I admit, I haven't been keeping up with "American Idol" this season, although I know the ratings are up and everybody seems very positive about new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.
So I watched a few videos of individual performances and came in tonight with a critical eye, wondering if I should be tuning back in or not. Here's my report card:
Naima Adedapo, singing "What's Love Got to Do With It?" Naima is ridiculously entertaining, even when the song gets away from her, as this one definitely did. I like her, but going first, and chopping through her performance like Paul Bunyan with an ax... I fear she will not be long for this American Idol world. C-
Paul McDonald, singing "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." So, they decided to put the quirky people at the top of the show. Hmm... Going for the end of the quirk, eh? Not only is Paul the only one with early performances back-to-back, but they used his most flaky dance moves for the highlight reel. Ouch. Paul is an interesting performer, and I enjoy the fact that he seems to enjoy himself so much. I don't even mind the ultra-brite smile or the wackadoodle dancing. But I still can't say he is really flipping all my switches. Kinda weak in spots, but an otherwise okay performance. B-
Thia Megia, singing "Colors of the Wind." Terrible choice of song. Terrible, awful, horrible choice. Nobody needs to hear about blue-corn moons. Seriously. Still, she looked pretty in a Pocahontas-y way and sang well. Once or twice there was even something unexpected that sounded very pleasant. So... B-
James Durbin, singing "I'll Be There For You." He sounds seriously sharp to me and in an unpleasant, shrill way, even though it must sound okay in the TV studio, because the judges all like him. Tasteful? I don't think so. I also don't like his hair, and I suspect I would not like the way he licks stamps. D
Haley Reinhart, singing "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Oh, dear. I've kind of liked Haley before this, but I found this performance absolutely dreadful. She completely lost the melody, so it became sort of staccato chanting or shouting. Her outfit is truly hiddy. And to top it off, it all sounded totally fake, as if she were unhappy with who she is, so she's decided to be someone else who is part porn star, part Charo, part Miss Linoleum 1965 talent show. D-
Stefano Langone, singing "If You Don't Know Me By Now." I loved Simply Red and this song when it rolled around in 1989. I thought Stefano did a terrific job with it, not sounding too much like either Harold Melvin or Mick Hucknall. I like his vocal quality. He would've fit in nicely with the Italian boy singers of the 60s, like Fabian and Frankie Avalon and Frankie Valli. In fact, I found myself wondering whether he'd end up in a road company of "Jersey Boys." A little too much "no, you won't, oh oh oh" kind of stuff and the glory note was really off, but in general, I enjoyed it. A-
Pia Toscano, singing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" Girl seriously needs to get off the Whitney/Mariah/Celine wagon. She can be a phenom all she wants with this kind of stuff, but I really don't think it will get her anywhere. It was okay, but it didn't sound good to me in her top register. I also really hated the crouching Pia, hidden ABBA routine. B-
Scotty McCreery, singing "Can I Trust You With My Heart?" Very turgid and sincere in a phony baloney way. Oh well, I suppose that's his style. B-
Karen Rodriguez, singing "Love Will Lead You Back." Unfortunately for Karen, Pia already performed this kind of song earlier in the show and did it better. Plus that hideous loaf of hair ain't doing anybody any favors. A check of last week's performance order tells me that this week and last week, Karen, Jacob and Scotty are the ones they're sticking near the end of the show. Everybody else seems to be switching off more. So I guess they want to keep Karen, Jacob and Scotty. I don't care about any of the three, to be perfectly honest. As for Karen, she sounds behind the beat and both sharp and flat too often for comfort. D+
Casey Abrams, singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I know this song best from the Weird Al version "Smells Like Nirvana," which is hilarious. I'm not sure with Casey whether he's being serious or tongue in cheek. But with the ghoulish green lighting and his rather fierce facial expressions, I guess he was serious. Even though the song isn't that new, this was the one performance that seemed fresh and fearless (as Randy said) and not something better suited to the Lawrence Welk Show. B+
Lauren Alaina, singing "I'm the Only One." This girl strikes me as a charmless, graceless twit. Whatever it is they're trying to achieve by showing her giggling like a loon and acting like a twit, I don't know. But it ain't working for me, Tammy Falaina. The vocal was okay some of the time, if a little shouty and immature. She also seemed low energy and kinda drifty. That could be the flu, I suppose. C-
Jacob Lusk, singing "Alone." Jacob seems to specialize in the overwrought and oversung, which is soooo not my style. All in all, this has been a very BIG night, with lots of BIGGER, as opposed to better, performances, and he may be the biggest of the bunch. He was okay, but again, sounded somewhat strained and not very pleasant with his "Lusky stank." C-
I can't believe it, but I'm giving Performance of the Night to sweet little Stefano. Still, the number of power ballads and over-the-top performances tells me I am probably better suited to a different television show and this was not the right time to come back to American Idol.