Part One: The Performance Show
Wednesday night’s “American Idol” performance show might as well have been called “The Paul McDonald Show”. More on that in a minute. First, let’s talk about Wednesday night’s theme and who was working with the contestants on their look and their sound.
Wednesday’s theme was “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”. Each contestant was required to perform a song from an artist that has been honored with a spot in the legendary rock institution. The theme was introduced by none other than Steven Tyler. I love Steven. I would have his children so Steven, if you’re looking to expand your brood, give me a call.
Gwen Stefani was in the house to help style the “American Idol” top nine and dress them in her L.A.M.B clothing line. I’ve always loved Gwen’s style and L.A.M.B is my favorite celeb clothing line, but yeah… the look didn’t really work for all of the Idol girls. Or, well, any of them aside from Haley.
Jimmy Iovine called in Will.I.Am to help coach the contestants and I think he did an incredible job. I’m not a huge Black Eyed Peas fan, although they definitely have songs I love, but he really has an ear for music and knows what the public wants. I think he gave the contestants some great advice. I would’ve liked to see more of them take that advice.
Paul McDonald. Holy cow, man. Where did that come from? I’ve loved Paul since he performed “Blackbird” with Kendra way back on “Beatles Night” but this… this was his moment. When I heard Paul was doing “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash (one of my favorite musicians ever), I was terrified. I’ve seen Paul. I thought he guaranteed his trip home with what was certainly going to be a disaster. Then we saw the rehearsal footage. When Will.I.Am and Jimmy Iovine are on their feet with excitement, you know something magical is about to happen – and it did. Paul McDonald owned that stage. He turned “American Idol” into “The Paul McDonald Show” and left all of the other contestants in his dust. He picked the perfect moment to turn in the performance us Paul fans have known he could deliver. It was lively. It was entertaining. It was everything a real performance should be. It wasn’t “good for Idol”. It was just plain good. At the end of the show, I couldn’t stop talking about it and even the next day, I still get excited thinking about it. Way to go, Paul.
If this was solely a singing competition, Pia Toscano would win hands down. This isn’t solely a singing competition though. Paul has Pia beat in the performance department. Pia showed improvement last night, but she’s still not there. Her performances are always perfect vocally, but there’s no personality. I don’t feel we know Pia as a performer any better now than we did at the start. I love her and I hope she takes Randy and Jennifer to heart and works on becoming a more well rounded performer.
There were a lot of risks taken last night. Scotty strayed from country with “That’s Alright” by Elvis and he pulled it off. He’s cheesy and corny, but that’s part of his appeal. James took a pretty big risk as well; sitting down for a quieter, more intimate performance dedicated to his family. Beautiful sentiment, lots of emotion but sadly, one of the more forgettable performances of the night. Jimmy and Will.I.Am were 100% right. It was a gamble and I think it was the wrong time in the competition to be taking that gamble. That said, the performance meant a lot to him and his fan base is strong enough that I don’t think he needs to worry about going home any time soon.
While James and Scotty took risks, others Idol contestants chose to play it a little safer. Casey pulled out the upright base for an excellent rendition of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Credence Clearwater Revival and Jacob performed a brilliant rendition of “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. It’s worth noting, neither song was the contestant’s first choice. Jacob switched up from Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” at the last minute and Jimmy and Will talked Casey out of what they feared would be a loungy performance of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by Sting. I’ll talk more about Jacob in my wrap up, but let’s talk about Lauren and Stefano for a moment.
I think the judges are feeling pressure to keep their comments more on the positive side, especially with Lauren who has been pretty fragile as of late. In all honesty, nothing about Lauren’s performance stood out to me. As one of only three girls left, she needs to step it up and choosing an Aretha Franklin song that has been done many, many times on Idol might not have been the best choice. She sounded beautiful, but that ‘wow’ factor just wasn’t there. I love Lauren and I fear this performance might set her back in the competition. Stefano did really well, but again, he played it safe. I personally loved his version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge, but I know a lot of voters out there probably don’t agree. I thought he put his whole self into it. He sang with such emotion and intensity. I was stunned, but I’m not sure it will be enough to keep him in the game.
I’ve already spoken about how much I loved Paul’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, but there was another standout for me. Haley sang her heart out to “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin and she absolutely killed it. She was fiery. She was passionate. She was also one of the first contestants to perform and I think she’ll be in the bottom three tonight and may even go home. She doesn’t deserve it by a long shot. I think Haley is the most talented overall performer on the women’s side of things in this show and, as much as many will disagree with me, I think she should stick around longer than both Pia and Lauren barring some incredible performances from both of those ladies.
Yes, this one requires a little explanation. First, Stefano. Although I loved his performance last night, I’m not sure America really wants to keep him around. This time around, I did a little research. I visited some websites and I read some opinions. It seems many people just aren’t a fan of Stefano and didn’t really like the falsetto at the beginning of his song last night. I liked it, but I am not the only person voting. Haley is talented, beautiful and had more personality in her performance than any of the women this week. I don’t think it’ll be enough. I just don’t think America “gets” her. It seems, though, that many Pia fans are turning against her for her lack of a performance. That might be enough to land her in the bottom three, but I doubt it. Finally… Jacob. Okay, I have a little bit to say about this one.
So Jacob didn’t feel comfortable singing “Let’s Get it On” because it didn’t feel right to him. It doesn’t represent who he is as an artist and Jacob, buddy – no one has a problem with that. I think it was brave of you and really, truly admirable of you to sing a song you believe in and has a message you feel in your heart and soul. I loved that and yes, I even loved your performance. The problem was this statement:
“Let me say this – if I end up in the bottom three, it won’t be because I sang the song bad. It won’t be because I sang the song wrong. It’ll be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.“
Here’s the thing. I don’t think Jacob meant any offense by it at all. I think he was trying to make a statement about the song and how he feels about the song, but it came out all wrong. He came across as arrogant, cocky and, worst of all, ungrateful. And fans noticed. Fans noticed big time. Looking over the comments on the various articles about the show, Jacob’s name was listed as the one to go home several times. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. James has danced that line and stepped over it a few times, but never with an “f*** you” to the fans who vote for him. Again, I don’t think that was Jacob’s intention at all. Many of the comments I read, however, heard the statement kinda like this:
“If you don’t vote for me, you’re ashamed of who you are because I’m awesome and more talented than anyone else in this competition. I haven’t gone on and performed yet, but I know I’m going to be so good I won’t belong in the bottom three.”
When looked at that way, it isn’t just an insult to his fans, but to his fellow contestants as well – many of whom actually performed better than Jacob last night. Again, I don’t necessarily think he meant it to sound the way it did and I certainly hope he’ll read some of the negative feedback about the statement and apologize for offending the people who have been voting for him so far. I think Stefano will be heading home tonight, but if Jacob doesn’t want to follow far sooner than he should based on talent, he needs to not only control his voice, but also his attitude.
Honestly, I’m just taking a stab in the dark at my top three predictions tonight. I think Pia is also in danger, but Jacob will go over her and I couldn’t bring myself to put both of them in the bottom three. I think there’s a decent chance Jacob will go home, but it could be a wild card like Lauren or possibly even Casey. At this point in the game, it could really be anyone. One thing I’m pretty sure of – after last night, Paul isn’t going anywhere this week. I’m making Haley, Stefano and Jacob as my final bottom three pick with Haley going home. My husband says it’ll be Stefano saying goodbye. Guess we’ll find out who (if either of us) was right tonight. Could be looking at a serious upset this time.
Part Two: The Elimination
Even though I said there could be an upset, I didn’t think for a second it would be an upset this big. While I normally break down the whole elimination episode for you, I’m not sure the rest of the episode even matters this time. To say America got it wrong would be an understatement. While I thought there was a remote chance Pia Toscano would end up in the bottom three based on her lackluster performance prowess, I didn’t – not even for a moment – believe she would be sent home. Her voice alone should’ve been enough to carry her to the top. This couldn’t be more wrong.
The Stuff Between
The group performance was just awful. What an ill-conceived notion. Mashing up “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “The Letter” and “Sweet Home Alabama”? Ridiculous. The kids did their best but it was just horrible. Constantine did nothing for me, but it’s nice to see a contestant who didn’t win doing so well considering how the night turned out. As for Iggy Pop – the man is punk rock defined. He is a legend and an icon. While many, many folks seem to disagree with me, I loved seeing him on the Idol stage.
The clip packages tonight were fun. I liked seeing Gwen Stefani with the girls (even though I hated what Pia and Lauren chose to wear). I love Russell Brand so it was nice to see he didn’t tone it down for the contestants. He let them relax and have fun which was nice to see. I liked the “Ford Commercial” more than I usually do. My favorite clip package was definitely the contestants getting ‘media training’ from TMZ. Did anyone else think the “Who are you dating?” question was directed at Paul considering his girlfriend is Twilight’s Nikki Reed? Regardless, it was fun.
Sometimes with “American Idol” it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s hype. When I heard there was a shocking elimination, I took it with a grain of salt. I was expecting Haley or Stefano. I thought maybe Jacob. I didn’t even imagine that it could be Pia. Apparently no one else did either judging from the reactions of the other contestants, the judges and the audience when Ryan announced the results. Even Ryan, who already had the results in his hand, seemed shocked. This was wrong. It was wrong on many levels. Let’s take a look at the reactions we saw.
It’s not often that the camera has to cut away from Randy before he swears, but last night was an exception – and with good reason. The judges had to sit back and watch the best singer in this competition walk away. No one was happy – not even Stefano. Normally when a contestant learns they’re safe, there’s at least a little bit of happiness, but not for Stefano. He looked like someone punched him in the gut. If you watched “Dancing with the Stars” last season, you’ll understand what I mean when I saw Stefano is the Bristol Palin of this year’s “American Idol”.
The judges’ statements really sum up everything that needs to be said about Pia’s elimination:
“I… I have no idea. I have no idea what just happened here. I’m… I’m shocked. I’m angry. I don’t even know what to say.” – Jennifer Lopez
“I’m gutted. You’re one of the best singers in this.” – Randy
“I’m never upset on this show, and I’m never really mad, but this, like, this makes me mad.” – Randy
“America man… a mistake is one thing but a lack of passion is unforgivable. They’re wrong. I don’t know what happened with this.” – Steven
Watching Pia say goodbye was sad, but there is some good. While this is the most shocking elimination I remember this early in the competition, this is far from the first Idol upset. Let’s talk look at some of Idol’s “losers”.
- Jennifer Hudson – Jennifer was a wild card pick in Season Six. She made it to the top six but was voted off, shocking just about everyone. Fantasia went on to win the season and has had some success, but since Idol, Jennifer has won a Grammy, a Golden Globe, a SAG award and, yes, even an Oscar. Recently, she performed at the Grammy’s alongside Florence Welsh (Florence + the Machine), Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams and Christina Aguilera as a tribute to the great Aretha Franklin. I wouldn’t say losing on Idol hurt her career in the least.
- Chris Daughtry – When Chris got the boot from Idol, everyone was stunned. His performances on Idol remain among my all time favorites yet he went home in fourth place in Season Five. Who went on to win? Taylor Hicks. Taylor. Hicks. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Taylor. I have both of his CDs. I am probably one of the few people that can claim owning both of them. Taylor went on to be dropped from his record label (as did runner-up Katherine McPhee). Daughtry? I was invited to take over as the lead vocalist for Fuel. He declined the offer and when on to front his own band. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Yes, I’m referring to Daughtry – a band that now places Chris as the third most successful Idol alum ever (behind on Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood) in terms of record sales.
- Adam Lambert – When Adam Lambert came in second on Season Eight’s Idol, there were a lot of pissed off people out there. Even winner, Kris Allen, said Adam deserved to win. So whatever became of Adam? His debut album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and he earned a Grammy nomination for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance”. His debut album far outsold Allen’s and secured him a place among some of the most popular recording artists today. Not too bad, right?
I don’t think Pia has to worry about being forgotten. She has a powerful voice, she’s a beautiful woman and with a little work, I think she could be a great performer. It’s a shame she wasn’t given another few weeks to really prove that on Idol. Regardless, you haven’t seen the last of Pia Toscano and I fully expect to be able to add her to the list of past Idol contestants who have gone on to do huge things.
So folks, it’s your turn. What do you think of last night’s elimination? Did the right person go home? How much longer do you expect to see Stefano around? Has Pia’s elimination changed your opinion of this season’s Idol and how do you think the other contestants are going to be impacted by her departure? Sound off in the comments section below!