'American Idol': Naima Adedapo Busts Out 'Umbrella,' Scotty McCreery Cruises Up 'River'
Randy Jackson wasn't kidding when he nicknamed "American Idol" season 10, "The Remix." Tonight's Top 13 performances were all over the map in terms of song arrangement, thanks to the big-name producers who mentored the finalists through their most important week yet. The result of all this ambition was that the show had to be pre-taped, and fans at home are still judging the contestants through rose-colored glasses. ("Idol" producers say they hope to finally go live next week.)
So, how'd they fare? Well,
8) Stefano Langone
Song: Stevie Wonder, "Lately"
Steven said: "You pulled it off. It built from the beginning to the end; by the time it end[ed], it was just soil like a volcano."
Jennifer said: "You had me dancing for a minute there, baby, I was like, 'Wow!' "
Randy said: "Stevie's probably one of the greatest male singers ever in life…he'd be proud of this because you slayed it. By the middle of the song, you were soaring, dude."
We say: So some of Stefano's phrasing is a little funky, but at least he's trying to make it his own, right? At that transition into a dance beat was super awkward, but at least it put a twist on a classic...right? OK, so Stefano still has some issues to sort out, but his raw talent and female demographic-appeal is undeniable. More importantly, he's no longer dressing like the member of a high school wrestling team, and that has to buy him a few more votes.
9) Haley Reinhart
Song: LeAnn Rimes, "Blue"
Steven said: "Haley, that was beautiful. If you listen real close, you can hear the rest of America roaring…the country and Western part of America."
Jennifer said: "You do things with your voice that are so diverse. You really do really special things. It's just something so unique to you."
Randy said: "For me it wa a little boring actually, if I'm being honest...You're young, you got all this energy. I just want that Haley with that strong, gravelly voice."
We say: Haley Reinhart is stuck in the "special" box, and I still say that she (unintentionally of course) robbed Kendra Chantelle of her rightful place in the Top 13. But in a way, the judges are right because Haley's strength is an immediately identifiable vocal style -- something a few of her female peers still lack -- and her take on "Blue" was much more subtle and improved from last week's cover of "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys. It was a smart song choice, and if she keeps making those she may just have another week left in her.
10) Thia Megia
Song: Charlie Chaplin, "Smile"
Steven said: "A little pitchy in the middle there, but you know, you're so new and young and you sing so good, you've got such a great future in front of ya. I liked it all in all."
Jennifer said: "I thought the arrangement was interesting as well, but I liked seeing you move. I don't think we've seen you move! I actually would like to see more of that."
Randy said: "I loved the beginning more than the end for me…the jazzy bit, I didn't know if I loved so much."
We say: Thia Megia is like the Esperanza Spalding of "American Idol" this season -- wonderfully talented and mature beyond her years. Unfortunately for her, though, "American Idol" voters are not Recording Academy voters, and at the end of the day we're just trying to have fun. A jazzy, Muzak arrangement? Not so much our idea of fun. Thia will be safe this week, but another sleepy performance like this one and she could run into trouble fast.
11) Karen Rodriguez
Song: Selena, "I Could Fall in Love"
Steven said: "The energy it took to ramp up to how well you ended the song was just lacking a little bit. I know you can sing much better."
Jennifer said: "I could tell you were a little bit uncomfortable with some of the notes…the lower end, and even on the higher end, too."
Randy said: "It felt like you were kind of fighting the song…it didn't quite come off for me tonight."
We say: Love Karen Rodriguez's natural confidence and commitment to her Latina idols, but this was just a bad song choice. It's clear Karen can't hit the low notes that the late Tejana icon Selena sang on thisposthumous hit, but for some reason she decided to go forward with it. That kind of conviction is admirable but ill-advised on a show like "Idol," where you're often only as good as your last performance.
12) Ashton Jones
Song: Diana Ross, "When You Tell Me That You Love Me"
Steven said: "I think there's a lot more in there than you're showing us, and that you're going to. I got confidence in you."
Jennifer said: "Now I want to start seeing you sing songs that we can kind of sing along with you...Some Diana Ross songs, everybody knows, I would have maybe liked to see that."
Randy said: "It sounded like it was a little bit of a safe move, but you know what? I actually liked it. I think you actually did yourself some good with that."
We say: Jennifer's right. There are so many unforgettable Diana Ross songs -- why, oh why, Ashton, choose one that 99% of America doesn't know? With her disco-queen hair, slinky dress and matching makeup, Ashton clearly has her image down pat, but her song choices have been really misguided thus far, and unfortunately she's not selling those unfamiliar tunes with a strong vocal. If I were a betting woman, I'd say Ashton's in the most trouble after tonight.
13) Paul McDonald
Song: Ryan Adams, "Come Pick Me Up"
Steven said: "A little pitchy; be careful next time. Find a song where the chorus is your key. Nail it next time."
Jennifer said: "I hope America gets it. I don't know Ryan Adams or that song, and I know a lot of music. I'm gonna look it up. But I hope they get it, because I do really think that you're great."
Randy said: "I'm sure it wasn't the most exciting thing for people, but what I love about you is I love the character of who you are, and I love who Paul is."
We say: Oh, Paul McDonald. So charming with his silly grin, sillier dance moves and jacket that suggests he's spent too much time studying Coldplay's Chris Martin. Paul should kiss the judges' feet for saving him tonight, because his performance was going much worse than Ashton's, until they lavished praise on him for being generally unique and adorable. Unless America is less forgiving than I think, congrats, Paul -- J.Lo, Steven, and Randy just bought you another week.
(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.)