American Idol takes the Top 11 to Motown

by Ruth Anne Boulet

Finally, American Idol throws its fans a theme week. The songs of Motown, as an Idol theme, is not unexpected. It should favor contestants like Naima, Haley and Casey and seriously challenge contestants like Scotty. While I don’t think Idol is going to really challenge the contestants too much, hopefully we’ll hear a few of them finally break out of their safety zone.

We’ve only got 11 singers left on Idol, so we’ve got some time to kill. Ryan is a pro at killing time with packages about ‘history’ and ‘influence.’ I’m not paying too much attention. I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing he said last year about the ‘history’ and ‘influence’ of Motown on the modern music scene.

Casey Abrams — I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
In the intro we hear a producer wisely counsel Casey to freakin’ control his voice. Thank the sweet Lord above. No one has given him any advice about the crazy serial-killer look he gets in his eyes. Casey, it’s not intensity. It looks more like insanity. He definitely embodies the “I’m pissed I heard this from someone other than you” message of the song, but not really any of the pain/longing that should go with it. Vocally it’s ok, but a bit forgettable. Steven thinks he’s perfect and beautiful. The slicked hair was not beautiful Steven. Jennifer doesn’t think there’s anyone like him out there right now. Randy thinks Casey is a true original. Thanks for not helping him out judges. Watch the eyes. He needs to stop that while performing.

Thia Megia — Heatwave by Martha and the Vandellas
I’m told Thia will bring us heat. I do not want to see Thia bring heat. She’s 16. Ok, she’s singing Heatwave because she realizes she needs to do something uptempo. Jimmy Iovine is pleasantly shocked. She’s dressed like she’s going to prom and seems to drop a lot of the lyrics. I know the song is repetitive, but Thia’s version has way more repetition then I remember. Jennifer keeps scratching the surface. She’s glad Thia let loose. Oy. Randy thinks this new thing is a good thing but he thinks she needs to take more chances. Steven’s good. Thia makes the mistake in her backstage interview to admit to flubbing the lyrics, which no judge called her on.

Jacob Lusk — You’re All I Need To Get By by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Jacob cannot sing things without meaning. Do you really want to win American Idol Jacob? If you haven’t noticed, they release a lot of songs that have next to no meaning. Jimmy tries to convince Jacob to rein in the crazy runs. Jacob seems to understand. Jennifer Lopez is loving it. Steven Tyler runs up on stage & hugs him. Randy & JLo stand for him. Oh, come on now. He wasn’t that good. He was ok; far more restrained than he’s been in the past. Randy is now loving Jacob’s restrain. Ryan invites audience members to come up & hug Jacob.

Lauren Alaina — You Keep Me Hanging On by The Supremes
Lauren had her producer pick the song for her since she didn’t know much about Motown. People have been mean talking about Lauren & she’s going to show them with this song! Mmmph! Lauren, that’s the kind of thing you have as an internal monologue. You don’t voice it on camera. Voicing it on camera just makes you sound pouty. You may be a perfectly nice girl, and you can sing, but you’ve got to realize how you come across. The producers anointed you early. Had you simply kept performing well it wouldn’t matter. There are plenty of seasons where one performer clearly outshines the others. Nothing wrong with that. Steven thinks she shouldn’t listen to anyone else. Jennifer thinks she looks pretty. Randy thinks her swagger is back.

Stefano Langone — Hello by Lionel Richie
Stefano’s mom came by & cooked for the mansion. Wait, Hello? Hello is a Motown song? Really? That’s not what I think of when I think of Motown. He also promises he’ll keep his eyes open. Joey Tribbiani can’t manage to do that when he’s singing the power notes & has to kick his head back. He does manage to keep his eyes open longer than he usually does.  Jennifer starts a checklist of features Stefano has and gives good advice — she wants his intensity to come from heartbreak & not from wanting to do well in a competition. Randy agrees but is missing the emotion. Steven thinks he should pull back a little bit. They all love him anyway. Randy makes comments about Stefano knowing what it’s like to be in a relationship. You know, you, Ryan… Thanks for taking the Simon route, Randy. That was one of my least favorite aspects of the Simon Cowell years. But it’s one of my favorite aspects of Richard Lawson’s Gawker Idol recaps. Freakin’ genius.

Haley Reinhart — You Really Got A Hold On Me by Smokey Robinson
Gordon Ramsey would scream at Stefano’s mom if he could. He doesn’t want to say anything about her pasta. She gets the stair entrance & is featuring her, ahem, assets with her clothing choice. I think she also screwed up lyrics, but it can be hard to tell with how Idol slices & dices songs to fit the 90 second limit. I would like Haley better if she didn’t crumple herself into a contorted ball every time she sings. It looks uncomfortable. Yo! Randy! Yo! Thinks it started rough but the Haley he loves came roaring back. Yo. Steven felt Randy and Haley. She’s beautiful & doesn’t look a day over fabulous. Steven also gives her a growl. Jennifer thinks she’s effortless and has the most soulful voice. She does a really cute Sally Field in her exit interview. You like me! You really like me!

Scotty McCreery — For Once In My Life by Stevie Wonder
Scotty made a basket off the balcony of the mansion. He didn’t listen to Motown too much. Really? Color me surprised. They’re putting a country vibe on the song, but Jimmy warns Scotty not to sound too loungy.  Scotty also gets the stair entrance. Once again, he does the cowboy wide stance with his head to the side. He’s got a good country voice, but I’m getting tired of the two-handed microphone clutch and side head stance. And did I detect a little bit of Paul McDonald chicken dancing? Steven thinks it was beautiful like Glen Campbell. Jennifer thinks it was a great version of the song but didn’t think it was his strongest performance. Randy agrees but he was smiling the whole time. There was some insane comparison to Barry White. Bite your tongue Randy.

Pia Toscano — All In Love is Fair by Stevie Wonder
Bette Porter, I mean, Jennifer Beales, is in the audience. Pia is doing another ballad. Yawn. Jimmy tells her to get out of her head. She goes with the mic stand this time so she can stick with her trademarked one hand on the mic stand on verses, gesticulating with 2 hands on the chorus. She does not get out of her head. She’s a very good singer and very pretty, but for some reason doesn’t get called on the not looking the audience in the eye thing that Stefano always gets nailed on. Jennifer gives her almost the same critique she gave Stefano. She needs to move & own the stage. Randy concurs — ballad, ballad, ballad. He wants some different tempos from her. Steven thinks she’s the closest star in the American Idol universe. Again, she’s beautiful. Can we have the Steven from auditions again?

Paul McDonald — Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Paul breaks out is guitar. Thank the Lord above! I’m a little nervous about the song choice since Adam Lambert had a great week with this song. He impressed Smokey Robinson. That might be a little too recent Idol history. His movements are far more confined with the guitar in hand, which is a good thing. Paul’s version is way different from the original and from Adam Lambert’s, which is to be expected. I’m not sure how I feel about it based on the lyrics and the tempo of the song, but the original had that kind of dichotomy as well. Randy asks if he had a good time. Not a good start. Randy likes that he didn’t move around a lot and he liked the tenderness at the end. Steven thinks Paul’s voice is different and that’s great. Jennifer thinks Paul is the complete package with the right producer. No real comment about the song.

Naima Adedapo — Dancing In The Streets by Martha and the Vandellas
Jimmy tells Naima to be contagious. She’s decided to bust out some dancing as well since, you know, dancing is in the title. Naima needs to figure out how to sing with intensity with out looking pissed off. She throws in a Milwaukee shout-out. Woot-woot! We’ll toast with brandy or beer later girl. She busts out some African dancing with a couple of drummers toward the end of the performance. Steven doesn’t know what to say except E to the Twee to Tiddly Z. She also ate the stage, apparently. Jennifer got her first little goosebumps of the night. Randy thinks all of Naima showed up so everything worked out and was very smart. Nigel Lythgoe loved it. She finally smiles.

James Durbin — Living For the City by Stevie Wonder
They keep moving Jennifer Beals around. She’s by Gordon Ramsey! She’s by Liv Tyler! You never know where Bette Porter will show up next! James decides to go with as many chains as he can find on his blazer. He goes with a side horse-whip tassel instead of the tail. It’s like when all the girls decided to do one ponytail to the side instead of straight back. James is evolving that way. He does a decent job with the song. Jennifer says OMG! James can’t stop pointing at people in the audience, causing them to shriek. I think Jennifer is getting annoyed with making her wait. He leaves her speechless. Randy thought it was rough at the beginning but it’s all good because by the middle he was good. Steven thinks it takes being crazy to make a difference in the world & James brings that. Um, Steven, he’s got Tourettes and Aspbergers. He’s not crazy. He’s a little stuck on himself right now, but that’s not unusual.

Tomorrow’s elimination episode should be interesting. Naima and Haley did better than some of the judge favorites like Stefano and Casey. Remember America — the person you vote out is the one who doesn’t get to go on tour. Wield your power carefully, and watch on FOX Thursday night 8/7c.

1 Comment

  1. During “Broadway” week, I want to see Casey wearing the same Little Orphan Annie dress his twin Zach Galifianakis wore on Saturday Night Live. That would be one sweet version of “Tomorrow”.

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