American Idol Review: Top 9: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The judges on American Idol, while conveying a far more positive attitude than the prior lineup, seemed to be a little too positive during last night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performances. The singing was generally good, but there were still plenty of places to suggest a bit of polish.

For instance, Jacob Lusk sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and did okay with it. However just prior to going on stage the show ran a clip of Jacob saying something like: If I get in the bottom three tonight, it won’t be because I didn’t sing well, it will be because people aren’t ready to face themselves in the mirror. Hubris is probably not part of the message of that particular song. For that snub at the viewership and due to his being in the Deathslot (first to sing) I predict a bottom 3 outcome.

Before we go on to talk about the other singers let’s discuss the “Deathslot” and the “Pimpslot”. There is a distinct connection between singing order and the voting results. The first to sing has a significantly higher chance of being not only in the bottom three but being the actual person voted off. The last to sing is almost always safe. The question is there any way to correct for this without being perceived as tampering? Probably not. So we’ll just continue on with this show, and others like it, knowing that there is a bit of luck involved.

Continuing the reviews from worst to best we come to Stefano. This boy is a standout in the competition in that every week we are constantly asking why the hell he’s still there. He isn’t horrible, but he’s just so non-special. There is nothing he does better than anyone. There is nothing he does unique to Stefano and his voice is not pitch perfect. His cover of Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was passable, but passable shouldn’t hold up given the amazing other performances we’ve had tonight.

Another reviewer said earlier in the competition that Haley could be a dark horse if she chose songs to unabashedly appeal to the audience. I think Haley has been taking this advice. I don’t think she got it right last night. Janis is both overdone and holy. This means it’s really hard to change up a Janis song to own it and cloning it is just nothing special. “Piece of my Heart” seems to have been sung by every female performer at some point. Haley did change it up a little– to mixed results. Mixed results and having sung second will put Haley in danger tonight.

Paul McDonald brought a new cheerful voice to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” There’s just something disconcerting watching a toothy smile sing cheerfully, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” Paul is not on my list of favorites, but he’s on enough other peoples, and he had the Pimpslot. He’s safe. As a side note, he’s the current “Vote for the Worst” chosen contestant, not that anyone still actually cares about that site’s opinions enough to actually pick up a phone.

Scotty sang Elvis’ “That’s All Right.” Somehow, even with such a huge change-up from his prior performances it’s still the same as any other of his performances. The cocky microphone tilt. The bent stance with elbows and forearms tight to the chest. Scotty has his own flavor, for sure. But will people really want an album of twelve songs that all sound exactly the same. Probably. I’m just not one of those people.

Casey sang CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”. Casey is among several of the competitors this year who have already won. He, as the judges have noted, has inspired a new positive awareness of the stand-up bass. He sang with his new, gentler Casey that he adopted after the judges save and nailed it. He should be safe, but it’s really just a matter of time before he’s heading home. When he goes, it will be with a recording contract in the works.

Lauren, really in my top 3? Actually yes. She couldn’t have done a better job with Aretha’s “A Natural Woman”. Well maybe she could have, but she did just fine with it. However, whoever is dressing this girl should know that a tight black top and a puffy grey pair of short shorts do not compliment the figure of someone is, um, big boned. Or should I say still carrying a bit of baby fat. No, I’ll stick with big boned. Anyway, for the first time in several weeks she proved to me that she might still belong in the competition.

Pia lately has been getting mixed messages from the judges. “You’re perfect, now if you could just be a little better.” “Don’t sing just ballads, but you sing ballads as well as Mariah or Celene.” Pia does indeed need a little more practice moving around when she sings. It did seem a bit odd to watch her attempt to strut to a very smooth rendition of Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High.” The singing was spot on and Pia did make it her own and at the same time show a bit of a different, good, side of herself.

James stole the show with his very emotional and calm (for James) version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I’d have rather he actually had a guitar in hand to sing it, but, honestly, the guitar player sitting next to him was perfect enough. I expected, when I heard what he would be singing, that he’d do well with it, but he far exceeded those expectations.

All things considered the bottom three tonight should the same as listed above: Jacob, Stefano, Haley. Of the three, the one I’d least like to see go just yet is Haley, though my wife might disagree with me on that one. Still, she too is sick of Stefano.

Update: My statistician staff tells me that the likely bottom 3 is actually Jacob, Lauren and Stefano, with Jacob going home. My statisticians include me, myself and I after researching other people’s reviews and polls. We’ll see who’s right: Me or my statisticians. :p

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