American Idol Recap: Oldies, But Goodies

This was it — the night American Idol fans have been waiting for. That is, if you could get past the fact that majority of the 11 songs performed had been covered by previous contestants. And overlook the weird, revisionist-history editing of several finalists’ introductory packages. And, of course, avoid smashing your television in rage over the appalling Gordon Ramsay committing the worst act of douchery in 10 seasons of Idol.

But, hey, just like we readily accept that Steven Tyler wears sheer, sparkly, leopard-print blouses from Forever 21, and that Jennifer Lopez looks beautiful even in blue eyeshadow, we also have to accept that it is Idol‘s right — and perhaps even its responsibility — to drive us a little bonkers. So let’s start by focusing on the positive aspects of Wednesday night’s Motown-themed performance telecast: Not a single disastrous debacle; specific, terrific, constructive criticism from J.Lo; the complete and total absence of “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”; an amped-up presence for live instruments; and at least six performances Randy could accurately label as showing “in it to win it!” tendencies. Who are the half-dozen vocalists who took another step toward a confetti shower at the Kodak come May? Let’s find out by breaking down Wednesday night’s performances in chronological order:

Casey Abrams: Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
It’s somehow fitting that Ryan Seacrest introduced Casey’s performance with a rallying cry of “unleash the beast,” seeing how Casey’s fury-filled eyes, clenched teeth, partially greased coif, and disheveled beard gave him the appearance of a maniacal Buggs Bunny villain — somehwere betwen Yosemite Sam and the anagonist of “Hair Raising Hare.” But while Jimmy Iovine and producer Kuk Harrell warned Casey against overdoing his trademark growl and losing control of his vocal, no one bothered to point out that his tendency to pull faces is nearly as jarring a habit as Paul McDonald’s “dancing.” Thus, while Casey was fairly in tune, it was hard to shake the suspicion that there was an element of self-parody to the performance as he did a chicken strut out into the audience, sang a few bars directly into the faces of his buddies, and ended with a series of screams that were anything but musical. And yet we had Randy offering up generic praise — “You can only do you, and that you is great!” — instead of asking why we haven’t seen Casey give a truly melodic performance, start to finish, since Hollywood Week. How much longer the voting public will wait for that full return to form is questionable, but a bottom-three placement for Casey this week is possibly a possibility.

Thia Megia: Martha and the Vandellas’ “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave”
When I wrote a piece over the weekend suggesting potential Motown tracks for the 11 finalists, I only warned against three specific ditties; not only did Thia choose one of them, but her trusty mentor didn’t have enough grasp of/interest in Idol history to warn her that the relentless, repetitive “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” has been a total artistic flop for prior contestants such as Jennifer Hudson, Kimberley Locke, Vonzell Solomon, and Lil Rounds. And so while Thia hit the bulk of her notes tonight, there was still an emotional vacancy to her vocal, the feeling that if there was indeed a burning in her heart, it was only a compulsory desire to please the judges and get a gold star. I can’t shake the feeling that if you asked Thia “What’s your favorite flavor of cake?” she’d give you a big smile and say, “Water.” Plus, are we really going to give the girl credit for “letting loose” when all she did was bend her knees and swing her arm while covering a total of three square feet of stage? I will, however, say this for Thia: While zero out of three judges called her on flubbing the lyrics to the second verse, the kid admitted to the error herself during the “spontaneous backstage footage” leading out of commercial break. Perhaps we can reward her with a nice trip back to her hometown?

Jacob Lusk: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By”
“I’m back! Back, back, back, back!” shouted Jacob, after receiving high praise from the judges for his (relatively) restrained vocal this week. Which raises the question: Back from what, exactly? If memory serves, Randy described Jacob’s Top 12 performance of “Alone” last week as “genius,” while J.Lo called it “amazing.” And yet, in Jacob’s pre-performance package, Jimmy Iovine and the contestant himself seemed to acknowledge the widespread belief among the Idoloonie Nation that “Alone” was a caterwauling catastrophe. So that’s how we’re gonna play it, Uncle Nigel? There won’t be actual criticism of certain contestants, merely the shadow of negative critique suggested after the fact? Innnnnnnnteresting. (But thanks for watching Idoloonies and reading the comments section, guys!)

But, hey, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new night…and you’ve got to give Jacob credit for a huge artistic leap forward on “You’re All I Need to Get By,” choosing to slowly bring the song to a boil rather than his usual method of dropping a lit stick of dynamite into the pot and letting it explode. It was entertaining watching Jacob physically grapple with this idea of restraint; at several points during the song, you could practically see a glory note trying to rip out of his chest and onto the Idol stage, but Jacob held it in, his eyes dancing with the excitement of a kid who knows what’s in the box, but takes his time to unwrap the present and savor the prospect of antici…pation. I loved the “gettin’ ugly” slope of Jacob’s mouth on “deeee-uh-termination,” the jaunty  jabs of his index fingers that he added to the little riff on “as long as I gotcha then baby you know that you got me.” This is all still a work in progress, to be sure, but for now, I’ll let Jacob put it in his own words: “I’m back! Back, back, back, back!”

Lauren Alaina: The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
Lauren got off to a gorgeous start on “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” standing under a single spotlight, slowing down the opening verse, and ending it with a lovely, borderline yodel of a note that, sadly, led into a traditional, Supremes-y arrangement that did nothing to service the country twang in her vocals. It’s funny that at 16, Lauren seems to have a better knack for making interesting melodic choices than a lot of her seasoned competitors, but she’s got some catching up to do when it comes to stage presence. Nobody — and I do mean nobody — needs to see a teenage girl shimmying up on Randy Jackson, and Lauren’s march behind the judges’ table and reaching out into the audience seemed to sap some of her emotional connection to the music. As for the pre-performance interview package, I’m never sure if Nigel Lythgoe & Co. are trying to catapult Lauren to the finale, or craftily undermine her all the way to a seventh place finish and complete emotional collapse. I just know I heard the words “stubborn” and “insecure” from Jimmy Iovine along with Lauren’s weird contention that “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was somehow a response track to everyone who’s had something unkind to say about her performances to date. Sorry, kid, but the public’s right to critique you goes hand–in-hand with the hefty Idol Summer Tour paycheck.

Stefano Langone: Lionel Richie’s “Hello”
I knew we were in for trouble the minute Stefano started talking about his song choice and admitted he’d never before heard “Hello,” which meant he’d never seen the blind woman sculpting Mr. Richie’s head out of clay, and he’d never heard David Cook’s out-of-this-world Season 7 cover (which, thankfully, Ryan Seacrest did not fail to point out). But still, I wasn’t expecting last week’s front-runner to take such a steep fall from grace. It didn’t get noticed by the judges, but it sounded to me like Stefano botched his lyrics, accidentally inverting the order of several lines and at one point having to weirdly ad-lib the lyric “But let me start by saying/ I love you, love you, love you, love you-ooh” in a spot where it simply didn’t belong. Said flubs led to some head-scratching phrasing and intonation from a guy who usually excels in both those departments, and also seemed to take a toll on Stefano’s upper register, which took on the tone of a quavery, Sesame Street bird.

The only real positive to come out of Stefano’s performance was some excellent advice from J.Lo that could really apply to every singer in season 10. “I don’t want [your] intensity to come from you wanting to do well. I want the intensity to come from because your heart is breaking. You know what I mean?” she asked. “And that’s what I need from you. And once you do that, you’re gonna fly right out of this building — I’m telling you, amazing. But you gotta make that connection… Even in the phrasing. When you start feeling it from your heart, you watch how your phrasing’s gonna change as well…. It’s like acting. You have to sit there and look at every lyric, and think to yourself ‘Who am I singing this to? What am I singing about? Do I feel this?’ If not, throw it away. Next song! You have to connect to it emotionally.” Have we heard any advice this specific and spot-on and nurturing in 10 seasons of Idol? If so, it must’ve been lost in the translation of Paula’s seal-clapping or Randy’s “yo yo yo’s” or Ellen’s litany of platitudes.

Haley Reinhart: The Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me”
It’s Haley’s stated goal not to be in the bottom three this week, and if American Idol took place only on the radio, the girl might see all her wishes come true. Haley’s loose, growly interpretation of the song didn’t have a note out of tune, and was oozing with sexual longing — a vibe that made sense for a song about the inability to break free from a not-so-healthy relationship. The problem with Haley’s performance was more of a visual one: Clad in a white blazer, black hotpants, and a tight black vest that showed a hint of midriff, Haley came teetering down the Idol staircase on extremely high heels, then proceeded to bend her knees and stomp around like a combination of early Mariah Carey and a second-grader who needs to go pee-pee. I kind of agree with J.Lo, though, that Haley possesses the “most soulful voice in the competition.” And while I’m not always convinced she knows what to do with it, I’m hoping she gets a few more weeks to try to prove her case.

Scotty McCreery: Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life”
This is Scotty. Scotty can make a basket from 40 yards out from the balcony of the Idol mansion. Scotty can take my favorite Melinda Doolittle audition number and turn it into a lilting country ditty. Scotty can make your knees feel a little wobbly when he hits his looowww notes. But Scotty really needs to practice singing into a mirror for the next seven days, so he can deal with his wonky, side-slanting mic technique and learn to cut back on the “seductive eyebrow” ridiculata (which, I promise you, is really going to feel old by the time May rolls around). That is all.

Pia Toscano: Stevie Wonder’s “All in Love Is Fair”
Omigod, Pia sang a ballad again this week! Burn her! BURN HER!

Um, you know what? I may be setting myself up for a lambasting in the comments section, but Pia can always give us something uptempo next week, because as far as I’m concerned, her Motown Night rendition of “All in Love Is Fair” was so flawless, I’d put it in contention for a spot on my list of the top 40 Idol performances of all time. Granted, J.Lo made an excellent point that Pia needs to show a willingness to work the stage even when she’s delivering a ballad, but vocally speaking, how can you fault this oversized slice of gorgeousness? I was living for the way Pia delivered the stripped-down opening verse as almost a whisper, the way she caressed every heartbreak into every word. And I was dying (in the best possible way) when she went for the big notes, the incredible rise and fall of her voice driving home producer Harvet Mason Jr.’s point that there simply aren’t singers like Pia on the scene nowadays. “It’s not always about perfect notes,” noted Pia, but dammit, it sure doesn’t hurt.

Paul McDonald: The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears”
Ten points to Randy for observing that the best moment of Paul’s acoustic-driven cover of “The Tracks of My Tears” came in those final, scratchy seconds. Problem is, when you’re up against Bandzilla, it’s hard to communicate anything in an understated way. Not that Paul didn’t give it his all. I loved the way he delivered the “’cause I tell a joke or two” line in a quiet, conversational tone, and I appreciated that season 10’s “quirky” contestant paid more attention to pitch this week. Had it just been Paul and his guitar — with nothing and nobody else in his way — he might’ve had a true Idol moment. As it was, though, Paul at the very least regained some of the momentum he’d lost over the past two weeks — and certainly secured himself a spot on the Idol Summer Tour.

Naima Adedapo: Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”
Look, I can’t sit here and pretend Naima did anything magnificently inventive or original with her vocal this week. That said, her “Dancing in the Street” was strong, and clear, and completely in tune, and it did the job of proving that she’s got substance to accompany her giant wheelbarrow of style. What’s more, if I’m being really honest, I’d also have to admit that Naima is one of those rare Idol contestants — like, say, Kelly Pickler or, well, I can’t really think of anyone else — where it’s not simply about the vocal. Naima’s got an indelible sense of global coolness that just feels good to bask in. Name another Idol contestant past or present who could infuse her performance with a burst of African dancing (complete with fabulous, colorfully attired drummers) without it feeling the least bit gimmicky?

James Durbin: Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City”
Hold up a second, folks. Naima’s not the only Season 10 competitor who knows how to bust a move! James’ back-step shuffle in the middle of “Living for the City” was an unexpected treat from a guy who seems completely at home on the big Idol stage. James’ total confidence in his performances gives him the freedom to fully immerse himself in his lyrics, and that made his Motown cover one of the night’s most effecting, even if the final third contained a few too many flat notes and a tad too much screeching. But hey, when I’m even starting to dig the Na’vi (cat of nine) tail(s), the guy can’t be all bad, right?

Tonight’s Scoreboard
Pia Toscano: A
Jacob Lusk: A-
Paul McDonald: B+
Naima Adedapo:B+
James Durbin: B+
Scotty McCreery: B+
Lauren Alaina: B
Haley Reinhart: B-
Stefano Langone: C+
Casey Abrams: C+
Thia Megia: C+

What did you think of Wednesday night’s show? Were you as appalled at me by Gordon Ramsay’s nasty dig at Stefano’s mother’s pasta? Who was your favorite? And who do you predict for the bottom three on Thursday night? I’m going to guess Thia, Casey, and either Haley or Lauren, with Thia heading home. Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol recaps and features, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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  1. Sabrina says:

    Gordon Ramsey is a jerk and he proved it, even Ryan could not save that moment. And my son finally figured out who Paul sounds like…the singer from Wheatus, check out “Teenage Dirtbag” and you will see he is right.

    • Jurybox says:

      Paul sounds like James Blunt mixed with a little Rod Stuart growling.

      • For me, for you, dawg says:

        Agree Paul definetely has a Rod Stewart vibe with a Jame Blunt mix. Plus he looks like Bradley Cooper. I really wanted to enjoy his song last night, but I think the background vocalists ruined it for me. It would have been better with just him and his guitar. Still I hope he’s safe for a long while.

        • Totally says:

          I totally agree! I was describing him to a friend who doesn’t watch the show, and I said “Paul looks like Bradley Cooper and sounds like a mix of Rod Stewart and James Blunt.”

      • Shannon says:

        Exactly. The problem is, I’m not a fan of either Rod Stewart or James Blunt. So, naturally, I do not get the appeal of Paul’s [what I deem to be] barely-there voice. Yes, he looks like Bradley Cooper with some sort of compulsive smiling complex and the whitest teeth on the Idol stage, but it still doesn’t quite work for me. And I like unusual voices. It’s when they become grating or underwhelming that I’m no longer interested.

      • brinco says:

        I know it’s been said before, but I just finished listening to Paul’s CD with his band the Grand Magnolias, and I completely agree with the producer’s comment last night that he is made to sing songs he wrote – he sounds amazing on his own songs.

      • bb says:

        Rod STEWART

    • Katillac says:

      Can’t agree. While I love Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”, I’ve always thought the lead singer sounds like a girl in that song. Paul has a raspy sound, and that’s definitely not found in Dirtbag.

    • agrimesy says:

      I couldn’t agree more that Ramsey is a colossal JERK! I’d use stronger language, but it would be blocked. And, Paul . . . well, Paul “sounds like” he’s just looking for a summer gig and this lame Idol thing will do for now. I’m tired of his lack of preparation like it might be cool to get scorned by Idol rather than try hard and fail.

      • sherimoonzombie says:

        Hmmm, that’s quite a leap. If you don’t like him, fine. But I disagree that a relaxed, non-bombastic vocal performance results from lack of preparation. The clip made it clear that he brought his own vibe into the studio to work out a version he felt was his own. No reason to conclude that he spends any less time preparing than anyone else. Rant over…

        • agrimesy says:

          Let me clarify why I said Paul seemed unprepared. He messed up on the lyrics. He switched direction at the end making the beginning seem disjointed. He smiled all the way through a song that’s about heartbreak. Paul gave me the impression (accurate or not) that he got up there for a campfire sing along. He may have had a great idea in the studio, but he didn’t pull it off. That’s my opinion.

          • vintagekate says:

            It was very ironic that he sang lyrics, “my smile seems out of place” while smiling that giant smile the whole time during a heartbreak song.

          • agrimesy says:

            I actually like Paul’s laid back style, but it should be just that “a style” not an actual behavior. Paul had an opportunity to use his guitar last week, too. He didn’t. If his performances are well-planned, then I find it an odd strategy with a top ten spot at stake.

          • djm says:

            I was thinking the same thing – his facial expressions didn’t seem to be in sync with the actual words he was singing, but good for him – he know’s the ONLY reason he’s in this competition is because girls/women/some men (Slezak I’m looking at you) think he’s cute. He’s this years Tim Urban minus the awesome body and Bieber hair – all looks and no substance (at least when it comes to singing).

          • pckelleyc says:

            If I were listening to Paul’s voice alone, I would like the uniqueness of it, but I was totally flabbergasted that he smiled all the way through one of the most heartbreaking songs of all time.

          • huh says:

            Idiots! Why don’t you read the lyrics better. Take a good look at my face-You’ll see my smile looks out of place-My smile is my make up I wear since my break up with you-Outside I’m masquerading-Inside my hope is fading. I have seen a Boyz II Men performance of that song and they were up beat when performing.

          • Jaded says:

            I am really dumbfounded by everyone’s lack of understanding of the lyrics! Especially a big LOL @ vintagekate for actually quoting the lyric “my smile seems out of place” and then faulting him for smiling because it seemed out of place. Really??? You guys are all jiving us, right?

          • Shannon says:

            My thoughts exactly, vintagekate.

          • Shannon says:

            I understand, Jaded. The problem is that Paul’s smile doesn’t look out of place at all. (Although, it is a bit much) I’m not sure he knows how to do anything else. I just wasn’t buying that song on him, nor was I enjoying it.
            Oh, and by the way, he screwed up the lyrics himself. He said he wore that very smile on the day of his break-up with the song’s subject. I bet he did!

    • darclyte says:

      This was the best show Idol has had in a long while, and clearly the best Top 11 show ever. While some weren’t perfect, nobody was terrible. I hope Lauren sticks with the straight hair, I’ve long said that she looks so much better like that rather than the “country curl.” Her giggling at the end of the song again points to her lack of maturity and that she probably should have been cut and told to return in 2 years. Ryan was on fire last night. Usually I find his antics annoying, but he actually made me laugh a few times. And I’m so glad he mentioned David Cook’s performance. Naima and Paul did their best in the Top 13 so far, but I wonder if her African dance will turn off some people. She already has the least Twitter followers so…hmm. Casey & Paul weren’t that great, but both seemed improved from the past 2 weeks. If I had to pick the Bottom 3 just based on last night it’d have to be Haley and Thia for sure, with probably Stefano since he “regressed” last night even if it wasn’t too bad. I think Haley has “earned” the boot the most, but I think since Thia is the youngest and is essentially a worse version of Pia (while nobody else does what Haley does) I’d rather see Thia go as Haley “adds” more to the tour, and is probably better equipped to handle the tour than a 16 year old.

      • del says:

        If you listen to the original song by Diana Ross and The Supremes, you will find that same giggle at the end of the song. Lauren was singing it as done originally.

        • darclyte says:

          I highly doubt her giggle was because of the laugh at the end of the original. Most don’t know about the laugh. Also, Diana laughs at something going on in the studio. Lauren had a “nervous little girl” giggle. If the producers told her to giggle at the end as an homage to the original, I’d be amazed. Listen to both and maybe you’ll hear the difference that I did.

      • djm says:

        I agree with you about Naima and Paul – it was the best vocal performance from both of them but I do worry about Naima and her dance. I get it’s part of who she is as an artist, but I think this early in the game it’s becoming a bit of a distraction to some people. I personally think she is by far the most interesting of all the contestants, but I also know that my tastes are rarely the same as the rest of the Idoloonie nation. Take Lauren for example. Sorry, but that dress made her actual hind-end look exactly like the zebra I saw at the zoo a while back – JUST AWFUL. I am all about a girl with some curves but that dress made her look about 15 sizes larger than she actually is. And while I think her voice is really great she just gets completely lost on that stage because she has no stage prescence at all. Same with Thia – great voice, but she can’t fill that stage – and a word of advice Thia – leave your grandma at home when you are shopping for your clothes for the show – that dress last night was a hot mess. And while there seems to be a lot of love for Haley here I do not get her at all. From the hotpants to the nasty facial expressions while singing I just do not get her. But, the worst for me last night was Casey, which really sucks. He was my favorite going into the competition and week after week he has just completely failed during his performances. I hate to say it but I really hope it’s him going home tonight even though I know it wont be. My guess at bottom 3 is Haley, Naima and either Thia or Stefano with either Haley or Naima going home. I hope it’s Haley but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Naima’s African dance sent her dancing in the streets all the way home.

    • susela says:

      Honestly, what would it have cost Ramsey to say, “This is actually pretty good!” It would have given Stefano’s mother such a thrill, and instead he’s brutalizing the woman on national television. What an unbelievable jerk.

      • Stop being so sensitive says:

        Actually I thouhgt he was pretty funny. If you people had a sense of humor and looked at his facial impressions while he says that you’d realise that he was just messing with her.

      • Rita says:

        @susela, my sentiments exactly. I could not believe it. Yes I will say that Ryan probably caught him by surprise but to act like a douche!! It is one thing to play a flaming ahole but to be one in real life on national tv.. come on!

      • musica1 says:

        He didn’t actually taste the food. He was just playing his role, which is that of a jerk. Have you ever watched any of his shows? He insults pretty much everybody in a brutal way. But I was at the show watching him, and he didn’t take a bite.

      • annie says:

        I completely agree with you! What would it hurt for him to say something kind? How would Chef Ramsey’s mother feel if someone made cruel comments about her cooking? Honestly . . I turned the show off at that point.

      • Aymee says:

        Did it ever occur to anyone that this was completely and totally scripted?! It seemed fairly obvious to me.

    • Sabrina says:

      LOL, love the responses,the Paul/Wheatus comparison is not popular with my daughter who is a big Paul fan. It as my son who came up with the comparison. I understand both sides. Love the discussion.

    • Joe Strummer says:

      Paul sounds like Rod Stewart on helium!

    • Shannon says:

      I know Gordon Ramsay has made his name by being a culinary asshole, but what he said about Stefano’s mother’s penne last night was just downright rude. It wasn’t funny and it wasn’t appropriate. Ramsay may have refined tastes, but that was completely tasteless. And classless.

      • Sally in Chicago says:

        Hmm….I didn’t hear him say anything rude, besides IT’S OK. Is that rude?

        • Shannon says:

          The first thing he said was, “It’s a good thing he can sing.” thereby implying that the woman’s cooking was horrible. And “It’s ok” is not exactly an acceptable attempt at self-redemption. It prompted Ryan to remove the Tupperware from Gordon’s clutches, but I don’t know what prompted the host to hand the Hell’s Kitchen tyrant the penne anyway. Yes, he’s a chef. But, not a nice one.

  2. Pat says:

    Right on target with your recap, although, I thought Haley was pretty bad. If she could stick with show-casing her vocals and forget about the awkward movement and dressing like a sex kitten, she would have more credibility. I think we might see her in the bottom 3. REally disappointed with Stefano, he seemed off all the way around. I am so over Casey, but I think he will survive. I think Thia might be headed home this week.

    • Eli says:

      Haley wasn’t bad, just her moving/wardrobe wasn’t very smart. But she had one of the best vocals of the night.

      • Brittany says:

        Haley clearly is relying on other “assets” to avoid the bottom three. She screamed desperate and hoochie mama-ish to me with her look, but she is so awkward and not sexy with her behavior and movements. If you’re going to dress the part at least be believable! (Side note: Pia is always so classy, sophisticated, and sexy without showing too much of anything. Her look doesn’t have to overshadow her talent to get votes).

    • Michael says:

      Thia can stay. I want Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson to go home. They are useless.

    • Babblonia says:

      Haley Scarnato shorts

  3. A Hit Dog Will Holla says:

    Casey is soooo boring the hell outta me, with his growling and gnashing of teeth. I feel like I am watching a Big Foot sasquatch singing, and sorry I am not into Bears or Cubs.

    • susela says:

      Casey needs to change it up and give us something heartfelt and melodic. Adam Lambert’s gift was that he could be unbelievably powerful and then pull it all the way back and be heartbreakingly intimate. I do believe the producers are throwing Casey under the bus, giving him the first-performance death slot and then not even panning to him when all the contestants were gathered on stage at the end. He may be the first guy to reach the bottom three.

      • Former casey fan says:

        You can’t possibly compare Caseys talent to Adams. I think Casey has realised that his voice is inferior and is desperately trying to do something overwhelmingly different. And unlike Paul and Scotty; he doesn’t realise his voice is already unique without having to try som hard.

  4. Eric says:

    Thia needs to go home. She’s boring and has no personality when she sings.

    And Paul sounds nothing like the lead singer of Wheatus.

    • Steve says:

      Doesn’t Thia remind you of one of those Asian child prodigy violin players who can hit every note of the most complicated pieces and still leave you with the suspicion that they have no idea what they are performing?

      Without a connection to the lyrics, all the technique in the world won’t help. I think she’s going home this week.

      • Merrilyn says:

        Steve, you just hit the nail on the head. I’ve been thinking the same thing about Thia ever since Hollywood week.

      • Alex says:

        Wow you’ve managed to be racist and ignorant at the same time. Thanks for showing how the two are usually connected. Nice work

      • davey says:

        Talk about stereotypes and this is not the first time this comment has been posted about Thia. I think one of the Idol journalist said the same thing about the young girl. It always astounds me when people write that Asian musicians don’t have any idea what they’re performing because they don’t openly scream and show their emotions and whine.

        If only Thia had jumped around the stage, everyone would have been salivating over her.

        • J says:

          There’s a reason why stereotypes exist. I’m Asian, and I’ve definitely seen examples of young Asian musicians with perfect technique and no true connection to the music. I’m getting the same vibe from Thia as well.

      • Sally in Chicago says:

        Yes yes yes….I couldn’t figure it out, but yes. She’s been “programmed” to sing and act a certain way. Sort of like David Archeleta….I felt the same way about him.

  5. karenb says:

    I’m not even half way through the article and I can’t stop lmao!! You never fail to crack me up, Slezak!!

    • Ryan was all over the show last night: bringing people up on stage, pointing out celebs in the audience, and hanging out with very little girls. But since they’ve actually GONE to Hitsville USA in past seasons, done Motown Night many times, and even held early auditions in Detroit, WHY would Ryan say that Motown/Hitsville USA was located in the “suburbs of Detroit,” when it’s well within the city itself? Did someone write that and Ryan just read it, or what? Pretty odd.

  6. Chmarin says:

    Did anyone catch Adam Shankman’s (who was sitting in the audience behing Ramsay) stank face during Jacob’s performance? Price. Less.

  7. Sarah says:

    I admire Scotty changing a Motown song and fitting into his Country genre. Dude can make a 3 pointer, lol.

  8. L says:

    Well, this week was 100% better than last week. I think everyone was very good and it is hard to pick a bottom three this week. I think Pia, as always, was phenomenal, and wasn’t really acknowledged as such. This was my favorite of her performances. Jacob was great and I haven’t liked him up until now. Casey was an early favorite of mine, but I’m almost over him at this point. He was good, but not as good as I was expecting and he is no longer my favorite.
    I’m actually going to buy more than two songs from Itunes this week, so it has been impressive.

    I’m glad because after last week, I was hesitant to watch.

  9. Jaime says:

    i’m hoping thia goes home, just because i haven’t dug her from the beginning. was hoping she didn’t even make it into the top 24. with that said, i think Haley might be in trouble. I think Thia has more of a fan base built up, especially with Haley being in the bottom the last 2 weeks. Just don’t see people who haven’t voted for her in the past coming out of the woodwork to speed dial over her performance last night (although, i thoroughly enjoyed it). and i don’t think there’s any change in heck that Casey or Lauren is in the bottom. That said, I don’t know who else it could be… Naima – maybe because she was last week and it sounds like a lot of people didn’t enjoy her dancing…

  10. Sue says:

    It’s so nice to see a judge i.e. JLo aka Jenny from the Block give good, constructive criticism. Heck, even Randy has put some good comments out there too. That is what these contestants need (they also needs some good calling out on some of the terrible-ness out there) to make them better if not great.

    JLo = keep
    Randy = on the fence
    Steven = his what-is-ness isn’t getting old fast

  11. Chris says:

    I agree with everything you stated except for Naima. This was by far her best vocal performance, but I did find the African dancing and drumming gimmicky. I get that this is who she is, but it just didn’t work… IMHO.

    • jado says:

      The problem I had with Naima’s “Dancing on the Streets” was that it was pretty conventional until the African dancing – which felt stuck onto the end. I would have liked better musical integration throughout the song. I think if she gave the whole performance an African vibe – like a Hugh Masekela thing – it would have built up emotional momentum, and the dancing on the end would have been a joyful climax, as opposed to something merely interesting stuck on the end of an typical cover rendidtion.

  12. evs says:

    You are right on the money with Naima. For the first time I don’t care how she sings, I just want her to do well. She’s got enough personality for all 11 contestants. I think the only other person I liked in a similar way was Carly Smithson.

    p.s. I still can’t believe you gave Lusk an A. He can’t jump from a D to A. I’m willing to bet he’ll be assaulting my ears again next week with some horrid gospel rendition of the Gokey variety

  13. whatevs says:

    In Gordon’s defense, he was probably put on the spot. What do you expect a real chef to say about someone’s mom’s cooking? I think it was rude of Ryan to ask what he thought of it, honestly. What kind of answer did you think he was going to get?

    By the way, I’m really over James acting like he’s actually famous with his finger pointing and hamming it up.

    • KWise says:

      Hmmm…..I disagree, and can’t give Gordon a pass on this. Even if put on the spot, we all know enough about general rules of politeness to say, “it’s delicious” even if someone’s cooking is not. What did Ryan expect? He probably expected Gordon to be polite, since he wasn’t on the set of his own show and presumably is not a total a-hole in person. But it turns out, he is a total a-hole in real life.

      I do agree with you on James though – he needs to reel that ego in fast.

      • Caroline says:

        I think James is just having a great time out there, joking, feeling good. Arrogance and out of control ego, to me, apply more in a person’s interactions with others — acting too cool for something, shoving their way in front of others to hog the camera, etc. It’s just my opinion, of course, but I don’t think he believes he’s rock god famous. It just feels awesome for a kid who’s been awkward and picked on in life to find a place where he feels comfortable (notice no facial ticks while performing) and that great outpouring of approval. Plus, lots of good food, clothes, a warm home… He was living in a tiny cinderblock apartment in chilly Santa Cruz, unable to afford diapers for his son. Idol life is great!

        • Caroline says:

          Facial TICS. Oops. (Although my previous sentence is true, as well. Thank heavens. Heh.)

        • tg says:

          I agree with you 100%. I couldn’t believe James even made the top 24, I disliked him so much, but since the first “live” performance I’ve found him to be fun-loving, goofy and actually pretty charming. And his performances are great. I’m still surprised at how much my opinion of him has changed! I think he’s enjoying the moment but I don’t see any ego issues.

        • Steph says:

          Great post, my thoughts exactly! As a person with Aspergers myself, I’m really impressed with how well he handles it all. He definitely seems very comfortable performing and you can’t blame him for having a good time. Also, I doubt he was deliberately ignoring the judges after his song so the so the audience could boost his ego, he was probably just oblivious to the fact the J.Lo wanted to talk. You know, the whole missing social cues thing… Anyhow, it’s cool to see a real person with Aspergers and Tourettes putting himself out there like this. Too often the media only portrays people on the autism spectrum as stereotypical nerds or hopelessly impaired people who are just a burden on their family.

    • Leila says:

      No, you’re wrong. Stefano’s Mom was the one put on the spot against her will, and Gordon didn’t have to criticize her cooking in front of millions of people.

      Besides, “mom’s cooking” can be better than “chef’s cooking” in many cases.

      • Nami says:

        Yes, mom’s cooking contains that secret ingredient, which Chef Ramsay’s fancy dishes will always lack: love!

    • agrimesy says:

      Ryan’s spontaneous chatter with the audience and contestants almost always shows what an awkward host he is.

      Gordan Ramsey is and will forever be nothing but a bully.

      James’ schtick (pointing, “come on”, wail pose, jump ending) is right out of the How To Look Like a Rockstar manual . . . for an elementary kid’s Scholastic Book Fair.

    • LAP says:

      I bet 100 to 1 that Stephano’s mom pasta is better than anything the insipid briton chef can do in terms of pasta… what does an as*h*le from Scotland knows about home-made pasta?
      Besides, terrible manners from the guy.

    • GingerSnap says:

      Ok, let’s get this straight. He said the dish was “fine”. Do I think he meant it? No. Do I think he was rude? No. Anybody who has seen Gordo in full pit bull mode knows he was being as polite as he could be about a dish that was not on target. Was he put on the spot by Ryan? You betcha.

    • Sally in Chicago says:

      I agree about Gordon. He was there to enjoy the show, not be put on the spot.

  14. Reena says:

    Last night was good but Im sorry Naima this is AMERICAN IDOL! not So You Think You Can Dance…Im probably gonna get a lot of s**t for this comment but I am sick and tired of it just like I started falling asleep during Pia’s performance…I think she could win it but a ballad every week is getting BORING!!! But I think bottom 3 will be Haley, Stefano and Naima….

  15. Quinton says:

    Naima sounds like Lil Rounds from Season 8. Scotty grade should have been a “C”. That performance was horrible. TEAM NAIMA, PIA, AND JACOB!!

  16. Linda says:

    I was absolutely flabbergasted with Ramsey’s reaction to the pasta. He came across as such an arrogant bastard, I wanted to smack him.

    As for last night’s performances, I am really starting to think James Durbin could make the final, he’s that good. For the bottom three tonight, I’m predicting Haley, Thia and Naima, and will be praying it’s Haley, although I won’t be disappointed if Thia gets the boot.

    • Judy says:

      I thought Ramsey’s comment on the pasta was uncalled for. Stefano’s mom was not on a reality show but showing her generosity by cooking for the contestants. Ryan wasn’t much kinder himself.

      • Lindsey says:

        Okay, here’s my question about the whole Gordon Ramsey thing: Why the heck did Stefano’s mom even have pasta with her??? My assumption while watching was that the whole thing was planned… If Stefano’s mom brought the pasta for Gordon to try then doesn’t it make sense that he was told in advance about the whole thing and told to react like that? I mean, isn’t acting like a jerk his whole schtick? If Simon had been there and was told to critique Stefano’s mom’s singing wouldn’t we expect him to say awful things? Because that’s why we love Simon… Why wouldn’t we expect the same of the cooking version of Simon?

  17. Shay says:

    “I can’t shake the feeling that if you asked Thia ”What’s your favorite flavor of cake?” she’d give you a big smile and say, “Water.” 

    This is possibly the best line you’ve ever written!!

    • GinaBallerina says:

      Lol, I prefer last week’s “Scotty McCreery’s mom outsang most of the contestants without even trying” referencing Scotty’s intro video. : )

    • Skitty says:

      I agree with Shay about Thia’s fave flavor of cake Michael. This recap ranks among the top 10 of Idol recaps for me, and first among many this week.

  18. GingerSnap says:

    Top 3: James, Pia, Naima
    B3: Casey, Paul, Haley
    Going home: Thia
    I put Jacob at number 4. That was a great performance for him, but he still is hard to look at when he sings.

    Give Steven some credit for this little quip to Pia: “You’re the only star in this Idol universe.”. Do I think she can quiet the critics with a breakout performance that Wows us? Yep. Do I think she’s gonna leave the Idol stage & be a big star? You betcha.

    • c says:

      How can Thia be going home if she’s not in the bottom 3?

      • GingerSnap says:

        She has no fan base. Paul & Casey do. I liked her performance better than Casey & Paul’s, but I don’t think she’s getting the votes. And the feeling I get from sites like this & DialIdol is that she’s toast.

        • Eli says:

          You’re not the brightest bulb in the box are you? :P

          What c meant is: how can someone who is not in the bottom 3, be the person going home, since the only people who can go home are the 3 people in the bottom 3.

          • jb says:

            Ha ha ha!! No kidding!

          • Buster Cretin says:

            I see a very dim light bulb struggling to turn on!

          • GingerSnap says:

            Actually it takes a pretty dim light bulb to not get it that I don’t have to like Casey or Paul’s performances but I do understand that Idol is about POPULARITY. Thia is a better natural singer than either one, but that doesn’t mean people like her. So what kind of idiot are you & you friends? You capable of any critical thinking at all or do you just blindly follow youf d***.

          • Buster Cretin says:

            Wow, that dim bulb is still struggling to get brighter, but it’s just sort of fading, isn’t it. Well, gingersnips, here is the equivalent of what you said. It’s as if I said my bottom three are Casey, Thia, and Scott, with David Cook going home. Can you wrap your head around why this statement doesn’t make sense?

          • Lunakit says:

            OK, let me try:
            GingerSnap, dearest… you named Casey, Paul and Haley as the B3 so from your list it would have to be one of them going home. Yo can’t pick Thia to go home unless you first make her in the B3. Got it? Just a funny little semantic thing made funnier because you keep responding the way you do. xo!

          • Val says:

            I believe what GS was doing was saying what his/her *personal* bottom 3 was, but despite his/her *own* feelings, America was going to be sending Thia home. Just like I wouldn’t put Haley in the bottom 3 because I liked her performance, but I know she’s probably going to end up there anyway.

          • bena says:

            Amazing. How can you guys call GingerSnap dim when it is all of you who are totally missing the point? GS stated his/her opinion of the 3 best and 3 worst performances. We all know that Idol voting is part ability and part popularity. Because of that, several contestants have been eliminated before their time through the years. GS is stating his/her opinion that while Thia’s was not one of the 3 worst performances last night, she is likely to go home tonight due to the popularity (or lack thereof) component. Got it now?

        • Davey says:

          I think Thia does have a very young fan base who probably texted their fingers off last night.

      • ShrinkRapt says:

        I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that GingerSnap was ranking her OWN top and bottom 3, and separately predicting that Thia would go home. That doesn’t make her a dim bulb. And while I enjoyed Haley’s performance a shade less than Thia’s (I cannot get over the notion that Haley is holding a phone on that left shoulder with her cheek — seriously, she leans like the Tower of Pisa every week), I suspect GingerSnap might be right regarding Thia’s fate.

        • Kari says:

          and i will go out on a limb, too, and guess that either you’re also GingerSnap logged in as a different person or a friend for defending him/her. not that she’s a dim bulb, but GingerSnap probably just forgot to edit his/her own post. she should’ve have known it will sound silly to pick somebody to go home when she’s not even in his/her own B3 list. i love Thia’s voice and could listen to her ballads without complain. that being said, i also feel that she has so much to improve on. i’m thinking she should have waited for a couple of years, tried singing songs from different genres and gained more experience in life. then she can compete with success for sure.

    • Coco says:

      Ha, my list went…

      Top 3: James, Naima, Paul
      Bottom 3: The boring twins, Thia and Pia, plus Stefano
      Going home: Stefano or Thia

      And I put Casey at number 4. Will Pia be a big star? Maybe. She’s as pretty as Britney and can belt like Xtina. Will I buy her music? Never. There’s more to life than being really, really, really good looking with a nice voice, and she is totally devoid of personality and charisma.

    • Sally says:

      Uh-oh, you put your finger on it. In fact some of the guys are downright UGLY….will somebody give Casey a shave?

      When the judges were going after the whole package, did they consider looks? or they just listened to the voice? Because these are guys are not chick magnets.

  19. imho says:

    Watching Haley, whose voice and song styles I love, I kept thinking that she’s worried her hair will get in her way of the mic. Something is keeping her from being able to get past the “performance” and just get into our very souls and tell her story. Pia is vocally perfect for bores the snot out of me. Thia – well, she’ll make the top 10 but that will break my heart. Maybe I should sing about that….
    Casey – good vocals or crazy screams, that guy makes me jump up and smile every week.

    • amy.. says:

      Last night that “something” was her heels, she had to “march” so she wouldn’t fall, and she leaned over more than Scotty.
      How can you sing your heart out, when you’re worried that you’re gonna pull a Miss Congeniality and fall on your face.

  20. Quinton says:

    Casey needs to go. He’s horrible. I really hate this guy.

  21. dj says:

    What did Gordon Ramsey do? I must have been out of the room for a second.

    I thought last night’s show was a huge improvement over last week. James was my favorite. I loved that little dance move he did. Pia did sing well, like she does every week. She’s like the Carrie Underwood of this season. Thia has promise, but just doesn’t get it. Lauren sings well, but she needs to stay in the feeling of the song for the whole song. Paul needs to strip it down to an acoustic performance like Kris used to. Jacob sounded so much better this week. I didn’t like Casey’s performance at all. Naima sounded good and made it a performance. I really didn’t get Haley this week, but maybe it was just that her moves were so distracting. I agree with you about Scotty. He’s got to start rehearsing with a mirror. J-Lo’s advice to Stefano was spot-on. I hope he gets it.

    I don’t really want anyone to go home at this point, but I’m guessing the bottom three may be Haley (again), Casey, and Thia or Paul.

    • GingerSnap says:

      What did Gordon Ramsey do? It’s what he didn’t do – he only thought Stefano’s Mom’s pasta dish was “fine.”. The way he said it made it sound like it was anything but fine. My guess is she killed the dish with too much garlic (she admitted as much herself). Because he didn’t gush over it, people thought he was rude. If this were a cooking show or HK, he would have told her the truth. But he was trying to enjoy AI & that was a restrained comment for him.

    • sherimoonzombie says:

      It was worse than that – he said whoever made it “should stick to singing” and totally dismissed it as “nothing”. He was a total ass. Then he tried to backpedal a bit (was it after JLo’s ‘awwww’?) by saying it was ‘fine’ in a way that made it totally clear it was not.

  22. Kim R says:

    At the risk of sounding mean, & admitting that Jacob did much better last night then previously, I must say that what I find “off putting” about Jacob is his mannerisms. It is like he has watched too many Whitney videos or Celine & he is copying their styles of delivery. The problem with that is that they are women. It is too coy for a man to pull off. I don’t like it.
    I totally agree with the recap & do hope Scotty checks himself out in the mirror to try & break the habits he has formed.
    Okay..that’s it. :)

  23. stevenjaba says:

    Steven Tyler seemed higher than usual last night. Anyone else notice his attention kept wandering off the stage? When the camera cut in his direction he never seemed to be paying attention.

    • jazzy says:

      Yes! What is up with him, is he sort of unhappy and checking out, or just spaced out. Where did his personality that we watched during auditions go?

  24. agrimesy says:

    OH, Slezak! You had me LOLing on this recap! Thanks for the chuckles.

    Thia’s favorite cake flavor is water, Jacob’s gettin’ ugly slope, Scotty’s eyebrow ridiculata . . . all genius! I’d add James’ cat o nine tails, but REALLY he just isn’t that interesting. In fact, just eewwww!

    My two criticisms are for Paul and Pia because they have the talent to actually succeed. Paul sounded like he hadn’t even rehearsed his performance. His attitude of coasting through this lame Idol experience so he can get exposure is starting to irritate me BIG time. And Pia with the ballads! GAH! I honestly can tell that she has a very good voice, but I DON’T FEEL HER AT ALL! I appreciate a well-sung song as much as the next gal, but I have no attachment to Pia even in the slightest. She bores me. I want to like her. I don’t dislike her. I don’t care either way.

    All in all, I’m very satisfied with the night. Jacob was by far my favorite. His performance had a dramatic build that did indeed simmer under the surface then pleasantly bubble over at just the right moments appropriate to convey the emotion of the song. I enjoyed Jacob immensely!

    Of all the others, Thia is the only one I’d like to see go home. I’m torn about the results show tonight and a little fearful.

    • Teresa says:

      “Coasting through this lame experience”

      You hit the nail on the head there. I don’t mind if people come on Idol in order to gain exposure rather than with the goal of winning.

      But don’t coast through it. If you’re on the show, you’re not above it. Like Kristen (sans glasses) said, “Nobody put a gun to your head.” The fans you’ll gain through Idol are people who watch American Idol. Don’t insult them by insulting their show.

      The big problem with Season 9 was that nobody really seemed like they wanted to win the competition. Once they made the tour, most of them stopped trying. The only reason Crystal continued to give great performances was because that’s what she does. Maybe Lee deserved to win because he was the only one who really wanted it.

    • Mary says:

      I agree about Pia. Yes, she can sing really well, but she’s like another Katharine McPhee, who was so much more interesting vocally and beautiful to look at as well! Yet Katharine hasn’t done well with a recording career (can we blame the recording studio?). I’d rather listen and watch Katharine. Sorry guys!

  25. Steve says:

    I am tired of Stefano’s constant disregard for the emotional tone of the songs he picks. He is quite good at the swagger which would fit within a Frank Sinatra tune or the Stones, but not for Hello. This song should be full of yearning and pleading, and it should be the vocal equivalent of pulling your heart out of your chest and offering it with the small hope that someone might notice.

    On the upside, I thought James was quite entertaining, and I hope Haley sticks around for a few more weeks. A little more focus from her and I think she could go as far as a woman can go in this competition nowadays.

  26. Cat says:

    Casey – STILL GROWLING!! STOP IT!! His presentation was good, but his vocals were awful.
    Thia – This song energized me, made me smile, and her support of the notes was better than the original vocals. It was time for her to go uptempo, and it was one of my favorites of the night. Her voice is unbelievably gorgeous!
    Jacob – Really excellent, but could have left off the “hoot” at the end.
    Lauren – This song doesn’t sound right with a “twang” in it. She also didn’t seem to have a lot of power in her voice. The come-on to Randy was also totally inappropriate. Thank God she didn’t do it with Steven.
    Stefano – Somewhat oversung, and he STILL didn’t make eye contact.
    Haley – Too much growling. I don’t care if it seems sexy, it’s still not pleasant to listen to.
    Scotty – A tad odd to hear this song done this way, but at least he “made it his own”. Not his best vocal, but still way nice.
    Pia – Did anyone else think the strings sounded out of tune? I still love her voice, but she’s GOT to do something uptempo next week, no matter what the category is.
    Paul – Daughter made me mute the TV while she played Adam’s rendition on her laptop until it was over, but his voice is AWFUL!! I don’t know why he’s even IN this competition. SEND HIM HOME NOW!!!
    Naima – One of my favorites of the night. Her voice was strong, and she was perfectly on pitch. Dancing was great.
    James – Would have liked more verse and less chorus repetition, but the performance was great, the dancing was terrific, and I’m liking him more and more as I notice that his voice sounds a lot like Adam’s.

    Bottom three: Casey, Paul and Haley. PLEASE SEND PAUL HOME!!!

    • Shan says:

      Paul is a real musician with a unique and gorgeous voice. You can tell he really feels the music.
      But clearly from your Thia comments you are much more fond of robots than musicians.

      • Joel says:

        Shan is only partially right. Paul is a real musician with a voice that can only be appreciated in sparse, slow songs with little instrumentation. Anything else sounds like he was a drunk guy brought up on stage to be made fun of. His is absolutely not a “gorgeous” voice like Pia’s. We can all say Thia is robotic, but closer to the truth is that she’s naturally talented but too immature to make good artistic decisions for herself or about her songs. And while I think all three judges are “Ellens” for most of the time, the tip from Jennifer was indeed spot-on and can’t be overstated. When they aim to impress judges, they fail. When they connect with the music (without growling or getting overly melismatic), they win. Let’s all adopt and learn this word “melisma.” It’s the ultimate description of an AI epic fail, and what’s more we can sound smart like Slezak.

    • LiLa says:

      Paul certainly has talent and brings a uniqueness to the competition but his attitude is what’s going to sink him. He behaves as if he’s too cool for Idol and can’t be bothered to give us 100% effort and for that, he doesn’t get votes from me. Nobody has ever been cooler than Adam and HE gave us everything he had every. single. week.

      • Shan says:

        I think you are possibly interpreting his comfort on stage as a ‘too cool for Idol’ attitude. If you will Google him you will find he has been in a band for many years and has played probably hundreds of shows…unlike most of the other Idol contestants who are still discovering what it’s like to be on stage performing in front of tons of people. Can’t comment on Adam or his performances as I didn’t watch his season nor can I name you even one of his songs.

        • Bat Country says:

          I’ll be glad when he’s voted off so these comment sections don’t have to be lines after lines from Paul’s apologists….

          Maybe he’s good in those albums of his you and your buddies promote, but he sucks ass here on Idol.

      • Glamouse says:

        Obviously I don’t know for sure, but I don’t get the impression that Paul has a bad attitude. And I don’t know what part of his behavior you are interpreting as too cool for Idol. I think he is completely invested in the competition, he’s just a very laid back, low key kind of guy. However, I agree with you about Adam. He was and is the Best!! No one on Idol will ever come close to his amazing performances.

      • Brittany says:

        I think Paul is just a super relaxed, surfer dude-esque guy and he isn’t bothered by anyone or anything. He also seems like he is or has been pretty good “buds” (pun intended) with a green leafy psychoactive drug, which furthers his aloof behavior. He gets in his own zone up there, which may look unprepared or lazy, but he’s just quirky. I don’t think he has a bad attitude at all, but I do think he is kind of a misfit for the typical Idol talent and he probably realizes it.

  27. dctoronto says:

    Random Thoughts:

    Michael, I too thought of the Hello video when Stefano said he had never heard the song before. How is that possible?

    I enjoyed James’ singing. I thought the high energy/happy performance was out of place for a song with such social awareness. I wish he had just sat on a stool and sang.

    Steven Tylyer; I love your silly/funny comments but I want to hear you critique that way you did during auditions and Hollywood week. You don’t need to be mean, just use your intrensic knowledge of music and performance to proivde some in depth critiques.

    Lauren still keeps coming off as an entitled child.

    Interesting that unlike years’ past no one called out the contestants on their arrangements sounding too much like the original. Glad to see that they stopped that.

    Naima: AMAZING. Really took the song in a whole different direction.

    Pia; Even Celine does the occasional up-tempo number.

    Scotty looks like a young George W. Bush.

    • Steve says:

      Lauren reminds me of one of those 6 year old girls who do the junior Miss America pageants: Self absorbed, playing the inappropriate sexuality on a weekly basis, and convinced of her own destiny.

      • dctoronto says:

        Steve, I thought about her being one of those Junior Miss types a few weeek’s back. Given how her mom (and grandmother??)look like, I don’t think it’s a far off assumption.

        • Steve says:

          I just get uncomfortable watching jailbait use that vibe. My daughter is only 10, but the puberty fairy has already started in on her. I stamp down that trampiness because she’s just too young. Plenty of time for that later, just enjoy being a kid because it won’t last.

    • amy.. says:

      @Steve..Ditto on Lauren, does she not know the difference between flirting with a Senior in HS and rubbing up to a 40 something?
      @dctoronto..I was suprised Stefano didn’t know one of Lionel Richie’s most popular songs too, and how can you do well in this competition if you don’t take a peek at past performances (David Cook, etc)
      I think Stefano learned to sing those big notes with his eyes closed. He had to conciously think about opening his eyes and was pretty OK with eyes open at the beginning of the song.
      Stefano’s eyes wide shut is one of those things like Kris Allen’s side mouth singing and Haley’s strut and Scotty’s side look. They learned it way back when and don’t know how to not do it.

  28. holly says:

    Sorry – the dance Naima embedded in her performance did seem gimmicky. You get 2 minutes to sing – in a singing competition – and you use 15 seconds of it to dance? Not good.
    Paul is clearly in a league of his own. I compare him to Daughtry in that he knows what he’s doing and he knows what he wants to do.
    Scotty’s song sounded like something you’d hear right now on the CMAs – he’s got a good voice.
    Casey has failed to move beyond his own weird style and is being outshone by Paul.

    • AI Fan says:

      I think Paul did a great job last night. He is a solid performer. I’m not sure where Casey’s fan base is coming from, as I’ve yet to see a melodic performance from him. I wish he’d step it up. That being said, I still prefer him over several of the girls. Naima put on a good performance, but her actual singing wasn’t that great.

    • Buster Cretin says:

      Just a different view, but you can also consider those 15 seconds as an example of how she “arranged” the drum solo section of the song. This arrangement isn’t really any different from previous Idols playing guitar solos, or showing off a Piano solo. So for me, it showed something artistic that she also intends to incorporate into her music. She did the reggae solo a few weeks back and it was the best part of Umbrella. I like that she’s hinting to what type of music she’d produce. So I’ll stick to the positive and say bravo for arranging the drum part.

    • teena says:

      I see that prior to Idol, Naima was part of a dance troop. It is probably an equal part of her passion.

  29. katillac says:

    I can’t agree. I love Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”, but that lead singer does NOT have a raspy voice like Paul… at least not in that song. I’ve always thought Wheatus’ lead singer sounds like a girl in that song, but I love it anyway.

  30. DonNY says:

    Your comments about last night’s performances are spot-on, Michael. I truly look forward to your recaps. My favorite of the night was definitely Pia with James a close second. I’m still not feeling Paul, although I know he is one of your favorites. His vocals always seem to get lost behind Bandzilla. Whatever happened to singing under a single bulb with just a few instruments and no backup singers? Lauren still annoys…

  31. BlueEyedMonster says:

    Of all the contestants I find Pia the most boring her voice as perfect as it might be just puts me to sleep.

    • agrimesy says:

      I have the same response. Beauty . . . check. Talent . . . check. Yawn . . . check. I leave the sound on, but I opt to go get a refill in the kitchen when Pia sings.

    • Sharon says:

      Pia could easily release a lullaby CD because she puts me to sleep.

  32. xanana says:

    We must have watched Idol in alternate universes because I didn’t hear the same singers you did (or the judges for that matter). I hated Haley, Naima, Jacob, Stefano, and sadly, Paul.

    Loved Scotty, Lauren, James and Pia (love her but she needs a personality infusion).

    “Eh” goes to Casey (step it up man – it was MoTown, and I expected greatness) and Thia (who looked and sounded like a girl singing karoke at her Sweet 16).

    • Brittany says:

      I agree totally about Pia. There is something too fake and beauty pageant about her for my liking. Even when she smiles it seems like she’s had one too many face lifts or something.

  33. Dani C says:

    Casey: sooooo much better than the last two weeks-liked it, but I’m still missing the bass 

    Thia-Bot 3000 (it’s so life-like!): zzzzz she just bores me…and Heat Wave? Really?!

    Jacob: Hit more notes that usual…not really my cup of tea, but I actually really enjoyed it; best since Hollywood.

    I’m just Lauren: ugh! There’s nothing I hate more than whiny teenagers…judges r so mean to poor whittle wauren :( and her dress is to long…liked the intro but the rest was just blah.

    Stefano: loved the arrangement, his voice sounds so current…good performance, but it was both sleepy and shouty at the same time.

    Hailey: gotta admit I was really interested to see what she was gonna sing…great song choice-wish the backup singers were quieter…I liked it over-all; had soul unlike Thia-Bot or Lauren.

    Scotty: I sometimes forget he’s in the competition…weird arrangement….I’d take out most of the band…just the violins and harmonica maybe? Just ok

    Side note: I’m finding Randy super annoying tonight. And Jlow is kicking panel ass!

    Pia: Really good performance, but come on! Give me something up-tempo…anything. How about Mariah Carey’s “Honey”? Ooh, I am DYING to hear her sing Xtina’s “Stronger”.

    Paul: wow ballsy song choice…because we all know Glambert killed it. Like Paul and am so happy he brought back the guitar. Very different feel from Lamberts (which is a good thing); overall, much better than the past two weeks.

    Naima: I’m always interested to see what she’s gonna do. Her best vocal so far and I love me some African dancing. I like that she’s a showman.

    James: something about this kid touches a soft spot in my heart; I love that he’s so excited to be there. He stole Paul’s dance moves this week; pretty great performance and he kinda rocks.

    Bottom 3: Thia (crossing fingers), Haley (), Paul () or Naima w/maybe Lauren as a surprise bottom 3.

    • KWise says:

      I also ALWAYS forget that Scotty’s in the competition!! Last night there were 3 or so singers left, and I was trying to figure out who they were….and I knew it was James and Naima, but couldn’t for the life of me come up with Scotty. And I swear, that happens every week. Must be because country is NOT my cup of tea.

  34. Malcolm says:

    Nice review again, Michael.
    Thought The Stank was fricken beast last night! Favorite of the night!
    I love James to death but that song “Living For The City” for me, for now at least, belongs to Siobhan Magnus.
    Pia was also awesome…don’t agree with you on Paul, it fell flat for me after the beginning. I really felt the song when Adam sang it, and I don’t feel like it’s a song where you should be trying to make the public dance about mindless of the lyrical content.
    Anyway…was it just me, or did Scotty try to hit higher notes and fail at the end of them a few times? I dunno, but I didn’t enjoy what he did with that. Thought Thia did “Heat Wave” better than a lot of people have in the past…
    I heard Lauren Alaina sing the beginning of the song and I really loved that, so I hope she does something slower next week!

    • JLo's Lipstick says:

      Malcom, ya I was hoping James would cover Higher Ground. But he did pick a good SW song but to me, the performance should half-a$$ed match the lyrics. MHO

  35. HannaBec says:

    “…producer Harvet Mason Jr.’s point that there simply aren’t singers like Pia on the scene nowadays.” This statement says it all. She’s got a great voice but will people want to hear her on the radio? It doesn’t seem to be about the voice these days.

    As long as James, Paul and Naima make it onto the Idol tour, I’ll be happy. Otherwise I honestly don’t care. ;)

  36. indycraft says:

    I enjoyed the show tonight. It is easier to watch when I’m not emotionally invested.

    What I noticed. Not as much pitchy singing going on. Yeah there was some but over all I think it was better. I can’t help but think Jennifer had something to do with it.

    Go back to last week. Jennifer after commenting to two or three contestants that “it looked/sounded like you were having trouble hearing (yourself)” turned off camera (to Nigel I suppose) and said “were’re going to do something about that” I am guessing they took some time and steps to help the idols hear themselves better.

  37. KWise says:

    I love the comments board here so much better than the comments over on that website-that-shall-not-be-named, Slezak’s former employer. My guess is that you have a slightly smaller readership over here, Slezak, but a smarter readership (I say as I pat myself on the back). Over on that “other” website today are catty arguments about contestants’ weight and sexuality, along with (STILL) random Adam vs Kris Allen battles. I love the comments here – they’re smart, and they seem to come from (for the most part) people who love/know music.

    • Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

      Totally agree with you, KWise. I don’t even read those comments anymore. The folks on this board stay on topic and refrain from debating performances from TWO SEASONS AGO.

    • Alison says:

      Yes, the comments section on the-site-that-shall-not-be-named is exhausting to get through. Such petty nonsense over there.

    • stevenjaba says:

      Agree as well. Unfortunately though, I suspect those people will find us. This site is new… So, enjoy it while we can!

    • Teresa says:

      Thanks for the head’s up. I won’t have to bother reading the comments there.

    • Dani C says:

      Agreed! I don’t kno why there’s so much hate on that message but board, but it needs to be reined in, stat!

  38. Megan says:

    The only thing I disagree with you on is Naima’s dancing is a total gimmick to me. Her arrangement was pretty much the same as the original, and then adding this African section just because she can? It

  39. Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

    Wow, what an improvement over last week’s performances! What last night proved to me was that, even if I don’t like the performer’s style (yes, I mean you Pia, Lauren, James and Scotty), every one of the Top 11 is talented and can sing well. I’d love to see what this group could do with the “Classic American Songbook” theme, since unlike today’s multi-track, vocoder-enhanced dance numbers, those songs were written to showcase a singer’s voice. That being said, I think we’ll be saying goodbye to Haley this week and Thia next week.

  40. ARCHU-D2 says:

    Steven Tyler’s presence during the preliminary rounds of Idol, were priceless. He was wild, untamed, and he gave heartfelt critiques that made he seem like he was genuinely invested in the show. Now, it seems like someone has curbed Steven’s wild child spirit (NIGEL LITHGOE!), and sadly Mr. Tyler is slowing becoming an irrelevant parody of himself.

    I think they should let Steven Tyler be Steven Tyler. We need some genuine…sometimes nasty critiques from you Mr. Tyler.

    • ChristineM says:

      Unfortunately, Steven Tyler is a loose cannon and Nigel lives in fear of what may come out of his mouth on the live shows. I think his comments are scripted to a choice of 5 or so phrases, his favorite being “That was beautiful…” We could start a drinking game on that one!

  41. Jake says:

    Another good recap from Slezak. I agree that Pia’s performance was terrific: “caress” is the perfect way to describe every note and every word of that song. It was truly beautiful. I agree that she could have a little more stage movement and could shake things up a bit, but overall she is in a class by herself vocally. She reminds me a lot of Sarah Brightman – I think she could have that sort of crossover appeal.

    I disagree about Naima. She is a good entertainer, but she is by far the worst singer in the bunch. Kelly Picker at least has some vocal talent, whereas Naima is quite mediocre.

    • pamela says:

      My feeling about the Pia/ballad comments: Why is it okay for James to do his screeching in every performance, and wrong for Pia to sing a ballad. If it’s wrong for 1 person to keep doing the same thing over and over, the same rule of thumb should apply to the others. James sings the same style music every week.

      • Teresa says:

        Well, I don’t think it’s okay for James either. I completely agreed with J-Lo that Pia needs to do something other than stand at the mic and sing. We know she can do more than that because she did with “Grenade” in Hollywood week. She was moving, she was grooving, she had more energy than Bruno Mars does when he sings it. That was a terrific performance.

        As for James, I liked what he did this week, but I’m ready for him to sing a ballad now. You want to really impress us? Do without your signature tricks. That’s what Jacob did, and it was highly satisfying.

        • Dave in Alamitos Beach says:

          I think Pia is a great singer and she could sing ballads all week long as far as I’m concerned. And I HOPE her first album has beautiful ballads that show off her voice.

          That being said, J.Lo is correct in that Pia needs to sing uptempo if she wants to WIN and/or PROGRESS in the competition. The advice is for this show and more specifically, for Pia to attract more votes. AI voters want a more well rounded singer. Of course J.Lo and Steven Tyler probably think that singing a ballad takes more talent and leaves you more exposed if there is an error, but the vast viewership wants a song with a “good beat” that “you can dance to.” ;-)

          Go Pia!!

      • Kevin C. says:

        James at least had his one performce (Maybe I’m Amazed) where he reined everything in and showed that in fact he CAN do something else.

        I think the better comparison is with Casey, who is getting widely (and correctly) lambasted for doing the same growly thing to every song. Casey was one of my favorites in the first two weeks, but now I just desperately want to hear him sing a song straight without growling. Pia was my absolute favorite the first week, but I still want to hear her sing something up-tempo.

        • JLo's Lipstick says:

          Agree about Casey. Kinda reminds me of Norman Gentle a few seasons back (tho NG was way more extreme than Casey). We all knew NG could sing, and we were kinda waiting, as was Simon, for him to shut off the goofiness and just fricken sing something nicely. but he didn’t and he was gone (top 24?).

          Taylor Hicks wasn’t this extreme and he won the dam thing. So Casey, maybe reign it in a bit a la Lusk (this week).

        • Kevin C. says:

          One clarification: When I’m comparing Pia to Casey, I’m not talking at all about Casey’s habit (which for once they called him out on) of using growling as a substitute for good vocals. This isn’t a problem for Pia at all.

          What I mean is that at this point I’d rather see a half-way decent performance where Casey sings a song straight next week than a growly performance where he spot on nails the vocals. I feel the same way with Pia and ballads.

  42. Christina says:

    A vast improvement over last week.

    Top 3: Jacob, Pia, James
    Bottom 3: Casey, Thia, Stefano
    Going home: Thia

    I loved JLo’s judging last night. She gave constructive criticism where it was due, especially with Pia who is be far the best singer they got but needs to add some umph! to her performances. Steven Tyler is just getting ridiculous. “That was beautiful, that was beautiful, that was beautiful.” Seriously say something else. I’m dreading the rumored Aerosmith theme that may come up in 2 or 3 weeks. Can wee indulge him some more?

  43. KC says:

    I’m sorry slezak but I completely disagree with naima, please watch it again, I dont think she was in tune, not to mention i do feel as though her dancing and reggae is totally gimmicky

    • del says:

      This was actually the first week I felt she was TOTALLY in tune. How can one performance be viewed so differently by people? I dunno.

  44. Philip says:

    Is “Hello?” a Motown song? The song came out in the ’80’s while all the others were put out way before that. I love the song but wouldn’t really consider it Motown.

  45. Jenny says:

    I love Paul, but Adam Lambert owned Tracks of My Tears two seasons ago.

    • GingerSnap says:

      Well here’s another dim bulb. That’s a nice little conspiracy theory you have, but it’s full of holes.

      There is no logical fallacy in believing that the B3 performances were given by Casey, Paul & Haley & that Thia will go home. That’s my opinion. But it is also my opinion that Haley could go home, too. If Thia does go home, it means I think the voters got it wrong. That’s my opinion. It’s also my opinion that we got some dimwitted trolls hanging around today. And there’s only one way too handle a troll – IGNORE THEM. Good day.

  46. ARCHU-D2 says:

    Some of these performers really, really need to work of their stage presence. Jacob’s, Scotty’s, and Paul’s on stage presence can be a bit of a turn off at times. I think michael is right scotty needs to spend sometime performing in front of a mirror. Jacob has a great voice, but when he leaves this competiton in the next 2-3 weeks it will be becuase of his off setting, over the top, stage presence. Tone it down Jacob.

  47. adamfan says:

    Love reading you Michael, am I a loser for running to my computer first thing in the morning to see if you posted yet and if you did not walk away shaking my head at your laziness? Kidding.
    I really love James and hope that people see that he is a sweet guy and the attitude is just entertainment. You can see how intently he listens to what the judges have to say.
    I think that Pia needs to sing in front of the mirror and get rid of the robotic arm. I don’t look at the tv anymore when she sings, the arm goes up and down in the same motion throughout the entire song. I would love to hear what Simon would have said about Naima’s performance last night. I did not care for the singing or the dancing.
    Although, I think that she is very interesting. Stefano was dull, and he is usually so adorable. How are you not aware of “Hello”? HEELLLOOO At least don’t admit it!
    It really bothered me that the judges did not address the fact that Thia butchered the words. How could they not?
    Casey is getting stale he needs another “Georgia” moment. Casey,you sweet bear, melody is key when you are singing.
    Surprisingly, Jennifer, eye shadow, Lopez had the most constructive things to say to the contestants. I still love Steven. Gordon Ramsey is really an ass. I hope that he felt badly it did kind of look like he was a bit uncomfortable after the negative comment.

  48. Rob says:

    I have been a long time reader, but I have never felt the need to comment until now. Gordon Ramsey is a complete A-HOLE! As inappropriate and sophomoric as Ryan is on a consistent basis, (why Julianne Hough is wasting her time with him, oh wait there’s a shot of her sitting next to Jimmy Iovine- she is clearly just using Ryan to get a record deal!), Ryan has never been this classless – and that’s saying something! Look Gordon, we know you don’t eat food out of Tupperware. We get the fact that you are a cheap imitation of Simon in the food TV world. But what Gordon failed to realize is this is not his SHOW! Gordon, you were in the audience of a HIGHER rated show to help give a ratings boost to your show. Just sit there and play along! When Ryan asks you if Stefano’s moms cooking is good- just say its great, smile and move on! There is no need to insult the lady or her cooking in front of 22 million people. One of the most mean spirited moments in 10 years of Idol.

    • GaryfromCInci says:

      yea.. if Seacrest didnt have to namedrop and hobknob with every celebrity that enter the IdolArena every week, this would have never happened. What happened to Lithgoe making it about the on stage talent? Is it getting close to being an hour show yet? Not that i didnt enjoy the 20 minute Motown documentary for the 10th season in a row.

    • GingerSnap says:

      Excuse me – he said the dish was fine. How is that an insult to her cooking? And why in the heck are we talking about Gordon Ramsey anyway? He had less than 15 seconds of air time. Anybody think that Fox wanted to do a little promo for his shows?

      • lew says:

        He said that Stefano’s lucky that he can sing, implying that the cooking was terrible, all the while holding the tupperware away from him like a stinky diaper and sneering. Then they cut to Stefano’s mom and she looks like she’s about to cry.

        • GingerSnap says:

          And does Ryan & TPTB at Fox get a pass on this awkward moment? If you didn’t want to embarass the woman, why have him taste it? I’ve seen him react to food that is over-powered with garlic. She said she likes to use a lot of garlic. His reaction was mild. He didn’t spit it out & vomit, which is normal reaction to bad food. Do the producers at AI really think this little game was wise?

  49. Leila says:

    Paul McDonald once again disappointed. He’s cool looking and has good taste in music, but his voice is just shot. If you listen to Rod Stewart or James Blunt, they have weird, unique voices but they have enough power to get their voices heard clearly and without cracking. If Paul is this hoarse at this initial stage of his career, what is he going to sound like in 5 years? Maybe his best option will be to work as a songwriter and guitar player and hire a singer to play on his band. It’s sad, but true.

    • ARCHU-D2 says:

      I totally agree, Leila. I always expect more from Paul, and I’m always a bit dissapointed by the end of the performance. He has this cool vibe, and cool tone to his voice, but in the end Paul just seems to promise more than he delivers. I believe Thia will go home tonight, but actually Paul should be going home.

    • Peyton says:

      Many people don’t know this, but Paul has a node on his vocal cord. He found out about it before Idol started airing and said that his only options were to stop singing and speaking for months or to have surgery to remove it. But he had already started the Idol process and chose to move forward with it despite the risk to his throat. I’m guessing that node is largely responible for him consistently sounding hoarse. I like him a lot but for his own good I almost wish that he would remove himself from the competition and focus on taking care of his health.

      • ChristineM says:

        If this is true about Paul, it’s really bad news for him. The tour schedule is brutal – by the middle of it most of the untrained singers are really struggling and don’t sound anything like they did.
        He may have to skip the tour or join it later. That’s too bad.

  50. GaryfromCinci says:

    Another amazing spot on take by Slezak!

    Every week Casey Abrams performs all I can think is that he second coming of Taylor Hicks… but without the cool aww-shucks factor and control of his vocals.

    At least Casey (as Zach Gallifinakis) and Paul McDonald (as Bradley Cooper) have a secure spot in the Broadway version of The Hangover whenever it comes along.

    • blingedup.susan says:

      Zach Gallifinakis! Yes! That’s who Casey reminds me of….I couldn’t put my finger on it. Thank you.