Last night was the first night of finals for American Idol, and overall, the kids are alright. Once again, while some performances disappointed, we didn’t have any outright Antonella Barba / Sanjaya Malakar disasters; although, we did have one fairly grim moment courtesy of the girl who I vociferously noted yesterday shouldn’t be in the top thirteen at all.

That dud of a performance came from Karen Rodriguez, who happily butchered “I Could Fall In Love” by Selena. I never really thought of it as a particularly hard tune, but I guess when you have the self-imposed weight of representing ├é┬íLatina flavor! for the season, it can be daunting. Also daunting: doing Selena in front of the biggest faux-Selena of them all — Jennifer Lopez, who shot to fame after portraying the late musician. Poor Karen Rodriguez. She means so well, and she sings so poorly. I don’t want to say “Told you so,” but quite frankly, I did tell you so.Also irritating me was Stefano Langone, who decided to take on Stevie Wonder’s “Lately.” Please put Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys in the Idol do-not-touch zone. I’m so sick of the kids singing these artists. Even if they pull it off, I can’t truly enjoy it. Most people, including the judges, will say that Stefano nailed his performance, and honestly, he did seem to hit all his notes. But man, it was like a jackhammer after a while. The experience was just too much. I felt ear-raped.

On the other end of the spectrum were Thia Megia and Ashthon Jones, who disappointed with lazy, boring performance. Thia has a wonderful voice; so her decision to sing the old-fashioned “Smile” was a disappointment. Even worse was when the song shifted into a lame, jazzy arrangement that seemed fitting for perhaps a small accessories boutique called “Flair by Claire!” And yes, there would be dolphin figurines available for purchase.

Ashthon meanwhile sang “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” by Diana Ross, which not only felt old and obscure but boring. Quite frankly, Ashthon (gosh I hate typing that extra h) was pitchy, dawg. She’s better than what she showed us, and I’m not talking about the shiny tablecloth she called a dress (meeeow!!). I’m firmly in Ashthon and Thia silent-H corners, but the girls have got to step it up.

We also have Paul McDonald who earns points for quirkiness, but not even his best palsy dance can overshadow the fact that he really didn’t hit any note of his Ryan Adams song. And really? Ryan Adams is your idol? This was just pleasant, forgettable music, and while Paul looks like he’s having a blast, I can’t say the same for me.

Faring better was Lauren Alaina, who gave us — surprise! — Shania Twain. Her performance was good. Not great. But good. She has potential, but she needs to step out of country fair mode.

Also delivering country to varying success were Haley Reinhart and Scotty McCreery. Haley gave us “Blue” by LeAnn Rhimes, and while I would have never chosen such a sleepy song for the big stage, she was pretty awesome. I loved her yodeling (more so than her affected growl), but I fear that the song choice was simply too tame. That’s probably why Randy complained that he was bored.

Scotty meanwhile gave us a big ol’ slice of Red State America with his rousing ode to Garth Brooks. It’s amazing the kid is only seventeen. Not really my cup of tea, but he did a great job. Even better: he infused his performance with some neat finger pointing, much like the CGI characters do on my Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Edition video game. Well done!

Two other singers had me scratching my heads with confusion. I wasn’t sure whether to love or hate them. First we had Naima Adedapo, who took on Rihanna’s “Umbrella” with some reggaeton flair. The latter addition was actually pretty cool. Less cool was Naima’s breathless, pitchy performance which was occasionally punctuated by thunder sound effects. At a certain point it seemed like she’d redeem herself by hitting one big juicy high note, but instead she shied away from it and let the crash and boom of the sound effects take over. In the end I was on the disappointed end of the spectrum, but not enough to endorse voting her out. And hey, she shaved her pits; so that’s good.

The other singer who left me with mixed emotions was Jacob Lusk. The pros: this guy sings with true emotion. We feel what he’s feeling, and that can be downright impossible to do for some singers. The bad: I think I had the warbly vibrato in his voice. Only when he takes it to church at the end of the song with his squealing do I enjoy him, and even then, I’m not sure how much caterwauling I can truly take. I like the guy, but I have a hard time imagining myself listening to him on the radio.

That leaves us with just three last singers, and they all did a great job. We had Casey Abrams, who I still don’t think is the second coming of, well, anything, but I enjoyed his Joe Cocker “With A Little Help From My Friends” more than his “I Put A Spell On You” from last week. Like Lusk, Casey seemed to experience a rapture on stage, but it was a rapture I could get behind, not just some histrionic mess (again, compare to last week).

We also had James Durban, who looks to have been spending his free time at the craft services table, if you know what I mean. Anyway, James sang “Baby I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney, and even though I’m on the verge of actively disliking JD, I have to confess that his performance was one of the best of the night. He has great range in his voice, and his squealing doesn’t feel excessive like Adam Lambert’s did back in the day.

Lastly, we had Pia Toscano, who continues to be the one to beat. She was great last week, but I thought a touch overhyped. This time around, I thought she truly delivered with Celine Dion’s take on “All By Myself.” My only minor quibble: after Pia hit that insane high note three quarters of the way through, the performance felt a little anticlimactic afterwards. It’s like she peaked a touch too early — something Celine would never do. Either way, Pia is the full package. I’d be shocked at this point to see her eliminated anywhere short of the top four.

What did you think about the singers? Who do you want sent home?

2 replies on “AMERICAN IDOL RECAP: Let The Fun Begin!”

  1. SO glad AshtHon got booted. Viewers had to vote her out twice but at least, now, she’s a goner. Miss Latin America will be next.

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