American Idol 2011 – Top 10+1 Performance Episode Review

As much as I don’t love it when the contestants on American Idol are forced to choose from the catalog of one singer and, in some cases, perform something vastly outside their comfort zones…I was psyched for Elton John night this week. I love Elton John – I’ve actually managed to see him twice in concert, and he’s just amazing – and he has so many fantastic songs for Idol contestants to choose from.

While I wish a few contestants had pushed themselves a little harder to do something interesting (coughPiacough) and wish that others hadn’t colored quite so far outside the lines (Naima), overall I was happy with the episode. Shall we discuss?

Scotty McCreery -Country Comfort
What? What the hell? Elton John put out a country song? And of course Scotty managed to squeeze in a “Hi Grandma” RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PERFORMANCE. He should have just said “Hi Grandma Vote”, and we might as well just give this guy the Idol title now. Argh. It’s not that I think he sucks. I just can’t stand him any longer.

Naima Adedapo – I’m Still Standing
I knew someone would make the “I’m Still Standing”/I’m still on American Idol analogy. I did not know someone would fake a Caribbean accent and turn and Elton John tune into a reggae song. I mean, for real? The girl’s Wikipedia page says she’s from Milwaukee. I actually might have been able to deal with the performance had she not spoken in such a stupid voice. Actually, no. The performance itself was pretty bad too.

Paul McDonald – Rocket Man
This was exactly the song I was hoping Paul would do. And he did it wearing my favorite outfit! Seriously, roses on the jacket and pants? Few people can pull that off. I don’t think this was Paul’s best performance, but he’s my buddy and I like his vibe. I’d buy his record, and that’s not something I can say about a lot of the contestants. He’s not the best, he’s not the winner, but he’s one of my faves.

Pia Toscano – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I was with Randy in wanting Pia to mix it up and do something uptempo and fun this week. You know what wasn’t a good way to mix things up? By singing one of the most overdone songs in Idol history. Seriously, how many renditions have we all heard of this song? Pia’s performance was good, as always, but I don’t think it was memorable.

Stefano Langone – Tiny Dancer
I love Stefano more than most, and I LOVE this song. I was excited for Stefano to sing this. I didn’t love the arrangement, but I thought his vocals were killer. I liked it, and he got good reviews from the judges, so I hope the performance was able to win him some fans and keep him safe. I just love this kid.

Lauren Alaina – Candle In The Wind
Oy. OK. “Candle In The Wind” is about idolizing someone (Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana…Justin Bieber? I don’t know who the kids idolize these days.) as a kid and then growing up to realize that the image you had of them wasn’t entirely accurate. So, it’s less than convincing when a teenager sings this song. That aside, the performance was just OK. I thought it was kind of boring and disconnected. As far as the teenagers go this week, I thought Thia out-performed Lauren, who’d been a frontrunner all along. The best part of the whole thing was Steven Tyler accidentally hurting a teenaged girl’s feelings when he insulted/joked about Lauren’s ugly, ugly dress.

James Durbin – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
Huh. As much as I like Elton John’s original version of this song, I don’t really think it translates as well to today as some of his other tunes. It seems a little karaoke, and that’s how James’s performance read for me too. I’m just not sold on this guy. I know he’s a good singer, I’m not denying that. But I find him kind of hammy and contrived onstage, like he thinks he’s way cooler than he is. I mean, why else would he wear that handkerchief around his neck?

Thia Megia – Daniel
I thought this was a great song choice for Thia, and her voice sounded amazing on it. Plus, she totally “connected”, which was what her struggles had been in past weeks. I really think there is some untapped potential with Thia. She has a gorgeous, flawless voice. She’s pretty, she’s young, she’s sweet. I don’t think she’s gotten enough credit this season.

Casey Abrams – Your Song
I love that someone told Casey to get rid of that ridiculous beard. Unfortunately, he barely followed through. I think Casey’s nerves got the better of him, because the beginning was shaky. He managed to get it together, though, and delivered a beautiful (Steven Tyler has ruined this word for me), subtle performance. It was great to see him show a softer side, and I think it was probably enough to keep him safe this week.

Jacob Lusk – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
I have a problem with Jacob. I like his personality more than I like his voice and performances. I want to root for him – I do root for him, right now at least. But I don’t know if I’d ever actually buy a Jacob Luck song on iTunes. In fact, I actually burst out laughing during this performance, only because Jimmy Iovine worried that Jacob would over-dramatize it and, naturally, that was exactly what Jacob did. Is it awful that I simultaneously adore and mock Jacob’s facial expressions?

Haley Reinhart – Bennie and the Jets
This was the perfect song for Haley, and I’m glad they gave her the chance to close the show. I’ve wanted to like Haley, but she’s hidden her awesome jazzy voice under generic Whitney Houston tracks. This really showed off her quirky, growly style and I loved it. This reference will probably only interest a handful of Canadians, but I think she could really rock Sarah Slean’s song “Lucky Me”. With two people going home tomorrow night, I think this performance was exactly what Haley needed.

The List

  1. Haley Reinhart (Last week #9- what a surprise!)
  2. Paul McDonald (Last week #2)
  3. Thia Megia (Last week #6)
  4. Stefano Langone (Last week #2)
  5. Casey Abrams (Last week #10)
  6. Pia Toscano (Last week #5)
  7. Jacob Lusk (Last week #7)
  8. James Durbin (Last week #4)
  9. Lauren Alaina (Last week #3)
  10. Scotty McCreery (Last week #11)
  11. Naima Adedapo (Last week #8)

As you can see, a lot of my rankings vastly differ from last week, which means one thing – I have no clear favorite in this competition. Yeah, there’s talent. But I honestly can’t say there’s anyone I’ve got picked to win. It’s pretty wide open.

Those are my favorites, though, not my predictions. I do think Naima is in trouble, but the second person eliminated could be anyone. Anyone except Scotty. I’m guessing maybe Stefano, Thia or Haley? What do you think?