Who Sung It Better?: American Idol Recap

I had a feeling Motown night was gonan be a hot one – with a more versatile songbook than other genres it really allows the singers to take some artistic license with them, make them their own. Motown nights have been hot in the past too, in fact every song sung last night, with the exception of “You’ve really got a hold on me” sung by Haley, had been sung before. So to recap last night’s better-than-the-last-few-weeks American Idol, I thought it’d be fun to take atrip[ down memory lane and play a little game of Who Sung It Better?

*in the event where the song has been sung a number of times, contestants will go up against the strongest version. (ex. Scotty will go up against Justin Guarini’s For Once In My Life, not Camille Velasco’s). And Haley will go up against Kiersten Holine, who’s cover came up first in a youtube search.

Casey Abrams vs. Fantasia Barrino (season 3, Winner)

I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Casey was just okay for me this week, he didn’t have the benefit of a wild and ambitious song choice to hide his struggling vocals. He’s still trying to find the right balance for his voice, I love him to death still, but he’s waning in my affections, frankly I expected better. Fantasia’s is pretty great, she was made to sing songs with soul like this. She rocked the stage, exhibited control and proved why she would eventually win.

Winner: Fantasia Barrino

Thia Megia vs Lil Rounds (season 8, 7th)

Heat Wave. There are a lot of Heat Wave’s to choose from, Rounds won out mainly becuase this has a bit of a cursed idol history almost leading to the early exits of Kimberly Locke and Jennifer Hudson, who’s versions were rocky. Rounds gave it oomph and life, and it was good vocally. Last night for the first time since the finals began we saw Thia give us a reason to like her. It was good – actually it was very good. There was no weird vibrato, no odd phrasing, no slow-jazz  muzack arrangement, instead Thia chose to show off her tone, I finally understood the Adele comparisons. The curse may be broken.

Winner: Tickles McGiver!

Jacob Lusk vs. Kelly Clarkson (Season 1, Winner)

You’re All I Need To Get By. Last night was a return to form for husky Lusky, since singing ‘House is not a Home’, he’s been screeching and wailing and dropping lower and lower in the ranks, and really becoming a joke. Last night however, something changed – he exhibited control, and didn’t screech past the point of music into dog call territory. I actually give him mad props for last night, but still, this probably not the fairest match-up, more fair would have been Jasmine Trias’ version from season 3. In week one of American Idol’s first season finals Kelly brought her A game and delivered a flawless performance.

Winner: Kelly Clarkson

Lauren Alaina vs. Vanessa Olivarez (Season 2, 12th)

You Just Keep Me Hanging On. Vanessa Olivarez was eliminated after this performance which wasn’t necessarily bad, it just lacked anything special. I’ve met Olivarez and she’s super nice so she gets bonus points there, but her performance as a whole was blah. Lauren seems to have the wind back in her wings as she brought back her confidence and effortlessness. Also she looked phenomenal in the animal prints.

Winner: Lauren Alaina

Stefano Lagone vs. David Cook (Season 8, Winner)

I’d forgotten how good Cook’s version was. Wow. It only makes hating everything Legano does even more. Cook’s is trancendent. Worse than Lagone’s performance is his soul patch. I hate the tone of his voice and the way he says “you”. He’s just the worst.

Winner: David Cook by a mile, it wasn’t even close.

Haley Reinhart vs. Kiersten Holine (some girl on Youtube)

You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me. In the last few weeks I’ve really come to love Haley’s voice. I thought she did great, she showed off her great range, and her runs allowed for both her Joplin side and her soul side.  For me, this was better than she’s done in the finals but I still don’t think it was enough to save her life in the competition. Kiersten Holine’s version is less motown and more a cover of She & Him’s version, but she kills it! Singing under a blanket, strumming her guitar and singing softly, with soul, Kiersten’s cover is really good. Haunting almost. Very different covers that are great for very different reasons. I give the edge to Reinhart for showing off her power.

Winner: Haley Reinhart (but barely, very barely)

Scotty McCreery vs. Justin Guarini (Season 1, Runner-up)

For One In My Life. I disagreed with the judges, I thought this was infact Scotty’s best performance. He took the judges advice from last week and held notes for longer showing off a bit more of his power. It was pitchy for sure, but he was getting more abitious at a point when contestants in his position usually become complacent. This bluegrass arrangement REALLY worked for me. In a time before Justin Guarini was a punchline he was a serious contender for the first American Idol crown, and his joyfully peppy performance proved that. It was vocally immaculate and a lot of fun to watch. This one’s a close one too, but sheer charisma is beaten here my ambition. 

Winner: Scotty (by an nose)

Pia Toscano vs. Katharine McPhee (Season 5, Runner-up)

All is Fair in Love. Battle de los DIVAS! This is probably the harderst one to decide between. Toscano has more sheer power, but McPhee’ a more natural performer. They were both vocally immaculate, maybe Pia was a little better. But Pia needs to no rely so hard on ballads, had this not been her thousandth ballad she probably would have edged McPhee out, but she was playing it safe.

Winner: Tie. 

Paul McDonald vs. Adam Lambert (Season 8, Runner-up)

Tracks of my Tears. I hated McDonald’s. Hated it. It’s just not my style. His voice is only becoming more grating every week. At least his guitar stopped him from dancing. The arrangement was clunky and felt overproduced and I am done trying to like his voice. Adam Lambert’s performance was one of the best idol performances ever. It was an unplugged, stripped down soulful quiet performance that really showcased why Lambert would eventually go on to win. Huh? He didn’t win? What do you mean? Who the fuck is Kris Allen?

Winner: Adam Lambert (by a million miles, the strongest win here)

Naima Adedapo vs. Amy Adams (Season 3, 10th)

Amy Adams was eliminated for her safe and totally average performance. There was absolutely nothing special about it, which was not the case with Naima – who came out in a flares and infused her performance with some awesome African drums and even a little dancing, which Idol exec. producer (and So You Think You Can Dance judge) Nigel Lythgoe applauded from the side. She bounced back from a terrible week which I applaud, and I also loved the funky arrangement.

Winner: Naima Adedapo!

James Durbin vs. Taylor Hicks (Season 5, Winner)

Livin For the City. Even though I wasn’t actually crazy about Le Durbs last night, he reinforced more so than ever how much of a rock star he truly is. I felt like the whole song was sung in a really awkward and unflattering key for James. It didn’t sound a clean as his songs usually do, but even if he warbled through a trachotmy tube, he’s still have done better that Hicks, whos cover is painstakingly average.

Winner: Le Durbs.

TVocrats Bottom Three: Stefano, Paul and Jacob

Bottom Three Prediction: Naima Adedapo, Haley Reinhart and Paul Mcdonald with Haley going home (I don’t think she’s the worst, it’s just America seems not to get it. They instead get Stefano…)

Grades Week 3

  • Pia Toscana A (but switch it up, girl)
  • Lauren Alaina A-
  • Naima Adedapo B+
  • Jacob Lusk B+ (you got better, thank you)
  • Scotty McCreery B+ (My fave of his so far)
  • Tickles McGiver B
  • Casey Abrams B (I expect better…)
  • Haley Reinhart B
  • James Durbin aka Le Durbs B-
  • Paul McDonald D+
  • Stefano Lagone D (Barf.)

A few final notes:

– Liv Tyler and Jennifer Beals sitting together? I think Beals was moved beside her for that shot. Also no Kirsten Dunst shot?


– Did James do a Dr Evil face when Ryan announced his number? I think so.

What did you think of last night?


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