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American Idol: A Little ROCK, A Little ROLL!

MAMA PIA!! (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Last night, the Top 9 contestants on American Idol tore into the songbook of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, again, for the most part, delivered ROCKING performances.  In fact, Moon and I were chatting this morning about the fact that this season of American Idol is very much like this season of Dancing With The Stars!  The contenders are so evenly matched it’s hard to pick a winner.  And, after last night’s show, it’s hard to predict who’s going on home.  But our resident Idol expert, Steve Thompson, hits it with his best shot!

From Steve Thompson:

Not a bad night for our Mudville Nine this evening, even though I feel one of the guys  may have struck out.  Thing is, the way this show is going, personal preference is becoming the way we vote rather than who is the best singer.  With every passing week, it’s getting harder to judge who will go home.Since you’re still here reading this, you realize that’s my purpose…

Swing and a Miss

9) Jacob Lusk sang Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.  First off, you don’t call out the voters in your pretaped video piece.  Now it  could be that the Powers that Be (TPTB) left that in to make Jacob sound arrogant– or it could be that TPTB are ready to cut him loose.  Let’s see…  You don’t want to sing a song by Marvin Gaye because of its suggestive lyric but it’s okay to sing the obviously squeaky clean Michael Jackson number and throw in a couple of hip thrusts during your song.  Yeah, that’s not hypocrisy on any level.  Who would’ve thought Kris Allen would’ve had the best version of this on Idol?

8) Stefano Langone sang When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge.  How many hits was Percy Sledge responsible for and what are the criteria for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?  Just asking.  This is the fifth time in ten years someone has tackled this song– often to no avail.  I think the last person who sang this was Michael Lynche, and we all know how big a star he’s become…  Frankly, I’m still not as crazy about Stefano as he is about himself.

7)  Paul McDonald sang Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash.  For those of you who only know me through these opinions and never read any of my past reviews that were back on myspace, Johnny Cash was a hero of mine from the time I was three years old.  I wanted to write songs for Johnny Cash when I was younger and to this day I find myself trying to sing more like him than anyone else.  So…  What to say about Paul McDonald’s performance?  I think he may have swung for the trees and missed the ball.  You know, the blues singer Keb Mo did a laudable job on this song a few years ago– but I can’t see a blues song as a rave up.  Seriously.  If America didn’t like Naima’s reggae version of Elton, what do they think about whatever this was?

Extra Bases

6)  Lauren Alaina sang Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin.  This is the fourth go round for this song– the best version of which was done by Kelly Clarkson ten years ago.  Lauren Alaina may have talent– but she’s no Kelly Clarkson.  I’m not too sure she was Lauren tonight, either.  Do we really want to see our little country girl dressed as a Gwen Stefani clone?  Yeah, I thought that would be your answer…  It wasn’t the best of the night but it was serviceable. 

5)  Casey Abrams sang Have You Ever Seen the Rain by CCR.  This has been one of my favorite songs for most of my life and I think Casey pretty much got in the spirit of the song.  Let’s state facts: there is only one John Fogerty.  However, Casey seemed able to put his own spin on this song without resorting to his usual bag of tricks.  I was just glad we had a Casey who didn’t strike out. 

 4)  Scotty McCreery sang That’s All Right by Elvis Presley.  The best think about Scotty?  He has a way of entertaining an audience even though he may not be the best singer of the bunch.  I didn’t hear that much Elvis in Scotty’s voice– he seemed to try not to go there– but it was the best up tempo song Scotty has yet done.  Maybe Steven is right: he’s not all hat and no cattle.

Home Runs

3)  Haley Reinhart sang Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin.  I put this somewhere between the Nikki McCubbin version and the Carrie Underwood version.  Carrie, as I recall, seemed closer to Faith Hill’s cover.  I felt like Haley was so tired of the judges conjuring Janis Joplin that she decided to ram it down their throats– yet, that worked well for her because the performance was another step up the ladder of contention. 

 2) James Durbin sang While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles.  Okay.  I refer those of you to my post about the Paul McDonald song.  My favorite Beatle was George Harrison.  I was always impressed with his ability to write songs and his guitar playing. ( I especially embraced the spirituallity of his later music because he proved you could be spiritual and successful at the same time.)  Now even though we didn’t have Eric Clapton as a special guest, I thought James showed admirable restraint in not trying to make everyone down at the Santa Monica Pier hear him as he sang.  It was a good call.

1) Pia Toscano sang River Deep, Mountain High by Tina Turner.  You guys knew she’d be able to do this, didn’t you?  Yes, our little ballad singer proved she could go up tempo and take the song with her.  I find it interesting that JLo keeps trying to make her a better performer even though Pia is already a better singer than she is…  I understand the difference.  It’s just an observation.

I think one of the three guys, either Jacob, Paul or Stefano, are going to say goodbye until the final show.  I think because Jacob performed first he might be in the most danger– but wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a backlash against Paul’s desecration of the Man in Black.

Tune in Thursday and we’ll be forced to listen to Constantine Maroulis.  Heaven help us all.

 @April 6, 2011   Stephen W Thompson

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