The Verdict on Idol: Top 5 performances

Last night, we saw the top 5 take on two song each. Last week’s theme was and odd fit, but produced a round of decent performances. This week, we had a fantastic theme; Now and Then. Each contestant sang a song that’s been popular in recent years, as well as a song from the 60’s.
The top 5 is a critical time for the contestants. This is the part where things start getting real, and we begin to see who can really win. In a group where everyone is more or less on the same playing field, its crucial to deliver nothing short of your very best. However, this round of performances felt more like your typical top 10 performance show. This is to say we had a little bit of everything. For the first time ever, we had train wrecks. Yes, some people went out on stage and fell flat on their faces! However, we also had the appearance of the ever elusive Idol “moment.” That’s right, someone delivered a performance so good, that people will look back on this season and remember that performance above all others. In-between, there was a whole lot of mediocrity. So which ones delivered, and which ones have blown it? Lets find out…
5. Jacob Lusk

No Air by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown

In Jacob’s first performance, he decided to take on a song by a 16 year old girl and a woman beater. Well, he did do R.Kelly before, so I guess I shouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. However, once he started singing, not only did I observe in puzzled confusion, but at points, I actually cringed. This performance was awful on every single level imaginable. Terrible vocals? Check. His lower register was horribly off, he over sang the end, and he didn’t even try to sing the chorus, instead opting to shout adlibs at us that just didn’t work. Terrible stage presence? Check. He was doing some weird hip grinding that no pudgy man in an ill fitting suit should be doing. At one point, there was a crotch grab. Yes, a crotch grab. This performance offended pretty much every human sense, and was by far the worst performance of the season.

Love Hurts by NazarethHis second song was much better, but even for Jacob it isn’t enough. Being the type of artist that he is, he can rely on one thing and one thing only; a solid vocal performance. This performance made me realize just how far off the track that Jacob has veered. At one point, he was a vocal powerhouse. Now, he can’t even deliver a typical power ballad effectively. The first half of the performance was a trip back to the semi finals, back when Jacob was doing well. However, then the chorus kicked in, and we were left with several missed notes and a shout-fest. Epic fail, Jacob. Epic fail.

4. James Durbin

Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to MarsThis was a very off night for James. Both songs were solid choices, but neither were delivered with the usual finesse that he’s brought to the stage every week. “Closer to the Edge” is a song that I’ve been wanting him to sing, because it would have fit him wonderfully, and shown that he could have a contemporary hit. Instead, he left me feeling like something was missing. His vocals were good, but James is usually fantastic. I liked his audience interaction, but he dressed like he came strait out of 1983 when he should have been proving that he was current. It was a performance that just seemed…off.

Without You by Harry Nilsson
“Without You” felt the same way. When he started, I had the feeling that this was going to be the moment we’ve all been waiting for. However, James only took it half way there. The beginning was fantastic both in terms of the vocals, and the performance. He had so much emotion and conviction that it was clear that we were about to watch something special. Then chorus came. He was flat on the lower register, which was a forgivable mistake, but then came the big notes. This is his specialty, and he missed them horribly. They were just painful. It’s a shame, because this was clearly going to be something special, and in the end, he missed his opportunity. The was by his worst night.

3. Scotty McCreery

Gone by Montgomery GentryScotty’s first song, “Gone,” showed exactly why Scotty is a front runner in this show. This song choice was exactly what I’ve been waiting for him to do; a contemporary, uptempo hit. Scotty has this unnatural ability to reach into the television, grab the audience, and say “Your mine.” The amount of charisma and conviction he possesses is just unreal, and tonight, he used that to give everyone a good time. This is country music, baby! Twang, guitars, hoopin’ and hollerin’, shout outs to the audience, the works! With this performance, Scotty has somebody in a record label’s board room seeing with dollar signs in his eyes.

Always on My Mind by Elvis
However, his second song, “Always on My Mind,” was much less convincing. He returned to his stool, and sang a tepid country ballad, which reminded me that I miss seeing that side of Scotty. However, this wasn’t the trip back to the semi finals that I wanted. Scotty’s vocals were off. He was flat through out most of the song, and didn’t seem like he was pushing himself. It was boring and uninspired. It was the complete opposite of his first performance.

2. Lauren Alaina

Flat on the Floor by Carie Underwood
Like Soctty, Lauren’s first performance was a slam dunk. She chose a Carrie Underwood song that hasn’t been released as a single. Quite frankly, it was a smart move. For one, its my favorite Carrie Underwood song, and two, the general audience was able to make the connection to Carrie without making a comparison. I can’t tell you how smart of a move that was on Lauren’s part. With this song, she delivered the upbeat country song that she excels at. It was gritty and bold, and her vocals were solid. Overall, one of the best she’s given in awhile.

Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers
Her second song was also a good performance, but with some glaring weak spots. “Unchained Melody” was a bold choice, and showed off her range, complementing her first performance quite well. However, there was something missing; the note. Yes, you know exactly which note I’m talking about. The one that song is famous for. Lauren decided that she couldn’t hit it, and so she didn’t even try. I can’t decided if this was a good or bad idea. Would it have been better to be known for missing a note terribly, (a la Danny Gokey) or simply not trying? There really isn’t a good answer, so I kind of wish she had chosen a song that would have high lighted her strengths instead of her limitations.

1. Haley Reinhart

You and I by Lady GagaHaley’s first performance was something special. Not only did she choose a Lady Gaga song, but she chose a Lady Gaga song that nobody knew. As a result, when Haley sauntered onto stage, I got the feeling that I was watching a seasoned artist sing her latest single. With nothing to compare it to, both me and America now associate that song with Haley Reinhart, rather than Lady Gaga. It’s effectively her song. Very smart! Otherwise, her performance was delivered with grit and finesse. A solid performance over all.

House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
However, it was Haley’s second performance that we’ve been looking for this entire season. Yes, this was the “moment” that’s been missing all season. I don’t know if we can place it between “Alone” and “In a Dream,” but damn did she come close. This performance was vocally flawless. Haley delivered it with grit, soul, and conviction…and this song doesn’t require those things, it demands them of the singer. Not only that, but after being thrown under the bus again and again on this show, Haley came out with fire in her eyes. She was determined to look America in the eye and say “Listen to me, damn it! I’ve got something to say!” Well, Haley…America is listening.

And there you have it. Who’s going home tomorrow night?

Well…Jacob is way overdue, and after “No Air,” I’d be very surprised if he survives another week.

Until next week.

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