The Top 12 performance show began with the judges and Ryan relaying information on how you can help the relief efforts in Japan by downloading this week's Idol songs on iTunes. On a lighter note, the theme was Songs From The Year They Were Born, and in a season where 15-year-olds were allowed to audition, I was hoping for some Foo Fighters or something from the Batman Forever soundtrack.
My favorite thing about Birth Year Songs week is that we get to see photos of the Idols when they were babies, and their parents get to divulge secrets and share home videos that some of these contestants were hoping would never see the light of day. Season 10's "oldest" girl, Naima Adedapo, was up first. She was born on October 5, 1984 and we met her mom and her dad and learned more about how hard it is for Naima to be away from her 3-year-old and 1-year-old. She chose to get the party started with Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It." When I was a toddler, I thought the song was called "What's Love Cock-A-Doodle It"...a song about roosters. Naima performed in jeans once again this week, but she still had her Naima flair going on. Her performance was a more modern version of the 1984 hit, and the flashing lights added to that 2011 club feeling. Steven Tyler said Naima has "a sorcerer's grasp of melody." That Steven-ism is magical. Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson both commented that Naima has all the flavor, but she's pitchy.
The oldest contestant this season is Paul McDonald. He's 26 years old...so ancient! It appears as if coffee and red wine haven't touched those sparkly teeth in the 26.5 years he's been around. Paul's cute parents don't know where he gets his talent from, but they recalled that little Paul loved to be the center of attention and always wore cowboy gear and a guitar. Not much has changed. When he met with Jimmy Iovine, the exec said that Paul wasn't born to sing cover songs. But he's on American Idol so he'll have to do his best. Singing Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues," a hoarse, sick Paul continued with his signature movements and left hand waving as Jennifer was singing and swaying along. Jennifer said that every singer deals with colds, and it's all about how you deal with it. She liked the way Paul did with it and thought he sounded good. Randy compared him to Ray LaMontagne, and liked that Paul put his own spin on it, however he thought it was pitchy. Steven described Paul as "a cool dude in a loose mood." So is Steven!
From the oldest to the youngest, it was Thia Megia's turn. Born January 30, 1995, Thia was born after the OJ Simpson Bronco chase, during President Bill Clinton's reign, and after Justin Bieber. I'm sure some of you have shoes that were born before January 30, 1995. Thia gets her singing talent from her mom, and her parents have always supported her dreams. At age 6, Thia was already writing songs. She makes me feel like an under-achiever! Thia sang Vanessa Williams' "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas, a Disney movie I consider to be "modern." Although she was born in 1995, Thia's maturity far surpasses her chronological age. Her camel-colored dress was a little strange, but I liked the colors of her eyeshadow. I've always wondered what a "blue corn moon" is; I've only heard of it from this song. I do love blue corn tortilla chips the best. I'm hungry...sorry to digress. Randy recognized Thia's talent but wants her to dig deeper stray away from always doing ballads. Steven questioned if the song is who Thia is. Jennifer wants to see Thia work on her bravado and push out of the box.
James Durbin was born in 1989. Apparently, he's formed a band with Stefano, Casey, and Paul. Well, if none of them win, we can have the first Idol band! Unless you count The Next Great American Band which gave us Sons of Sylvia. It's probably no surprise to hear from James' mom that he was always a ham. He was in perfect pitch even as a baby singing his ABCs which Mama Durbin revealed that James sang to his doll. Not so tough of a rocker after all, eh?! With his scarf tail back in his pocket, James put his own twist on "I'll Be There For You." At first I thought we were going to here the "Friends" theme song, but James isn't that young. It was the Bon Jovi song from '89. The dad showed stage presence and jammed with the musician on stage. At the end of his performance, there was even pyrotechnics! Steven questioned James' dolls, but Steven has three daughters so I'm sure he's sung to a doll or two. James made a deal with Steven that if he makes it to the finale, his Idol Steven will perform with him. That will rock! I hope the judges perform with whoever makes the finale. Jennifer said that every time James performs he brings her joy. Sticking to his motto of the night, Randy said that James had some pitchy moments, but he liked that James made the Bon Jovi song his own. Steven had the last comment saying, "That man right there [being James] has a rich vein of inner-crazy. I'll join him!"
Haley Reinhart was born on 9-9-90 at 9AM. She should have performed 9th tonight. She gets her talent from her parents, who are still in a band together. Haley was humming before she could talk, and this week she was taking on one of "The Big 3"--Whitney Houston. She hit all the notes of "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and strut her stuff around the judges' table while teetering in those vertiginous heels. Unfortunately, Haley held the mic so close to her face when she sang that her red lipstick got on the mic and then smeared down her chin and across her cheek. Ryan stepped in and helped Haley clean up. What a guy! Haley and her ultra cool personality just went with it and she called this her "first red lipstick massacre." Jennifer encouraged Haley to do what comes naturally instead of over-thinking each step. Randy was confused on what kind of artist Haley is, as she's gone from Alicia Keys to LeAnn Rimes to Whitney. A versatile artist, I'd say! Steven encouraged Haley to use her distinct voice in the blues genre of music. I would encourage Haley to stick to a nude shade of lip gloss next week.
Stefano Langone was born on February 27, 1989, and music has been passed down in his family. He joked about his 1989 options: Milli Vanilli (yes!), New Kids On The Block (yes, please!), and the rest of the late '80s gems. He landed on Simply Red's cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now." This was a good fit for Stefano's vocals, and he moved his mom in the audience. Randy said this was the best performance of the night so far. "You had the highest degree of difficulty like they Olympics, and you slayed it!" Randy cheered. Steven commented on Stefano's beautiful phrasing and said that he was going to make Jimmy Iovine "more famouser." Jennifer said if Stefano is able to stay where he is and sing to her a little more, he can take this whole thing. I doubt he would have moved the judges and his mom as much if he went with "Blame It On The Rain."
On October 14, 1988, Pia Toscano entered the world. She was always a diva, putting on shows for her grandpa. On a show where contestants typically shouldn't sing Whitney Houston, we got our second Whitney performance in one night. Pia sang "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," in an outfit that I could totally see Jennifer Lopez rocking. This wasn't another ballad by Pia; she worked with the producers to put a dance remix spin on the song. The only thing I didn't like about the performance was the literal interpretation of the song with hot pink hearts breaking and swirling on the screen behind her. Jennifer was shaking her head to the music, and Pia showed that neither Celine nor Whitney intimidate her. Steven said that Pia nailed it. Jennifer was glad to hear something up-tempo from Pia. Randy wrapped it up by saying, "Every week you're producing amazing vocals. Pia is in the competition to win it!"
I loved seeing the home videos and photos of little Scotty McCreery, just a decade and a half ago. His mom called him a "chunky monkey" and revealed that Scotty was Elvis-obsessed and even dressed like him. Scotty's parents each tried singing Scotty's favorite Josh Turner song, and they were both pretty good! When Scotty met with Jimmy Iovine, he talked about changing it up a bit this week, but Jimmy said that he believes in where Scotty is going, so he should concentrate on growing more within his genre. Singing Travis Tritt's "Can I Trust You With My Heart," Scotty won over the girls who were leaning and swooning on the edge of the stage, Steven Tyler (whose leg was swung over the arm of his chair), and the Blue Crew (Scotty's baseball teammates in the audience). Jennifer liked that Scotty pushed himself this week. Randy said Travis Tritt is one of his dearest friends, and he mentioned that he was glad to see Scotty staying in the traditional country lane. Steven also thinks that Scotty just needs to keep on doing what he's doing.
Karen Rodriguez was born on March 22, 1989. Happy Birthday, Karen! Karen's mom always wanted to be a singer, and she talks about living vicariously through her daughter, who is her best prize. Poor Carol Rodriguez, Karen's sister. Hopefully Karen can make Carol's dreams come true by introducing her to Nick Jonas. Taking on "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dayne, Karen performed in both English and Spanish, much like her performance of "Hero" a couple of weeks ago. Randy said it was better than last week but he's still not jumping up and down. Steven loves when Karen breaks into her "ethnic what it is-ness." Hmm, I think it's called "Spanish." Jennifer thought Karen attacked it and advised her that if she's nervous about some notes, don't reach for them.
A random trio of Season 1's Tamyra Gray, So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy, and Season 7's Carly Smithson were in the audience. It looks like they had better seats than Kate Hudson who was hiding in the back row. Soon we will have contestants young enough to sing songs from "Almost Famous."
Don't let the beard fool you, Casey Abrams was born in 1991 to parents that are "older, but wiser," according to Casey. His mom and dad have a fun rapport, and it was easy to see the apple doesn't fall far! Casey brought Nirvana to American Idol for the first time, and he played the electric bass while singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." He ditched the flannel for a sophisticated ascot, and the green glow from the stage lighting paired with his screaming was intense. Steven said that Casey is "the goop that great stuff is made from." Casey probably was born around the same time as Gak. Jennifer appreciated the risk Casey took but thought there were some screechy moments. Randy loved that Casey was a fearless risk-taker, "Putting art first and then commerce."
Lauren Alaina was born fairly recently--November 8, 1994. Her parents seem young and cool, and I liked seeing her dad get emotional as he talked about his little girl. All of these Season 10 parents are so cute! Lauren has the flu, but she brought along a SARS mask for her and Ryan to wear. Lauren was tough on herself after last week's performance, and she took a shot at redemption with Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One." She got the crowd to scream along with her and you couldn't tell that she was sick. Jennifer liked that Lauren stayed true to the framework of the song while making it her own. Randy suggested that Lauren comes down with a cold every week, and Steven called her a shining star. Lauren should hangout with Paul to make sure she catches whatever strain he has before her performance next week.
Jacob Lusk was born on June 23, 1987. He said that his mom can't sing, but she thinks she can and gave it a go for the cameras, which Jacob said was a fear of his. There's no question Jacob and his mom are related--they look a lot alike and have the same outgoing personality. This week, Jacob planned on putting his own "Lusky stank" on Heart's "Alone." This song has been very hit or miss on American Idol. It made Carrie Underwood have a moment most of us will never forget, but it sent other contestants home. Jacob started on the stool and then moved around the stage. He definitely put his "heart" into it. Randy mentioned, "At the end, when you got so tender and you caressed it, it was genius, dude." Steven thinks that Gospel had a baby and named it Jacob Lusk. Jennifer appreciated that Jacob gave himself completely to his performance.
Steven Tyler thought this was the best show since The Beatles week in Vegas. What did you think?
Here's the song list from the Top 13 performance show:
Naima Adedapo – "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner
Paul McDonald – "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" by Elton John
Thia Megia – "Colors Of The Wind" by Vanessa Williams
James Durbin – "I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi
Haley Reinhart – "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston
Stefano Langone – "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Simply Red
Pia Toscano – "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" by Whitney Houston
Scotty McCreery – "Can I Trust You With My Heart" by Travis Tritt
Karen Rodriguez – "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dayne
Casey Abrams – "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
Lauren Alaina – "I'm The Only One" by Melissa Etheridge
Jacob Lusk – "Alone" by Heart