‘American Idol’ Recap: The Top 13 Perform

“You are a rainbow of talent…you are a plethora of passion.” -Steven

S10E16: Leave it to Steven to try to sound wildly educated and end up sounding like a crazy person, though I don’t blame him. This quote comes from right after Casey Abrams’ performance and I was just as taken aback as Steven was, but we’ll get to that. Last night on Idol, we saw a few of our favorites falter, a few of our maybes prove they should go on home, and one singer who I personally had written off redeem himself. Even so, this season, the question isn’t “Can they sing?” because they’ve all got the raw talent; it’s “What can they do with that talent?” Some of these singers belong onstage. People throw around, “You were born to do this,” but for a select few contestants, I believe that cliche is a truth.

Anyway, the contestants picked songs by their own personal idols this week and received help from producers at Interscope Records. Here are our top 13 in order from phenomenal to send-them-home-now.

Casey Abrams

“With a Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker

Casey, Casey, CASEY. What can I say besides, “This guy is amazing?” Nothing. Because he is. If he doesn’t win this whole thing, there is probably something wrong with internet because it will have lost all his well-deserved votes somehow. I feel sorry for the other talented folks on the show because no one can even touch this guy right now.

Simon Says: You really get it. I actually have nothing bad to say. Honestly.

Pia Toscano

“All By Myself” by Celine Dion

First of all, I hate this song. It’s one of those joke songs that only works when it serves as the comical opening scene to Bridget Jones’ Diary as she drinks red wine alone and lip syncs it while crying in awful pajamas, yet somehow I got past that and just appreciated Pia’s singing ability. As dreadful as the song is, it’s very demanding vocally and frankly, the girl kicked the song’s ass. I thought maybe last week was a fluke, but she’s clearly got some serious pipes. I just hope she starts singing songs I actually like.

Simon Says: Look, it was a little boring. You didn’t bring anything different to the song, but you can really sing and this is a singing competition.

Thia Megia

“Smile” by Michael Jackson

This one’s always a tricky song choice. If you don’t bring enough vocally, it can seem a little sleepy and a little boring, but thankfully for Thia, she’s got that amazing voice to back it up. I agreed with the judges that upbeat section in the middle was a little rough, but if you ask me, it was a strange arrangement and not a testament of her vocal ability. It wasn’t her best, but even when she’s not at her best, she’s lovely to watch.

Simon Says: That middle section was just dreadful, but I will say that either end of it was really lovely.

Lauren Alaina

“Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain

I almost hesitate to put Lauren up this high on the list simply because while the performance was great and she’s got a great voice, it really seemed like she was phoning it in. This comes easily to her, we get that, but she should really start to push it a little further instead of staying in the comfort zone. Luckily for her, her comfort zone is turning out to be better than a lot of other contestant’s best performances so I think there will be no danger of losing her any time soon.

Simon Says: It just wasn’t enough for me.

Scotty McCreery

“The River” by Garth Brooks

I like Scotty; I really, really do. The one complaint I have is that he’s a one-trick pony. You see folks like Haley Reinhart go from R&B to country music and rock both ends of the spectrum and then he have Scotty, who really only fits the deep country roots mold. That being said, when it comes to country, this young man is a force to be reckoned with; I just doubt that all of America will stay on the country train once the contestant pool gets really small.

Simon Says: Look, you are great for country western music, but do you belong here? I don’t know.

Stefano Langone

“Lately” by Stevie Wonder

Can you believe I put Stefano up this high? I can’t. While I didn’t really like the fact that they sped up the Stevie Wonder song to this double-time dance floor version, I must admit, Stefano sang the hell out of it even at that fast tempo. Singing that well in that circumstance isn’t the easiest thing to do and for that, I may actually be taking a step closer to becoming a Stefano fan.

Simon Says: That arrangement was awful, but you handled it.

Haley Reinhart

“Blue” by LeAnn Rimes

I do really like this song — especially because of its Patsy Cline quality — but it’s a bit sleepy for this competition. The great thing about it is that even though it was all a little too slow and plodding, Haley held her own and used the material to show us a significant range and some serious talent. I think she needs better song choices in the future, but she belongs in this competition and I hope she gets the chance to stay a while longer.

Simon Says: You’ve got the voice, but I had a really hard time keeping my eyes open.

James Durbin

“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney

I’m still not a Durbin fan, but I really appreciate that he reserved his crazy, high pitched singing for specific sections within this classic song. He actually managed to pull it back and sing softly until it made sense for those notes to make well-times appearances. However, I think that while he does have a crazy range, when he’s not blowing people’s minds with those notes, the quality of his tone just isn’t all that appealing. I know I’ll get some hate for this, but I just can’t get on board with Durbin.

Simon Says: You’ve got the range, but that’s not always enough.

Naima Adedapo

“Umbrella” by Rihanna

Oh, Naima. I really, really enjoy her and I actually appreciated her attempt to go a little more mainstream with a little of her own reggae flavor, but in doing that she lost sight of the vocals. I will say that I thought this number would be a total disaster and I was pleasantly surprised, but it was still a little rough. I think if she steps back and figures out the parts that worked and polishes them, she could be a real delight in the competition but I’m not sure America will give her the chance.

Simon Says: It was a bit odd. You tried to do too many things and the vocals just failed.

Paul McDonald

“Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams

Okay, so there are two sides to this coin. On one side, I love Paul’s voice, his performance style, and the way he always looks like he’s so stoked to be onstage. I love that he didn’t try to be a replica of Ryan Adams while performing this song. On the other side, I wish he would have tweaked his onstage style a bit to fit the song a little better. There was a sense of dissonance between his performance and the song, but I still love Paul and I hope he sticks around to redeem himself. His voice is so unique and so lovely to listen to. I just hope he figures out how to make it work a little better.

Simon Says: I like you, but this was just not your best performance.

Ashthon Jones

“When You Tell Me That You Love Me” by Diana Ross

The girl is just inconsistent. She can rock the songs she knows by heart — the one from Dreamgirls –but when it comes to others, she falters. She was sharp and flat all over the place. I think she could be better, but she needs some serious vocal coaching.

Simon Says: I really just didn’t like it.

Jacob Lusk

“I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly

First of all, this song should be banned from Idol. It’s so tired and now that R. Kelly is a joke, the song has lost its sincerity. Secondly, Lusk is a talented singer but this performance just didn’t cut it. Yes, he kept the stage presence going, he performed with vigor and heart, but the vocals were careless. He favored power over quality and it showed. I doubt this will be the end of the line for Jacob, he’s got a lot of fans, but it really wasn’t one of his better performances.

Simon Says: Oh, how the mighty fall.

Karen Rodriguez

“I Could Fall In Love” by Selena

I stand by my statement from last week: she doesn’t belong here. Besides the fact that she looked like she was trying to win a Selena-look-alike contest, this performance was just plain awful.

Simon Says: Dreadful. I don’t know how you’ve made it this far.