Please don't call James Durbin the next Adam Lambert: Let's get Idol real, andno tantrums
It’s the start of Hollywood week, folks, and that means delicious snippets of a cappella singing, countless tears and the inevitable “the talent is most definitely better than ever this season” from Randy Jackson. Thursday night, 327 American Idol hopefuls sang in a sudden death round, receiving their fate on the spot.
Frustratingly, the 18 successful contestants shown Thursday were all ones we’d been previously introduced to, making me just a little weary that Nigel and Company are getting a jump start on pushing their favorites on us.
Nevertheless, more than a handful of the 18 contestants show promise. Let’s break down the Idol hopefuls that made it through — and the infamous one that didn’t.
• Red-headed Brett Loewenstern, bullied in his childhood as we were reminded, put a spin on “Let It Be” that felt wiser than his 16 years. He’s got a cool tone, stellar phrasing and an intuitive grasp on his voice.
• The nerdy/huggable Casey Abrams has been labeled by some as the second coming of Taylor Hicks, but I don’t agree — yet. You can’t really judge the versatility — or relevance — of contestants until they’re worked through the Idol theme week wringer.
There’s depth, power and soulful conviction to Casey’s flawless pipes, and his take on “Lullaby of Birdland” left me wanting more of it.
• Robbie Rosen delivered one of the more controlled performances of the night with “Moody’s Mood for Love,” slipping effortlessly into a lovely falsetto. He also shows an early confidence — not the off-putting kind, but the necessary kind — that some of the other contestants are lacking.
• It’s easy to be cynical about Lauren Alaina, as Nigel and Co. have been practically spoon feeding her to us for months, but let’s get one thing straight: the 15-year-old is mad talented. Watching her clip of “Unchained Melody” reminded me ever so slightly of watching the kind of early childhood/teenage footage you see in biographies of top name artists.
That’s big talk for someone we’ve only heard twice, I know, but at this point in the game, it’s obvious Lauren’s got a tremendous gift. I’m excited to see what she does with it.
• Hollie Cavanagh was a hot mess of tears and unnecessary key changes in her initial audition, but I have to hand it to her for pulling it together and nailing “When I Look at You.” That she’s now sung two Miley Cyrus songs is something for which you’ll just have to forgive her.
• I’m not entirely sold on his ex-girlrfiend, Chelsee Oaks, just yet, but the way Rob Bolin slowly wrung his way through “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” had me fully convinced he was singing the blues. His soulful, smoky tone is gorgeous — and memorable.
• Despite his fiancée’s compelling back story (which was rehashed, lest anyone forget the whopper), Chris Medina’s cover of “You and I” fell flat, literally and figuratively. I still don’t hear anything striking in his voice, and he generally lacks the spark or “It” factor that makes contestants soar on this show.
• Looks aside, the faux-hawk sporting James Durbin has a tone that sounds remarkably similar to Adam Lambert’s. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the impeccable control or musicianship that Lambert displayed from the get-go. His snippet of “Oh Darlin’” showed no restraint, and wavered in pitch when up in the high “scream.”
• I like baby-faced, 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux’s sweet voice, but as I’ve said before, in order to make it as a young’n on this show, you’ve got to own your voice. Jacee’s spin on “Bless the Broken Road” was cautious and a wee bit spiritless. It’ll be interesting to see how he chooses to showcase his artistry going forward, but for now, I’m unimpressed.
• Look, country charmer Scotty McCreary’s got a good voice. But when you sound so similar to an artist that people remember you as the “Josh Turner guy,” it would be wise to pick a song that, um, isn’t Josh Turner’s. Here’s to hoping he steps it up as the weeks progress and shows us who Scott is.
• Tiffany Rios kicked off her performance with a nod to her lookalike Snooki —“Jersey’s here” — but no amount of personality could make her unremarkable take on “All I Could Do Was Cry” interesting. All power and no pizzazz.
• Truth be told, I would have sent Jacqueline Dunford’s obnoxious boyfriend through to the next round over her (more about him in a second). Her breathy, style-over-substance cover of “Bring It On Home to Me” was all over the place. The cynical corner of my mind wonders if the producers split the couple in half for dramatic effect ... but I’m choosing to ignore that thought.
• Oh, Nick Fink. Didn’t you learn anything from the embarrassment that was the Brittenum brothers back in Season 5? Tantrums are not becoming.
Even your girlfriend, who kept walking as you sang your way out of the theater, knows this. And your swipe at Ryan Seacrest? Tacky. Our trusted host may be a lot of things, but compassionless he is not.
• I have no love nor words for the producer’s choice to end the show with Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
Quote of the Night
“I didn’t even know half the people I hugged, but I just felt so bad.”
- Casey Abrams on all the tearful first-round rejects.