American Idol contestants took a trip back in time on Wednesday (3/16), selecting songs from the year they were born. Interscope head Jimmy Iovine and his team of producers were on hand to give the songs a modern touch and coach contestants through the performances.
Ultimately New York native Karen Rodriguez was sent home on the results show, making her the second consecutive female in the Top 13 to exit. The Idol judges opted not to use their solitary save, but Randy Jackson pointed out that the decision was not unanimous. Rodriguez has struggled with both ends of her range over the last couple episodes, most recently with Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back.” Judge Jennifer Lopez addressed the problem, saying she hoped Karen would find some songs that suited her voice. Translation: don’t sing Mariah, Whitney or Celine.
Joining Rodriguez in the bottom three were Naima Adedapo and Haley Reinhart, who have so far failed to make a big impact. 20-year-old Reinhart has a unique, rough quality to her voice, but the fact that she’s jumped across the stylistic map every week from Alicia Keys’s “Fallin’” to Patsy Cline/LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” and finally to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” has left many wondering if she has any idea what kind of an artist she wants to be.
Adedapo, perhaps more than any of the other contestants, has the distinct look of a star—beautiful, exotic, and colorful. But her pitch and control issues have gotten more obvious every week, especially in her rendition of Tina Turner’s 1984 classic “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Unless something miraculous happens, both Adedapo and Rinehart will likely be on the way out in the next two or three weeks.
It’s a talented field overall with several strong contenders, but no obvious Top 3. The two country-centric singers, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, have both consistently turned in solid performances and look poised to last deep into the competition. Inexperience could be a trouble spot for both, however. McCreery has well-defined idea about what kind of artist he is, but has yet to fully develop the chops of his stylistic forebears like Josh Turner and Randy Travis. Alaina is a naturally talented, powerful singer, but at 15 her still-forming musical identity and lack of maturity could be problematic as the challenges start demanding more ingenuity.
If any contestant is a lock for the final, it’s Pia Toscano. She’s had less TV time so far than McCreery and Alaina, which will keep people interested, and she’s given knockout performances every week. She’s one of the rare singers with the range and power to sing a Whitney Houston song like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” with confidence, and that is going to carry her far.
Paul McDonald, Casey Abrams and James Durbin could also find themselves lasting to the end if they continue to perform well. Durbin is the season’s token rocker with a penchant for screaming Judas Priest songs, but he’s also displayed noticeable growth since the Top 13 were selected–an important factor for Idol voters. Casey Abrams falls squarely in the lovable weirdo division. He never fails to turn in a compelling performance, most memorably on “I Put A Spell On You,” but health issues have already sidelined him two TV appearances. Will that upset his chances as the stress of the competition sets in? McDonald is similar in look and style to many previous winners of the show with a big fan base to boot, but his inability (or unwillingness) to play to the audience may alienate some of his support.
In the less-likely-to-win category, Stefano Langone, Thia Megia, and Jacob Lusk have also had some big moments but don’t appear to be threats to take the whole competition. Lusk puts his entire being into every soul-drenched performance, but his tendency to over-sing (like Heart’s “Alone”) severely limits his potential. Megia is another teenage contestant, but seems woefully out of step with what’s currently happening in popular music. Her voice is strong, but her bizarre song choices (“Colors of the Wind,” really?) don’t exactly make a convincing argument for her star power. To his credit, Langone turned in a great performance of the cheeseball hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on Wednesday, but he’s still getting lost among some of the bigger personalities.
Bottom line, it makes for great TV. The new judges have an engaging chemistry together, and there are numerous memorable contestants to watch. We’ll be covering events from the Idol show every week, so make sure to check in here and share your thoughts with us.