"American Idol" Season 10, Episode 18: The Top 12 Sing Songs From the Year of their Birth, Otherwise Known as '90s Night
By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes
On Wednesday night the "American Idol" Top 12 sang songs from the year they were born. With this group, that meant lots of hits from 1989 and the '90s, and right now I feel a little old.
Tonight, Casey Abrams tackled my favorite song of my lifetime, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” To be perfectly honest, I was terrified to hear what he’d do with it. I know Casey is probably the most talented contestant up there, but a Kurt Cobain clone he is not. He played his electric bass, which was a definite help for such a rock anthem, and with his crazy eyes, he really shifted his persona and did a great job. I feel it’s going to be a love or hate it performance, but at least it’s going to be memorable.
Jacob Lusk sang another one of my favorite songs, Heart’s 1987 hit “Alone.” This song choice was totally surprising and completely welcome from the very soul oriented, Luther-in-training, Jacob. It is only a testament to how incredible a singer he is that he can sing something so far out of his comfort zone and sound great. It wasn’t my favorite of the night, and I don’t think it was as good as Alison Iraheta’s performance of the same song a few years back, but I really appreciated it. I just wish Lauren Alaina got a chance to tackle this song this season, since I think it’s perfect for her.
Since Lauren Alaina was born in 1994, she of course did not have a chance to tackle the 1987 hit. Instead she had perhaps the best song choice of the night, and one of my favorite performances of hers to date. Lauren Alaina sat on stage with a mask as she’s sick with the flu, however, as Steven pointed out, maybe the flu did wonders for her voice. She sang Melissa Etheridge’s hit “I’m The Only One” flawlessly, and interacted with the audience. She’s just so fun and likable, I hope she’s in this contest for a long time.
Pia Toscano was great, as expected, but thankfully for those of us growing tired of her usual ballads, she sang something slightly more up-tempo. Seeing her effortlessly tackle “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” made me think that she is a strong contender to be crowned as champion.
Stefano Langone had another standout performance with a cover of Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” As much as I would’ve preferred to hear him go with something upbeat, this was so well done, and sounded so accurate to the original.
I loved Paul McDonald’s performance of Elton John’s 1984 hit “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” I think other than Lauren Alaina, Paul is the best performer of the group. He engages the audience, he works the entire stage with his gangly legs, awkward dance moves, and million watt smile. He may have been a little pitchy, but as Randy pointed out, he has such a fantastic, raspy, Ray LaMontagne quality to his voice, and I know that I will buy any record that Paul McDonald puts out.
James Durbin gave an energetic performance of Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You,” but it was not my favorite performance of his. Personally, I think it was one of his weakest to date. The original song is so great, and I don’t think he did it justice. To borrow Randy’s favorite phrase, when he made it his own and did his trademark Adam Lambert screech, I really warmed up to it. He was at his best when he was bantering with Steven Tyler after the performance, but likability gets you votes on this show.
Both Scotty McCreery and Karen Rodriguez played it safe and gave solidly good performances. They each know their identities and the type of performer they want to be, and they make strides to get there. It’s very well played. Scotty gave an expected performance, but I was surprised that Karen Rodriguez didn’t go with any Gloria Estefan hit from 1989, because that was a big year for Gloria.
It’s always gutsy for people to tackle the big diva performances, and tonight, with the exception of Pia, the girls who elected to sing Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, and Vanessa Williams fell short.
Naima Adedapo’s version of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was pitchy and a little awkward, which was unfortunate, because with the right voice, it would’ve been a great Idol performance. As Randy pointed out, she was also pitchy last week, which really doesn’t bode well for her in a competition with consistently strong vocals like Pia and Jacob.
Thia Megia sang Vanessa Williams’ hit “Colors of the Wind” from the Disney movie Pocahontas. It seems appropriate that the show’s youngest contestant sang a song from a Disney movie, come to think of it. She was certainly the best of the three girls by a long shot, but as beautiful as her song was, it was very boring and sleepy. She needs to do something upbeat and memorable next week.
Haley Reinhart sang Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” with red lipstick all over her face and strategic growls to remind the crowd that she actually has a ridiculously strong voice. The song was pitchy, poorly chosen, and just leaves me wondering how she even made the Top 12.
My pick for bottom three: Haley, Naima, and Thia.