Last night’s episode of American Idol was deemed, “Final Eleven Part Deux” by host Ryan Seacrest. After the judges used their onetime “save” on Casey Abrams, we had to know that every one of the final eleven were going to bring their “A” game. What we didn’t expect was that nearly all of them would have almost perfect performances. The theme was to perform songs by legendary singer and song writer Sir Elton John. What amazed me is that every contestant (with the exception of Lauren) picked a song that completely fit their persona.
Scotty McCreery, our country prodigy, opened up the night by introducing his new guitar, “Scarlett”, to the judges and then he used Scarlett to take over the stage. Scotty chose “Country Comfort” as to perform, and he made it his own; without a doubt. The judges went on to tell Scotty that he has come into his own on the show and that they felt like they were at his concert, not judging his performance. I told my wife, “…this kid’s ready for Nashville,” and I’m fairly certain Nashville is anxiously standing by.
Directly after Scotty’s performance American Idol contestant, Naima Adedapo, took the stage, performing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”. Naima, who was one of the contestants that was saved by the judges during the final elimination before America’s voting began, performed this song in her Rastafarian manner giving it a complete reggae twist. The judges told her that it just wasn’t the right song for that style of music, but they all agreed that it was a good performance otherwise. I had to disagree, though I’m not a fan of most of her performances, but I think that Naima took a song that fit her perfectly and made us see that she has the ability and range to deliver music outside of the box.
Next up was Paul McDonald, with the pearly smile and the white, rose patterned suit (he promised to retire it after this performance), and unique lullaby voice, he performed a great version of “Rocket Man” that made the judges wonder why he was holding back. The judges told Paul that they think that he doesn’t even recognize the potential in his voice, I couldn’t agree more. He chose a song that Elton John performs with fireworks and gusto, and he made it a mix between “folk and fun”…and though I loved it, I can’t wait to see him let loose.
When Pia Toscano took the stage, we knew we were going to get vocals that are nearly unchallenged. But once again, Pia chose to prove to the audience that she can sing a ballad…we know Pia, we know. Pia’s rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” was spectacular; her voice is never an issue. But I couldn’t help but wonder, after her performance, how many 14 to 40 year old viewers are ready to vote for the next Celine Dion? Though she is beautiful and sings like an angel, she’ll never get my vote until she can make me excited about seeing her next performance…outside of Vegas.
After Pia, Stefano Langone took the stage to perform “Tiny Dancer” and I was certain he was about to ruin a song that has never failed to give me goose bumps. The song, which was released by Elton John the same year I was born, is, in my opinion, one of Elton John’s finest, and anyone that is familiar with his work knows that for someone to say that they must truly feel it. Stefano was one of my early favorites, with his back story that could move even a rock like me, but he quickly made his way down the ladder with his inability to remove his particular “accent” from his vocals and his performances that never really “brought it” on stage. But with every passing note of his song he took a step back up that ladder. Stefano hit notes I hadn’t thought he was capable of doing and he showed that he can connect with both the home audience, by using the cameras, and the live audience the same. Most importantly, his performance stayed true to the song and brought me the goose bumps I was sure he couldn’t possibly elicit…
Lauren Alaina is far and above my favorite female performer. In my opinion this 17 year old girl has the most potential as a performer for the targeted age group, with lively stage presence and vocals that kind of remind you of the, “I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll” saying. Lauren was the only performer that I thought did not pick a song that I would have personally picked for them. While she performed a great rendition of “Candle in the Wind”, I couldn’t help but wish she was singing “I’m Gonna Be a Teenage Idol”. The song is a fun song and it would have still allowed Lauren to show off her vocals while bringing us that stage presence that every fan wants. And, who knows, maybe it would have been the self-fulfilling prophecy that it was for Sir Elton.
Oh boy…James Durbin, what can you say? He lit a piano on fire (well it was just FX) and did the splits while performing “Saturday Night’s Alright [For Fighting]”. Could he have picked a better song for him? James, with is awkward, coolness, comes off as if he doesn’t have a care in the world about the judges sitting right in front of him. It’s as if, to him, he’s not being judged anymore. Now it’s all about having fun and making the audience “get their money’s worth”. This kid never fails to make me look stupid in front of my wife, because every time he performs I get as excited as a 12 year old school girl and start blabbering some nonsense about how awesome he is…I knew last night, from my wife’s look, that she, most definitely, is still judging me.
Thia Megia, she brought us another ballad, yes, we got a one week break from them, but she delivered us the old Thia with her performance of “Daniel”. Though I was not excited about seeing her perform another ballad, I must say she owned that song…she had me noticing every pitch and key (if those are musical terms) throughout the entire song, all the while tearing up thinking about my own brother. I told myself when she was done that she deserved to sing a song that actually came from the heart…and I feel like she did.
This brings us to the judge’s save and everyone’s favorite funny guy, Casey Abrams. With a fresh new haircut and a trimmed beard, Casey showed us that his past two performances, that may have lacked, were only a stumble. Casey sang “Your Song” and had the audience thinking that he validated the judges’ one time use of the “judges’ save”. One can only hope that America doesn’t make the same mistake two weeks running and we get to see more of this standout Idol that makes every normal ‘Joe’ believe that they, too, can be “sexy”. For the record, if Jennifer Lopez told me I was sexy…na, never mind, what are the chances…
The vocals of the ever impressive Jacob Lusk took the stage next to perform “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”. Once again Jacob gave the audience a near perfect vocal performance, but I can’t help commenting on the monotony of his performances. As was pointed out in his interview, all I see from Jacob is him singing and that look as if he is going to cry during every performance. I get it Jacob, you “feel” the music, but maybe, just maybe you can pick more upbeat songs…regardless, I never come away from his songs thinking he did a bad job; he is consistent to say the least in his near perfect vocals.
Last, but…well, last was Haley Reinhart she took the stage and finally showed some stage presence after many weeks of criticism from the judges. Haley sang the ever fun and upbeat “Bennie and the Jets”. Randy exclaimed “yo, yo…best performance of the night” and Steven Tyler told her “you sing sexy”… I couldn’t agree more with Steven, she has one of the most unique female voices on stage and I love listening to her sing. The problem is, for me to truly enjoy her songs…boy my wife is going to kill me for this, since Haley is her all time favorite…for me to truly enjoy her songs, I need to close my eyes. Not to feel the music, but to avoid seeing her on stage. To me, watching her try to move around that stage is reminiscent of watching the episode of “Seinfeld” when Elaine starts dancing at the office party. I think at one point I saw her kick a leg and throw back an arm at the same time. So in that sense, I can’t agree with Randy, sure she improved because she “moved” outside of her box, but for heaven sake, the awkwardness…
So, if one were to ask me who my performance of the night would go to…and since I’m the only one here I’m going to assume everyone is — only because I want to tell you — I would most definitely say Stefano’s stellar performance of “Tiny Dancer” would hands down get my vote. Not only did he pull off singing such a difficult song, and show a great connection with his audience, he improved tremendously beyond his past performances…and most of all, he gave me goose bumps.
Unfortunately, tonight we must see two go…