Last night, our remaining 11 contestants on American Idol took on the songbook of Sir Elton John, and, for me, it was the first time this season that contestants really showed what they're made of.  From top to bottom, the show was one of the strongest episodes of Idol in years.  So, who was the cream of the crop, the top of the heap?  And who's going to say "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road!"   We look to our Idol expert Steve Thompson to make his predictions . . .

American Idol: Hooray for Captain Fantastic

When I heard they changed the theme from 80s music to the Elton John Songbook, I was more than a little worried.  In my mind, I could've sworn these songs have been overdone to death over the past ten years.  Well, the short answer is that I guess I keep hearing the same songs in my head.  Most of tonight's offerings were actually making their first appearance on the Idol stage.
This is not to say that we couldn't have had better selections: Border Song, Danny Bailey, Loves Lies Bleeding...  Heck, I would've told Scotty to try I Feel Like a Bullet in the Gun of Robert Ford.  Naima could've used her reggae voice for Island Girl, for that matter.  Oh, well...
We lose two Thursday night.

The judges have their scores...  (Oops! Wrong show.)

The Good News?  You're Going on Tour!

11)  Thia Megia sang Daniel. This is the first time in my memory this song has been on the show.   To paraphrase the 80s rock song from the Canadian rock group Saga, you wind her up and she can't stop.  Seriously.  I think this girl is the 2011 edition of some animatronic Disney World exhibit.  (Either that or she's one of the Stepford Children.)  This is a song that has always struck me as being an incredibly sad story.  What does Thia do?  She smiles through the line "do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal!"  I realize she's just a kid, but her candle isn't burning very bright right now.

10)  Stefano Longone sang Tiny Dancer.  (Previously performed by John Peter Lewis way back in season 3.)  Is it just me or does this guy remind you of Matt LeBlanc?  Of course, it's mighty odd to hear "hold me closer, Tony Danza..."  All seriousness aside, I've always liked this song-- but not really on this show.  (Almost Famous?  One of my favorite scenes.)  I'm not all that impressed with his style of lounge singer attacking pop legends for viewer votes.

09)  Jacob Lusk sang Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.  (Previously sung by Von Smith in season 8 and Robbie Rosen just a few months ago.)  Just because you get to meet Mary J Blige doesn't mean you have to try and sing like her.  I can't say I cared much for his version even though this is one of my personal favorites from the catalog.  Chances are he should be safe until next week.

08)  Paul McDonald sang Rocket Man.  Do you realize if you listen to this song and close your eyes you might actually hear the song stylings of Adam Sandler?  I heard it and started laughing in a wildly inappropriate way.  Anyway, this is the second appearance of this song and my conclusion was this may be the reason Rod Stewart doesn't sing Elton John songs.  Some songs should only be sung by either the original artist or Kate Bush.

Somewhere in the Middle

07)  Scotty McCreery sang Country Comfort.  I think Scotty does his kind of music in a way that will probably have him on top 20 country radio within a year's time.  Even if you pick one of the lesser songs in the Elton John songbook.  Really.  There were so many better songs Scotty should have chosen, and we get stuck with this clunker.  Good for him that he did a great job-- just wish he had a better grasp of musical history.

06)  Naima Adeadapo sang I'm Still Standing.  This song has a poor history on Idol-- perhaps most infamously as a song that put Diana DeGarmo in the bottom three.  Here is a point that might be rather controversial-- I liked the reggae version better than the original.  I realize reggae is not everyone's cup of tea, but the song seemed to really work for Naima's journey.

Your Top Five  (Watch This Space)

05) James Durbin sang Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.  Hard to believe that this is the first time anybody's tried singing this in competition, but I thought James nailed the performance aspect of this even more than his vocals.  If you're going to pay top dollars in this wretched economy to see someone perform, make sure they know how to entertain an audience.

04) Pia Toscano sang Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.  This marked the seventh time this has been sung in competition-- and that covers everybody from Justin Guarini to Bo Bice.  As always, Pia is the consummate ballad singer.  I would have no problem just listening to her sing ballads-- I just wish (along with the judges) she'd startle us before she suddenly vanishes like Katherine McPhee.  (Oddly, that's a similar path isn't it?)

03)  Lauren Alaina sang Candle in the Wind.  This is the first time this song has been sung in competition-- and I think it's the first time I truly bought into the hype that Lauren has the talent to win the whole enchillada.  This was really strong and had a distinct country/folk flavor which not only served the song well, but portends of great things possibly to come if Lauren stays in the zone.

02)  Casey Abrams sang Your Song.  Wow.  The first big hit of Elton's career and perhaps the first sign that Casey doesn't have to go insane to prove he can sing.  I was very impressed with Casey tonight.  Given that he was the one who got the save and caused everyone else to be good or be gone-- I think it was imperative that Casey hit one either out of the park (hey, baseball fans!) or atleast a triple.

01)  Haley Reinhart sang Bennie and the Jets.  This song is not my least favorite of Elton's hits-- but I've never been very enamored of it by any stretch of the imagination.  I'd like to go on record as saying this is the first time I've ever really liked this song.  I know this might be a polarizing moment in this show-- but I thought her combination of Michelle Pfeiffer from the Fabulous Baker Boys and Janis Joplin to be a powerful mix.

So what two are headed for tour rehearsal and not next week's show?  I think Thia and Stefano are in major trouble along with either Paul or Jacob.  My best guess is Thia and Stefano.We'll see Thursday.

@March 30, 2011  Stephen W Thompson

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