'American Idol' Awards: The Best & Worst of Season 10
Fellow "American Idol" fans: We've spent four months and countless hours obsessing over the biggest show on TV -- that's right, the same show that everyone said was dead last May! -- but alas, it's time to put another season in the books. And what a season it was: from Steven Tyler and Casey Abrams' crazy talk and Jennifer Lopez's nonstop fashion show, to the shocker that was Pia Toscano's elimination and the eventual -- OK, let's face it, somewhat inevitable -- rise of Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. Here's a look at all of the moments that made "Idol" season 10 the latest bizarrely enthralling installment of this show we can't stop watching. And may the most talented (read: popular) contestant win on Wednesday!
Jacob Lusk, "God Bless the Child"
Many hopefuls attempted to top Jacob Lusk's powerhouse rendition of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" during Hollywood Week -- including, it should be said, Jacob himself. After delivering an impassioned vocal with melodramatic facial expressions to match, Jacob made the moment extra-worthy of screentime by sprinting offstage and collapsing into the arms of family members outside. Randy Jackson even deemed it the best..."Idol" performance...ever! Sure, he was caught up in the moment, but it's pretty clear that Jacob never reached this high again in season 10 -- and no one else did, either.
Naima Adedapo, "I'm Still Standing"
Naima Adedapo earned plenty of bonus points (especially from Steven Tyler) for experimenting during her tenure on "Idol." But her version of "I'm Still Standing" during Elton John-themed Top 11 week was a classic case of creativity gone awry. Naima set the vintage tune to a reggae beat, and as Jason Castro will tell you, reggae is tantamount to a kiss of death on "Idol." When you're on the cusp of elimination, though, it's especially ill-advised -- and indeed, Adedapo was voted out the next night.
When we first met "Idol's" top 13, Haley was still a relative unknown. She was never featured heavily during the audition rounds of the show, and after making it through the first audience cuts, she was slotted in the bottom three for two weeks in a row. But then, somewhere, something clicked within Reinhart. After a highly-touted performance of "Bennie and the Jets," she hit her stride, growing into a soulful crooner that could tone down the playful growl in her voice when necessary (Casey Abrams -- take note!) and eventually make it all the way to the Top 3. Hands up if you actually expected it.
Wackiest Judge Critique
"Hellfire and save matches, fuck a duck and see what hatches" - Steven Tyler
The world collectively "huh?"-ed when Steven first uttered this phrase during the Milwaukee auditions, and then thought: how could you hate on a rock legend who says things like that? As nonsensical as he often is, though, it's entirely possible that Steven has fooled us all. After all, it was Scotty McCreery Tyler was talking about when he said this.
J.Lo may have been outshined by the ever-batty Steven Tyler during the audition rounds, but she seriously hit her stride once the show went live -- and we don't just mean with her chameleon-like glamour. She channeled Paula Abdul's maternal instinct (sometimes too much - it's an easy trap to fall into), and delivered on the promise of precise, knowing critique that Kara DioGuardi never could. Witness her explain to Stefano Langone how to connect emotionally with a song (followed by his blank stare), help James Durbin understand how getting too emotionally invested can backfire, and tell Karen Rodriguez not to expose her weakness by singing outside of her range (yes, she should know). No, Jennifer was no Simon Cowell, but no one was this season, and between all the effusive support she always made sure to squeeze in nuanced feedback. Dare we say she's not just the best "Idol" judge of the season, but of all time? We do.
Most Irresponsible Outfit
Pia Toscano's Animal-Print Romper
Do you blame Gwen Stefani for Pia Toscano's ninth place finish? You're not alone. The No Doubt frontwoman and fashion mogul glammed up Pia Toscano during the top 9 performance round, and unfortunately, it was a make-under for the already-ravishing contestant from Queens. Between the heinous onesie and onslaught of silver jewelry, Toscano wasn't doing herself any favors. Besides, she was singing Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" -- shouldn't she have been showing a little leg?!
Scotty McCreery's Grandmother, Paquita
Were you surprised when North Carolina's Scotty McCreery first told the judges that he was 1/4 Puerto Rican? We sure were -- in fact, we wondered if it was all a joke, until the 17-year-old singer's cute-as-a-button grandmother, Paquita, actually appeared on "Idol." Not only was she as adorable as any grandmother, but Paquita's three words when Ryan Seacrest asked her to comment on her grandson -- "He's my Scotty" -- were almost too much to handle. Everybody now: Awww.
Most Distracting Band Member
Mindi Abair, Saxophonist & Lilly Scott Lookalike
We're not ashamed to admit it: a little piece of us is still mourning
Performance That Never Should Have Happened
Stefano, Paul, Casey & James, "Band on the Run"
Note to producers: just because Stefano, Paul, Casey and James all happened to play instruments doesn't mean that they should have ever -- ever -- slapped together a band and covered Paul McCartney. This was more than a strange juxtaposition of voices that don't mesh well -- it was a downright atrocity, from Stefano Langone jamming on the keys (really?!) right down to Casey James' channeling Paul Rudd's bass-slappin' cheeseball dance "moves."
Most Contagious Tears
After getting to know James Durbin from his audition to his fourth place finish, awarding the rocker this distinction seems none too surprising. No contestant let his emotions flow more freely: consider his emotional performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ("That song was for my family," he explained after), his rendition of "Without You," and finally his emotions following his elimination, which clearly affected his farewell performance. When all was said and done, James' tear ducts were just about as impressive as his pipes.
Most Overrated Performance
Casey Abrams, "Nature Boy"
Was Casey Abrams' bass-playing on Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" refreshingly unconventional for "Idol"? Sure. Was it worthy of comparison to legendary jazzman Charles Mingus? Uh, no. Charles Mingus' compositions and papers are in the Library of Congress -- we don't know about you, but we suspect Casey Abrams' music won't be there anytime soon. In one fell swoop, Randy undermined any improvement he made as a judge this season (were he still sitting on the panel, we're pretty sure Simon Cowell would have spit out a mouthful of Coca-Cola on live TV) and set up expectations that Casey couldn't possibly meet.
Most Underrated Peformance
Lauren Alaina, "Unchained Melody"
Lauren Alaina didn't receive an overwhelming amount of support from the judges after performing "Unchained Melody" in the Top 5 performance episode, and ended up in the bottom two the following night. Looking back, the singer's take on the classic track was one of her most understated yet overall strongest performances of her run to the finals: she removed herself from her country wheelhouse and offered an effortless tenderness. Lauren's "Melody" was not a near-disastrous misstep, but in fact, a gorgeous change of pace.
Funniest Stage Fall
We all know Stefano Langone is more akin to Bruno Mars than Ne-Yo, but that didn't stop the crooner from getting "Closer" to his dancer instincts during the "Idol" top 7 performances. Unfortunately, those instincts fell utterly flat, culminating in some forced pop-lock moves, nervous foot-jiggling and an excess of socially-awkward hand-grabbing with fans. Stick to the singing, Stefano, and leave the aimless dance moves to our honorable mention, Paul McDonald (