another commercial break, and the money keeps flowing in to this show!
After the break, James Durbin tells of his choice ,Maybe I’m Amazed, a song written by Paul McCartney in 1970. It was never officially released as a single from the album, McCartney, although it there was a live version released by Paul McCartney & Wings in 1976, which made it into the Billboard Top 10. It was another 13 years before Durbin was born. James thinks McCartney might be the greatest musician, singer and songwriter ever. Interesting. His voice beguiles me. I think it was wrong for the song. The beginning is a bit thin and nasal, and I just don't follow the emotion on this one. Of course, the judges just adore him, they think it was great. Next up is Haley Reinhart, who brings the great Country song Blue. It was released by 14-year-old LeAnn Rimes in 1996, and it became an international hit. Reinhart was 5 when the song hit #1 on the charts. The producers are looking for her to reinvent the song, while she is remembering how it made her feel when she first heard it. I've said it before, and it applies here, too. Haley is just trying to hard for me. She puts in a bit too much growl, too much manufactured effects. The judges, of course, love her, although J-Lo considered it yodeling, while I think it was just singing. Randy thought it was good, but a little boring. I, once again, am a little confused. At least I have a commercial break to recoup.
Back from the commercial, Jacob Lusk surprises no one when he picks I Believe I Can Fly by R Kelly. Well, to tell the truth, I was a bit surprised, all things considered. Not sure I would have thought R Kelly was "Idol" material, what with the underage sex thing. The song was released in 1996, introducing the singer and songwriter to the world. Jacob was 9 when the song was released. I am not sure, but I think I hear some nerves in his voice at first. That goes away once he starts feeling the music, and the gospel choir comes out on stage. This pretty much guarantees over-singing, and judges glee. They love him. Time for more money, and more commercials!
Thia Megia tells us her Idol is Michael Jackson, and decides to sing Smile. Yeah, the kids doesn't have a clue that the music written by Charlie Chaplin in 1936, and lyrics by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954. It was first sung by the amazing Nat King Cole in 1954, and again as a duet with daughter Natalie Cole after her father's passing in 1991. Michael Jackson recorded a version the year she was born. Jimmy Iovine thinks it will be magic. She starts out rather lovely, and touch karaoke, then there is this odd break, and there is an R&B/Jazz beat placed in there. Odd. Randy loved the beginning, not so much the jazzy end. Steven agrees. J-Lo loves her, and tries not to say it was lacking. And off to the bank they go, another break.
Stefano Langone decides he is going to sing Lately, a song written by Stevie Wonder's 1981 album, Hotter Than July. The ballad is an emotional one, perfect for Stefano, who was born 18 years after the album was released. The producers love him, just can't wait for him to perform. That was an interesting arrangement, that went from sweet Little Steven, and take it into Disco Diva land, and then it is over. Kind of a wild ride. The judges like it, but you can see Steven is a bit confused by it. Next up is Karen Rodriguez and she is inspired by Selena. She picks I Could Fall In Love, a 1995 song released after the shocking murder of the Mexican-American superstar. It was also sung by Idol-judge Jennifer Lopez when she played the singer in a film in 1997. Rodriguez was 8 years old when J-Lo covered the song. The tempo of the song has a interesting beat laid to it, but unfortunately, the low notes are not Karen's friend. And the end wasn't particularly pretty, either. J-Lo offers the odd assessment that she couldn't hear herself, and was off. The men were less polite. They like her, and thought this was not a great performance. Soon, it is time for another break.
Scotty McCreery picks a giant as his idol. Late in 1991, The River became the ninth song to top the Billboard Country charts by Garth Brooks, who was pretty much ruling Country music. Two years later, Scotty was born. He comes out for an interview, and is a bit heavy on the cheese factor, with a wink and a cluck. Scotty is singing the song, and it is really rather, well, boring. No back notes that I notice, just, well, a bit flaccid. However, the audience goes nuts. Randy loves it, and thinks it is ready for the radio. Steven thought it was great, and Jennifer really loved it. And on to a commercial, when I hear Jonsi singing, and I think my ears are cleansed just a bit.
Following the final break, we get to hear Naima Adedapo talking about her idol, Rihanna. After securing her place in the AI Finals singing one of the oldest songs last week, Naima comes back with the youngest song on the show this week, Rihanna's Umbrella. The song was released in 2007, and was written by some of the top names in Hip-Hop, including Jay-Z. Naima was 23 years old when the song topped the charts around the world. Producers are excited, but they have been for everyone. She does a very nice job, with some very odd breaks in the short time. She certainly popped out of the Billie Holiday vibe, and stepped into today. Steven loved, it, but pointed out the pitchy. J-Lo didn't care about the pitchy, cause there was fire there. Randy did care, and called her on it. But he loved the reggae feel.
So, at the end of the night, I thought the there were very few train wrecks, but no real stellar moment, either. There was a whole bunch of mediocre and boring. I would have to go with Paul being my favorite of the night, For me, Ashton, Karen and I am not sure who else might have a tough time sleeping tonight. And I am still looking for the Wild Card option for the judging panel. Just sayin'...