Steven Tyler sleeps on the job & American Idol suffers: Trying to get over thePia Toscano disaster
After last week’s disappointing elimination of Pia Toscano — an occurrence I blame almost solely on the American Idol judges; more about that in a minute — the movie-themed Top 8 night needed to lift the spirits of Idol nation.
And did it? Sort of.
Let’s start with the good: Casey Abrams stole the show with his delicate, haunting, bass-accompanied cover of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy.” Producer Jimmy Iovine tried to steer him towards Phil Collins’ more mainstream “In The Air Tonight” (huh?), but like a handful of other contestants, Casey stuck to his ground, and it paid off in spades.
These are the performances that keep me glued to Idol — the ones that disregard the “pop star” parameters of the show and simply showcase raw talent.
James Durbin similarly took a stand against Iovine with his high-energy performance of Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal.” He didn’t deliver his best vocal of the season — he would have benefited from a little more melody to navigate through — but his mixture of (appropriate) confidence and authenticity drove the song home. Props to him for standing up to Iovine in a classy, endearing way — “Give metal a chance!”
Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery and Jacob Lusk fell somewhere in the middle of the pack with decent but safe performances. Lauren sounded at home with a pretty rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” but I wrote in my notes, “she could do this with her eyes closed.” She needs to start finding songs that challenge her tremendous talent — remember fellow 16-year-old Jordin Sparks’ showstopper, “I Who Have Nothing”?
Scotty and Jacob both went with their bread and butter, the former with a “King” George Strait tune and the latter with a gospel-esque standard. Unfortunately, neither truly impressed. For the first time this season, Scotty’s vocals sounded affected on “I Cross My Heart,” and he fell flat and out of synch with the background singers in a couple of areas. Jacob chose Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” a song that surely melts even the hardest of hearts, but he unsurprisingly cooked it with just a bit too much of …everything. (And I’d watch your back, Jacob: Clay Nation is vicious.)
Paul McDonald, Haley Reinhart and Stefano Langone fell into my personal bottom three as well as the public’s bottom three, taking the stools of doom on Thursday night’s elimination episode. Paul’s manic performance of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” was somewhat of a delight to watch, seeing as he sang it with his signature reckless abandon charm, but its ratio of good to bum notes is not something I can get behind.
Haley attempted the highly stylized Blondie’s “Call Me” and failed to lift it above karaoke standards. (I will say that her “Moanin’” duet with Casey on the elimination show was stunningly good.)
And Stefano? His take on Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road’ (yes I have that on my iPod and no I am not ashamed) felt just a little out of his league, like he was straining to keep up with the power ballad. He also has a tendency to infuse an accent into some performances and not others, which I find distracting.
In the end, America chose to send Paul packing, an elimination that was much easier to swallow than last week’s disastrous results.
Dear Jennifer and Randy,
…I mean, really, how shocked can you be at Pia Toscano’s early exit, guys? (I refuse to address your friend Steven Tyler, who might as well sleep through the live shows.) You’ve been consistently praising every contestant without giving any sort of assessment of the state of the competition — remember that, the competition? — other than “it’s anyone’s game.”
Look, it’s great that you’re able to find something you love about every contestant, and it’s heartening that your critiques are sincere and passionate. But we need a definitive voice. We need you to take a stand. We need you to inject a little cutthroat into this race if you expect the great to float to the top.
Otherwise, why even show up?