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American Idol: Top 11 Double Elimination Show Reviews and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 31, 2011 at 6:21 am

After last week’s shocking vote, which would have sent Casey Abrams home if not for the judges wisely using their one save of the season, the Top 11 all got to perform again this week.  From here on out, the judges will be powerless to do anything if the voters get it wrong again.  The pressure is now on the contestants to choose the right songs each week and connect with the voting audience if they want to remain in the competition.

Because the judges used the save last week, two contestants will be going home this week, but all 11 will be going on tour this summer.

This week, each contestant was asked to perform an Elton John song.  Almost every contestant chose a song that was one of Elton John’s well-known hits, but not everyone chose the best song for their voice and style.

Here is this week’s breakdown (in reverse order):

[11]         Paul McDonald – You would think that it would be an advantage to perform a song that you have covered already before trying out for American Idol, but for McDonald, this was not the case.  The only thing that stood out about his performance was his Elton-esque wardrobe.  Other than that, it was just more of what McDonald delivers every week.  His rendition of “Rocket Man” was fine, but certainly nothing special.  He would have been better served if he chose to perform “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” instead.

[10]         Scotty McCreery – It is very surprising that the judges seem to lambaste everyone who tends to stick to the same style every week, but when McCreery does it, he gets praised.  Ever since the first season of Idol, the judges regularly accuse contestants of being too safe with their song selections.  They should have been all over McCreery for choosing a song called “Country Comfort” this week.  It wasn’t like it was one of his favorites.  In fact, he knew nothing about the song except that it had the word “country” in the title.  Even though I am a lifelong Elton John fan, I have to admit that this song didn’t even seem remotely familiar.  McCreery’s performance was fine, but American Idol is a competition, and this was one of the least competitive song choices in the show’s history.

[9]           Naima Adedapo – Like McCreery, Adedapo took an Elton John song and made it her own.  However, she did so by drastically changing one of Elton’s most popular songs.  Her reggae version of “I’m Still Standing” was interesting and somewhat entertaining.  However, it came off as trying to force things when she sang it with a faux-Jamaican accent.  Adedapo is at her best when her singing complements her stage performance (which was virtually non-existent this week).  She gets an “A” for originality this week, but a “C” at best for her singing and interpretation of an Elton John classic.

[8]           Jacob Lusk – As one of the judges’ favorites since the beginning, it seems that Lusk can do almost nothing wrong.  To his credit, he always does his best to connect with the song and show how passionate he is.  But he often times comes up short when it comes to delivering the song with style.  His choice of “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” was based on Mary J. Blige’s cover version rather than Elton’s original.  If Lusk really wanted to shine this week, he should have chosen “Take Me to the Pilot” and made it his own.  It may very well have been viewed as one of the best of the evening instead of just rising high enough to avoid elimination this week.

[7]           Haley Reinhart – It was very surprising that Reinhart wasn’t in the bottom three last week since she was the previous two weeks before.  Her rendition of “Benny and the Jets” was, by far, her best performance of the season.  She looked more comfortable than ever on stage, and she showed off the bluesy style that she is capable of singing.  It is highly unlikely that Reinhart will be able to go toe-to-toe with the top singers in the competition, but it looks like she may go further than most would have expected just a few short weeks ago.

[6]           Stefano Langone – For the first time ever, Langone finally took the judges’ advice and opened his eyes to connect with the audience.  There is no doubt that he can sing, but he needed a better stage performance to help sway Idol voters.  The judges seemed pleased with his progress.  Although he did what they asked, his version of “Tiny Dancer” was only slightly above average, but it is not entirely his fault.  In order to showcase different parts of the song, the arrangement was done very haphazardly.  The song had no flow whatsoever, and it didn’t even come close to tapping into the emotions that Elton does when he performs the song.

[5]           Casey Abrams – On the heels of the most shocking vote in American Idol history, Abrams was mercifully saved by the judges.  Clearly, the brush with elimination has shaken Abrams.  His decision to perform a safe, mellow version of “Your Song” was disappointing.  Although he performed it well, it showed that he is more concerned with doing whatever it takes to stay in the competition rather than delivering a performance to show that he’s in it to win it.  With a trimmed down beard and new haircut, Abrams looked much more mainstream, but if he doesn’t try and recreate the magic that made him stand out in the competition, he will likely find himself going home sooner than he anticipated.

[4]           Lauren Alaina – Each week, Alaina seems to be gaining confidence and delivering performances that show why she was one of the early favorites.  Her country pop version of “Candle in the Wind” was nicely done.  She made the song her own without changing it drastically like Adedapo did with “I’m Still Standing.”  After a few rough weeks early on, Alaina is now showing that she can be a factor in this competition.  She may not have enough to compete with James and Pia on a weekly basis, but she is showing that she has good potential just the same.

[3]           Thia Megia – It wasn’t surprising to see Megia end up in the bottom three last week.  For some reason, her performances since the Top 13 was announced have been average at best, and sometimes below average.  She made up for it this week by choosing to sing “Daniel, a song well within her range and a very good fit stylistically.  This performance was one of the best of the evening, and was definitely Megia’s best in several weeks.

[2]           James Durbin – It’s hard not to root for Durbin even when trying to be objective.  But he is either light years ahead of everyone else when it comes to stage show, or the producers desperately want him in the finale.  Choosing the upbeat “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” lent itself well to creating a lively performance, but the piano on fire and the blinding light show made Durbin look like KISS and the rest of the contestants look like KISS’ warm-up group.  That being said, Durbin is absolutely the most polished stage performer in the competition, and it is understandable why the producers want to keep him around for as long as possible.  His vocals this week were not nearly as impressive as they usually are, but he stole the show anyway.

[1]           Pia Toscano – With each passing week, it certainly looks like Toscano and Durbin are destined to meet in the finale.  She didn’t leave her ballad comfort zone this week, but she did try to connect with the audience more than she usually does.  The only one who can come close to her vocally is Durbin.  Every other girl pales in comparison.  Once again, her vocals shined as she performed “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  It would have been nice to see her tackle one of Elton’s songs that aren’t so close to her style, but as long as she keeps nailing every song that she sings, there isn’t much to complain about.

WHO’S IN THE BOTTOM THREE?

Naima Adedapo

Stefano Langone

Paul McDonald

WHICH TWO WILL GO HOME?

Naima Adedapo and Stefano Langone.

Adedapo’s decision to do a reggae version of “I’m Still Standing” is ironic because it will likely knock her down and out of the competition.  Langone deserves to stay, but he isn’t unique or special enough to inspire voters to support him over others.

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American Idol: Top 11 Review and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

The Top 11 American Idol contestants each had to perform a Motown song this week.  For the most part, all of the contestants chose songs that they were capable of singing.  Every week is important for the contestants, but with the exception of the finale, this week is the most critical as the contestant that gets voted off does not go on the American Idol tour.

If history is any indication, the contestant that gets voted off this week is not likely to be heard from again, and will be forgotten fairly quickly.

Because this week is so critical, the contestants who have built up a loyal following will likely make it into the Top 10, regardless of their performance or the judges’ comments.  The only way that the judges would use their save this week is to protect someone who they feel is special or someone who is so unique that losing them would hurt the tour.  This bodes well for some of the contestants, and not so well for others.

Each week, Television2Day will review American Idol and rank the contestants based on their performance for the week.  After the rankings, a prediction of the bottom three will be made, along with a prediction of who will be voted off the show.

Here is the Top 11 Breakdown (in reverse order):

[11]       Haley Reinhart – Performing “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson, Reinhart had her best performance since reaching the Top 13.  Unfortunately for Reinhart, it was still nothing special, and there is no reason to believe that it will be enough to move her up in the rankings.  Her overall look was better this week, but the decision to have someone who is not comfortable on stage walk down potentially hazardous stairs wearing stiletto heels was questionable.  It’s very hard to focus on singing when you’re trying not to fall.  Reinhart has talent, but screams at times when hitting the power notes and her lack of stage presence is detrimental when it comes to generating votes.

[10]       Thia Megia – It is unfortunate that Megia cannot seem to deliver the kind of memorable performance that she did to make it into the Top 13.  In an effort to listen to the judges’ advice, Megia stepped out of her ballad comfort zone with her performance of “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas.  It was good to see her loosening up a bit, but her performance felt a bit forced.  The talent is there, but Megia seems to be overwhelmed by having to compete on the big stage.

[9]         Paul McDonald – After stating his interview that he grew up on Motown music that “makes you move,” McDonald smartly chose not to showcase his frantic movements this week as he performed “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson with an acoustic guitar.  If Rod Stewart didn’t exist, McDonald’s voice would be much more intriguing.  But Rod Stewart does exist, and McDonald’s weekly performances merely serve as a reminder that there is a much better version of him out there.  This was his best performance in the Top 13, but overall it was just more of the same old, same old that has become very predictable.

[8]          Scotty McCreery – If there was one performer who was at a disadvantage with the Motown theme, it was absolutely McCreery.  He did what he could to make Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” his own, and for that he should be commended.  But the fact of the matter is that the original song is powerful and emotional, and McCreery’s version, while original, did not even come close to capturing the essence of the song.  Pushing himself beyond his deep register seemed to satisfy the judges to a degree, but this was his weakest performance yet in the Top 13.

[7]         Stefano Langone – One of the bigger surprises of the Top 13 so far has been Langone’s ability to show off his vocal range.  That being said, this week’s performance was a big drop off from last week, and Langone continued to struggle with keeping his eyes open and connecting with the audience.  His choice of “Hello” by Lionel Richie was bizarre for a few reasons.  First of all, the song was recorded in 1984, which is not exactly Motown’s heyday.  But more importantly, Langone admitted that he didn’t really know the song, which makes it a very questionable choice.  This is especially true given the fact that he said that he grew up listening to Motown.  Langone shined at times, but he spent too much time with his eyes closed, and the condensed version of the song was awkwardly arranged.  It wouldn’t come as a complete shock if the judges’ comments end up pushing Langone into the bottom three.

[6]         Casey Abrams – There was nowhere to go but up from last week’s Nirvana performance.  Aside from the fact that his cleaned up look was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis in “The Hangover,” Abrams delivered a solid performance of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”   Abrams knows how to work the stage and the crowd, and his sound is definitely unique, and thought this performance was not even close to his best, it was more than enough to push him into the Top 10.

[5]         Naima Adedapo – More than any other contestant, Adedapo needs to deliver memorable stage performances because she simply is not a strong enough vocalist to compete with the best singers in the Top 11.  Two weeks ago, her performance of “Umbrella” by Rhianna turned heads, even though the vocals were not outstanding.  Last week, her subdued performance of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do With It” landed her in the bottom three.  With a spot in the Top 10 on the line, Adedapo delivered her best overall performance to date with “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas.  Her look was spot-on, her vocals were very solid, and her stage show was very entertaining.  Adedapo will never be one of the top vocalists, but her command of the stage gives her a chance to be a successful entertainer.

[4]         Pia Toscano – Vocally, the only one who can compete with Toscano on a regular basis is James Durbin.  Once again, her singing of “All in Love is Fair” by Stevie Wonder was incredible.  But from an entertainment perspective, it just didn’t measure up to some of the other contestants.  Toscano is a beautiful girl with an amazing voice, and she doesn’t need to do much to stay in the competition at this point.  But as the competition moves forward, she is going to have to deliver more than just great vocals if she wants to make it to the finale.  Because her vocals are so perfect, she has some room to turn it down a notch and focus on connecting with the audience.

[3]          Jacob Lusk – If there was a contestant who was made for Motown week, Lusk is it.  His performance of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By” was his shining moment in the Top 13.  He always delivers the big notes, but doesn’t always do it with style.  This week he did.  Even though it was a Marvin Gaye song, Lusk’s performance was much more reminiscent of Luther Vandross (which is not a bad thing).  He worked very well with the background singers, and you could see that his comfort level was higher than it has been in weeks.

[2]         Lauren Alaina – On the heels of her admirable performance of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” last week, Alaina delivered her best performance to date with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes.  For the first time since reaching the Top 13, Alaina showed why she was considered to be one of the early favorites in the competition.  This was her best look by far, and her confidence was at an all-time high.  Her singing and performance this week launched Alaina right back to the top of the competition.

[1]         James Durbin – During the Season 10 tryouts, Durbin stood out early on because of his great voice and the challenge of overcoming Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Since making it into the Top 13, Durbin has proven that he not only belongs, but he has a very real possibility of winning it all.  More than any other contestant, Durbin continues to choose songs that are ideally suited for his voice, and with each passing week, his confidence seems to grow.  His performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” this week was flawless.  No one has shown the combination of amazing vocals and engaging stage presence like Durbin.  He hits every note almost effortlessly as he commands the stage and works the crowd.  At this point, the only one who can stop Durbin from reaching the finale is Durbin himself.

BOTTOM THREE PREDICTION:

Haley Reinhart

Thia Megia

Paul McDonald

WHO GOES HOME?

Haley Reinhart – After ending up in the bottom three each of the last two weeks, Reinhart had to deliver the performance of her life to make it into the Top 10 and go on tour.  She improved, but not nearly enough to compel Idol fans to pick up the phone and start voting for her this week.  Many of this year’s contestants bring something unique to the table.  Reinhart does not.  She is merely a good singer who needs a lot of work on her stage presence.  The fans that have put her into the bottom three for the past two weeks are the same fans who buy tickets to see the American Idol tour.  It would be very surprising to see anyone other than Reinhart going home this week, but then again, Idol voters are often times unpredictable.

WILL THE JUDGES USE THEIR SAVE?

Highly unlikely.  Unless one of their unanimous favorites somehow ends up with the lowest amount of votes, it would be very surprising to see the judges do anything to give someone another crack at making it into the Top 10.

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