American Idol S10 Top 11 Performances Again

After a terrific week of performances and uber-drama on American Idol Season 10, what can American Idol and their stable of budding superstars pull off this week?  Remember that two Idols will go home this week so the stakes are high.  Couple that depth of talent on American Idol Season 10 and the pressure to perform is intense.  As Casey Abrams proved last week, no one can afford two or even one weak performance.

Mix in the Elton John catalogue and this week becomes a high wire act for most of the Idols.  I am listening to my Elton John collection as I write this.  I am a big fan of the Rocket Man, but his music is highly structured and his songs after 1979 are pretty sketchy, sorry Lion King fans.  Tonight, the Idol’s need to be very careful to keep their singing in a pretty tight range, without seeming derivative or hokey.

Our Top 11 Power Rankings has Christian musician Jacob Lusk at the top.  With two people going home this week, I think he needs to be very careful.  The Elton John catalogue can be a tremendous pothole for him.  Maybe he will surprise me, but I don’t hear much room for Jacob’s signature runs and histrionics in Elton John’s songs.  I hope he takes “Your Song” or “Tiny Dancer” and honors the intimacy of those songs with a quiet, straight delivery.  If Randy says it was “I don’t know man, it was a little boring for me”, Jacob has accomplished his goal.

I expect Paul MacDonald and Pia Toscano to do well tonight.  I think James Durbin and Christian musician Scott McCreery could do well but both can survive a misstep.  Everyone else should be terrified.  I am not sure what Christian musician Lauren Alaina can do with this catalogue and she is starting to fall behind the other favorites.  Just like Jacob, this week is a major pothole for Christian musician Stefano Langone.  I am not confident that Haley Reinhart, This Megia or Naima Adedapo will survive the votes this week.

So, as you can see, I am a little pessimistic.  Let’s see if the American Idol Season 10 crew can surprise me as we live blog tonight’s performances.

Boy, American Idol really played up last week’s drama.  Let’s hope Casey Abrams health holds up for the rest of the year.  Does Elton John have a new album coming out?  American Idol tonight and he hosts Saturday Night Live on Saturday.  Jimmy Iovine is right.  All 11 Idols have to kill it tonight.

First up Scott McCreery is working with Don Was on “Country Comfort.”  This is an obscure song from his early album Tumbleweed Connection.  Good selection and, with the guitar, he has a different vibe on stage.  Another assured, solid performance from Scott McCreery.  This could be a single from his first album. He slayed the end with a deeeeep note.  Perfect choice to keep it in a very distinct lane.  He did not try to do too much with the song. Steven and J-Lo did not seem too excited but Randy was exuberant in agreeing with me that this could be on his first album.  Scott McCreery has set the bar high.

Naima Adedapo is bringing a reggae twist to “I’m Still Standing”.  Remember, I begged the Idols to not do this song. Let’s see if the reggae vibe moderates the hokiness of this song.  Jimmy said that the slower tempo made it harder to stay on key.  Naima is proving him right. i like the reggae take on the song but this is not a good singing performance from Naima.  I think she may be in trouble.  J-Lo did not like this interpretation, I disagree I just did not like the singing.  Randy thinks it was corny, but he likes reggae.  Steven like that she picked a song that fit her.

Paul MacDonald has gone from touring in a 15 passenger band to doing runway photo shoots.  He is singing “Rocket Man.” This is a tough song for a singer with his range.  Paul brings his guitar as well.  That was almost cool. It just did not take off for me.  He sang okay, but I think he missed the emotion of the song.  Randy thinks his soft voice is infectious.  Randy and J-Lo think he is holding back. It was interesting but not compelling.

Now, to someone no one can accuse of holding back.  Pia Toscano is bringing her chops to “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”.  She is certainly sure of herself by continuing to ride her ballad train.  Pia has gospel chops.  Nice soul phrasing and then she slams on those big notes.  Another mind blowing performance from Pia.  I liked this better than her other performances.  She was a little looser than the past few weeks.  I agree with Steven that it was just about as good as it gets.  I agree with J-Lo that we felt her a little more this week.    I can now hear Pia Toscano recording an R&B album in the vein of Mariah Carey.

Stefano Langone, tread carefully with “Tiny Dancer”, one of my favorite Elton John songs.  Jimmy Iovine is very concerned about this performance. Can he capture the intimacy of this power ballad?  Very strong start, he lost it a little when he moved away from the mike stand but recaptured the song on the second chorus.  Stefano Langone did himself well tonight.  That was very good. J-Lo and Randy loved that he connected in a way he had not in the past.  Stephen thought he nailed it.  Another very good performance from Stefano Langone.

Halfway through the Elton John songbook and the American Idol Season 10 Top 11 are delivering solid performance after solid performance. These guys are really good!

Lauren Alaina is singing “Candle In The Wind”, the best selling song in the history of Billboard. Lauren’s country phrasing is throwing me off a little.  Good for Lauren, she is toning down the stage theatrics a bit and letting her voice carry her performance.  That was very nice.  We finally get to see the singer that is Lauren Alaina.  Randy says it was nice and sensitive, very professional. J-Lo says it was amazing, I agree that this was the first time America was able to hear Lauren’s power.  This was Lauren Alaina‘s best performance of the season.

I am really impressed that the Idol’s are respecting these songs and performing the songs rather than competing with the songs.  This feels more like an Elton John festival than an American Idol competition.

James Durbin turns up the volume with “Saturday’s All Right (For Fighting).” Jimmy thinks he is taking a risk by starting his performance in the audience. Heis  just amazing.  He can run and jump all over the stage and it does not impact his singing one bit.  This is not my favorite song, but James Durbin turned it into to a crazy, fun rave.  He makes me smile.  J-Lo says she makes her forget she is at a competition.  Randy loves that James really enjoys himself.  I agree with the judges, it does not seem James is aware that he is in a competition.  It seems he is just excited to have a new stage.

Thia Megia takes on “Daniel.”  This is another gut wrenching song from the beginning of Elton’s career.  This will require a much deeper expression of feeling than we have seen from Thia before.  Jimmy is right that this song is poignant rather than dramatic.  Thia Megia has such a beautiful voice.  I just cannot connect.  I don’t know why.  I was trying.  J-Lo thought it was beautiful.  Randy liked her voice but felt it was safe.  Steven thinks she sang a great Elton John song well.  Thia sang Daniel to her brother, but we were not inspired.

Casey Abrams is singing “Your Song”, my all time favorite Elton John song.  I don’t think this is the right song for Casey.  Maybe he will surprise me.  I hope it is not the jazz version of “Your Song.”  Yes, he did trim his beard.  Well, I was wrong.  He stays grounded and centered and sings this beautiful ballad with feeling and meaning.  Not a mind blowing performance but the right performance for this song.  Randy thinks it was brilliant. J-Lo compliments him on the character in his voice.  Casey Abrams did justify his save and is back in the competition.

Will Jacob Lusk be able to control all of those crazy chops with “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.”  Mary J Blige showed up in the studio while he was rehearsing.  He was blown away.  Tricky and Jimmy are advising him to not over dramatize. I am speechless.  This guy is like the Incredible Hulk of singing.  I sit here and think “hold it”, “hold it”, “hold it” and he did it.  The judges did not really know what to say.  They thought it was brilliant.  Randy tried to offer criticism but no one really understood what he was talking about.  Jacob Lusk did exactly what he needed to do tonight and it was amazing.

Haley Reinhart gets her best shot to save herself with the final spot. Can she turn “Bennie and The Jets”  into her season turning moment? Not a chance, this is Elton John’s worst song, even considering the Lion King stuff.  She does the best she can by starting it with a quiet jazz twist and singing the dog out of the chorus.  However, the middle of the song brings out the dorkiness of the song.  J-Lo just loved it.  Randy says it was the best performance of the night.  Steven says she sings sexy.  I need to go back and watch Haley’s performance again.  I was not able to overcome my distaste for the song so I need to give Haley Reinhart another shot.

Overall, another great night.  This exceeded my expectations by a mile.  We really felt the influence of the producers and the maturity of these performers.  I think Naima Adedapo, Paul MacDonald and Thia Megia delivered the weakest of the performances.  I am holding judgment on Haley Reinhart.  Everyone else was consistently excellent.  Please vote and join us tomorrow night as we report in the results live as two Idols go home.