After a good, if not amazing, top 24 week, and a fantastic Wild Card round, we got to see the Idols take on their first post-semifinal theme week. "Songs by Your Idol" seems like a promising theme, yes? Why, then, was it so tepid? In a post-David Cook Idol, it's no longer acceptable to just sing the song. Now, contestants must do something creative with the song, and by my count, only three contestants (Naima, Stefano, and Thia)--with varying degrees of success--did that. Hey, I don't make the rules, kids.
Without further ado, then, here's my current favorite rankings:
1. Casey Abrams (last week: 1): My favorite wookiee holds steady in the number one spot this week, after a solid, if not especially creative, rendition of Joe Cocker's [rendition of Lennon/McCartney's] theme to The Wonder Years (silly, I know that's not the song's original purpose, but can you hear it without thinking of Kevin Arnold pining for Winnie Cooper? I think not). I like Casey's stage presence. He's interesting, and, in spite of an occasional bum note, a pretty solid performer. It wasn't my favorite performance of the night, but Casey's still my favorite.
2. Naima Adedapo (last week: 3): This was my favorite performance of the night, and the only one I actually downloaded. Yeah, I agree with J-Lo's critique that Naima needs to work of her vocal control when she's performing. There were definitely some shaky, if not necessarily out of tune, notes in her performance of "Umbrella" (which is totally one of the most fun pop songs of the last decade), but she did something interesting with it. She danced! She reggae-d it up! In an amazing turn of events, her performance actually made me not care about her pitch (there, I said it). She seems like she really wants it, and while that can often manifest itself in an unseemly level of desperation in contestants (Gina Glocksen was robbed!), Naima seems ready to work. Combined with her absolutely loverly wild card performance last week, Naima is rapidly rising to a Carly Smithson level for me, and I LOVED Carly Smithson.
3. Paul McDonald (last week: 2): Okay, Paul's ranking this week has nothing to do with his borderline terrible performance of Ryan Adams' "Come Pick Me Up". While I've got nothing against Paul's obviously excellent taste in music (Ryan Adams [aka, Mr Mandy Moore] is awesome, and you should listen to him), his vocal was all over the place in a terrible arrangement of a good song. Paul remains in my top 3 solely out of my refusal to forget about "Maggie Mae" (both times) and "Blackbird". I still love Paul's whispery tone and slightly manic performance mannerisms. This week, he's gonna have to bring it, though!
4. Stefano Langone (last week: 4): Anyone that knows me knows that I'm not a huge Stevie Wonder fan (shock! horror! Let's move on), but I totally get why Stefano would sing a Stevie Wonder song, and I applaud his effort. The heavily-synthesized arrangement actually worked for me, and it seemed like Stefano kept up with it well. Additionally, I really enjoy when he goes for the high notes. It's like a scrappy, more energetic version of Jovany Barretto's lovely higher register. He's enjoyable.
5. Thia Megia (last week: 6): That's right, kids: I'm keeping the faith with Thia. Sure, it wasn't a great version of "Charlie Chapman's" (hehe) "Smile", but I love it when she sings that stripped down stuff. Chica's done some strange song choices ("Smile" is an Idol kiss of death song. Is the curse broken?), and Michael Jackson was creepy, but I'm still getting an artist vibe from her. The tone of her voice is also lovely. I'm just hoping that we'll get a chance to see a vulnerable moment from her before she gets voted off.
6. Lauren Alaina (last week: 5): Okay, I still like Lauren's voice, but something she said last week was really obnoxious. When she was talking about her surprisingly low-energy "Any Man of Mine" (a brilliant counrty song that I'm convinced should NEVER be covered on the Idol stage again. Seriously, no one ever gets its attitude! How is that possible?), she said something like, "I was trying to do it better [than everyone that had ever done it on Idol]." Honey-child, let's cool it with the comparisons at this early stage in your Idol history. I still like her voice, but I'm getting a little restless to see something else from her.
7. Pia Toscano (last week: 7): What did she sing again? Oh yeah, Celine. Meh. Pia's got a lovely voice, but she's sooo adult contemporary.
8. Karen Rodriguez (last week: 8): Speaking of adult contemporary, poor Karen had a rough week, eh? It was surprising how out of tune she was throughout the song, but the bigger bummer is that she chose Selena's "I Could Fall in Love" over the way more fun "Dreaming of You".
9. James Durbin (last week: 13): Don't see his improved ranking as proof that I like this guy. I still find him irritating and uncreative, but less so than some others, I guess. His "Maybe I'm Amazed" was a vast improvement over that horrible Judas Priest song he did the previous week, and he didn't maim the song in any way that I found offensive. I just hope he can find it in his heart to quit screaming at us.
10. Jacob Lusk (last week: 9): Ugh, that friggin' Space Jam song refuses to die! Perhaps for "Songs by Your Idol" night, Jacob could've chosen a song by a dude who's not a kiddie pornographer. HURL. Context aside, the vocals were pretty much horrible, and adding the Gospel choir halfway through the 90 second version of the song only made Jacob think he had to sing louder and more erratically. Yeah, that was not good.
11. Scotty McCreery (last week: 12): OF COURSE he sang Garth Brooks, and OF COURSE he was overpraised for it. Let me break it down for you. The kid has three moves: tilt head to the right, raise up an Elvis-style lip, and gaze deeply into the camera. When he sings, he dips into that deep voice of his for a second to find the note, and then quickly decrescendos out so he can repeat it for the next phrase. It's a formulaic copycat of deep-voiced male country singers that have considerably more grit. Despite what the judges say, the kid's not pitch-perfect either. I just don't think they can hear him hitting some of his low notes slightly sharp because of the mix in the room. There's a lot more I could say, but I'll leave it there. I feel a little mean. To leave it on a positive note, the kid's obviously got something that audiences find appealing, and it would be nice to see Idol produce another viable male country singer. Also, you can't really fault a guy for choosing Garth Brooks as his country Idol!
12. Halie Reinhart (last week: 11): Oddly enough, I thought her vocals were much stronger than her semi-finals performance. She actually got the yodel just about right on LeAnn Rhimes' "Blue". My problem with Haley is the way she tries to "sexualize" her performances (Ew. I'm wincing just writing that) and the stank attitude she seems to have when she's being critiqued. She's really not a bad singer, but I find her a bit grating nonetheless.
There you have it. Agree? Disagree? Am I being too hard on Scotty and Haley? Comment below!