That’s right folks! The AI theme this week is songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is housed in CLEVELAND. For all the things we know are twisted, corrupt (shout out to our ongoing local political scandal), underutilized and brutal (like our 5-6 months of winter), nothing stops our Cleveland pride. Yes, they may treat us like a stepchild and hold most of the inductions in NYC. Whatever. We fought and got the museum and it is cool.
Back to the fun that is Idol. With the Rock Hall’s full catalog of fantastic songs to select from this week, this should be a good show. What? Gwen Stefani has styled the contestants this week? And Will.i.am is the music mentor? I’m having a Randy Jackson moment … “Dude, I don’t think that’s going to be a good idea.” I’ll give Mr. Black Eyed Peas kudos for his futuristic talent mixing it up in the studio. In the studio being the key phrase there. Like with auto tune.
As for Gwen, could be good or it could be bad. I generally like her style and think she’s a hip lady. Ooo, now I’m opting for this is a bad, a very bad thing. Looking at the contestants, it is obvious that she didn’t have an eye to be able to understand the different vibe (and body type) of each contestant and work accordingly. They are awkward, misguided versions of her.
Jacob Lusk – Our resident male diva opts for a little Michael Jackson and sings “Man in the Mirror.” From his intro tape, we learn he was first thinking of singing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.” The evil child in me is chuckling at what a funny mess that would have been. Can you imagine the twerky dance moves and him attempting to be sexy? But I digress. He was so right to balk at that song choice.
In his intro piece he also wanders off into prophet land with mutterings about if he lands in the bottom three, it will be a result of America not being able to look at itself in the mirror. BOOSH! What is that sound? Well, it is Jacob tossing a bomb into whatever fan base he’s been building up. It is true that, in the Idol viewer and voter population, there may be a portion of middle America that doesn’t get or like what he has on display—the tighter outfits, the faces he makes, the endless runs, the always present danger of veering off into 200% land with misplaced high notes. However, prophesying with judgment will quickly piss off the others who would have voted for him.
Yeah, he sings the song fine and Siedah Garrett, one of the song’s writers, is on backup. It isn’t his best, most goose bump producing moment, but it is good and has a slower build that doesn’t venture too much over the top. Yet I’m still stuck on his mirror comments and having a flashback to the pompous church attitude and “messages via song” that Mandisa brought Season Five. Because of it, she was booted out earlier than she would have been and that will be Jacob’s fate if he doesn’t stop drinking his own Kool-Aid.
Haley Reinhart – Growly girl goes for Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” Dare I say it is ok? I think this is because her big cat purrs and drunk-like staggering fit the sound and vibe of the song. I imagine her in a late night set with a band, gripping the mic on a beer coated stage and just tearing into this song before teetering off the edge into the speaker wires.
Casey Abrams – He opts to channel some Creedence Clearwater Revival via “Have You Seen the Rain.” Like Jacob, this is good, but not exciting. He is original and talented and now back to being pleasant to watch. I feel like he is restraining himself for some reason and not going all in with audience connection. Connection is there, but not mesmerizing like it could be. Maybe the drama of the Judges’ Save moment has tweaked his confidence and nerves. I hope he’s able to hunker down and find that spark he displayed in his first audition and through the semi-finals.
Lauren Alaina – The fact that she’s going for Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” gives her an automatic three strikes from me. Really? Baby doll, you do not have Aretha-esque pipes. Nowhere near. Get away from Jacob’s Kool-Aid. I immediately think of Kelly Clarkson’s version Season One and know that judge Randy is thinking it too. Is this performance bad like what Naima did to “Umbrella?” No. It is good, yet I think Lauren could have selected a song that makes the qualities of her voice sound amazing versus this song that highlights, to me, some things her voice lacks. The ill-fitting shorts over black stockings ensemble that Gwen gave Lauren makes me feel an ounce of sadness. The blousing fabric makes her look like she’s hiding some farm supplies over her butt.
James Durbin – He smartly hops back to the Beatles with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” For me, he is channeling Adam Lambert way too hard half posed on a stool with smoke swirled around the bottom of the stage. Reminds me of Adam when he sang “Tracks of My Tears” down to the musician placement. That said, I like the performance with the exception of the high note reach at the end. He hit the note fine, but it threw the vibe off.
Scotty McCreery – He is “in it to win it,” as Randy says, because of his keen ability as a competitor to know what will appeal to the audience. The key to this game is more than being the technical best. Scotty goes for Elvis’ first cover song and single “That’s All Right.” Well of course he does. Elvis’ rockabilly sound sits on the edge between country and rock. On Idol, guess what I hate as much as someone dong Lionel Ritchie (hey Stefano)? Someone doing Elvis. I hope Scotty’s pony doesn’t get hurt repeatedly doing that one trick.
Pia Toscano – I appreciate her sticking to the promise of delivering an up tempo number this week. Now I won’t have to scream “liar liar pants on fire.” She sings Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” Full disclosure moment: I HEART Tina Turner. I’ve seen her three times in concert, watched her every time she came on TV back in the ‘70s and again in the ‘80s when her career rebounded and have two postcard sized photos of her hanging in my work office from her Hanes campaign.
So when someone goes for a Tina song—just like if they aim for Prince, Michael, Bonnie Raitt or disco Donna—I give them the side-eye of “this better be good.” Pia gives us a little screamy version of the song. She sounds good singing up tempo just as she does singing ballads. It is interesting that she still isn’t connecting so well to the audience for me. This is a song written with a spirited meld between the British pop feel of that era and Tina’s soulful essence. How can you sing it just walking around without even one twitch of dancing?
I think J-Lo is aiming at saying this when she says she encourages Pia to study other outstanding performing artists and to push herself further. She is fantastic in voice, but there is just that “thing” missing. Great musicians take us in and on a journey with them. We need to see their humanness. We need to have a glimpse at their vulnerabilities to be able to relate and believe. I so want Pia to get that.
Stefano Langone – When his intro says he’s going with Percy Sledge, I answer with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Yeppers. Though I may be one of his few fans, he has had me since his gospel sing-for-your-life moment. I saw glimpses of that in this performance. While he can go off into the wilderness with song choice missteps, it seems that when Stefano knows he needs to tap down, he goes into a deep place and brings out soul you wouldn’t think was there.
Paul McDonald – He sings “Folsom Prison Blues.” Just get him gone. Please just get him gone.
With the majority of the contestants being of good voice and giving us solid performances, getting to a bottom three guess is hard. Based on the performances alone, my bottom three would be Paul, Scotty and Haley. Fantasy on my part … like Scotty’s fans would let him get anywhere near the stools of doom. Tossing in other factors—such as perceived fan base, song selection and voter alienation (I’m talking to you Mr. Lusk)—I think the voted bottom three may be Jacob, Stefano and a Haley/Paul toss-up. They both have had brushes in the bottom and then other weeks of safety so that makes me think they may have whim voters, but not as concrete a base as the others.
What do you think?