By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes
Each season, whenever the contestants first sing for votes, it takes some time for them to find their groove. Even if they sang for crowds, none have ever performed on a stage this big, or really this important. After the votes, half of the guys who performed Tuesday night will be going home. They really were singing for their lives.
Without question, my two favorites of the night were Casey Abrams and Paul McDonald, two guys whose presences seem a bit unexpected for ‘American Idol.’ I thought Paul’s decision to sing Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was easily the best song choice of the night. It was hard to imagine either of these two on stage without an instrument, but I found myself not caring, which to me shows that these guys are talented singers in addition to being talented musicians. Given that singers can only have instruments just three times in this competition, this is key: Would last year have turned out the way it did if instrument usage was seriously limited? That said, in addition to being talented, Paul McDonald is a true performer. He was the most engaging with the crowd, even starting off his performance with a cheerful, “What’s up TV-land!?” shout. He sang while he performed. He looked perfect up there. The one thing that might hurt him with a young voting population: He seemed noticeably older than all the other guys up there, but I felt that was a great thing.
Casey Abrams is the unlikely favorite in my eyes. He sang “I Put a Spell on You,” originally by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and had a little pseudo-sultry dance move and strong gaze to go along with it. It was incredible and the perfect way to end the episode. The judges told him that he is going to “redefine” the whole competition, and I completely agree.
Another expected home run belonged to James Durbin, who sang Judas Priest on the ‘Idol’ stage for the first time in history. I didn’t know the song well to begin with, but that’s perhaps what made it so great for me. He sang it effortlessly, and he seemed so comfortable singing that type of song on such a big stage.
The two youngest contestants, Robbie Rosen and Brett Lowenstern, were both great. I’ve been cheering for the two of them since the very first time I saw each of them, and I thought they were great tonight. Brett, the “red apple in a pile of green apples,” has such a quiet, gentle soul and voice, but man, can he sing. I was surprised to see his sultry hair whips, and such a gentle voice singing The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” but it really worked. He’s so likable.
Robbie Rosen played to his strong suit and sang Sarah MacLachlan’s hit “Angel,” and proving that he’s grown up with ‘American Idol’ and knows how to play the game, he switched up the song’s arrangement and really made it his own. I think it sounded beautiful, and I love being reminded of why I’ve been such a big supporter of his since day one.
Unless Tim Halperin becomes this season’s Tim Urban, I think he messed up by singing such a terrible, cheesy song. He has a beautiful voice normally, and has come across as such a talented musician and songwriter, and opting to perform an overplayed, mediocre Top 40 song (“Come On Over” by Rob Thomas) might have been a fatal mistake. However, he is an attractive guy, and let’s be honest, that’s what kept Tim Urban around as long as he was.
Clint Jun Gamboa was great, but by the end of the episode, I had totally forgotten that he sang – and that he was great. From his experience as a karaoke host, he really knows how to command a stage and perform energetically for an audience. Clint’s decision to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was one of the better song choices of the night, and he did a solidly good job with it.
I find Jovany Barreto and Stefano Langone to be virtually indistinguishable: They’re similar looking, they’re similar sounding, and tonight they both chose terrible pop songs to perform. Out of the two, I guess Stefano’s rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” was the better performance – I found Jovany’s “I’ll Be” to be not at all unique, and unfairly enough, that song is performed too often and without a new slant.
In terms of voices and genres that are out of my comfort zone, I found Jacob Lusk and Scotty McCreery to both be fantastic, in their drastically different ways. Admittedly, non-crossover country music is not my strong suit, but what I can tell from Scotty’s performance is that he has tremendous confidence when he’s singing a country staple. My fear for him is that he’s kind of shy, and his voice really makes him a one-trick pony in a competition that’s not geared for country singers.
Jacob Lusk, on the other hand, knows that his strong suit is when he’s singing a powerful soul ballad. His rendition of Luther Vandross’ “A House is Not a Home” was truly incredible. He brought Jennifer to tears, and Randy paid him perhaps the best compliment a male singer could be given: Luther Vandross would be very proud of him. I think Jacob will go on in this competition because he’s so likable, his talent moves people, and I think that if he wanted to sing a different genre, he’d still do that well.
The lowest point of the night was Jordan Dorsey singing Usher’s “OMG.” This is the only time I have ever wished for Simon to be back on the panel, because he would have ripped that trite, cheesy and terrible performance to shreds. Jordan strutted, he stripped his blazer off, and he instantaneously admitted that it’s not him. Then why on earth would you sing that song? Did you agree to it at gunpoint? You blew it, Jordan.
My guesses for Top 6 guys--Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk, Paul McDonald, Robbie Rosen, Brett Lowenstern, James Durbin. I think Tim Halperin, Clint Jun Gamboa, or Stefano Langone could be on the bubble and might be an upset, but I can’t begin to imagine which of those six doesn’t deserve to be in the Top 12.