This week’s live performances on American Idol were all about classic Motown tunes for the top 11 contestants. The votes gathered over the two hours after these performances determine the top 10 contestants who will go on a national tour after the Idol season. So measuring up to a Motown classic was quite the difficult task last night.
The Idol hopefuls sang Motown hits ranging from 1963 – 1984. Casey Abrams was first to sing with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” There were definitely two or three notes that he didn’t quite make, but the way that he controlled the song made this performance much greater than some may have anticipated. Also taking on a greater amount of control was Jacob Lusk while performing “You’re All I Need.” Joining him on the stage was one of the original Funk Brothers, Bob Babbitt in honor of the late great James Jamerson. With Steven Tyler walking on stage to hug him and the other judges giving him a standing ovation, it might be safe to say that Jacob has a spot in the top 10. However, it seems a little soon for the contestants to have the opportunity to perform on stage with legends. Even though there is only one week until the top 10, in general the Idol camp should save this honor for the top 10 once chosen, not presumed to be top 10.
One contestant who may not get the chance to sing with a legend on the Idol stage is Stefano Langone. Judge, Jennifer Lopez said it best when she said, “I don’t want the intensity to come from you wanting to do well, I want the intensity to come from because your heart is breaking.” As soon as it was revealed that Stefano was going to take on Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” I wanted to run over to Paramount Studios and bring the cast of Glee down to the Idol stage to show Stefano how it’s done.
If anyone deserved a pass this week it was Scotty McCreery. But this is a competition so nobody gets a pass if they can’t deliver in a certain genre. Scotty performed a country version of “For Once in My Life” that surely many viewers would rather not hear again. Making a song sound country doesn’t make it a good country song. Needless to say, this was not one of Scotty’s strongest performances. Another weak performance came from a very pitchy James Durbin who sang Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.” All Judge Randy Jackson had to say was that his performance was rough in the beginning. With host, Ryan Seacrest announcing earlier in the broadcast that Randy had yet to use the word “pitchy,” perhaps Randy held back. Clearly, the judges are more easily swayed than some viewers may have realized. If they continue to hold back in their critiques, America may not be able to choose an artist that is as well crafted as they could be.
Jennifer Lopez seems to think that Paul McDonald is the most seasoned performer and “the complete package.” His acoustic performance last night is just one of the many factors that attribute to Jennifer’s statement, which is true in every way. If anyone is getting a cougar vote, it’s Paul.
“Your phenomenal…but you can’t live on ballads alone” – Judge, Randy Jackson to Contestant, Pia Toscano
Another contestant who has the complete package is Pia Toscano. She performed Stevie Wonder’s “All in Love is Fair” and as usual, she hit the ball out of the park. Regarding the song choices, there is something unexplainable that separates Pia Toscano from Thia Megia and could take Pia farther in the competition if both continue to sing ballads each week. But if Thia continues to take the panel’s advice like she did last night, there’s definitely quite a competition between the two. Taking on “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, America finally saw how well not only upbeat tunes but how well the 1960s agree with Thia! Thia has a fire in her soul unlike any other contestant and this performance was just a sneak peak of what’s to come if she continues in this competition.
Naima Adedapo also took on the same artist with her rendition of “Dancing in the Street.” Naima is clearly the most original performer of the season, adding African dancing to the end of her performance. This isn’t the first time Naima has included dancing in her performance and it will not be the last. Naima is giving her all and putting herself out there unlike any other performer this season. There is so much to appreciate about Naima Adedapo and with the judges’ praises, hopefully more of America was inspired to place Naima in the top 10.
Usually spectacular performers, Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina did not stand out among the rest last night. Whiles the judges praised Haley for her growls, less is more. And while there was nothing particularly wrong with Lauren Alaina’s rendition of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” it was odd to hear someone with such a strong tone sing a song with ladies who originally sang it in such soft tones. If this song is dear to your heart, you’ll either love this change or find this rendition to insignificant.
Motown classics may not have brought out the best in the majority of the contestants but they all looked their best, much more glamorous than usual. Speaking of glamorous…sitting in the audience last night were Steven Tyler’s daughter and actress, Liv Tyler, Aerosmith guitarist, Brad Whitford, actress, Kirsten Dunst, Ryan Seacrest’ girlfriend and professional dancer, Julianne Hough, chef, Gordon Ramsay, Temptations founder, Otis Williams, The Chicago Code star, Jennifer Beals, and So You Think You Can Dance Judge, Nigel Lythgoe. The Idol audience may have been filled with stars last night, but the exciting part will really arrive when guest judges appear on the panel as well as music legends who will come to mentor the top contestants.
As for the aspiring idols, next week’s theme needs to bring stand out performances across the board because this week certainly didn’t. America needs to know for sure that tickets are worth buying for the Idol tour. Once the top 10 are chosen, those contestants have to keep that confidence in those who voted for them week after week after week. Once the top 10 are chosen, the Idol competition reaches an entirely new level and based on this week’s performances, only very few seem ready to take on the challenge.
Watch American Idol Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox.
*Photo Credit: Michael Becker/ FOX