'American Idol': Jacob Lusk, Pia Toscano Go for the Glory on Motown Night
The stakes are always high on "American Idol," but when Top 11 week rolls around, there's an added layer of pressure. Why? Because everyone knows that the next-best prize to winning is up for grabs -- make the top 10, and you get to go on tour.
This season, Top 11 week also happened to be to the one in which the "Idol" hopefuls took on the Motown catalog -- a theme known for giving "Idol" fans so many memorable performances, from Kelly Clarkson's "You're All I Need to Get By" to Adam Lambert's "Tracks of My Tears." As Seacrest tells us at the beginning of the show, the Motown legacy runs deep. Over 400 songs from its catalog have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and over 50 of those were No. 1 hits. (Thanks for the shout out, Ryan!)
Song: Stevie Wonder, "For Once in My Life"
Steven said: "You took a big chance in doing that, I love that you really ripped it. When you go down on those low notes, man, you tweak everybody."
Jennifer said: "This was a great version of this song' you really made it your own. It wasn't your strongest vocal performance, but every time you hit the low note at the end, you get me all over again."
Randy said: "You are the young lady killer. Dude, that's that young lady killer note!
We say: Everyone was wondering what "Idol's" resident country boy would do on Motown night, and I have to say that Scotty McCreery did a fine job making Stevie's song his own, but not turning it into a "lounge singer" performance as Jimmy Iovine feared. The more he's onstage, the more comfortable Scotty looks. Plus, the judges are all gaga for his lowest register, and Randy's even coined a name for it that Cee-Lo Green would be proud of. At this point, Scotty's as safe as it gets.
Song: Stevie Wonder, "All in Love Is Fair"
Steven said: "I think that right now you are the closest star in this American Idol universe. You are all that."
Jennifer said: "You can have a career like Celine Dion -- Celine gets on that stage, and she owns that stage. She walks all over that stage, she stomps that stage. Now I need you to start incorporating that other part, that other dynamic to your performance. You're gonna have to do a two-hour concert one day."
Randy said: "What I love is that you think of the note and you hit it just dead on -- if i have one criticism: gimme a midtempo, gimme an uptempo, I know you can do it. You can't live by ballads alone."
We say: Another great critique by Jennifer Lopez that said it all: Pia was born with the pipes, and now she needs to command the "Idol" stage with more than just her voice and beauty. She gets a 10 for difficulty, and I liked her more than ever tonight -- it was the first time that I really believed she could win the competition. But there are other contestants who seem to be singing more from their hearts, and that's got to catch up with her at some point.
Song: The Miracles' "Track of My Tears"
Steven said: "I love what you did with the guitar today. It's just great."
Jennifer said: "You're the most seasoned performer we have. You're kinda the complete package. All you need is a good producer, and there you go!"
Randy said: "You kind of took it to a cool, kind of Paul, kind of Rod Stewarty, sorta kinda place. When you sing tender, at the very end? Oh my god, dude."
We say: What's it going to take for the judges to go negative on Paul McDonald? Yes, he's laidback and confident -- and yes, that smile is hard not to zone in on -- but with the level of talent surrounding him tonight, it's pretty clear that he's one of the weakest links in this top 11 pool. If tomorrow's bottom three is made up of all girls and no Paul yet again, America will have gotten it wrong.
Song: Martha and the Vandellas, "Dancing in the Street"
Steven said: "It was E to the Z, ooh, tweedly dee! Once again, we see the whole package."
Jennifer said: "I'm gonna be totally honest, it was my first little goosebumps of the night! You got the goosies, you got the goosieees."
Randy said: "Finally, tonight, all of Naima showed up. Everything was very smart tonight that you did, so I appreciate that."
We say: Naima Adedapo, you're so much better at African dance than hip-hop dance -- stick to that! As for singing, this is another case of a contestant bringing their best when it counted the most. Naima picked the right song for her limited range (relative to her peers), and made sure to hit her notes. For that, she just might manage to escape the bottom three this week.
Song: Stevie Wonder, "Living in the City"
Steven said: "I think sometimes it takes a little bit of being crazy to make a difference in this world, and that's what you're all about. The song was perfect for your voice and you nailed it."
Jennifer said: "It's just an incredible thing to watch, honestly. You leave me speechless."
Randy said: "When it started it was a little bit rough for me -- by the end of the song you were unbelievable. By the time you turned on the whole car, I was like, 'Yes.'"
We say: The judges are getting a little carried away with their praise. Randy hinted at this in his feedback, but James Durbin's performance was all kinds of pitchy in the beginning. Yes, he pulled it together at the end, but it was far from a breakthrough moment, and it won't give his detractors any more reason to change their mind. The pimp spot comes with high expectations, and unfortunately James didn't quite deliver.
Final verdict: If it was based solely on tonight, I'd be calling Thia Megia, Paul McDonald and Stefano Langone for the bottom three. Unfortunately, the girls have been getting the shaft this season yet again, and so I'm guessing Stefano will be in the clear, while Haley Reinhart will end up in the bottom and ultimately go home. If America votes right, though, Paul will be packing his bags.
What do you think: will another girl be voted off tomorrow, or is it Paul's time to go? And who was your favorite contestant tonight? Let me know in the comments.
(Check back with Billboard after every "American Idol" performance night for our recap and predictions, and follow us on Twitter @billboarddotcom for our live blow-by-blow of each episode.)