American Idol – 12 guys vie for 5 spots plus a pity save.

Nigel Lithgoe’s change-up of the American Idol traditions include the rapid drop from 24 contestants to 12. Five boys and five girls will be chosen by the votes of the viewers. One boy and one girl of those who don’t get the popular vote will be saved by the judges “wild card” picks.

Last night the 12 boys performed. Here’s my critique, from worst to best.

Clint Jun Gamboa, whom came across as the little engine that could in his original audition by proving that not all that comes out of the world of Karaoke is awful has since smudged his image by kicking the cherubic producer and fan favorite JayCee out of his group on group night, sang “Superstitious.” It was nothing special. Certainly not enough to redeem him from his despicable image.

Jordan Dorsey sang something by Usher. I’ve seen perhaps three performances by Usher. Jordan looked like a bad wanna-be. His own admission that the performance was not representative of who he wanted to be will cost him any hope of making the top 5. The first rule of PR is never spin yourself negatively. The correct response when presented with the idea that the song didn’t represent who he wanted to be would be that he is multifaceted and that was one facet of who he is. Of course he also earned a bad rep from Group night when he took on the diva attitude and made other people audition to join his group and then abandoned his group.

Brett Loewenstern shouldn’t be in the top 12 boys. He’s not good. He’s a performer, but not suitable for broadcast television. And his hair: He really needs to bring the hair under control. The Doors music is sacred and anyone who tried to sing “Light My Fire” better blow it away. He didn’t.

Stefano Langone killed “Just the Way you Are,” and not in the good way. To me it sounded like he stayed sharp and a little nasally throughout the song. Such a performance wouldn’t have gotten him through the initial audition.

Jovany Barreto sang Edwin McCain’s “I’ll be.” Well executed but it was a clone rendition. Boring. Forgettable.

Tim Halperin cloned Rob Thomas’s “Streetcorner Symphony.” I voted for him because, despite what the show claims, he’s a local to Nebraska. But his performance was probably not enough to earn him anything but a wild-card save.

Robbie Rosen did Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of the Angel.” I honestly don’t remember it and couldn’t pick Robbie face in a line-up. Without any memory of this clearly forgettable performance, I have to place it in the middle between the good and the bad.

Paul McDonald cloned Rod Stewart’s “Maggie.” Okay so Paul has a silky quality to his voice compared to Rod’s scratchy, but otherwise there was little original about the presentation. Still it was so well executed that it makes the better end of my list.

Scotty McCreery sang, “Letters from Home,” by John Michale Montgomery. I’m not a fan of music that is purely country. This boy can sing. He can perform. I’ll never buy an album by him, but I can’t but admit that he’s one of the more talented contestants this year.

Jacob Lusk channeled Luther Vandross. This guy was born to sing. He nailed it while making it his own. Exactly what he needs to do to win the show. I don’t expect him to make it far beyond the top 6, but he’s certainly safe this week.

As a fellow person with Aspergers, I have a little sympathy for James Durbin. But he didn’t need it. Singing Judas Priests’ “You Got Another Thing Coming.” he brought an edge to the stage we haven’t seen before. He suffers from perpetual comparison to Adam Lambert for his high notes, but honestly Adam pales in compare to James’ control and range.  This was one of the standout great performances of the night. I expect he’ll get the votes, but if not he’s a sho-in for the wildcard save.

I keep expecting Casey Abrams to be a joke. He doesn’t look the part. He showed up to his initial audition with a whistle piano and then gave one of the realist, grittiest, greatest auditions ever. When, later in Hollywood week, he showed up on stage with a Stand-up Bass, I thought, “How can anyone solo and sing with one of those?” He schooled us all. For this performance it was just him and his voice which he graveled up a bit to sing “I Put a Spell on You,” only to glide into a smooth gentle finish. Easily a fan favorite and, among the men, one of mine.

To sum up, the five I’d like to be in the top 5 are: Casey, James, Jacob, Scotty and Paul. I’d like Tim to get the wild-card save.

I expect it to go a little differently though. James’s Tourettes caused facial twitches are probably a put off to most people and Heavy Metal is not normally appreciated. He may need the Wildcard.

The new judges are still seeing all the young talent as mostly wonderful amateurs. They haven’t figured out yet that the standard they need to hold them to is that of a professional singer. Randy is still keeping it real.


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