‘American Idol’ Recap: The Top 11 Perform

Jacob LuskS10E20: Last night’s episode of American Idol proved two things. First, it proved that while some of these contestants are simply better than the others, they are all talented. Usually by this point, a few people’s voices are shown to be flimsier than we’d thought. Suddenly those notes aren’t so perfect and it’s clear that the pressure is just too much. That happened a bit with Ashton Jones and Karen Rodriguez, but now we’re left with a group of folks who’ve either got amazing range or incredible quality to their voices and it’s getting harder to decide who to boot.

The flip side of this coin is that last night’s theme was Motown, which as a genre tends to be crowd-pleasing. If you have any ounce of performing sensibilities anywhere in you, a Motown song is sure to put that on full display. In other words, we’ve got somewhat skewed results here. When the contestants were choosing from early 90s and late 80s songs last week, they all faltered a bit, but suddenly they’re all pretty damn good? I’m not saying they don’t have talent; I’m saying song selection played a huge role this week.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at last night’s eleven performances from those that had me saying “We are not worthy!” to those that only elicited an “Eh.”

Jacob Lusk

“All I Need to Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrells

I will still admit that Jacob is not my favorite of the bunch. He’s not my style and that’s okay, but the fact that he’s not my favorite and the fact that everyone was so entertaining last night and he’s STILL my number one should be a testament to his talent. He’s got the whole package and we saw a few folks who’ve got that going on last night, but he’s got it going on the most.

Simon Says: That was fantastic.

Paul McDonald

“Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Say what? How is Paul this high up? Well, if you’ve read my previous Idol updates, you know I have a wee bit of a crush on him, but he’s also really, really great. The reason he’s so high up today is that he is so effortlessly himself onstage. That may seem like a silly compliment, but it’s great to see someone who gets up on stage and does a song as well-known and as steeped in Motown sensibilities as “Tracks of My Tears” and doesn’t let the song own them. He was singing Motown, but really, he was singing as Paul and that’s what was so fantastic.

Simon Says: Look, you were great, but this is American Idol not Indie Music Idol. I just don’t know how far this will take you.

Haley Reinhart

“You Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson

I peeked around the interwebs this morning and saw an avalanche of hate for Miss Reinhart and I’ve got to be completely honest, I still don’t get it. I love this girl. As Jennifer so aptly pointed out last night, she’s got this incredible voice that she somehow has complete control over. She wants it to go this crazy, unexpected place and it just does – and it does so effortlessly. Plus, she’s freaking adorable. I really need to know what the rest of the world is smoking that is turning them against Haley because I think she rocks.

Simon Says: It took you a while to find yourself onstage but you got there.

Pia Toscano

“All in Love is Fair” by Stevie Wonder

I am only putting Pia up this high on the list because I can’t help but appreciate her natural, God-given talent. Home girl can SING. She hits crazy notes without even trying and that’s incredible. However – and this is a big however – she NEEDS to get out of her ballad box. I hate to say that Jennifer was right (again) and I hate even more to say that someone should emulate Celine Dion, but yeah. Pia needs to get down with some Celine because if she doesn’t start bringing some life to that stage, her voice is going to be wasted on some girl whose feet seem to be glued to the mike stand.

Simon Says: Yeah, yeah you can sing, but I was bored.

Thia Megia

“Heat Wave” by Martha and The Vandellas

Thia is BACK. And thank goodness for that. I’m still a little wary of Thia because when she loosened up for this song – which was fantastic –she still seemed a little stiff like one of those kids on Toddlers and Tiaras. However, she finally brought back that fun, jazzy, amazing voice that we fell in love with during the audition process. I just hope she can figure out how to work that stage now.

Simon Says: You sounded great, but you looked uncomfortable up there. Are you uncomfortable on stage?

Casey Abrams

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye

This is one of those situations where the star student thinks they deserve an A+ every time, so they let their game fall a bit and everyone just kind of goes along with it. I love Casey, I really, really do, and this performance was good, it just wasn’t explosive the way his other ones have been. At this point, he knows he’s good, he knows audiences love him, and he’s going crazy with it. Maybe it was the weird slicked-back hair giving him this bastardly edge, but he wasn’t as connected as he usually is. He needs to come back down into that Casey sweet spot, where he was sexy because he just was, not because he was forcing us to think so.

Simon Says: It was kind of unpleasant, which is unusual because you’re a likable person.

Lauren Alaina

“You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes

I still love this girl and this performance was adorable, she looked great, her vocals were on, but something else was off. Maybe she’s still recovering from the flu, but she just didn’t have that fire that she used to have. Technically it was all there, it was just missing a little something extra for me.

Simon Says: Look, you like it up there. We get it. It just wasn’t there for me tonight.

James Durbin

“Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder

Sorry folks, I do not like this guy. He’s not pleasant to listen to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he belongs in an 80s band, not on American Idol. All he’s got going for him are those high notes and the fact that he can strut around onstage like he thinks he’s Mick Jagger. That’s great and all, but he’s a lot of show without a lot of substance and frankly, that’s what annoys me about a lot of folks who cycle through on Idol and I’m over it.

Simon Says: You’re having fun up there and that’s great, but the vocals aren’t always on and that’s kind of important in a singing competition.

Naima Adedapo

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

On one hand, I’m really happy about this performance because the girl got her voice back! Yes! On another hand, she cannot seem to find her overall voice as a performer. Who the hell is this girl and what is she trying to tell us? It’s exhausting trying to figure her out. My biggest problem isn’t the seemingly out of place African dancing at the end of the song, it’s the fact that she’s supposed to be doing this fun, upbeat song, and she’s got the intensity of someone singing about death and heartbreak in her eyes. I like her voice, but I just don’t know what she’s doing.

Simon Says: I’m not sure what that was.

Scotty McCreery

“For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder

Poor Scotty. He tried. He really did. Unfortunately, he’s got that great voice (hello, incredibly low note!), but Motown just doesn’t work for him. I wish he could have pulled a Paul and really made it his own, but he ended up sounding like some Vegas lounge show with an Elvis impersonator that someone’s slots-playing, chain-smoking, see-through green visor-wearing, you’re-going-where-I-damn-well-ask-you-to-demanding great aunt dragged you to. It wasn’t great.

Simon Says: Scotty, I’m afraid it just didn’t work.

Stefano Langone

“Hello” by Lionel Ritchie

First off, you’ve got a choice from an entire catalog of Motown greats and you choose LIONEL RITCHIE? And you choose the jokiest of his songs? Really. Come on, Stefano. Secondly, it just did not work at all. He didn’t feel genuine. It didn’t seem like he even wanted to be up there. Yeah, he hit the notes, but it was just not enjoyable to watch. I fear his time may be up. He doesn’t have as crazy a following as some of the others do and this certainly didn’t help that.

Simon Says: I’m speechless, but not in a good way. What happened to you?