‘American Idol’ Recap: Top 9 Perform

Paul McDonald American IdolS10E24: Idol treated us to a few tunes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night and it’s clear that voting is becoming a really difficult thing to do. Who NEEDS to go home? Usually, it takes me until we get to the top five or maybe top six before I start having trouble deciding who should go home, but the issue this season is that we’ve got a group of crazy talented singers and they’re all so drastically different. How are we supposed to pick a favorite when each and every one of them is operating on such unique levels? It’s a difficult task to be sure.

Another part of the difficulty this year is that hearing Jennifer, Steven and even Randy go all stage-mom like the weirdest parenting trio ever can cloud our collective judgment a bit. These contestants are not their children, but the judges lack teeth and that makes it hard when you want to form strong and even harsh opinions. Yes, these folks are all talented, but are they all interesting? Do they all deserve record contracts? No.

Here are the top nine in order of the ones I can’t live without to the ones whose times have come.

Paul McDonald

“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

If you don’t like Paul’s style, I’m sure you won’t agree with this choice, but Paul rocked it. He suffered from performing songs that he loved, but that weren’t right for his unique sound. Last night he picked up the Johnny Cash classic and ran with it. Before, he’s had trouble meshing his Indie/Folk style with the pageantry of the Idol stage, but this time he took over instead of letting the Idolness of it all overtake him.

Haley Reinhart

“Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin

Oh my goodness, this was fantastic. She took her “Bennie and the Jets” performance from last week and kicked it up a notch. Not to knock the other lady contestants, but there is a difference between having serious pipes and having a voice that you can play with as flawlessly as Haley does. She rocks, plain and simple.

Casey Abrams

“Have You Ever Seen The Rain” by Credence Clearwater Revival

Now that he’s got those growly wiggles out (and whatever possessed him to slather his hair in grease and slick it back), Casey is back. He returned to that guy who could sing sweet and low and bring the growl to punctuate a performance AND he brought back the upright bass. He brought back the jazzy quality, and with a CCR song no less!

Scotty McCreery

“That’s Alright Mama” by Elvis Presley

Finally, Scotty did something interesting with that crazy timbre of his. That’s been my problem this whole time. He’s done the same damn thing over and over, and here he showed us that a voice like that can do something different. My only complaint here is that I wish he would learn a better way to move on stage – he looked like he was performing as one quarter of 98 Degrees or something. Side note: Randy and Jennifer need to stop saying “___ is in it to win it.” They’re all here to win. No one’s there to have their face later recognized for losing that singing contest that one year.

Jacob Lusk

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

I’m not usually a fan of Jacob’s – as I usually note, this is not for lack of talent, he’s just not my style – but I loved this performance. It was a little messy, he moved around the stage, he started singing with the other folks on stage, but it was honest. It was a true performance and that’s what you need at this point in the competition. It’s not enough to hit the right notes; you have to be fun to watch or it’s all over.

Lauren Alaina

“Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

I still love Lauren and I love that she can take on an Aretha song and not miss a beat (or a note for that matter). My issue here was that she pulled a Pia. When Lauren first got into the competition she knew how to work the stage – and I’m not just talking running around – she knew how to really own the whole stage. This time, she seemed a little stifled up there, but like I said, the girl can sing.

Stefano Langone

“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

Stefano’s really reaching the end of his rope here. Jennifer clearly has a Paula-style crush on him, but that doesn’t mean he’s good enough to stay on the show. He’s a perfectly nice singer, but to be frank, he’s perfectly boring.

Pia Toscano

“River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner

Didn’t she promise that she’d be moving around this time? Yeah, she broke out of her ballad box, but she sang this song like a pageant queen. She promenaded around stage when musical breaks allowed her to stop singing for a second, but it was boring. She still just stood still and attempted to move us. I was not moved. She doesn’t need to run around, but if you look back at Tina Turner’s performances, that woman does not just stand there. If Pia doesn’t figure out how to add something interesting to that voice, I’ll be happy to see her move on.

James Durbin

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles

I’m so over this kid. This week, he stopped jumping around on stage and sang this classic, but slow moving song and it was boring (just him — the song is lovely). He of course saved his signature scream for the end. Boy, am I tired of having to hear that. The sad part is that his voice outside of that scream isn’t anything to praise either. He’s alright. He’s capable. The bottom line is that no manner of dangly cross earrings, flock of seagull haircuts, and Steven Tyler scarves hanging from his back pocket can make him strong enough to belong in the top set of contestants.