Last night, the Idol hopefuls sang songs to honor the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The show started out well, with Steven Tyler explaining to us what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is all about. Interestingly, not all things “rock” have been inducted, as evidenced by the inclusion of James Brown and Michael Jackson, but I guess when you’re talking music, anything goes. Surely, they’re not saying that rock is the grandfather of all music. That would be blues. But, on with the show. As last week’s installment wound to a close, I felt that I and the contestants were losing our verve. Last night, they made me once again sit up and pay attention.
If nothing else, Jacob made things interesting by changing his song choice from “Let’s Get it On” to “Man in the Mirror” by the proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson. While I personally would have found “Let’s Get it On” hard to take from Jacob (who comes across as a “man child”), I thought it might be a more interesting choice. (Honestly, I think Jimmy creeped him out with the population expansion comment.) Just as I was thinking he should have stayed with his initial choice, Jacob, once again, proved me wrong. This was a good song choice for him, and the duet with Siedah Garrett was to die for. Jacob is a very talented young man. I hope America proves me wrong and again keeps him in the competition. As unexpected as Jacob’s change-up was, the next contender’s choice was predictable.
Having had Janis Joplin thrown up in her face several times, Haley—the girl still searching for her musical identity—decided to take her on by performing “Piece of My Heart.” Once again, Haley chose a song that works for the “growl” she can’t let go of, and the song worked for her. Haley needs badly to work on her stage presence. Squatting and stomping do not stage presence make. She performed the song well, though, at least until she tried to make the standard rocker move of dropping the arm to coincide with the ending of the song. Most artists wait until the song has actually reached the end. But, I think that’s more of a musician’s thing.
Speaking of musicians, Casey finally pulled out the upright to accompany his choice of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedance Clearwater Revival. If this isn’t the “real” Casey Abrams, it should be. He seemed quite comfortable with his bass, and his song choice really suits his vocal style. As I’ve said before, Casey is more musician than singer, and he showed that last night. Steven agreed with me. It’s actually nice to see some of the contestants show another side of themselves besides just belting out a song. It takes a lot of hard work, timing, and natural ability to sing while playing an instrument. The voice wants to do one thing, the hands another. It’s hard to pull off, and it’s nice when they show no fear, as Lauren did with her song choice.
Choosing Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” is not an easy choice, but Lauren made it. Randy didn’t seem too enamored of her performance by sharing that “several” contestants before her have “slayed” the song. Really? Funny, I don’t remember who did it before, so those performances must not have been that memorable. As has been the norm for me for the past couple of weeks, Lauren is the only contestant who gives me Goosebumps. I think Lauren did the song justice. She has a great voice, and she has decent stage presence. What’s not to like?
One contestant who wants to make sure everyone has something to like is James. He performed George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Once again, James reminds us that he can do more than just scream. Though he did give us a bit of the scream with that incredibly long note at the end of his performance, it was a good note and a good way to end the song. I think that no matter how this thing pans out, James has a career. If he can keep the cheese to a minimum and stick with performing, he will do well.
Another contestant who clearly has a career in music is Scotty McCreery. He chose his childhood idol Elvis and performed one of his songs with which I wasn’t familiar, “That’s All Right Mama” (which I would spell “Momma,” for reasons only my good friend would understand). This boy is off the chain, or as my sister said last night, “That boy is sick!” His vocals are just incredible. He goes from that double baritone to his chest voice without even thinking about it. The only thing keeping Scotty from scoring a perfect 10 is his movements. That needs a bit of work, but I recall that he was only 16 years old when he auditioned, so it’s not like he’s had a lot of experience at this, making him a true natural talent. If I were running this thing, I would give him the title and call it a day. Let’s put it this way: I don’t like country, yet I love this kid. Enough said.
One I can’t wrap my head around is Pia. I don’t know what it is about her, but she’s just not likable. As a result, no matter who or how well she sings, I’m always ready for her time to end. Pia decided to go upbeat with “River Deep, Mountain High,” by Tina Turner. She needs to take a page from Tina’s book and give us a performance rather than always showing the inner regions of her mouth. Adding to my declaration of Pia as Ballard Barbie, she’s also Power Note Barbie. If there’s a power note to be had, she will perform the song, regardless of tempo. I suspect it’s that plastic-like aura about Pia that I don’t care for, not to mention her outfits. Of course, the blame for this one is Gwen Stefani’s, but it looked a lot like the last bad jumpsuit Pia wore.
Another contestant who inexplicably works my nerves is Stefano, who chose Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Stefano is another contestant who, for some unexplained reason, rubs me the wrong way. He’s Pia’s alter ego, or Power Note Ken, if you will. Stefano seems to always sing the entire song in one long power note. Yes, he can sing, but so what? There’s not a whole lot else going on with him. Sorry, Jennifer, I have to disagree with you on Stefano. The only thing I felt was relief when he finished.
Last but not least, Paul performed “Folsom Prison Blues” by the legendary Johnny Cash. Again, I understand why Vote for the Worst chose Paul. While he didn’t sing in his signature creepy whisper last night, there’s something about him that makes his performances come off as gaffs. For what it’s worth, this was one of his best performances to date. The problem with Paul is the same problem they keep talking to Stefano about: He doesn’t connect. He smiles at the most inappropriate times—like the part about killing a man just to see him die—which makes him appear to not take his own performance seriously (unless he’s really a serial killer; then, I can understand the smile). In all fairness, however, I find it hard to take his performances seriously as well.
By the time the show ended, I found myself wondering which of the contestants would make up the bottom three tonight. Overall, the show was entertaining, and most of the contestants did well. While I do think some of them are better than others, I can’t honestly say that any of them “crashed and burned.” I will stick my neck out on this one and say the bottom three will be all male this week: Stefano, Jacob, and Paul. I believe Jacob hurt himself with his declaration that if he lands in the bottom three, it will be from America’s inability to look at ourselves in the mirror. Huh? No, I think it more likely you’ll be there for saying such an off-the-wall thing and because not everyone appreciates what you do. Even if you’re talented, on this show likability is a huge factor; I doubt that such a statement endeared him to anyone last night. I believe Stefano will be in the bottom simply because it’s his time, and Paul needs to be in the bottom, period. Now, whether this pans out remains to be seen, as we never know how voters of this show are affected by the performances, not to mention issues besides the performances.