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Thursday, March 17, 2011

American Idol Top 12

We’ve seen enough of the top 12 to do a contestant commentary. We think the judges picked the three least interesting/talented people to save with the Wild Card (out of the six they chose to save). But we are over that. Kind of. Thank God Ashthon is gone. She couldn’t sing on key, and her voice was rarely pleasant.

Casey Abrams - The favorite to win. Just one complaint: He doesn’t “sing”. He growls and rasps and shrieks. Can the man sing a song well in a clear voice? Can he hold out a single note without grinding on his throat? He only seems to select songs that call for growling as well. Is he trying to hide that he can’t actually sing under that growl? It seems like he is forcing a rock voice out of that funny head. The great thing about Casey is he has a good ear, plays lots of weird instruments, and just has so much personality. And it’s a good personality too. He seems to be completely in control of his image and what he is doing. He has a perfect confidence and makes us think that the show is riding along on his coattails, while the other contestants look lucky to be there and nervous to get booted out. If he doesn’t win, he has a great career ahead of him voicing bluesy Disney villains in cartoon songs. If this guy wins, is he at all marketable? He’s kind of an uggo and he’s weird. As much as we approve of that, we wonder how much success he will find. We will see. Hopefully he shocks us all and sings a song like a normal human, in clear tones, at least once, just to show us what it sounds like. Also, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was not good. Right now, the bloggers are split on this guy. One of us thinks he doesn’t belong on a straight singing competition. The other blogger loves him and maintains that this ISN'T a "straight singing competition". Also, she believes that he isn’t an uggo at all, and his growling is singing. And it’s awesome. In fact, it cued a wee spat between us. Maybe that’s the power of Casey: he’s polarizing, so he’s interesting. Contestant grade: A+

Lauren Alaina - A frontrunner. She’s a little too country for one of us, but you can’t deny that her voice is beautiful and she is perfectly at ease when singing, and her audition blew one of us away. Lauren still has some goodwill earned from that performance. She’s got a natural ear the other (pitchy) contestants can only dream of, and she is young, pretty, and sweet. It's about time a girl won American Idol again. One of us is starting to think America hates women and female voices. Contestant grade: A

Pia Toscano - Pia is the dark horse. One of us would even have put her at the top of this list, but lost the spat. Pia can sing on key. She can hit the high notes. She looks and smiles like a Stepford wife when she is sitting and smiling on the stage, but when she sings, she’s the diva that Ashthon wasn’t. We love how she bends her knees on the big notes. As far as just singing goes, she’s got it in the bag. She just needs to get interesting as a person now. Drop the prom queen look and open up, Pia. Contestant grade: A-

James Durbin
- Ok, freaky moment. We are older than James Durbin. Ewwwww, we’re old! We loved when Steven Tyler told him that he had sandwiches that were older than James Durbin. We felt the same way. James has the rock voice that Casey lacks. The judges said it last week: He can really sing under his rock stylings. All the great rock singers actually had beautiful voices (see: Dio) that they harshed up a bit to make more rocking. He can sing anything, he’s got an unreal range, he’s on key, and he’s got tone. He may be the best rock voice to grace the Idol stage, except for Kelly Clarkson (and maybe Daughtry), that is. One of us thinks that if he can perform some tricks, pick interesting songs, and get some personality, he can beat Casey at Casey’s own game. The other blogger thinks they are two very different singers and performers, and therefore NOT competing in the same game. Cue the return of the spat! Contestant grade: B+

Paul McDonald - What’s with all these pitchy contestants? That’s the buzzword of this (and every) season: Pitchy. He’s good-looking and we like his style though. It sounds like he is molesting us via song with that slithery tone. In a good way. Contestant grade: B

Scotty McCreery - Here’s what we were thinking before last night: We need Scotty to break out of country, just for one night, just to hear what he sounds like. What about something from our last great bass pop star, Elvis. And then, ALL OUR DREAMS! He mentioned Elvis and how he idolized him. And then he went and sang a country song. Hopefully he will sing Elvis when he has a theme that allows it. This week, he stretched himself by singing a song with a little more range and holding out a note. That’s nice, but we need more of that. As of now, we are convinced we’ve seen all that Scotty has to offer, unless he can write a great country tune to go with that country butter tone. Still, what he has offered is pretty good. Contestant grade: B-

Jacob Lusk - Ern really likes this guy, because he has a great voice. Leeard is not so sure. He was VERY pitchy in "I Believe I Can Fly", and seems to lack control over his powerful instrument in that he can’t stay on the melody a lot. When he’s good, he brings the house down. When he’s bad, it makes you wonder how he got to the top 12 in the first place. Advice? Take it easy on the runs and hold out more notes. The voice is good enough to carry a song without that many runs, and it’s in the runs and key changes that he struggles to stay on key. Contestant grade: C+

Karen Rodriguez
- Beautiful voice, likeable girl. But it’s about time she stopped milking the whole Spanish thing. The “Hero” half in Spanish was still boring, even in two languages. And her Selena stunt came off as pandering to a judge. This week, she was more tolerable. We agree with J-Lo that she is one of the strongest girls, but we’d like to see her take a risk, stand out more, and stop trying to make J-Lo love her. Make us love you, Karen. Contestant grade: C

Thia Megia
- Leeard has an all-abiding dislike for this contestant that sprouted during her audition. Thia’s phrasing has always grated on Leeard’s nerves. Ern likes her. Her voice tone is beautiful. Yeah, sometimes she goes flat, doesn’t know a song she should know, and has a blank, young stare on her face, but she has a beautiful voice and a decent range. Ern is a fan. This week’s song choice was definitely boring and lame. That’s an easy song to sing. She needs to take some risks and sing some showstoppers, as well as fast-paced songs. Someone needs to take this young talent and mold her. But is there time for her to grow on the Idol stage? Still, don’t count her out. She’s young and cute enough to have the grandma bracket cornered. And grandmas vote like the wind for this show. Contestant grade: C-

Haley Reinhart - The judges think she should move around more. How out-of-sync is the show that they then put her up in four-inch heels to perform? And how annoying is it that the judges think she needs to pick a style and show less variety, when they always complain that other contestants don’t show ANY variety? We like her voice, but her performances and song choices need work. Contestant grade: D+

Stefano Langone - The judges think he can take this competition. We think it will be hard for him, because one of us thinks he looks like a fish. It’s America that’s voting, and America is shallow. We weren’t as impressed as the judges were with his singing this week. The performance was good, but we don’t know if we like his voice yet. He sounds a little lost and doesn’t know who he is as an artist yet. It would be hard for him to win. He’s not one that we remember when we turn off the TV, even if the judges dubbed him “the best performance of the night” this week. Contestant grade: D

Naima Adedapo - This is our pick to go home this week. The judges were concerned that the public might not “get” Paul McDonald. We think it’s more of a worry that people won’t get Naima. Her “Umbrella” last week was lackluster, but only because of the song choice and dancing. We thought this week’s song was pitchy, and she needs a little more beauty to her clear, loud tone. But she can really move around the stage. And she’s beautiful. Sadly, she can’t sing on key. One of us really likes her, but has accepted that she’s probably going to get voted off soon. Contestant grade: D-

The F would have been Ashthon, but she's gone. Lots of people wonder if they are good enough to make it just based on singing. Not songwriting, being sexy, performing, dancing, packaging yourself, or anything else. Just singing. This is how you know you are that great at singing: Go out to a karaoke bar or wherever they have that. Pick your best song. By the time you are halfway through it, the entire bar should be completely silent, looking at you, and not laughing in any way. When you stop singing, they should all applaud, but before that, it needs to be quiet enough that you could hear a pin drop were the music and you to stop. If that happens, you’re great. We think the contestants we gave As and Bs to could silence a karaoke bar.


  1. Another good analysis. I still remember when I "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time when I was sixteen. It was the signal that something had changed, and within a short time hair bands were dead. Cobain, like him or not, was a musical genius. Casey did an OK job, but he ain't Cobain. Considering his serious medical issues with his stomach this week, though, I was impressed with his performance (not vocals).

    Outside of classical music I'm a rocker through and through, and I do hope and pray that James can make it to the finals. He has the chops (love the Dio comparison; one of the best rock singers of all time). Is he the best looking, performer, etc? Nope, but I would pay to hear that voice live. If we could combine Casey's peforming with James' vocals, oh, what a star that would be.

    Tickled my heart to see Karen go. There is a God.

    Starting to like Pia's voice more than Laurens which I did not think possible based omy biases. She has a real chance to upset here.

  2. This just confirms our theory that classical music and rock go together. It's for people who like their music powerful and incendiary. People who merely want to be amused and calmed listen to country, pop, or folk, etc. People who want to party, dance, and drink go for electronic or rap/hip hop. Maybe that's a generalization, and most people like a little of everything.

    Karen had a nice voice, but the Spanish stuff would only appeal to people who are hardcore proud of their Hispanic heritage. We guess those people don't pick up the phone. Spanish is a beautiful language to sing in though. One of us like's Pia better than Lauren and hopes she wins.

  3. My only thing with Pia is that she's sooo early 90s adult contemporary! Snooze. She sang Celine and Whitney, so Mariah must be next, yes? I think your Stepford comparison is apt.

    I think we agree on Casey, but I'm also a fan of Stefano and Naima! There are at least four contestants this season that I have strong negative opinions about (Haley, James, Scotty, and Jacob), but I find both Stefano and Naima interesting and talented, based in large part on their brilliant wild card performances. Naima's especially never really got the praise it deserved, but it's worth multiple viewings. Yeah, she's been "pitchy", but that reggae bit to "Umbrella" was the coolest thing we've seen on the Idol stage all season.

    I respect and understand your grades, though.

  4. Ha! It's natural for people to have lots of different opinions with this show. That's what makes the winner so unpredictable, and that's what we like.

    We like everything about Naima except the way she doesn't sing on key. We love her style and ability to take risks. She would shoot to one of the As if she could fix the pitchiness. She's so pretty too. Stefano is the snooze for us. We can see why you would dislike Scotty and Jacob, but Haley and James? Really? What do you dislike about them?

    And yeah, Pia needs to shake it up. Those 90s songs really show off a voice, and we think it was brilliant to start out with them. She's proven that she can sing. Now she needs to prove she can sing anything.

  5. Never mind. We just read the latest American Idol post you wrote (that we missed) and we know why you hate them. We agree with you about Haley and her sexiness.

  6. I will say that I dislike James less than I initially did, and I liked that he chose a great Bon Jovi song this week. He's just such a poser, though!