Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AI Season 10, 03-23-11, Top 11 Performance

We open in black and white, as Ryan introduces Motown Night.

The judges enter. JLo is in a pink, heavily sequined sweater and a short pleated skirt which may or may not be made of velvet. She has on an excess of pale blue eyeshadow. Steven is wearing a black leather vest over a sparkly chiffon leopard print shirt that we might have seen already. Randy is in another of the thousand cardigans that he owns.

This is an important night because The Top 10 get to go on the tour, which I've heard earns each of the kids a 6-figure paycheck. We get a bit of history on Motown, which is pretty much exactly what they show every time we have a Motown Week, which they do, just about every season.

#1. Casey. I am really really disappointed when I hear that Casey chose Heard it through The Grapevine. It seems like such a blah choice for such an inventive performer. He's wearing a pin-striped suit over a fuchsia shirt, and his hair is slicked back (which is not an especially good look for  him). I need not have worried- Casey is giving a pure Casey performance. Did he just sing the word damn? The judges praise him unanimously.

#2. Thia is wearing a short strapless dress with a fitted black bodice and a layered, tiered, pink skirt. Oh no- she's singing Heatwave, a known contestant killer. No one has ever done a good job with that song on the show. Well, pretty Thia is doing a better job with this than I expected, but she has zero stage presence. I think she should go directly into the Disney Sitcom Machine- she'll be right at home with the Hannahs and Carlys and Londons. JLo says a lot, without ever mentioning, you know, the whole singing thing. In fact, all three judges find a way to say that Thia's performance was an improvement within the confines of of her previous performances, without saying that the singing was not so much like real singing.

#3. Jacob chose You're all I Need. If Jacob would just dial everything back and sing, this could be good. But I don't think Jacob is able to understate. He's wearing a white jacket, a pink shirt, and a pink striped tie. He begins softly, and his runaway vibrato is front and center. Man, he's trying- he's really trying to tamp himself down. But I guess I just don't like Jacob's voice because even when he's doing exactly what I want, I still don't like listening to him. That said, he exerted a fairly tight control over his histrionics. Afterward, Steven Tyler runs up on the stage to congratulate him. Then Ryan invites the whole front section to follow suit. What the hell? This takes forever, and makes no sense at all.

#4. Lauren is wearing a flattering strapless zebra-striped, long dress with lots of floaty layers. Her hair has been straightened, and I suspect she has extensions. She's singing You Keep Me Hangin' On. Boy, this is decidedly not great, with only a passing resemblance to the required notes. But Lauren has the head waggle down.

#5. Stefano is in a white jacket over a blue oxford shirt. He's wearing clunky, blue, high-top sneakers with velcro strap closures. They must have a lot of extra time to kill tonight, because Ryan wastes minutes tasting Stefano's Mama's pasta (and then later, trying to foist it on Gordon Ramsey, who doesn't even pretend to like it). Stefano is singing a song that he's never heard before, Lionel Richie's Hello. Sigh. Stefano starts on the Stool of Seriousness. He sounds okay, but there's something off with his enunciation, as though he's singing the lyrics phonetically. He has absolutely no connection to the song, news that JLo breaks to him gently. Randy spouts pure nonsense and Ryan threatens to cut off his mike. Would that it could happen.

#6. I finally notice that I've been spelling Haley's name wrong for the whole season. Sorry, Haley. Anyway, she's singing You Really Got a Hold On Me. She says that she grew up with Motown music, and for a moment, I hope that she might actually do a good job tonight. Then she comes out, dressed like a Circus Ringmaster, in shorts, and a white jacket over a vest, and ridiculously high heels. She totters on the stairs, as afraid as I am, that she's going to fall. Once she hits level ground, she growls and screams and yodels. But she doesn't produce any sounds that resemble singing.

#7. Scotty is wearing a black untucked shirt over black jeans. I have been cherishing a hope that he will sing Papa Was a Rolling Stone, but... instead, he chose For Once in My Life. For the love of all things sweet and sticky, why? Scotty's voice is is Scotty's voice, but this arrangement is a peppy mess. It sucks, pure and simple. If possible, this performance is worse than I thought it could be. During the previous commercial, I told The Hub that I thought Scotty might win the whole thing. Now I just hope he survives the week.

#8. I generally don't like Pia, but I have to say that she looks good with her hair pulled back, and she has a great smile in her interviews. She's singing All in Love is Fair, by Stevie Wonder. She's wearing a classy, sleek and simple black dress with sparkly side inserts (and Ryan later points out, a very low cut back). Parts of this song are beautiful, and parts are just plain odd, but maybe that's because I'm totally unfamiliar with the melody. Pia's voice is lovely though, and she's undeniably gorgeous. JLo is right, Pia needs to bring her personality on stage with her.

#9. Paul is accompanying himself with guitar, on Tracks of My Tears. This song might actually suit Paul's voice.  He's wearing black pants and shirt, and a black vest, with a bolo tie. For the first time, I notice Paul's extremely long and narrow feet. Once I see them, I can't stop seeing them, which is just as well because the singing... well, this is Paul's best performance so far, but that's not saying much. The backup singers are doing all of the heavy lifting, and Paul's thin and breathy voice leaves me as mystified as ever.

#10. Is Naima, and I groan. There is not a single Motown song that I can think of that would suit her unique... oddness.  I groan even louder when she says that she's singing Dancing in the Streets, explaining that she intends to insert some African Dance into the middle of the performance. She's wearing another Naima outfit- satiny gray pants with truly heroic bell bottoms, and an asymmetrical shortie top. Both pieces are covered with shirring and smocking and quilting, and she has tied assorted rags on both arms, between her wrists and elbows. I sigh, and get ready to plug my ears. But, amazing of all amazings... not only is this Naima's best performance, it's the best one of the night. I could have done without her dance interlude, but even so, this was a fantastic performance, perfectly suited to Naima's range and talent. Brilliant! Brava, Naima! Last week, I wanted her to go home, this week, she has proven why she deserves to stay.

#11. James is singing Livin' for the City. He's wearing a black jacket with skulls decorating the lapels. He has better hair than usual, a sort of level pompadour, rather than his faux-hawk. Unfortunately, he's still sporting the tail, and assorted chains. James is doing fine with this song, especially his fancy little bit of footwork there, but can I make a plea for the show to retire Stevie Wonder? Permanently. And while I'm at it, can they please put Motown Week away too. These kids are just not old enough to do the music justice (or I'm too old to hear what they're bringing to the table. Either way, just end it. Please.)

So, I am incredibly surprised to say that my Top 3 of the night are James, Pia, and Naima. And even more surprised to include Scotty in my Bottom 3 (along with Paul and Thia, though I could just as easily swap Thia out for Haley). I really hope that Scotty scrapes by, and that Paul goes home. But I suspect Thia will be out.

We'll find out tomorrow. And since I called it totally wrong last week, I'm not taking any bets.


Cathy Ardrey said...

My bottom three are Thia, Haley, and Paul.

I love Casey, but he needs to go back to the mellow, jazzy, voiced Casey that America fell in love with.

As much as I love Casey, I think James has the edge in this competition. He has been consistently good throughout the show.

I agree with you about how surprising Naima was last night.

Kathleen Taylor said...

Boy did we call it wrong... but I think you're right about Casey. I hope he got the message.