The Top Five is Alive!

First things first. I’d like to dedicate this post to a one Casey Abrams, who is most certainly preparing for the finale and the tour and still spreading his loveable leprechaun-ish cheer. They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but in my case, absence has made the heart grow madder. I thought I would be okay. I thought I was over it. I thought I could be level-headed about these things.

Turns out, I’m not nearly as evolved as I thought.

But, as they say in The Biz, the show must go on. And in this case, the show was a double-decker, having the Idol contestants pick two songs…one from the past (read: 1960’s) and one current hit.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but this was a VERY important show. Apparently, this week–more than any other week of the competition–will show “America” if the contestants have their head in the game or are just coasting by. If they are “in it to win it” or not. (I can’t believe I just typed that phrase. The fact that I just did that literally makes me want to gouge my own eyes out. So sorry about that.)

Randy, he’s head dog this season, doncha know, was depended upon to bring the inspirationalslashmotivational speech to us before these kids took the stage. After the first “in it to win it”, I kind of phased out, but to be honest I’m not sure any of what he said was very revealing because after he finished talking there was a split second “is he serious?” pause from the audience before they politely applauded. Now, Randy, just for future reference HERE’S what you should be aspiring to, motivational speech-wise.

(Oh, please let there be an NFL season this year!)

Sheryl Crow graced Jimmy Iovine’s side as the mentor ‘o the week and was the only mentor thus far that was gifted with a hand-held microphone. I’m not entirely sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but what I do know is that it looked very comfortable in her hand.

So, get yourself a Then and Now Now and Later and let’s recap!

James Durbin – Take 1

“Closer to the Edge” – 30 Seconds to Mars (henceforth known as “Jared Leto’s Band”)

Our judges have taken to calling these intro videos “the package” which makes me feel as though they are somehow smuggling drugs or other international booty through the auspices of the show. What can I say? I have trust issues.

In “the package”, Sheryl Crow sang high harmony with James on his chosen song and then pretended like it was the fulfillment of a career. *rolls eyes

The song started out super low, which means only one thing – he’ll be going high at some point. And he did, but where James usually has great control over his falsetto and higher range, this performance was pretty screamy to me and he got a little out of breath because of all his running around the stage. And inevitably, when a singer loses air they lose their pitch, so some of his song was flat, some was sharp, and some was juuuust right. Kind of like Goldilocks, but…well…different.

Speaking of hair, boy did I like his hair this week. I know it has nothing to do with music, but it improves the performance for me when I’m not distracted by the fashion/styling choices of any given contestant. I wasn’t distracted this time, but the same could not be said for my friend Johanna.

“If men are going to wear vests, they should not raise their arms! No one likes to see armpit hair.” – Johanna

Jacob Lusk – Take 1

“No Air” by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown

In which Ryan takes it upon himself to ask some stupid questions. Like, “Jacob, do you think you can win?” or “Do you feel like an underdog?” What’s he going to say, Ryan? “Nope, I’m done. Go ahead and vote me out right now!” Which, for the record, I’d be fine with. But of course he said “Yes, I can win.” and “Yes, I feel like an underdog.”

Jacob got to work with the same writer/producer that did this song originally. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to make a difference. Also in “the package”, the range sounded super high…let’s hope for some pitch problems. 🙂 And like the diva he is, he decided to sing both parts. Of course he did.

Jacob took the stage with a slow chin raise coupled with an intended-but-not-quite-achieved smoldering stare. Shudder. I have to give him props for his command of the intro to that song, though, because it’s SUPER HARD to hear where to come in and control the song instead of having the song control you.

But must we be scarred for life watching Jacob’s horrendous dance-y type moves? The worm? The hips? Was the crotch grabbing really necessary? Maybe Sheryl gave him tips from her Michael Jackson days… And have you noticed that when Jacob sings he shakes kind of like an old car that shudders to a stop at any given stoplight?

Oh, J.Lo. PLEASE don’t give him advice on how to get to the top 3! Please, Lord, no. Randy was so right! Most of the performance was sharp and no one should sing both parts of duet. Plus, it was a wrong direction.

And while Randy & J.Lo verbally sparred on whether or not Jacob could travel in a “pop lane”, SteTy got in some valuable thumb twiddling time. See? Everyone wins.

Lauren Alaina – Take 1

“Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood

Jimmy Iovine, of course, raved about his favorite contestant. It’s no secret who he’s casting HIS vote for week after week. Wait, can Jimmy vote? If he votes as well as he carries off the baseball cap, we might be looking at the next American Idol.

I’m so glad Lauren chose this song! It’s one of my favorites on that Carrie Underwood CD and I love that the required–no, demanded–a vocal powerhouse + energy + an amazing fiddler (not on the roof). I’m not exactly sure where the fringe comes into the equation…in fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t belong at all. But not being a country aficionado, I’ll let that one pass.

Lauren really killed it! She went at the song full force and delivered a rock solid, feel-good, high-energy performance that rivaled Carrie’s original version. C’mon now, you have to admit that the pinnacle of the song was amazing. And I loved the “a cappella cut outs” that gave brief moments of just her voice shining through the noise around her.  So, Lauren held up her end of the bargain, but I have a few notes for the judges:

1. J. Lo, your facial reaction to the performance is often shown during the contestant’s performances. It’s probably best if you don’t look as though you are trying to balance your checkbook in your head or bore a whole in the side of the fiddler’s instrument.

2. SteTy, I know you’re older than you look and therefore it’s probably hard to keep certain facts in your head. But Lauren is now 16. Also, thanks for backing up Randy and his ‘moving speech’ at the beginning of the show. But how much good can Randy’s “talk” really do when the contestants heard it 5 minutes before taking the stage?

[Sidenote: Wasn’t this Wal-Mart commercial awesome?!?]

Scotty McCreery – Take 1

“Gone” by Montgomery Gentry

Someone gave Scotty a shot of Red Bull before this performance! I’m just sayin’.

This performance had everything going for it:

  • Personality.
  • Range.
  • Tempo.
  • Movement.

To keep up with the momentum of the song, Scotty was forced to spit our lyrics when he would normally “drawl” them and half the time, he didn’t even have a second to tilt his microphone to the side!

Honestly? I thought the performance was the best of the night. And I’ve never been a huge Scotty fan, but I started to be somewhat okay with the notion that he could be receiving the American Idol crown at the end of this thing. Randy was right, it felt like a concert.

Haley Reinhart – Take 1

“You and I” by Lady Gaga

During Haley’s pre-performance interview with Ry-Ry, it was revealed that Jimmy Iovine’s stroke of genius of the week was for her to sing a yet unreleased Lady Gaga song that the Lady herself performs at her concerts. Said Haley (with a straight face, I might add) “If I can speak to her and get her blessing…” Nice, Haley. Way to use your wiles to get a meeting with Lady GaGa.

The song began with a fairly awkward lounge on the stairs. That, along with the mesmerizing glitter on pants distracted me right away. I think she sang the song well, to be sure. And the novelty of singing a song that we hadn’t heard before was a cool idea. But after the performance I just felt…confused. I had to decide if I (1) liked the song and (2) if I liked Haley’s performance of it all in one fell swoop. And that was just too much for my brain to handle. I was just left feeling confused rather than blown away. I actually think it was that I didn’t like the song, not that I didn’t like Haley. Anyhoo.

Unfortunately, Jennifer was right in her assessment of the situation which left a forlorn Haley standing on stage soaking in the judge’s mostly negative feedback. Poor girl.

[Sidenote: Did you notice that the piano player had one foot on the piano bench and one on the floor during her performance?]

ROUND TWO!

“Without You” by Harry Nielson

We didn’t see much of James’ face during his intro video because the sheer emotion of the song left him unable to even practice in the studio. Part of what I love about James is that his talent is coupled with an authentic awareness of who he is and how he feels. It makes me feel like I can identify with him, even though my crying usually has to do with more trivial things.

That said, I’d be lying if I said I truly enjoyed this performance of his. The intro was really low for him and I kept waiting for him to hit the higher register of his voice. I got a little glimmer of it and then I was just waiting for the chorus. Once he hit his stride it was really great but without the “back story”, this would not have been a fantastic vocal. In my humble opinion. I also found the “arm raise” going a littttle too far. But I’ve been caught up in a moment before, so I’m willing to overlook it (aren’t I generous?? :)).

I think the judges kind of set him up with the “competition is yours to lose” refrain, so I hope that doesn’t negatively affect his chances of winning. Plus, SteTy took this opportunity to compliment James’ emotions. I’ve never been complimented on my emotions before! But that would be kind of nice.

Jacob Lusk – Take 2

“Love Hurts”

1. All Jacob wants is to be a woman singing soprano.

2. The contrast between the swallowed phrases and super high phrases was bumpy and kind of jarring.

3. Why does he feel the need to hide the microphone with his hand? Jacob, we know you’re loud but not THAT loud!

Lauren Alaina – Take 2

“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers

I thought Lauren did a competent job of the song and took it somewhere. But I also think most people’s tendency when tackling this song is to over-stylize. Every line was peppered with a vocal run, turn, or twist. And you could see her brain working with that calculated slow power note.

My take? It was good, but not nearly as good for me as the judges thought it was. Maybe I’m heartless. But there it is.

Scotty McCreery – Take 2

“Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley

Did anyone else notice that Scotty received a fairly half-hearted intro by Ryan? It was almost like an afterthought! As was the last line of Scotty’s song which went something like this:

 “Always on my [wait for it] mind.”

I agree with the judges that no matter what Scotty is doing, he’s comfortable in his own skin.

I don’t know if it was just my TV, but there was some sort of whistling in the audience, wasn’t there? Not so much  like a “woohoo”  whistle but more like a penny whistle? Now THAT was annoying.

Haley Reinhart – Take 2

“House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals

At first I was a little wary of this one, only because Siobahn performed it so amazingly last year. But Sheryl was right, Haley put her own spin on the song and interpreted it in a completely different way. Which is pretty okay for American Idol, but she might want to watch our for that in her future UN career.

The A Cappella intro was a brilliant move.  I’m kind of always a fan of that, apparently. And the song had a lot of dynamic contrast. A few too many stylizations for me (which I apparently DON’T like), but it was very Haley. And I liked it.

Randy’s “in it to win it” count: 5.5

Now only Lauren and James have been kept from the terror of the silver stools of rejection. Will it finally be Jacob’s turn to leave? If not, I think it’s gotta be Haley that’s going home. She doesn’t deserve it. But then again, neither did Casey…

Haddock out!

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