First off, friends, I apologize. I had meant to write all sorts of wonderful and pithy things about last week's semi-final performances on Idol. I had my own top 12 picked (If you're interested, after the performances, I picked Casey, Jacob, Scotty, James, Clint, Paul, Pia, Lauren A., Thia, Lauren T., Karen, and Ashton). I was disappointed that Lauren Turner didn't make it through, didn't even get a wild card slot. I liked Rachel Zavita more than any other person in America, I'm sure, but I really dug what she was trying to do. I was sort of secretly thrilled that Jordan chose to wanly perform Usher and that he did NOT get a wild card shot even though he kept promising to do a better song "next time." (See, douchebaggery DOES come back to haunt you!) When the judges picked their wild card contenders, I thought Robbie had a better shot of moving on than Stefano, although, as my sis reminded me, "Every season needs a Stefano."
So what has been keeping me from you? Well, as many of you know, in addition to teaching, I am also in rehearsals directing our school musical. To work around the schedules of student athletes who wanted to be in the show, we've had to bump rehearsals back to evenings, meaning that I have spent the past month or so not getting home until 8:00 or later every night. This week, it's been closer to 10:00 as we stand just days away from tech week. While I've managed to squeeze in viewings of Idol, it hasn't necessarily left me a lot of time to write. Give me another week or so, and I promise you'll be drowning in blog posts from me.
So last night, I walked in the door at 10:00 (more like 10:07) and sat down to watch just the performances. I skipped the mentoring sessions and most of the judging comments. My sis had already watched, so she was able to summarize things for me nicely and point out the miracle that is Randy Jackson and his newly upped game.
I don't have a lot of time today to really comment much on last night outside of the rankings I have below. I didn't take notes last night and probably a lot of the witty comments my sis and I had while we watched are lost in a haze of exhaustion and stress. For the most part, it seemed like there were some expected super performances, some surprising disappointments, and some middle of the road adequacy. In other words, it was a pretty typical first night of finals.
Here are my rankings from last night and some very brief commentary.
1. Casey Abrams-- Okay, clearly this guy is my "pick to click", as my roommate would say. This guy is what the show is all about -- mad talented but not someone that the recording industry would necessarily find on its own. He is vocal, musical seduction personified.
2. James Durbin -- This was a very close race between James and Casey. I loved James's take on "Maybe I'm Amazed" that was powerful and yet controlled at the same time. My sis last night pointed out that James is the product if Constantine Maroulis and Adam Lambert "made sweet, sweet love" and this may finally be the time when a contestant like that, with that rocker sensibility, can finally win the whole shebang.
3. Naima Adepapo -- It is only within the past month or so that I have started to "get" Rhianna. I loved the vibe Naima was working here and the energy and innovation she brought to the stage. This chick could be a spoiler.
4. Jacob Lusk -- I love me some Jacob. I do. And I think the only reason I put him a little lower this week is because I'm not a huge fan of "I Believe (I Can Fly)" and there's no denying he hit some really wonky notes in the middle there. Yes, the end was enough to overcome them, but when Casey, James, and Naima had much tighter and less flawed performances, I have to knock Jacob down a spot or two to acknowledge that wonk.
5. Scotty McCrery -- Oh, wow. What a shocker! Scotty picked Garth Brooks. Look, there's no denying the kid has an amazing voice and is a country music producer's dream. He could be their country Jonas Brother. But man, I am getting really tired of the country.
6. Stefano Langone -- Stefano's choice to turn a Stevie Wonder ballad ("Lately") into a disco tune was interesting, and I give the guy credit for trying something so bold. He's an interesting little guy. I can't wait to see him at the nearby Civic Center in a touring company of In the Heights or Jersey Boys.
7. Thia Megia -- Entertainment Weekly poses the supposition that Thia Megia is a robot and not, in fact, a real girl. I'm not sure they're that far off. Last week, Randy compared Thia to Michael Jackson, and so, of course, Thia decided to do "Smile" which had previously been covered by Jackson. It's like this little computer in her head processes input and spits out music. She's going to make the top 10, but does anyone really think Thia can win?
8. Haley Reinhart -- Haley found a hater in my house last night with my sis. Here's the thing. Last week, Haley clawed her way into the top 13 with a sultry, bluesy rendition of Alicia Keys's "Fallin'". Clearly, she was setting herself up as a snarling R&B diva. Last night, she instead chose LeAnn Rimes's "Blue." So apparently, girlfriend is a country singer? My sis's theory is that Haley is playing the game. She didn't get a tremendous response from the judges with "Fallin'", she saw that Lauren Alaina potentially was vulnerable, and boom, suddenly Haley is a country singer.
9. Paul McDonald -- I love that Paul's sort of quirky sensibility has found a place on the Idol stage this year. I kind of doubt he would have made it in other years, but that Ryan Adams gets to be performed on the show...awesome. I figure he'll squeak his way into the Top 10, but probably get lost shortly after that.
10. Pia Toscano -- Pia is kind of like a pageant constestant. She's pretty, she's competent, but there's just a fire missing there. It doesn't help that Pia performed "All By Myself" which has been knocked out of the park on more than one occasion on the Idol stage. Kelly Clarkson and LaToya London both reduced me to years with their powerhouse performances of this song. Pia's was merely (and maybe barely if you ask the sis) adequate. I feel like Idol has moved beyond this sort of girl.
11. Lauren Alaina -- Lauren has been super hyped this season and named as a likely contender for the finale. Last night's Shania Twain cover, though, did her no favors as it didn't really have a lot of spark or anything even remotely interesting. She'll recover from it, but it certainly wasn't the way to kick things off.
12. Ashton Jones -- I'm not going to lie. I am not a fan of Ashton. I thought she had a shot at the top 13 based on her performance of "Love All Over Me" And then her Wild Card performance of "And I Am Telling You" completely turned me off. I thought it was really off pitch and not good enough to get her into the top 13, especially when Kendra Chantelle and Robbie Rosen give stronger performances when push came to shove. And of course after J.Lo told Ashton to channel a little Diana Ross, what did Ashton do? She did Diana. And she styled herself in classic Diana style. But Ashton, you, girlfriend, are no Diana. I can't imagine Ashton sticking around much longer if she doesn't do more to stand out.
13. Karen Rodriguez -- Wow. Talk about a 180. Karen seemed so promising last week, even though I wasn't a huge fan of her bilingual "Hero" if only because it just seemed so....um....calculated yet blah at the same time. Last night's performance was so crazy in terms of lack of pitch. I think Karen's in big trouble unless the Latino vote comes out in huge numbers.