Producers Gone Wild: American Idol Recap

That was a rough night huh? I feel like the first time the finalists perform in any given season it either ends as a success with a more or less even playing field, or, like last night – it’s a disaster. Maybe it was something in the water, or maybe it was producers hovering like show parents. The judges were feeling that too apparently as it was one of the harsher nights in terms of criticism, Lauren Alaina was stifling tears till the moment they cut away from her, Thia got defensive and Jennifer Lopez made excuses for Karen’s shitty performance. Part of me wants to blame the producers for what went down last night as they should know better.

I can’t believe for one second that any person. let along a music producer,  thought the  jazzy upbeat second half to Charlie Chaplin’s smile wouldn’t have him rolling in his grave. Ditto to whomever arranged Stefano Lagone’s Lately and whoever thought it was okay for Jacob Lusk to abandon melody, harmony and murder the song with those terrible power vocals/yodeling.

Even the top faves in each gender (arguably) Casey Abrams and Lauren Alaina, had rough nights. It seemed like Alaina, who started the show phoning in Shania Twain’s Any Man of Mine. At it’s best, it was karaoke, at it’s worst it showed us how promising contestants can crumble under the pressure, or in Casey’s case; become his own hype. Of course Casey would attempt to attack Joe Cocker’s brilliant Beatles cover of With a Little Help From My Friends, it’s very much the type of song he WOULD do, and he’ll sail through (like Lauren too) – it was simply nothing special. He set the bar high with last week and this just didn’t do it. Also what was the comment Randy said about this being American Idol Remix? I didn’t get that. But I did get how Abrams put a HUGE emphasis on the “getting high” part of the song.

Amaze-balls this week were James Durbin and Pia Toscana. All By Myself has been done to death on Idol, but Randy was right about the Mariah-Whitney-Celine song choice – you HAVE to be able to do it, and Toscana nailed it. My problem with Toscana is Idol has never had use for “The Ballad Girl”, she always makes it to the top 3 or 4 but without the range to shake it up she’ll die in the stupid theme weeks coming up. The same can’t be said for Durbin, who two weeks in a row has killed it. Judas Priest was ambitious for sure, but tackling a classic like Macca’s Maybe I’m Amazed is ballsy. It’s a hard song – but Durbin was more than game, even allowing for a few quieter moments and a few low vibratos that were right on. The only thing I didn’t love was how he played to the camera – but I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on that stage with a camera in your face and NOT play to it – so he gets a conditional pass – conditional on him stopping his Bieber-eqsue head nods and winks. Also Naima Adedapo gets major points for the Reggaeton version of Umbrella. In her little intro package, when she said she was doing Umbrella, I cringed; it’s overplayed, it’s rough melodically and it’s very recent. And Adedpo struggled through the first part. But one the reggae hit, she killed it and it gaver he the confidence and momentum to nail the end. She is a dark horse.

Scotty McCreery, Stefano Lagone, and Haley Reinhart should sail through, maybe Haley will end up in the bottom three, but all have pretty solid voices and play to their genre’s. The only thing that could hurt Haley was her odd yodel in the chorus of Blue, which while it was boring (go Randy!) it was also decent.

Paul McDonald picked a terrible song and was just terrible at it. It was really hard to watch, and hard to listen to. For a niche contestant like him song choice is everything. Do James Blunt or Gavin DeGraw or Damien Rice – people who’s songs fit your style. Thia Megia’s rendition of Smile was by far the worst produced number of the night, that jazzy uptick in the beat close to the end turned a B performance into a D. She should do something that Lea Salonga would have sang (or did) at her age; a showtune/ballad, comething with crossover appeal like Les Mis or Miss Saigon.  

I’m still angered over the inclusion of Ashthon Jones in the finals, it remains a mystery to me what the judges saw in her. Last week I though she was a goner and this week she proved me right. In the first round of finals the most important thing for a contestant to do is pick a song that people can get into. It doesn’t have to have a high tempo, but it needs to be recognizable, and this was not. Of all the Diana Ross songs, she picked “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”, one of the more obscure B-Side songs of her catalog. I’d off myself if I performed that bad infront of Berry Gordy. Just saying.

Karen Rodriguez’s performance of Selena’s I Could Fall In Love was atrocious. Like Lindsay Cardinale artrocious, like Jasmine Trias atrocious. It was some of the worst pandering to an audience I’ve ever seen. Even worse was J Lo’s excuse making on her behalf. “Could you hear yourself?” she asked and then seemingly as if a light went off in Karen’s head, she was like; “No, not really.” and in a second Jen’s pimping went from precocious (it’s her first time on the panel, you let it slide a little) to obnoxious. And Finally Jacob Lusk, who in the past has exhibited control over his pitch and tone, abandoned all last night to scream R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly. It was one of the worst performances on the idol stage I’ve ever seen. And I sat through my share of John Stevens and Anthony Federov’s disasters. I wanted to die, and maybe moreso because up until last night, he was one of my faves.

TVOCRATS Bottom Three , Week 1: Jacob Lusk, Karen Rodriguez and Ashthon Jones.

Bottom 3 Prediction: Ashthon Jones, Paul McDonald & Thia Megia with Holmes being eliminated.

Grades: Week One 

  • Pia Toscana A
  • James Durbin A
  • Naima Adedapo B +
  • Scotty McCreery B +
  • Casey Abrams B
  • Stefano Lagone B
  • Lauren Alaina B –
  • Hailee Reinhart C +
  • Paul Mcdonald C –
  • Ashthon Holmes D
    Thia Megia D
  • Jacob Lusk D –
  • Karen Rodriguez F
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