American Idol Recap: Natural 'Born' Killers

Wednesday night, American Idol broke out the time-honored theme of “Songs From the Year You Were Born,” which is alternately known as “Excuses to Show Contestants’ Baby Photos” Week and also “Holy Crap, You Could Have Totally Changed That Singer’s Diaper!” Night. Song selections ranged from Nirvana to Whitney Houston (twice!), and from “I’m just gonna pretend that wasn’t the theme from Disney’s Pocahontas” to “Dude, Carrie and Allison sang it better, and as a matter of fact, so did Gina Glocksen.” And that was just the tip of the inscrutable iceberg.

Scotty McCreery’s mom outsang at least a quarter of the contestants (without even trying). Steven Tyler found some of Paula Abdul’s old crib notes stuck under the judges’ table and figured, “Why the f*** not?” And Jimmy Iovine essentially gave Haley Reinhart a photocopied “Season 10 Certificate of Participation” and a $25 iTunes gift certificate before asking her to put down her mic and go fetch lunch for Lauren Alaina. Oh, and Stefano Langone committed two crimes on the Idol stage — absolutely slaying “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and stealing the night from his 11 fellow finalists in the process.

But let’s turn it over to the always eloquent Randy Jackson for his take on the proceedings: “We got a hot competition, bay-bee!” Ugh, on second thought, let’s hit the mute button on the dawg and recap tonight’s performances, starting with the four ladies I suspect will (but not necessarily should) be competing to make up Thursday night’s bottom three: Thia Megia, MySpace Contestant Karen Rodriguez, Haley Reinhart, and Naima Adedapo.

Thia Megia, “Colors of the Wind”: C-
Who else wanted to swaddle Thia in a warm Navajo blanket toward the end of her performance of Vanessa Williams’ Pocahontas ballad? Seriously, I couldn’t tell if the competition’s youngest contestant had broken out the excessive vibrato and slurry enunciation on purpose (perhaps as a way to bring to life the shivery presence of the titular zephyr?) or if she’d just developed a nasty chill right there on the Idol stage. (I shivered, too, to be honest, every time Thia uttered the words “blue corn moon.” I mean…)

But in all seriousness, I wasn’t the only one who picked up on the vaguely unpleasant tone Thia’s voice took on over the course of her performance. In one of her many constructive critiques Wednesday night (woohoo!), Jennifer Lopez said she simply couldn’t tell if Thia’s nerves were showing or if there’s something wonky about the quality of her vibrato. “Either way, I don’t want to think about that,” J.Lo said. Even Steven Tyler managed to ask a pertinent question: “Is that song who you think you are?” To which Thia weirdly responded, “Um, I thought it suited perfectly, you know, what’s going on in the world today, so I thought the lyrics suited very perfectly what the…you know, but it was 1995, I thought it was the best song out of all the choices I had.” So to sum it, either Thia really wants us to consider, in these troubled times, “how high does the sycamore grow,” or else Uncle Nigel gave her a list of four songs to choose from, and all of them were preposterous. Watch how you answer, kiddo, or Peggi Blu is going to DRAG YOU TO HELL.

Karen Rodriguez, “Love Will Lead You Back”: D+
Did you know that Karen auditioned for Idol from the comfort of her own home, via MySpace? Hey, don’t blame Ryan for bringing it up again: With the way Karen is performing, her Idol run is going to be like McDonald’s Shamrock Shake — for a limited time only. Sporting a beehive hairdo that made her head look like the number eight, Karen rocked a black and silver minidress that was one part Barbarella and one part Joanna Krupa’s “Future Paso” costume from Dancing With the Stars, not realizing that no single outfit would be able to drag Taylor Dayne’s dated ballad from its late-’80s perch. Karen seemed to be fighting from beginning to end to stay on pitch, and she finally lost the uncomfortable battle at the Dramatic Key Change/Switch Into Spanish. Is it possible I enjoyed this song better when Mikalah Gordon warbled it back in Season 4? I can’t really answer, on the grounds that I’d have to go back and listen to both performances again to reach my verdict. Either way, I appreciated J.Lo advising Karen not to reach for notes she’s not sure she can hit: It certainly beat Steven’s gobbledygook about Karen’s “ethnic what-it-is-ness” or Randy’s off-the-mark “welcome back!” If Karen lives to fight another week, she should probably thank her mom’s sweet/adorable interview package, which strictly followed Idol Editing Code No. 457: Parents With Accents Must Always Be Subtitled.

Haley Reinhart, “I’m Your Baby Tonight”: C+
If Karen’s mom managed to get out the vote, it could spell trouble for Haley, who flagrantly disobeyed an important Idol bylaw of her own: Never Cover a Midtempo Whitney Houston Track (also known as the “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” Statute). Now, look, I need to be fair here: All season long, I’ve struggled to understand Haley — both existentially and because of her marbles-in-mouth pronunciation — but I dare say she’s kind of growing on me. There were moments on “I’m Your Baby” where the kid’s signature growl actually worked, as did those jazzy riffs she inserted toward the end of the number. Plus, as usual, Haley stayed on pitch consistently from start to finish (even if she couldn’t quite match strides with Whitney’s rapid-fire wordplay). But J.Lo was right in pointing out the awkwardness of Haley’s body language. The way she repeatedly turns sideways, bends her knees, and dips her derriere toward the floor, Haley resembles an adolescent flightless bird shaking her tail feathers in some sort of botched mating ritual. The vaguely tragic vibe was not helped by the sight of Haley accidentally touching her mic to her severely painted lips, then subsequently leaving red, mic-patterned blotches on her cheek and chin. Or by Ryan using a handkerchief and his saliva-dabbed finger to wipe the offending smudges off Haley’s face. “It’s my first red-lipstick disaster!” Haley said delightedly, then later added this unfortunate bon mot to her collection: “I let my mouth go with the flow!”

Still, seeing how Haley was born on at 9 a.m. on 9/9/90, perhaps she’s destined for a ninth place finish (even if it’s not Season 9). Let’s be honest, with her loopy lack of polish, Haley is infinitely more entertaining than, say, Karen or Thia. But how to explain Jimmy Iovine’s “thanks for playing” comments? “This year there is gonna be a winner of American Idol, but there are gonna be other winners — ’cause of the kind of talent that is being shown that will go on and should have successful careers,” he said. “Everything you do is being watched and monitored both by the audience and by us. And work ethic is a big thing, you know?” Did Haley just get her commitment questioned on national television? Ouch. That said, while Haley has now covered contemporary R&B, country, and early ’90s pop, if she survives another week, I think she should zero in on Steven’s request that she shift her focus to blues rock.

Naima Adedapo, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”: C-
Note to Naima: You can be cool and likable and a good dancer, and you can add a thumping bass line to update your mid-’80s ditty, but if 90 percent of your notes are flatter than the average Kansas cornfield, then the Idoloonie Nation is going to be finished with you before Easter.

I’ve got to admit I about fell off my chair when, offering the first critique of the evening, Steven blathered that Naima had “a sorcerer’s grasp of melody” — if he’s correct, then I suggest we all try to achieve our OWLs in Defense Against the Dark Arts — but thank Ja Rule that J.Lo kept it real and called out the dreadlocked mama for being consistently pitchy.

Oh, but how come Our Lady of Gigli couldn’t point the same harsh-truth gun at Jacob Lusk or Casey Abrams? I’d label those gentlemen as the two contestants who ought to be at risk on Thursday night — or at the very least should have been led by the judges to believe they might be.

Jacob Lusk, “Alone”: D
Look, it’s almost impossible to consider an Idol performance of Heart’s classic slice of ’80s bombast without drawing comparisons to Carrie Underwood’s definitive season 4 performance, and then to Allison Iraheta’s “where did SHE come from?” breakout from the season 8 semifinals. But even on its own merits, Jacob’s performance was absolute butchery, the equivalent of using a pick axe instead of a bread knife on a fresh-baked baguette. Jacob wants to believe that the “Lusk stank” involves putting an over-the-top Gospel twist on a song, but what he’s really doing is spraying buckshot at the melody, hoping that somewhere in the blast of noise and side-eyes and glittering lip balm, he’ll hit the occasional note. I’d rail against all three judges praising this assault of a performance just because it came last — and you’re supposed to end the show on an upbeat note, I guess? — but repeating any of their words might somehow give them credence, and I can’t abide by that. (Hey, J.Lo, when a bum note makes you physically wince — yeah, the Fox camera guys caught that — shouldn’t you maybe mention it in your feedback?)

Casey Abrams, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: C+
It’s not a good sign for a contestant’s long-range Idol plans when you rewind his performance not to hear his singing, but instead to relive his mom’s adorable use of “pedantic.” And while I’m not yet giving up on Casey — not while his magical Hollywood Week take on “Georgia on My Mind” is so fresh in my memory — I have to admit I’m concerned that the kid might be buying a little too heavily into his own hype. “Is it too big of a risk? I don’t care,” he told Jimmy Iovine of his decision to cover Nirvana’s 1991 classic.

But riddle me this: How is it any more “daring” to tackle Nirvana’s grunge-rock anthem than, say, a Donna Summer disco ditty, if all you’re going to do is cough up a karaoke cover? As J.Lo pointed out, Casey went “screamy-screechy” where Kurt Cobain maintained his grasp on the rhythm and melody, and even worse, I felt like he tried to substitute “maniacal” sideways facial expressions for real rock swagger. In Casey’s defense, I think it’s hard to be a rock star when you’re forced to stand alone at center stage — high-school talent-show style — while an anonymous band makes music somewhere to the side of the stage. But I also don’t think Casey has enough depth as a singer and a musician that he can just pell-mell pick from any genre and make it work. Time to cross hard rock off the list, dude. (And Randy, time to stop randomly name-checking Muse and Lykke Li just to convince us you can still hang with the youngsters.)

Anyhow, this brings me to three contestants this week who certainly did enough to get by, but are also going to have to really step up their games if they want to be viewed as serious contenders for Lee DeWyze’s crown and sash. I speak, of course, of Paul McDonald, James Durbin, and Lauren Alaina.

Paul McDonald, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”: B-
Paul’s chirping, “I’ve got a bad cold” rasp and slightly lazy delivery bordered on Macy Gray-esque tonight, and as a major fan of the “Beauty in the World” singer, I can’t be too mad at him. Then again, on a night where contestants were allowed to bring their instruments — a Fox spokesperson confirmed this fact for me — why in the hell did the rubbery-limbed band man leave his guitar backstage? (Side note to Randy: If you don’t know what Steven meant by “cool dude, loose mood,” you might want to consult a dictionary before you blurt it out on national television. Thank you.)

James Durbin, “I’ll Be There for You”: B-
James reattached his tail thingy to his backside this week, and while it may have been a step forward for Na’vi lovers everywhere, I thought it was a vocal leap backwards for the guy who dazzled last week on “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Randy was the only judge to make mention of James’ intermittent pitch problems — dude’s “rocker wail” seemed really sharp this week — but even worse, I wasn’t seeing him throw his emotions completely into Bon Jovi’s late-’80s power ballad. Sure, James can sail through for the next month being merely competent, but if he’s gonna do that, then it’s maybe a tad premature to be planning his finale set list, no?

Lauren Alaina, “I’m the Only One”: B
Awww, widdle Wauwen’s got da fwuuu. (I kid! I kid!) But seriously, have we ever seen a pre-performance interview designed solely to remind the voting public that “This contestant is not a well woman!”? Not to my memory. Frankly, though, Idol‘s producers needn’t have bothered, as Lauren hit more than her fair share of notes and did a decent job of riffing on the melody. I just wish the kid’s delivery wasn’t so…lethargic? Casual? I’m not sure if I’m picking the right adjectives here, but I never fully feel like Lauren is living inside her songs; they’re more like costumes she pulls over head before she takes the stage, and they’ll end up crammed on hangers back in her princess-themed closet within the hour. Part of the problem might be the fact that for three weeks running, Lauren has gravitated toward songs that might be a few years too mature for her emotional range, but I suppose I’d rather see her stretch her boundaries than settle for “Colors of the Wind.”

And finally, we come to the three contestants who are looking like (as Randy might say) they’re “in it to win it!” — and I’m not just singling out these cats because on the latest Idoloonies (embedded below for your pleasure) I made the early prediction that Scotty McCreery, Pia Toscano, and Stefano Langone would crack Season 10’s Top 3.

Scotty McCreery, “Can I Trust You With My Heart”: B+
First things first: I know Scotty’s parents were just goofing off when gave us their best “Baby lock them doors,” but Mama McCreery’s got a lovely voice on her! As for her son, he scored high marks this week by covering a tender Travis Tritt ballad and putting a little more muscle into his delivery than he did last week on “The River.” There’s nothing flashy about Scotty’s style — he hits his notes, he soars when he’s meant to, he’s not interested in winning a vibrato-off with Thia — but the real question is, how will we feel about the kid staying in his lane for the next 11 weeks? Here’s hoping we never start looking at him like a John Deere tractor going 22 mph on a country road with a double yellow line. Know what I mean?

Pia Toscano, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”: B+
Yes, evil Idol overlords, I have made a note in my Book of Idol Sins about the tiny pink hearts floating on the screen behind Pia while she turned a Whitney Houston power ballad into a light dance romp. (Really, there’s simply no excuse.)

Thankfully, Pia’s white shoulderless jumpsuit (borrowed from Judith Light’s Who’s the Boss collection) was enough distraction to get me past the heart-shaped horrors and allow me to concentrate on yet another sweet vocal that had plenty of boom-boom-pow, despite being a little 2000-and-late. Because, really, if you had muted the skittering synths and midtempo beat percolating behind Pia, she was essentially delivering “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” in standard Whitney fashion. To paraphrase Beyoncé, “Yes I like it but I want a little tempo on it, Pia!” Maybe next week she can tackle something a little less Falcon Crest and a little more Melrose Place, like, say Natalie Imbruglia or SWV or even N’Sync (if any of that makes any sense)!

Stefano Langone, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”: A-
Honestly, you can’t beat an Emotional Dad Package on Idol, and Papa Langone’s palpable pride was a nice segue into Stefano’s fantastic cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” (Granted, the song choice was a bit of a cheat, having been originally recorded in 1972 by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, but Simply Red’s 1989 cover made it eligible under the SFTYYWB theme.) As Randy pointed out, Stefano went for a high degree of difficulty, and while his last big glory note was like a jaunty sparrow smacking into a giant picture window, the rest of the song was vocally and emotionally spot-on. Plus, I really dug the way the gray swatches on his pink dress shirt played against his charcoal jacket. The guy has the look and the sound — now if he’d just stop making fun of perfectly lovely songs like “Funky Cold Medina,” “Hangin’ Tough,” and “Girl You Know It’s True,” I might just be willing to hop on his bandwagon.

What did you think of this week’s Idol performances? Who was your favorite? Who’ll be the bottom three? Who will go home? And were there any surprises, positive or negative? Head down to the comments to share your thoughts and theories. Oh, and for all my Idol ridiculata, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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  1. Hooch says:

    NAIMA – It just wasn’t pleasant to listen to. Sounded super off-key almost the whole time. So glad J-Lo and Randy were honest! Steven Tyler totally dropped the ball, as he did most of the night. He’s turning out to be the Paula of the panel.
    PAUL – He looked WASTED, like he was going to crash into a table or through a glass window any second. The dancing needs to stop, it’s getting old and is hard to watch. I didn’t really feel much connection between the lyrics and the way he sang it, but if I close my eyes, his voice is still my favorite. I still sing “Wake up Maggie…” every morning in the shower because of him.
    THIA – Lame song choice. Very forgettable. I feel bad for her, she’s not mature enough for this. She has pretty hair.
    JAMES – The tail is back! Def my least favorite of his performances so far, but still was decent, and better than the previous 3. Nice answer on why he didn’t do Aerosmith, haha.
    HALEY – Was Jimmy basically telling her she was lazy in that interview package? I haven’t been super anti-Haley so far but I HATED this. Bad. Bad. Bad.
    STEFANO – Way to go Joey Tribiani! Loved his interview package. Funky Cold Medina! LoL! That would have been something! Great song, Great performance, Killed it!
    PIA – She pretty much sang it as good as it can be sung, because she’s a powerhouse, but that song sucks. And Holy Crap, where did she get that hideous getup?
    SCOTTY – Another solid but safe performance that is just not my taste. He’s going to have a successful career I’m sure.
    KAREN – So, so cheesy. Why was she dressed as a fem-bot? Made no sense with that song. And so you decided to show us you’re not “the Spanish singer” by …. singing the song partially in Spanish. ok, then.
    CASEY – Hmm. I was excited about this because I thought he was going to do something cool and interesting with it, but he didn’t. It sounded just like the original except not as good. Not his best, disappointed. His parents seem awesome though.
    LAUREN – Jeez, her mom looks 20. The bit with Ryan and the mask was ridiculous. Grow Up Brat! But, the performance was good, especially if she really has the flu.
    JACOB – I kind of agreed with Randy. There were definitely a lot of sharp notes, but I actually enjoyed it overall for whatever reason.
    Worst of the Night : Naima or Haley.
    Best of the Night : Stefano BY A MILE.

    • ErinGoBragh says:

      Thank you for finally pointing out that Stefano looks like Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribiani) – I have been thinking the same thing and wondering why no one else has mentioned it. Everytime he gets on stage I just want to hear him say “How you doin’?”

      • Joe says:

        If Stefano looks like Joey Tribiani, then it should be noted that Scotty McCreery REALLY looks like a young George W Bush. Seriously – from the ears to the eyes, and they even make the same facial expressions/smirks.

        Must be a Texas thing, but its shocking how much they look alike.

        • Pat says:

          I keep telling my husband the same thing! Especially some of those goofy expressions!

        • Hooch says:

          I mentioned last week that Scotty looks like George W. Don’t want to get repetitive! Also, on last week’s Idoloonies, it switched from Scotty’s face to George W to the monkey toy with the symbol hands… so that resemblance has definitly not gone unnoticed.

        • Luciana says:

          I can’t help thinking of Alfred E. Newman when I look at him.

          • Stella says:

            Haha….I said the same thing. All Scotty needs is the split in his teeth and he’d be Alfred E. Newman’s twin.

    • Owen says:

      You know what’s weird, we all keep saying this is the best AI cast in a long, long time. So much better than Evil Season Nine. Now, for those of you with good memories, place last night’s best performance (Stefano) against Bowersox’s supposedly worst performance(that country trio song). See what I mean.

      • Dallas says:

        No, actually have no idea what you mean.

      • s says:

        omg your right… stefano still makes bowersox look like crap…
        is that what you meant?

      • coalby says:

        This year’s cast overall IS a lot better, but I don’t think we should compare any individual from this year’s lot to Crystal, who in my opinion is the best ever on AI.

      • JenD says:

        I was thinking the same thing. Bowersox is actually a musician. Stefano can sing beautifully, but I don’t know where this radio-ready idea comes from. All I hear is a lot of lite rock. Whereas Bowersox actually interpreted songs, Stefano just sings them. He sings very well. But I am bored bored bored by the guy.

    • j.christopher says:

      “LAUREN – Jeez, her mom looks 20.”

      uh, nooooo…she looks mid-to-late 30’s trying her HARDEST to still look 20, big difference…

    • Moser says:

      James is an arrogant poser whose condition gives him a pass where he would otherwise be criticized.

      • bluedog says:

        Y’know… Aspergers Syndrome often manifests in behaviour that’s not particularly appropriate & can come off as arrogant when the person is, in fact, simply clumsy socially as a result of the condition. So, too, can the involuntary Tourettes ‘tics’ be really confusing to the rest of us who normally rely so heavily on someone’s expressions to give us clues as to who they are & what they might be meaning when they speak, or for that matter, when they are not speaking at all. Sooo… I guess I’m trying to say that I need a lot more experience of James before I can get a grip on who he might be in the world. For the time being, I see a talented guy who seems to be warm & fuzzy on the inside & often struggling on the outside. Because of his condition(s), I think he really does need to be cut a little slack in the personality department… & to be judged instead by his singing voice & his performances.

        • Charlotte says:

          Well spoken. I think James is a heaven sent rolemodel for kids and teenagers, who struggle with the so called disorders. We need more good stories like this one.

    • Yank says:

      Allison Iraheta’s breakout performance on Season 8 was Alone? “where did she come from, breakout performance”, did you miss the beginning of the season? Allison BROKE OUT, week 1 with Give In To Me, and she never let up.

      • lukien says:

        Geeee … “Alone” made her vote to top 13 … “Give In To Me” was performed when she was in Top 13 … get the fact right before critizing someone.
        Anyhoo … Allison was called to have “raw natural talent” anyway by Kara during chair episode … so people already noticed her, the true breakout artist of her group of course the champ himself.

      • GeekKub says:

        Actually, Allison sang Alone to make it into the top 12 (or was it 13). Michael is totally right, Alone WAS the beginning of the season. I had no clue who Allison was before she sang Alone…and from that point on I was a fan and always will be.

        • gregk says:

          Regardless of when she sang it, it also made me wish she had won that year. I became a big fan of Heart’s music after her explosive performance.

      • Andie says:

        Actually, did you miss the ebeginning of the season? Allison sang “alone” in the week 2 semifinals, which was 2 weeks before Michael Jackson week.

    • betsy says:

      I agreed with everything you said until the very end. the worst…WORST!!!…BY FAR!!! …. was Paul. He was painfully horrible and I do not understand why the judges didn’t burn him down after that atrocious abomination. Simon Cowell would have shot him in cold blood.

    • lahlah says:

      *Song From the Year you were Born* has always been one of the dumbest/lamest ‘genres’ [themes?] EVAH! They should let that one die…

  2. shakethepoet says:

    Stefano may have been the best of the night, but the night sucked. I can’t imagine any of them becoming successful. Okay, maybe Scotty will do well in country music.

    • darclyte says:

      I tend to agree. What started as the best group as a whole perhaps ever, has not lived up to its promise yet. Poor song choices, and poor performances has made this season a let down. I think Stefano and Scotty are the most ready to record, while James is the most ready to perform a live show. Pia is close but needs to determine if she’s gonna be a ballad singer or a pop singer. I hope she chooses pop singer. Casey is very talented, but wouldn’t that have been better had he performed with his stand up base and gave his interpretation of Tori Amos’s version? Like David Cook doing his take on Chris Cornell’s version of Billie Jean and Adam Lambert doing his take on Gary Jules’ version of Mad World, Casey could have taken her quiet version and by using his bass instead of a piano made it into a bluesy, soulful version rather than the wild screech fest that was the shortest performance of the night (1 verse, 1 chorus, and the ending.) Lauren was very hit and miss last night, and started badly and was so so at best. Paul sounded like Rod Stewart imitating Macy Gray singing Elton John. The rest were various shades of bad and or boring. AI needs to grant them access to more songs and do a better job in producing their live performances.

      • Ella says:

        I think this group is very talented and could be the best, when THEIR TIME COMES, unfortunately it hasn’t come yet – they are too young and have years and years to develop their talent, skills and connection to the material they sing. It seems to me that producers put too much emphasis on selecting young talented kids, possibly as young as 15. There were young contestants before as Jordin, Alison and Archie, but they were rather exceptions. This year all of a sudden half of the 24 group is 15-16? They are very talented, but they have still miles to go to reach their potential.

        I think producers should stop trying to cast the contestants with some agenda as a “girl’s year” or “singer-songwriter” year or “15th year old” year. Just give us the best!

        I think they’re trying to find their own Justin Beiber this year, but I think it will never work and JB would probably be voted off by now if he participated. This is completely different set up than the one tha other “stars” are following. First of all it’s very hard to sing new songs live consistently every week and it’s harder for inexperienced 15-16 years old. There is also different demographic and different expectations.

    • alex says:

      Scotty will do extremely well, because he can sing a specific a specific niche genre till the cows come home and country music traditionalists will love it. Plus even if you don’t like his style you can’t deny that he nails what he sings. The same things apply to Pia. I also think She may not sing the most contemporary stuff, but she NAILS the soft rock standards every time! Even if you don’t like what she’s sings, it’s hard to deny that she sings it well. Tons of room for her to make her mark on (and plenty of money with) the 30plus crowd.

  3. Dawnie D says:

    I feel like Idol is regressing. I’m missing the days of Cook/Lambert/Allen when the music was fresh – all these performances feel like amusement park to me. And the vocals are sub-par. Rather than progressing and building, it’s like we’re back at season 1, 2, 3. This all just feels like a step backward.

    • stevenjaba says:


      • Leigh says:

        I concur. Season 7 and 8 for originality. No comparison. Don’t think these producers are doing the contestants any favors.

    • Hooch says:

      I agree. I was very excited about Paul and Casey, but they are not bringing it like I expected. I do think Lauren has potential if she would stop being soooo annoying personality wise. There’s no one I really look forward to seeing each week yet, not like with Adam, David Cook, Allison, and Kris Allen. (Or Didi Benami & Alexis Grace before their untimely vote-off’s which should have been saved by the judges! — Just thought I’d throw that in there)

    • JenZen says:

      Yep. That’s what’s happening. The show started season 10 as a smartly dressed tapas table, full of tasty delectibles from every gustatory category. I couldn’t wait to dive in and devour it. But since the Top 13, the table has started tilting, tilting precariously and ominously, and the dishes are sliding for a crash.

      Or something like that.

      The producers appear to be destroying the show by suturing the evolutionary arc it was taking in season 9 which, regardless of the level of talent, had begun to take on a welcome alt/bluesy/jazzy/folky vibe. Now it’s back to that geeeyahdawful Magic 106.7 homogeneity that drives me bonkers.

      I suspect the song choices are extremely limited and that the contestants are being told how to sing them. The band arrangements are awful and I miss having the contestants bring their instruments. Paul MacDonald is delicious with his guitar. Without it he’s like a limp warbling noodle experiencing a convulsion.

      Anyway. I was bored. I announced to my husband that I may stop watching Idol. After such a promising start to the season.


      • MFW says:

        You are on target with your comments. I think the lack of outside mentors and probably serious limits on the songs they are given to chose from is making this a very ‘vanilla’ season so far. Time for some variety and excitement!

    • Delon says:

      The whole thing was dreadful. I made the unfortunate mistake of watching the show sober and it was insufferable! These kids have delusional dreams of grandeur, yet they have no knowledge of pop music history and absolutely no taste in music. Everything is very peasanty. The only urban and relevant character is Naima and she goes and chooses WLGTDWI. Are you frickin’ kiddin’ me?!? The least you could do was to sing Dress You Up by Madonna. If she’s eliminated tomorrow night there’s absolutely no reason for me to continue to watch. I’m waiting in anticipation for The X Factor. It’s gonna blow AI out off the water!!! Come September we’ll all see. Now that we are in live shows i miss Simon tremendously.

      • Tuzo says:

        > I made the unfortunate mistake of watching the show sober

        Just have a drink every time Steven Tyler says “beautiful” and that should help. ;)

    • Donna says:

      I completely agree. Was there ever a night on AI 7 or 8 when all but 1 or 2 sang so badly off key? Where are the “Billie Jean” moments? Horribly forgettable.

      • Jason says:

        completely agree. with all the hype this season has been getting, it doesn’t compare with some earlier seasons. in many previous seasons there were always a handful of contestants who ‘rocked’ and sang their hearts out. so far, this season, there are only one or two contestants each week who are singing somewhat good. a big disappointment so far!!

    • funkycoldmedina says:

      I agree with your critique Dawnie D. Is Idol looking for the best cover artist, or are they looking for a new break out artist? What happened to the weekly excitement of waiting for a Cook, Lambert, Allen, or Iraheta reinvention of a classic hit? NOW THAT WAS TALENT THAT WAS TRULY PRAISEWORTHY. The judges and Idol in general, are not doing these kids any favors over praising them for their mediocre efforts. Pia has the potential to bring the best vocal power of the bunch, but this show has majorly gone down the tubes when they promote/suggest that these kids are the best they have ever seen on the show. Saying such things is really not fair to the kids.

      I particularly love M. Slezak’s snark and comical views of the universe and everyone who abides in it…Judith Light’s jumpsuit!! ha haha! Someone needs to splash some cold water in these kids faces, or they will be invisible on the music scene, post Idol.

      • debi says:

        Kris Allen’s take on “Heartless” was amazing. He was so good that I bought about 5 of his songs while he was on idol. Although I didn’t like Lambert’s style that much, I did buy his “Mad World”. This year the only single I have purchased is “Maybe I’m Amazed.” I’m thinking of buying the song Lauren did last night.

    • Donna says:

      I totally agree. I yawned through the whole night – no one grabbed me and threw me back in my seat the way David Cook did with Billie Jean and Adam Lambert did with Mad World, both of which occurred on this same theme night during their times on Idol. I actually thought Stefano rushed the phrasing too much – I turned the sound down toward the end.

      • debi says:

        He did. He rushed the phrasing several times, and then he sounded terrible at the end. And people are gushing. He was good besides the two previous mentioned problem areas, but he wasn’t great.

    • Sally says:

      Once the “seasoned” producers entered the scene, things went downhill. They are trying to package these kids, instead of letting each performer really “discover” himself/herself. As guidance counselors, they suck. For instance, who told Casey that the mess of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was good? It’s a great song, but his performance was weird.

      • Irish Girl says:

        I agree with you, I think it is these producers involvement that is hurting the contestants. I understand they thought it would be a good thing for them but I think it is back firing. Let the contestants spread their wings a little bit and we might get some decent interpretations and good songs. Last night it seemed like they also started every song right in the middle or toward the end and not allowing for any momentum building. Maybe things will get better when the music mentors arrive.

  4. dctoronto says:

    Why does there seem to be so much of a discrepancy between the snippets we hear of the singers’ recorded tracks (I caught that Jazz riff in What’s Love) and the live versions? The studio arrangements almost always sound interesting whereas the band’s come off as either bombastic or boring.

    Singing What’s Love Got to Do With It? Should either be banned or come with a significant warning. It is a hard song to sing and unless you have the vocal prowress and attitude that Tina put into the song, choose something else.

  5. stevenjaba says:

    Casey has GOT to just flat-out sing a song next week, without any gimmicks. I love him, but if he keeps this up, the tide might turn on him.

    • Lizbeth says:

      I agree. He’s my fave in this competition. I know he’s very talented. But–he does have to do a clean kind of vocal next week. I think they have drummed it in his head that he is the Joe Cocker type and he is going with it. He needs to bring out the pretty in his voice next week.

    • marie says:

      Agree, agree, agree. I keep going back to “Georgia on My Mind” and “Why Don’t You Do Right,” when he was SO original and just plain terrific, but truth is, he has disappointed me consistently since then. I was excited to see that he’d be playing at least electic bass, but the performance was a let-down. PLEASE, Casey, next week, bring back that hip-jazzy-MUSICIAN vibe and SING, stop with the growling and howling, you’re SO much BETTER than that!
      Oh, and Casey? Look, cool it with the “sexy” thing, too; it was cute and amusing the first time, but now, it’s just annoying.

    • Ed says:

      Yeah, I totally agree. I think he keeps getting praise from Randy about the growly-screamy singing so he figures it’s what people want from him. I don’t blame Casey, he’s only 19. That leads me to the judges: Steven continues to prove himself useless at offering suggestions for improvement that will actually help the contestants. Randy has about a 10% chance of saying something both correct and helpful. (Every once in a while, between the incessant name dropping, he’ll call someone out on a bad performance that JL and ST praised.) JLo is actually delivering constructive criticism that to my way of thinking is right about 85% of the time. I have to admit that I like her a lot better than I thought I would.

      • lukien says:

        I think Idol has the habit of overpraising their pimped favorites … therefore those contestants become cocky and annoying that makes them axed in the end, i.e. Gokey & His Majesty the Queen. This year those people are of course Casey, James, Lauren & Jacob.
        They won’t win Idol … they will go down in flames one by one in the Top 10, altho I have a sneaky feeling James could reach Top 3.
        This year is Scotty’s year, hands down.
        WGWG with a country twang … winner.

  6. Sneakinfromew says:

    LOVED the Judith Light/Who’s the Boss reference!
    Idol was Night Of a Thousand Jank Notes last night.
    Does anyone else think that:
    Karen’s voice is a perfect cure for insomnia?
    Thia could be a new bland freshman next year on Glee?
    Casey should NEVER do Nirvana again?
    Lauren looked like the sister in the wedding from Sixteen Candles during her sit down with Ryan?
    Paul’s performance last night gave us the :( face?
    That Jacob could put on a wig and high heels and KILL it on RuPaul’s drag race?

    Just some thoughts to make you go hmmmm….

    • RJP says:

      I thought Jacob was “lip-synching for his life”

    • duranmom says:

      OMG, I thought the same thing about Jacob (basically, that he was on the wrong show and that he would look amazing in drag) and lo-and behold, Sneakin, you say exactly what I was thinking! I’m glad I was not the only one!

    • AB says:

      Ha, I love that! I also got that from Jacob, but hadn’t gotten as far as placing him in Rupaul’s drag race — perfect!!

  7. Sasha says:

    I tweeted to you that I love the HP reference!

    I completely cracked up (the nerd in me rejoiced)

    Stefano was by far the best…

    On a random note its hard to argue with my mother on waste of critiques that comes out of the judges mouth

    They dont give good ones, but my mother has fallen in love with steven tyler and she believes everything hesays….its a bit frightening to be honest.

  8. Paco says:

    LOVED Stefano. a part of me wishes that at some point in the song, instead of repeating the “you will never never never know me” with the background singers, had done the “you will never… never…never…never… never…” because, with his sexy-as-hell pronunciation of ‘never’, I just wanted him to never stop saying it.

  9. Tim Gunn says:

    Horrible show. Awful. Was cringing on almost every song. Stefano and Scotty’s parents were the highlight. Hope every body gets well and they bring it next week. This show is going down-hill fast.

    • sneakinfromew says:

      I loved Casey’s parents too! You can see where he gets his quirky sense of humor.

      • Ladyhelix says:

        YES!! Casey’s parents were the one thing that made the show worth watching last night!!

        Second best was the judges make constructive specific feedback. I hope they do it even more next week. For ALL the contestants.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Everytime I hear Lauren speak now it comes through my TV in childish jibberish. Hilarious! Keep it up.
    Jacob & Thia were terrible. Karen was boring. I with you on the top 3. Scotty is ready for the prime time. No matter what happens in the competition, Nashville is waiting with a record contract. Pia’s was really fun. I typically hate the Whitney’s covers but thank god for the producing team who turned it into a really fun song. I want Paul to wow us again. James Durbin & Casey are way too ahead of themselves in terms of ego. They need to dial it back and remember it’s only week 12. Seriously, we need Simon back to pull the “that was just a tad self indulgent wasn’t it” card out.

  11. Dasha says:

    Michael, you have to stop drinking Paul’s Kool-Aid. The guy was awful yesterday. Really, really bad. He sounds like Stevie Nicks on helium. Oh, and Elaine Benes called. She wants her dance moves back.

    • funkycoldmedina says:

      “She wants her dance moves back” <—–pee myself laughing!! hahaha!
      Poor Stevie Nicks! To be compared to Paul was just…WRONG in the most genius kind of way. ha ha! But, I WILL continue to tune in each week just to watch the trainwreck, and get my fill of laughing and pointing.

    • Tuzo says:

      Paul reminds me of someone who is both physically and mentally disabled. Physically because of those dance moves and mentally because of that crazy grin that he always has on his face that makes him look like he has no idea where he is or what is going on.

      This was the politically correct version of this post.

  12. kts63 says:

    You’re kidding about Paul, right? Flu or no, it was unbearable. Toward the end, he was literally flailing around like a pre-teen boy who has crashed his sister’s slumber party and thinks he’s showing off to a room full of girls. It was as if his singing and the band were in two separate rooms.

    Actually, for quite a number of the performers, it seemed so appropriate having parents featuring in their interview packages, because their performances all felt like some 70s party where the hostess brings out her “son, who is SO talented” and makes him perform for the guests who have to maintain some semblance of manners. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this bored with an Idol show.

    • djm says:

      OMG – I couldn’t have said it better myself. This was the first episode of the season where I didn’t even watch the performances – I just listened while I burned the Adele 21 CD for my sister, packed for a trip, brushed & flossed my teeth – oh and plugged my ears. Holy cow THAT was BAD!!

      Naima – yeah, she was flat, but no worse than a lot of the other peeps that the judges went SUPER easy on. I still downloaded her single though and think she’s by far the most interesting of the bunch.

      Paul – OK, so here is the truth. If Paul A) looked like Casey or B) was a girl/woman, he’d NEVER have even made it in front of the judges. Let’s face it – “Crest White Strips” is only on the show because of his smile because folks, and there is NO WAY you can convince me that you enjoyed his vocals last night or thought his fit/seizure was in any way entertaining. I actually think Sanjaya is more talented than Paul – at least based on what Paul has done on the show so far (other than Black Bird – but even that was because of Kendra). I hope that America keeps him in though and that he wins – it will be AWESOME to see yet another Idol fail on an EPIC scale.

      Thia – yawn
      James – sucked
      Hailey – OMG she’s a total mess.

      Stefano – I thought his vocals were good – let’s see how long it takes for America to turn on him because of his DUI.

      Pia – is it me, or is she just the brunette version of Jessica Simpson? Sorry, her vocals are fine but I am just really not feeling her vibe. I feel like next week she’s gonna come out in “mom jeans”.

      Scotty – not my thing. he’ll be huge in Nashville.
      Karen – sorry, if you want to sing in Spanish try out for South American Idol.

      Casey – I am so over him. Dude needs to go back to being a bit charming/subtle in his performances. As of now he’s just annoying.

      Lauren – I am glad she’s going the country route – that way i’ll never have to hear her again. Yeah, she can sing, but she is just such a bore when she performs. Oh, and I really HATE her stage mom and her janky weave.

      Jacob – Good lord – I hope Randy went home and watched that mess and calls him out tonight. That was an assault on my ears first and eyes second. Sorry Jacob, this is Americal Idol, not RuPaul’s Drag Race.

      • Yank says:

        djm, there’s tons of youtube video on Paul and you probably won’t bother to look, but your critique of him based on limited performances is OTT.

        • djm says:

          Yank – I am not basing my opinion of Paul on videos on the internet. If I did that I might like Karen too. Or Avril Lavigne. Or other produced pop stars. I am basing my opinion of Paul on the performances I am seeing on my television – and sorry, but he’s just HORRID. You can think my opinion is OTT, but I stand by what I said – if he looked like Casey or was a girl the judges wouldn’t have given him the time of day and America would have voted him off already if they had (and even faster if he was a girl).

        • betsy says:

          I’m with djm on this. I couldn’t care less about videos on the Internet – if he is this god awful on a live show then he doesn’t deserve to win American Idol (or even be on it for that matter.)

      • lukien says:

        another djm rant about Paul … go figure … are u that madly in love with him? there is a thin line between love and hate, bro :D
        naima’s kinda awful tonite … hope it wouldn’t get her eliminated … she’s my top 4 faves along with scotty (runaway winner), PAUL (yes djm, PAUL) and to my horror surprise, james (i dunno why, he starts to grow on me … :D )

        • AI Fan says:

          I love Paul’s music and hopes he stays on the show. I wish he could jam with the band. I think he’d really shine then. It is a bit awkward performing talent show style in the middle of the stage. And, he is not the only one who is having trouble filling that stage. At least he doesn’t just stand still or use pageant arms to make it through. Go Paul!

          • djm says:

            “It is a bit awkward performing talent show style in the middle of the stage” – um reality check – he signed up for a show where performing “talent show style” is what happens. Also, he was given the option of using his guitar this week and for some reason chose not to. Sorry, there just is no excuse for what he’s serving.

        • djm says:

          Sorry lukien – other than having to endure his “singing” on Wednesday nights I honestly don’t think much of Paul either way. Don’t love him or hate him personally – I hate what he represents – another in a long line of guys who cruise through based on looks alone. And if he’s in your Top 4, I feel sorry for anyone who is forced to listen to music with you. Say what you want – the boy sounds like barely warmed over sh!t on the Idol stage. I do agree with you about Naima though – I hope she sticks around. Not the best vocally but she’s interesting and there is something about her that I like. But something tells me she wont last long – she isn’t Paul.

    • wendeeloo says:

      Oh you are funny – That reference to Paul crashing his sister’s party is so perfect! And the parents having their kids perform…just had to say ‘Great Post’ kts63

  13. jrw0305 says:

    Anyone else notice that Lauren Alaina’s mother’s pre-performance interview ensemble was straight out of the Diana DeGarmo collection? I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t comment on that, Slezak!

  14. Lizbeth says:

    Michael–not sure why Paul gets a pass for having a cold–when it was Casey who was in the hospital most of the week with freakin ulcerative colitis. At least Casey tried something different, brought out an instrument and went for it. Not saying it was great vocally–but the kid has some B-lls. The Nirvana song doesn’t work for the idol stage unless it was completely changed up–or more time than a minute and half was allowed for the performance. If Casey had been able to get back to the verse and end with more of the melody, it would have worked much better. But, ending with the screaming was not good–LOL I am guessing he didn’t have time to completely change it up due to being sick.
    The rest of the show was predictable and boring. The arrangements did nobody any favors. AND THE SONG CHOICES WERE HORRIBLE Maybe its the song list–but YIKES! Get rid of these record producers.
    All the pageant girls were boring as all get out.I guess Pia had the best vocals out of all of them except for some screachy stuff when she went for the big notes.
    Jacob–Oh my–not good
    Paul–Elton best songs were written in the early 70s–LOL It wasn’t very good vocally. He does the same thing every week
    Haley–I like her, but better last week. Red Lip Mascare quip made me like her even more
    Naima–Pitch problems and over done song
    Scotty–He was fine–but nothing new
    Lauren–Decent–but her personality rides my nerves a bit
    James–He was OK
    Stefano–He over sang it and too many runs. Bad last note and he is getting a little cheezy, But, I loved when he talked about the lousy song choices.
    NIGEL–Next time do songs the year the contestant’s parents were born. There would be much better choices

    PS–Crystal Bowersox from “lousy season nine” did better on her worst night on idol than anything that was performed yesterday

  15. Kevin C. says:

    Good Performance and Good Vocals both: Stefano and Scotty.
    Decent-to-good vocals, non-existent stage presence and performance: Pia and Thia.
    Decent-to-excellent stage presence, major vocal problems: Haley, James, Jacob, Lauren, James, Naima
    Neither the stage presence nor the vocals: Karen, Paul.

    My top 3 were Stefano, Scotty, and Haley, and my bottom three Karen and (well below her) Paul and Naima. Paul in particular has crossed into Megan Joy territory for me these last couple weeks. A quirky voice and a “package artist” quality can’t make up for everything else.

  16. Delon says:

    This was God-awful. What a waste of 1 hours and 24 minutes of my life. These kids have no idea about nothing!

    Naima: Really?!? 3/10

    Paul: Shut up! 1.5/10

    Thia: Snooze. 4/10

    James: OK. 6.5/10

    Hayley: Wrong. 4/10

    Stefano: Emotionless. 6/10

    Pia: Plastic. 6/10

    Scotty: Inoffensive. 7.5/10

    Karen: Thinnest voice. 3/10

    Casey: NO!!! 1/10

    Lauren: Insufferable. 0/10

    Jacob: OOC. 3/10

  17. Pam says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t get Jacob. Now he’s taken a song from one of my all-time favorite bands and completely butchered it. Butchered it! Left it on the stage chopped up, bloody and crying for mercy.

    I’m not a big country music fan, but every week, I keep thinking that Scotty could win this thing.

    Karen, Thia and Haley should be bottom 3, with Karen going home. Her outfit and hair kept making me think she was auditioning for a new Star Trek movie.

  18. Marta says:

    Casual= A PERFECT way to describe Lauren, Slezak. Thanks for putting into a single word what I’ve been trying to articulate for the past two weeks about her. Sick or not, tonight she proved for me that while she might have some talent, she really isn’t a natural performer on that stage. Tonight was very county fair talent show for me…. And I love I’m the Only One.

    Speaking of Melissa Etheridge- I think that would have been a fabulous song choice for Haley (darn birth years!) I also admit that she is strangely growing on me- probably because I think she is putting more effort into it than others (albeit it an all-over-the-place effort). AND she is always in tune. Which is more than others can say as well.

    And finally- while the sound quality and show wasn’t as overly produced as last week- it still ain’t good. My dad put it best about Jimmy Iovine- “Am I supposed to know who this guy is? Is he gonna do this everrrry week???”

  19. Bill says:

    Stefano and Pia are two of the best singers in the history of the show. The idea that no one from this group can make it is insane. Naima has star quality, too, but she has to improve the singing. Scotty has a career coming but he bores me stiff. Lauren is waaaaaay oversold. She’s a walking definition of mediocre. Haley, Thia, and Karen are hopeless.

    • anon says:

      Disagree with you on a couple of points. Stefano and Piu are good singers and good singers only, certainly not two of the best in the history of AI, Naima has no star quality but she’s nice (how can she have star quality if she can’t hit the notes?). Agree with you on a couple of other points. Scotty is boring and is a one-trick pony which will get him a contract in Nashville. Good place for him but not on AI. You’re right on with the rest except for Haley as I think she has talent but she’s floundering in this environment.

  20. blondie says:

    I have to say I find Stefano very bland and boring. I’m surprised everybody is raving about him.
    My favorite is Pia by far!! I also love James, I think they are two of the best this year. Scotty is good, but I’m not a huge country fan, so I never know the songs he’s singing and I wouldn’t listen to a cd made by him.

    • Fred says:

      I agree 100%. Stefano has a great career ahead of him, recording music for dentists to play while performing root canals. He couldn’t be more boring if that was the goal. Casey and James are my favorites solely because they’re interesting and fun. But they don’t sing the bland power ballads that people seem to want.

    • just missed the train says:

      to me Pia is blander than white bread

    • Justin says:

      I agree about Stefano. He seems like a nice kid but like Jacob and many other Idol contestants this season he just oversells each song. And that last note went completely out of control at the end. Does anyone really see a successful recording artist in this bunch with the exception of Scot in the country genre.

    • anon says:

      It’s funny you call Stefano very bland and boring and then rave about Piu! Look up boring in the dictionary and there’s a picture of Piu!

    • GingerSnap says:

      I agree with you. He’s quite capable of delivering the best technical vocals, but at the end of the day, I’m bored. JLo has it right. He needs to connect to the audience. Maybe, it’s got something to do with trying too hard. Relax & let me hear you feel the lyrics.

  21. Sandi says:

    What a lame night. I’m so disapointed with Naima’s performance’s thus far. I honestly think she has incredible potential but it’s just not coming through.

    Paul – I always think he looks just a little insane. He’s not my cup of tea.

    Thia – Beautiful young girl who has no star power.

    James – I wasn’t feeling it. I love having a rocker on Idol and I do like him but that was just what I would hear from a decent Bon Jovi cover band. It didn’t work for me. I worry about him because I can’t think of anything that would alienate voters more than smugly stating that you’ll be in the finals when, so far, you’ve only made it to the top 12.

    Haley – bottom two. My heart went out to her when the lipstick smeared all over her face.

    Stefano – I’m sure I’m alone here but I didn’t like it. I like when a contestant does some interesting with a song and shows control rather then take a heartfelt song and start trying to play vocal gymnastics.

    Pia – A Celine Dion in the making. I don’t find her that interesting but I do think she has amazing vocals.

    Scotty – He’s going to have a big career in country music. I just wish he would switch it up a bit.

    Karen – going home.

    Casey – Sorry, I liked it. A lot. He’s interesting and exciting to watch. He takes risks and is in the running to be my fave contestant.

    Lauren – the best I’ve seen her. She was almost good enough for me to believe the hype.

    Jacob – Maybe if I just listen without watching him, I’ll like it better. But as it is, it’s just too, too much.

  22. Logistics says:

    Karen Rodriguez’s outfit = ZEETUS LAPEETUS!

  23. Bill says:

    Forgot to add how over Jacob I am. He was anointed early, along with Lauren, and everybody is having a hard time admitting how wrong they were. He’s hard to listen to. Btw, I love Paul but the goofy body English is getting real old real fast.

  24. Owen says:

    “Excuses to Show Contestants’ Baby Photos” Week and also “Holy Crap, You Could Have Totally Changed That Singer’s Diaper!” Night.
    Dear God make him stop!

    • Hooch says:

      What? That’s totally what it is. The baby photos is not a bad thing, it’s cute, but the theme definitly makes it “make sense” to show them. And I have to say that I definitely was doing a lot of “1995!!! OMG!”, last night. I guess I need to need to start accepting my oldness.

      • Yank says:

        agreed with most of your review Hooch and I was doing the same thing..”1995!, so they were born a few years ago!”

  25. Cat says:

    Naima – Really pitchy. Seemed to be struggling and pushing her voice too hard.
    Paul – Voice is RIDICULOUSly bad. Dancing is ludicrous. MUST GO!
    Thia – Voice is still flat-out beautiful, but personality is not there. Reminds me of one of the child prodigies who do violin concertos with symphony orchestras at the age of 10. No soul, no enjoyment.
    James – Terrific, except for REALLY bad pitch at end.
    Haley – Too much snarling in the middle section.
    Stefano – His best vocal so far. Seems to chop some notes short, though.
    Pia – Perfection, as usual.
    Scott – Liked that he stretched his voice to a higher register. Needs to do a song that isn’t country, but still accomodates a lower voice. Unfortunately, most pop songs are written for tenors, not baritones.
    Karen – Looked ridiculous. She did the best SHE can do, but her voice quality just doesn’t equal Pia, Thia, or even Lauren.
    Casey – Just awful. I want to hear him SING again. When he did sing a few notes at the beginning of the song, they were really off key.
    Lauren – What a ditz! (And judging from her teeny-bopper-ish mother, I wonder where she gets it from!)But her performance was good, especially considering she had the flu, which is worse than just a cold.
    Jacob – What a voice! Just wish he knew how to control and use it!

  26. Robin says:

    My thoughts exactly on the night Michael! Ready for Thia to go home. Excellent song choice Stefano, I also picked it for him. Wish James would have done “every rose has its thorn”, even though we did hear that last season from Casey James and BRETT! By the way, mjsbigblog is keeping close tabs on Casey James. Check it out. Would have loved to hear Paul sing “missing you”. I think they either had crappy lists to choose from or they most of them made bad song choices. The late 80’s and early 90’s weren’t THAT bad! Best of the night- Stefano, Pia and Scotty. Worst of the night- Jacob, Thia and Karen. Judges rating- Steven needs more than crazy one liners. Dude has been in the business for how long? Jennifer did a good job tonight, I also saw the cringy on the “Jacob stank” notes, someone call him out on it! Randy, well he’s the Dawg, not much else to say.

  27. Marianne says:

    Macy Gray!!!! I just posted a comment over at Rickey’s site saying that I really am trying to like Paul, really! I usually do enjoy the quirky contestants, BUT his vocals do remind me of Macy Gray and it really isn’t all that pleasing to my ears. He needs to bring his guitar out on stage – stat!!

  28. CMJ says:

    I’d like to find out what songs they have to choose from…but then again AI was never about transparency of the process. If they were, there wouldn’t be a buttload of crackpot conspiracy theories out here in cyberspace.

    I’m not seeing the 8 legitimate contenders that Slezak refers to. I see maybe 5 at best.

  29. Margie says:

    Paul MacDonald?????? Are you crazy? The man sings like he’s on helium and you can hardly understand him. And he wasn’t on pitch most of the time either. Ok, Slezak, you like him. We get it. But at least be honest with yourself. The man is not good!

    • HUH? says:

      I agree. Slezak is getting just as bad was some of his former writers over at EW who write the same BS about Paul and Casey. Those two ham bones can’t do anything wrong, even if they took a big dump on the stage, which they did. They would still CLAIM that Casey and Paul were the best thing since sliced bread.

      FACE IT MICHAEL…Paul was not a “B-“. He was a solid F, and has been consistently bad every week, Michael.

      Go back and rewatch Paul’s performance again Michael…and then watch Paul’s performance last week, and the week before that.

      Michael, face it. Paul has been BAD every week since he has left Hollywood.


  30. MSD says:

    Here’s a theory… I think collectively these contestants feel as though they’ve “made it” already based on the following:
    -No semi-finals- Sing once for America and you’re in the finals!
    -Media hype
    -The declaration that they are “One of the most talented groups ever!”
    -Concentrating TOO much on producers/studio time rather than honing your live performance in order to win over the audience
    -Overpraise/non-critiques from the judges
    -Twitter and Social media going to their heads. (You do not have 20,000 fans yet. They are 20,000 fans of Idol who are waiting to see if you can deliver.)

    P.S- I HATE when contestants over-use the term “fans” early on.

    • shaunna says:

      -Twitter and Social media going to their heads. (You do not have 20,000 fans yet. They are 20,000 fans of Idol who are waiting to see if you can deliver.)

      This is waht happened to Jacob Lusk

      I agree!!!

    • Teresa says:

      You’re right about it being off-putting when Idols talk about having fans during the show. I never realized how much that annoys me before. It’s presumptuous.

    • dj says:

      “Concentrating TOO much on producers/studio time rather than honing your live performance in order to win over the audience.”

      I totally agree with this statement, and would go so far as to say that they are being over-produced which I think really puts a damper on creativity. I don’t see any room for experimentation with melodies (a la David Cook). It seems like they are afraid to question the ideas that these producers are putting out there and end up going against their own gut feelings. I saw some of the best vocals during the Vegas week and when they were “singing for their lives,” and then it looked they mostly had vocal coaches working with them, not the producers. Also, maybe it’s time to give some of the old theme week ideas a rest and try something new. And, someone please duct tape Paul’s guitar to this hands. I’ve stuck up for every week, but it’s getting harder.

    • dctoronto says:

      100% totally agree with your post.
      @dj…I think we are not hearing what is produced in the studio. We are hearing arranagements made for the band.

  31. Mark says:

    You’re right M! Pia doing Natalie’s “Torn” would be great…

  32. shaunna says:

    I thought Stephano was the best. but the nite was boring overall, and if he gets the boot, I may stop watching. I hope Jacob Lusk picks it up I am fan, but here is advice for him -drop the “Lusk stank” phrase- it is gross- and makes it seem like he is not serious about it.

  33. HUH? says:

    Michael you gave Paul McDonald’s performance a B-????

    Did you happen to WATCH his performance, Michael? I mean really watch it without your ROSE-COLORED GLASSES?

    Paul was HORRIBLE. A SOLID F-

    Paul has been consistently bad EVERY FREAKIN’ WEEK, Michael. This is not Hollywood Week, Michael, and he is not doing “black bird” anymore.

  34. shaunna says:

    I enjoyed Jacob’s mothersinging, and she herself, more than most of the contestants. But Jacob better start getting more serious about the critiques and advice. He does not seem to be listening. He was an early favorite, but he better wake up and smell the coffee, and get more serious about what he needs to work on or he will be gone fast. he was an early favoirite which may hurt him if he takes success for granted.

    • dj says:

      True, but the judges mostly praise him. He hasn’t gotten enough honest feedback; not enought to make him re-think his approach.

  35. JEAN says:

    Judith Lights Who’s the Boss Collection, LOL

  36. Tash says:

    I don’t like the new band. I am really missing Ricky Minor this season.

    • funkycoldmedina says:

      Agree! Ricky Minor really worked with the all of the previous seasons contestants to bring out the best in their vocal talents. Jimmy Lovine is wasting too much tv time with his lameness, and his advise “stanks”. This season is beginning to look like KINDERGARTEN IDOL. Look at all of the previous great contestants who took REAL risks in order to let their true artistry come out onstage, and they were naturals at it, I might add…Daughtry, Cook, Lambert, Allen, and even little darling Allison Iraheta <—That bad azz little chica can sing circles around these wannabes even if she had a mouth full of fruit loops, a sinus infection, and a tongue ring triple pierced all at the same time. This season is starting to lean towards major suckage with all of the hype and the overkill with overproducing these kids. And then they fill their heads with so much blue koolaid, they are believing that people will buy this crap after the dust settles at the finale.

    • shaunna says:

      Tash- I could not agree more!!!! Ricky Minor’s band had a tuned in sensitivity to the singers and Ricky had soul. This one is not in touch with the strenghts and weaknesses of theindividual performers as Ricky was. What is Ricky doing now?

  37. Yo says:

    Naima: Sorry, girl, you are so consistently off-key, I thought this should be your last performance from the get-go.

    Paul: Apparently you had to be fifteen to get a pass for illness. Next week, bring out the guitar if you have to smuggle it onstage.

    Thia: First time evah I liked your voice, only it was from your package. Come back in five years and do Bowersox tunes.

    James: Okay, but not super, bring it down a notch next week like you did last week.

    Haley: I like that you are changing things up. Iovine is out to get you, but I agree with Randy you have the voice for blues-rock. Use Vaseline on the teeth and go for it.

    Stefano: I like that you do not sound like Bruno Mars to me. Spot on vocals, great for Sinatra night but develop your own signature sound now so you can sell a cd. As it is, I would not buy what you sing and I am way old.

    Karen: You lost me last week. Too thin vocals for this, but the Spanish is lovely.

    Pia: Great range, but your big notes are not smooth enough to compete with the big note babes. Miss America may be coming up.

    Scotty: You are fully cooked. Leave the competition now while you have the opportunity for album control.

    Casey: No growling next week. Liked your fervor and the song, now change it up.

    Lauren: Pitchy this week, hon, but you are in weally, weally far. Study mom for What Not To Do.

    Jacob: Watch the vibrato. You had me at the first song, but now you just seem emotionally labile, like Mr. Boehner. Sing very small and plain or we’ll see ya’.

    • anon says:

      Love the “Study mom for What Not To Do.” Most of these kids should be on an episode of What Not To Wear.

    • sherimoonzombie says:

      Yo – I’ll be dam’ed if I don’t agree with your entire post. Except for the Jacob part, he NEVER had me. Too OTT since day 1.

  38. Alison says:

    This really isn’t important or relevant, but did anyone else get the impression that Lauren’s parents were reeeeally young? I’m thinking early 30’s or so.

    • AI Fan says:

      I think her Mom was a teen Mom who is trying to relive her teens now, since she missed out on him.

    • GingerSnap says:

      Both of them look like they are no older than 35. Means they were teenagers when Lauren was conceived. I used to be an OB nurse & Lauren has always struck me as a teen pregnancy waiting to happen. Idol is her best chance to escape that fate. But she’s got to make some changes if she’s gonna do.that.

  39. Ward says:

    I agree that Haley should come in 9th. The drunken frat boy vote can get a pretty girl to about 8th (Megan Joy, Kristy Lee Cook, Haley Scarlatto). Since I’m slotting mark James for the rocker 4th. Coming out of Hollywood, I’d never have guessed that my three favorites would be Pia, Stefano and James. Casey needs to do the Adam switchbacks: follow-up with a jam with a stripped-down vocal and then back to the jam.

  40. Will says:

    Pia picks the most boring songs imaginable. It’s like elevator music.

  41. shaunna says:

    We are all waiting for Scotty on disco nite. what is he going to do?

    • ladyhelix says:

      I don’t think we’ll see a Disco or Country night this year. Didn’t Nigel say he wasn’t going to force singers out of their “genre”?

  42. Beth says:

    I did appreciate that Jennifer stepped up with actual critiques last night, but this season has definitely taken a turn for the worse. The producers need to get out of the contestant’s heads, and the arrangements and sound mixing is horrible.

    Did anyone else notice that Stefano was the only contestant who didn’t get the personal bonding on the couch moment with Jimmy Iovine? Unless I missed something, his only Special Time with Uncle Jimmy consisted of a dismissive scolding in the studio to learn the words.

    I was excited to see the possibilities of how the changes for the new season changes would play out, but at this point, a big Bleccchhh!

  43. Andrea says:

    I think that Lauren still has the best stage presence and recording voice. She was sick, but still sounded better than most of the performers. People are hating on her for being a brat, but I’d rather see a 16 year old girl have a fun personality, then 4 beauty queen pageant singers stand there looking pretty singing boring ballads. Pia is a great singer, but I’m not connecting with her yet. She just seems so boring to me. Another strange note – Paul wasn’t good on the show, but go listen to that Elton cover on iTunes by Paul. It’s amazing. He’s so strange, because he’s not blowing me away on the show, but if you listen to the iTunes tracks, his is the best, next to Scotty who should just get signed already since he’s so legit. I hope the ladies stop boring me next week.

    • Hooch says:

      I agree with this. Lauren has a lot of potential to be a star. When she grows up, she’s going to look back and be embarrassed by her behavior on this show, but whatever, I do the same thing when I look back on my home videos.

    • S. Lee Stack says:

      hey I get it that its not Lauren’s fault that the producers decided to pimp her so hard early on…she clearly a natural, but here’s the thing: she. never. needs. to. speak. on-camera. again.
      (especially to “Peaches” Seacrest)
      she simply comes across like a not-very-bright young hick girl, which is OK because that’s what she seems to really be…but the more she speaks on camera, the less she’s endearing herself to the nation…

      but seeing her mom dressed like Hannah Montana, I guess it all makes sense: a mid-30’s woman trying to look half her age raising a 16-year-old who acts half her age…

    • AI Fan says:

      Paul is so good in the studio and so great with his band, The Grand Magnolias, that I am going to keep voting for him regardless. He has more natural talent than any of these other kids. He’s just not used to showcasing it talent show style.

    • Lianne says:

      I agree about the disappointment that Paul’s vocal talent is not coming across on stage. After the “Blackbird” episode, I looked him up on youtube, and wow…unbelievably good. He’s the lead singer in his band, The Grand Magnolias, and they are incredibly talented, led by Paul’s amazing voice. Yep – amazing voice. I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t heard it myself. MUCH more listenable than technically good singers like Pia and Stefano, who bore me to death. They’re doing better on the big stage than Paul, though, so I hope he steps it up and shows what he’s got (and uses his guitar), because his unique talent is getting lost in the translation.

  44. amy.. says:

    I get that Thia is robotic, I’ve said it myself, but SHE CAN SING. If she can connect then she’d be great.
    However, to want someone to stay over Thia who consistently has pitch problems, but connects doesn’t make any sense….Naima & maybe Karen & Jacob. In the end it is still about the vocal ability. (Except if you’re Lee DeWyze)
    I also didn’t like how Jacob was so negative about his Mother singing. I did like James’ Mom talking about his doll, he was a cute little guy. It would be best if he and Lauren only sang as their indulgent personalities show up.

    Kelly Clarkson looking back, once joked about her season as being “ghetto idol” because they used their own outfits, did their own make-up. Chose their songs with out producer pressure, weren’t mentored into a corner…This is what worked. If AI can’t get back to its roots at least a little, then we need Peggy Blu to say…”You’re gonna die on that stage”

    • Marta says:

      RE: your last paragraph…
      I totally agree. With all the production, the Iovine, the itunes, the studio, the overpraising (I could go on)- its like the ability to deliver some fantastic vocals on the live stage is just an afterthought, whereas it should be the PRIORITY. I want a talent competition, not a reality show about how Hollywood produces recording artists. (Trust me, I really don’t ever need to see how someone like Ke$ha is “made”.)

    • Kris says:

      Why did you have to say something negative about Lee DeWyze? He is a fantastic artist who actually knew how to take a song and make it is own…I haven’t really seen that this season, even though I think there are some strong singers this year.

  45. louisa says:

    I love Karen’s voice, it has a sweet quality to it. It may not be the biggest, but it’s very pleasing. And the way she goes from English to Spanish is just bomb. <—Karen fan !!!

  46. agrimesy says:

    Thank you, Slezak. Your recaps are helping me hang on this season in hopes that one or two WOW artists may still emerge. I’d be satisfied with one or two WOW performances at this point. Singing all the notes “in key” is not enough. I want a moment! I realize it’s early yet. JLo enthusiastically claimed “We’ve got a competition here!” Yeah, but it seems they are merely competing to AVOID the bottom three not to TAKE the top three! My praise is for Stefano this round. He’s climbing with purpose. In my opinion, Thia should go home. Her singing wasn’t awful, but she has the least potential. I don’t think she has a clue who she is or what she’s doing. I’m willing to give everyone else yet ANOTHER chance.

    • AI Fan says:

      I agree. Thia Ruxpin has been so bland. She has a nice voice, but is not entertaining or even exciting to listen to.

  47. j. christopher says:

    I think all the contestants not named Casey need an additional dose of sense of humour with a side order of “don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously”…although none of them need to take it as far as he does, as he is quickly moving from rebellious anti-Idol to just plan annoying…

    Pia and Stefano especially could do themselves favors by steppping away from the predictable ballads such as the ones they chose this week…

    and we were hoping for “Fields of Gold” from Scotty instead of another semi-anonymous country ballad…would have been a nice change for him that he likely could have easily executed + put his own spin on…

  48. Denise says:

    Anyone notice that Scotty kinda has some of George W Bush’s mannerisms. The ears, the head cock, just watch again…

  49. Katie says:

    I think that Pia may win. I think I like Stefano for the guys- but I just watched the performances from last night (didn’t want the entire show) and I thought they were all so boring. Huge yawnfest. Usually by now there is someone I’m like “okay, don’t love the season- but I will cheer for _______”, I don’t have that person. There is NO ONE on this season I’d by an album from OR see in concert- and isn’t that the point of Idol?

    In doing the math, out of all the Idol years and contestants (there have been 11 seasons prior to this- and just going by the top 12 there have been 132 top 12 contestants)- I only have… let’s see… 7 of them on my ipod (some of them only 1 song) so that’s only 5%, but that’s not where they want to be (I’m sure)… and I’ve only seen 2 of them in concert- granted my love for David Cook has led me to see him 3 times in concert.

    • Kate2 says:

      This is only season 10. That means their are 9 seasons before this. That means 108 top 12 performers. Personally, I only have 5 of them on my ipod . . . and the only one’s who have really made it after Idol are Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry,and Adam Lambert.

  50. S says:

    This episode was underwhelming. Stefano was great, Pia and Scotty were good, I liked Paul, too, but I could do without the rest.
    I miss Kendra.

    • AI Fan says:

      I really hope Paul sticks around to show us all how talented he is. I wish he would’ve played the guitar this week, since he was allowed to.