American Idol: Season 10 top 8 performances

American Idol brings a dash of Hollywood to Hollywood with this week’s theme of songs from the movies. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt – this is the fifth time we have had this theme on Idol, and the third year in a row. This has never been one of my favourite rounds, as too many film soundtracks are filled with drippy, sugary ballads.

Still, at least the contestants selected a surprisingly fresh set of songs, which thankfully means no Bryan Adams. So let’s see how they got on, shall we?

Paul McDonald: Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger (Risky Business)

Song choice: 3/5. An interesting choice in the sense that it gives Paul the opportunity to have some fun, but it’s not the toughest song and his voice is too lightweight for this. I would have liked him to have chosen something a bit edgier – or at least something that was far enough out of the middle of the road not to have a white line painted on it.

Performance: 2/5. Paul channels his inner Rod Stewart again, but this doesn’t really work for me. While it’s a lively start to the show I still find his movements on stage distracting to watch and everything about his performance is just all kinds of awkward, really.

S-Ty, mangling the English language somewhat, says:

I love your crazy, wild abandon – how that transcends to an audience.

Er, okay.

Score: 5/10

Lauren Alaina: The Climb – Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana: The Movie)

Song choice: 4/5. This song has only been performed once on Idol before – and then in a semi-final round, by Haeley Vaughn, who was eliminated for her troubles. UK viewers will recognise it as the first single of 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry. That reason alone is enough to despise this drippy song for self-improvers and positive thinkers everywhere. And I really do despise it, in much the same way a member of Overeaters Anonymous despises those people who can eat massive three-course meals every day without gaining an ounce of weight. Having said all that, it’s a strong, clever choice, changing down a gear to perform a number which appeals to her younger pop/country crossover audience.

Performance: 4/5. No longer hiding behind the cutesy, country image, this simple rendition showcases the power in Lauren’s voice, and she gives the song the emotional punch it needs, something which has occasionally been lacking in her performances. Although it also feels a bit strained at times, she carries the song well overall. Almost great, but not quite – but still better than Miley, and miles better than McElderry.

R-Jack says:

The Lauren that we first saw in Nashville is roaring back. We’ve believed in you since day one. You made that song sound like it was written for you. I think you did an amazing job.

Score: 8/10

Stefano Langone: End of the Road – Boyz II Men (Boomerang)

Song choice: 3/5. No surprise here as Stefano the Barnacle™ – you can always find him clinging on at the bottom end of things – picks yet another drippy crooners’ ballad. And one with a title dripping in irony.

Performance: 2/5. Croon, croon, warble, croon, with a painfully weak token attempt at a falsetto and a few clanging flat notes. To be fair, he conveys more emotion in this performance than he has in all his previous ones put together. Even so this is, at best, a pleasant two minutes of karaoke, and instantly forgettable. Stefano could do well fronting a boy band, but he’s no Idol.

J-Lo says:

You’ve got stop singing to stay – you’ve got to start singing to win. And you did it tonight.

Score: 5/10

Scotty McCreery: I Cross My Heart – George Strait (Pure Country)

Song choice: 2/5. Scotty starts off with Harry Nilsson‘s Everybody’s Talkin’ – which sounds pretty awesome in rehearsal – but cannot resist reverting to his country roots. Mentor Jimmy Iovine thinks it’s a mistake. I agree. Yes, this is a straight-up country number. It’s also as dull as hell.

Performance: 2/5. There is nothing terribly wrong with Scotty’s performance, and it will no doubt appeal to his core – and very sizeable – audience. But it is nothing we haven’t heard before, and it’s distinctly pedestrian by his usually high standards. For me, this is a big missed opportunity to broaden his fan base.

J-Lo says:

Was it my favourite song choice for you? No, it wasn’t. But you still performed it beautifully.

Score: 4/10

Casey Abrams: Nature Boy – Nat King Cole (The Boy with Green Hair)

Song choice: 2/5. Here’s the dichotomy, and it’s the exact reason why Casey won’t become the tenth American Idol. Iovine thinks it would be better if Casey did In The Air Tonight. In terms of the public vote, he’s probably spot on. But this song is exactly who Casey is as an artist. You can just picture him singing it in a smoky basement blues bar at three in the morning. But it’s not the song of an Idol winner.

Performance: 3/5. This is a very Casey performance. We get the upright bass again. There’s plenty of his low growl and some lovely floating moments in his upper register. And it’s a much more subtle rendition than his previous efforts, which is a good thing. But although it’s a signature performance and it’s technically excellent, it’s just not memorable enough for me. It’s like eating ice cream – pleasurable enough for a few minutes, but soon forgotten.

S-Ty says:

You are an artist in the true sense of the word. You do what’s in your heart. That’s the truest sense of the word ‘artist’.

Score: 5/10

Haley Reinhart: Call Me – Blondie (American Gigolo)

Song choice: 1/5. What possessed Haley to choose this? It’s fun, but it’s a nothing song vocally. The track has a chequered history on Idol, with season two’s Carmen Rasmusen, also in top eight week, delivering the most limp and lifeless rendition it has ever been my misfortune to hear. (Incredibly, she didn’t even place in the bottom three – and people say the quality on Idol isn’t what it used to be? I beg to differ.)

Performance: 2/5. This starts off a bit shaky, starts to pick up in the middle, but falls away again towards the end. She’s clearly now playing on her signature sexy growl and there are some nice moments where she wraps her voice playfully round the end of phrases, but overall this is a bit too karaoke and way too shouty at the finish.

R-Jack says:

It felt when it started very karaoke to me. It just wasn’t a showcase for your voice for me.

Score: 3/10

Jacob Lusk: Bridge over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (The Pursuit of Happyness)

Song choice: 2/5. No, no, no, no, NO! For casual or younger viewers, this is a decent enough choice, but long-time fans will remember the gospel-inspired version of this song Clay Aiken performed in the season two finale (see below). Aiken owns this song. End of. (The Elvis version isn’t bad either.)

Performance: 4/5. In fairness to Jacob, most viewers won’t remember the Aiken version, and this is a good performance. For once, he reins in his over-the-top excesses and builds to a crescendo, with a three-note run at the end which is beautiful. A few of the power notes are on the rough side by his standards, but it’s still good overall. But here’s the problem: when Jacob is as restrained and controlled as this, he is merely a good singer. Somewhere between this and his worst excesses is a potentially great artist. But we haven’t really seen more than the odd glimpse of this since the live stages started. He needs to find it soon.

S-Ty says something about his ‘crenscesnos’ and ‘innuendos’ and R-Jack talks about letting the song marinade, but J-Lo adds:

I didn’t want to let you give me the chills but you did. You pulled them out of me.

On reflection, I think S-Ty with his made-up words still makes the most sense.

Score: 6/10

James Durbin: Heavy Metal – Sammy Hagar (Heavy Metal)

Song choice: 4/5. Interesting, brave and – despite Iovine’s objections – spot on. On a night of largely tepid and unadventurous fare, James opts to seriously rock it out to close the show. It is the double chocolate cake at the end of a round of plain cheese sandwiches.

Performance: 5/5. Strong vocal, strong performance and builds to his trademark scream, which he absolutely nails. Not his best vocal so far, but perhaps his best overall performance. A great way to end the show.

R-Jack says:

My God, you guys were just at a James Durbin concert. I’m happy you stuck to your guns. We always say to all of you kids: do you. Tonight you did you. Durbin rocks!

Score: 9/10

It was an odd performance show this week. The contestants certainly deserve credit for coming up with a varied and interesting selection of songs – five making their Idol debut, the other three performed just once before – and in some cases sticking with the courage of their convictions (sometimes wisely, other times not). But with the exception of James and Lauren, nobody earned more than a six out of ten from me – and only the former really produced a performance that will be remembered beyond this week.

With Pia’s surprising exit last week, I expect the public to be out in full force behind all their favourite contestants, so there should be no repeat shocks. The bottom three is likely to be formed out of the quartet of Casey, Haley, Paul and Stefano, but I suspect Haley may well get a boost from being one of only two remaining girls. For me, that leaves the three boys battling it out to see who becomes the first male contestant to leave the competition. My money is on that fate befalling Paul.

Safe as houses: Lauren, Scotty, James

Stuck in the middle: Jacob

In danger: Haley

Bottom three: Paul, Stefano, Casey

Going home: Paul

American Idol posts

Auditions: New JerseyNew OrleansMilwaukeeNashvilleAustinLos AngelesSan Francisco

Hollywood Week: Solo auditionsGroup roundFinal round

Las Vegas & Green Mile: Las Vegas & Green Mile part 1Green Mile part 2

Semi-finals: BoysGirlsResults/wild cards

Top 13: PerformancesResults

Top 12: Performances, Results

Top 11: PerformancesResults

Top 11 redux: PerformancesResults

Top 9: Performances, Results

Link: American Idol website