Sunday , May 19 2024
American Idol's Top 11 take on the songs of Motown.

American Idol Goes Motown…Again

Last night the American Idol contestants took on the songs of Motown for the fifth time in 10 seasons. Out of all the possible theme weeks, I think I mind this one the least. There were some good performances, a couple let downs, and definitely a couple eyebrow-raising song selections. Being that tonight we find out who makes the summer tour and who does not, I really expected the contestants to just bring it.

Let’s just talk about the contestants in order of performances last night starting with Casey Abrams, who sang Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” I thought it was a great song choice for Casey, but the growling is getting old. If he would have just sang the song, and not growled all the way through, it would have been a much better vocal performance from him. And after his mess last week with the Nirvana song, Casey really needed to have a great vocal performance this week. However, between the growling and his final note, I don’t think he accomplished that. I will say that his stage presence is great. He really knows how to utilize the stage and work the crowd. For me, he’s fun to watch, but just not as fun to listen to.

Thia Megia followed with a performance of “Heatwave” by Martha & the Vandellas. Thia was one of two contestants that I thought made extremely poor song picks this week. Performing “Heatwave” is like having a fast pass to the bottom three. That said, Thia had an alright performance. I have to admit that I was shocked to see so much expression on her face throughout her performance. Thia can smile! Who knew? And even though the judges didn’t call her out on it, she totally forgot the words towards the end of the song. Just because you’ve learned how to smile, Thia Megia doesn’t mean I’m going to let up on you quite yet. If Thia makes it through to the Top 10, she’s going to need to prove why her set during the tour shouldn’t be my designated bathroom break.

Singing “You’re All I Need To Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell was Jacob Lusk. Yes, Queen Kelly Clarkson sang this during season one, and yes, it was her breakthrough Idol performance, but Jacob carved out a nice little moment for himself last night. He needed to tone down his vocals and not go wild with the vocal runs for once. For me, this was his best performance since Hollywood Week. I think he’s been kind of a hot mess since Top 24, but last night for the first time I thought he proved why he belonged in the competition. I didn’t think it was necessary for Steven Tyler to run onstage, hug him, and proclaim him to be “Baby Luther” after his performance. If anyone’s been paying attention during the last couple of weeks, we already know Jacob is a favorite among the judges. I don’t need it spelled out for me. But, I did think Jacob really took the necessary steps to keep him from possibly being eliminated this week.

Lauren Alaina was next performing The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Lauren still comes off a little pageanty for my taste, but I thought she had the best vocal performance of the night. She is definitely utilizing the stage a little more and looked like she was a little more comfortable performing up there. I must address her uh, dress. Somewhere there’s a stripeless zebra, and they’re pissed. I know Idol isn’t a fashion show, but Karen Rodriguez is proof alone that you can be sent home for a bad outfit. I had to laugh when Jennifer Lopez told Lauren how pretty she looked and how much she liked her dress. You know she was only saying that because it made her Barbie ballerina dress look slightly less ridiculous.

The biggest party foul of the night came from Stefano Langone who chose to sing Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Personally, when I think of Motown music, I don’t think of Lionel Richie, and I definitely don’t think of “Hello.” The first thing I think of when someone mentions “Hello” being performed on Idol is David Cook’s Top 16 performance of the song during season seven.

When Ryan Seacrest is taking the time to remind viewers that David Cook absolutely threw it down with this song a few years ago, you know you’re in trouble. Ryan might as well been saying, “Here’s Stefano, who has chosen to shoot himself in the foot by performing ‘Hello’!”

What was even worse than Stefano’s song choice was his performance. It was painful to listen to. And like Thia, he forgot the words and jumped a line in the song. You know, I thought with Motown Week Stefano would continue to build momentum in the competition. I think The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself” would have been a great song choice for him. Something upbeat, where he could have worked the crowd would have been great. Instead, he had his eyes closed for the majority of the performance, while he sang off key. That’s not fun for anyone. And J-Lo nicely told him that, while also slipping in that “he’s fine.” Cue my eye-rolling.

Haley “I’m totally getting eliminated this week” Reinhart performed “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson. My first thought during her performance was that she was going to totally trip in those ridiculous shoes and tumble down the Idol staircase. Haley’s vocal performance was not up to par last night. Like Casey, she relies on her growl way too much. I like Haley, and I hate to see her leave before Thia, but her singing was a mess. Y’all should have seen my mouth drop when Jennifer Lopez told Haley that she has “effortless vocal control” and that she’s the most soulful female singer this season. I’m choosing to define “effortless vocal control” as no vocal control due to lack of effort. To be honest, I think the judges chose to build Haley up, because they know that she’s basically toast.

“Country Clay,” otherwise known as Scotty McCreery performed “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder. I had no idea how Motown and Scotty would mix, but as it turns out, they get along rather nicely. I liked that Scotty went up-tempo this week; it was definitely time for him to mix it up. The kids can sing, and because he knows that he’s a country artist, we’re probably going to get countrified performances from him all the way up until he wins. (A prediction from me? Never!)

The Stevie Wonder tunes continued with “All is Fair in Love” from Pia Toscano. Pia sounded amazing, but her performance was an absolute snoozefest. I hit fast-forward on the DVR about halfway through her performance, because of how boring it was. I am happy that the judges told her that it is time to pick up the tempo, because it needed to be said. So please Pia, on behalf of those of us who do not want to hear you sing a full set of ballads while on tour, please go up-tempo next week.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it probably again next week, but I love, love, love  how  Paul McDonald treats his performances like they’re his own little two minute concerts. Paul had, I guess, a controversial song pick, as he chose “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson, which is a song that Adam Lambert had a moment with during season eight. I think why I’m choosing to kind of not care about this fact, because Paul really did his own version, which was closer to the original, but it worked with his voice. And finding songs that work with his voice is going to be a constant struggle for him.

For those of you who are getting ready to point fingers at me about defending David Cook’s version of “Hello” and not Adam’s “The Tracks of My Tears,” hear this: If/when someone covers “Mad World” this season is when I will have something to say, because that’s the song I felt Adam truly had his untouchable moment with. But right now, I say good for Paul, because he needed to a great performance to survive being possibly eliminated this week.

Oh, and who else liked seeing Paul back on guitar? I was very much a fan of that, as I feel the contestants should be allowed to use their instruments. It was nice to see him in his element.

Naima Adedapo brought her wonderful energy to the stage with her performance of Martha & the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Streets.” Her vocals were spot on. I love that she really isn’t backing down from her performances and just puts in 100 percent every week. Her African dance break in the middle of her performance was all kinds of awesome. Naima isn’t afraid of showing who she is on stage, and if that doesn’t scream “American Idol” to you, I don’t know what will.

In the coveted “Pimp Spot” was James Durbin, who performed Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City.” I had to turn to YouTube to re-watch his performance, because I sort of tuned him out last night. Oops. I’ve got to hand it to James, he was pretty good. He picked a great song for his voice. Now if he could work on his insufferable personality, so I could genuinely appreciate his presence on the show, we’d be set.

Overall, I enjoyed last night’s performance show. What did y’all think, and who’s going to be sent packing tonight?

About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her long-running music blog, Wait...WHAT, at Follow Kirsten Coachman on Twitter: @KirsCoachman

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