You feel it, don’t you? That conspicuous absence permeating this space right now? It’s palpable, I know. What you’re experiencing is called Bethlessness, and it’s not pretty. I’m blogsitting for tonight, which is always intimidating. But especially on Motown night.
Because Motown night is—wait . . . Jennifer Lopez is dressed up like one of those really expensive old Barbies nobody’s allowed to play with . . . awesome—anyway, Motown night showcases some of the very best songs ever recorded by some of the most talented musicians of our time. So it’s a huge opportunity and a huge challenge, just like what I’m facing tonight. So I’m empathizing with you, Idol people. Let’s not blow it. Because Liv Tyler is watching.
Casey Abrams starts us off with a slightly funky and gravelly version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Casey followed his producers’ advice and kept himself from exploding in a big pulpy mess on stage. Visually, he’s this crazy mix of suave lounge singer and sweaty lumberjack. Vocally, he’s back to true gold. I loved it so much, I think I’ll listen again.
Next we have Thia Megia, who desperately needs to rebound from a couple of performances far too boring for someone with a cool rhyming name like that. At first she had her “Heat Wave” groove working, but she ran out of steam halfway through. She has a nasty habit of losing notes on stage. I can still see them waiting there, wishing they had been sung. Thia has tons of potential, but she’s not there yet. But she’s so cute!
Jacob Lusk singing Motown? Yes please. “You’re All I Need to Get By” is a soulful song with a subtlety that demands an artist’s touch, and I’m beyond glad that Jacob is taking it on. But I think I have to close my eyes through the performance because he’s a giant goofball. A giant goofball who just killed it. He’s unorthodox, but crazy good. And Steven Tyler ran up and hugged him. That was fun. I like this dude. Randy thinks it’s the best thing that ever happened to anyone ever in the universe. Okay, Randy.
All I ask is that Lauren Alaina takes this song to Nashville. R&B/Soul and Country like to play together. Unfortunately, Lauren stayed rooted in Detroit and gave us a straight-up retread of the original “Keep Me Hangin’ On.” She sounded great, don’t get me wrong. Her zebra dress and Candace Cameron Bure charm are all good, but I still wish she would have brought more of her style to the song. Instead, I’m bored and hungry for Krispy Kremes.
Stefano Langone is Miami Vice and Ralph Lauren and Justin Bieber all rolled into one outfit. He sang, “Hello,” and it was weird. The notes were right. The tone was good. But he may as well have been singing in Japanese, because it didn’t sound like he knew what he was expressing. This is Motown, Stefano. Leaving out the soul is like forgetting the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. And the gravy. And the pumpkin pie. And half your family.
Connecting with the audience = straighten your hair, wear tight shorts and monster heels, and walk down stairs like you have to pee real bad. At least that’s Haley Reinhart’s theory. I like Haley’s voice, and she sang “You Really Got a Hold on Me” pretty dang well. I was distracted beyond belief by the stage awkwardness. And why is everyone wearing white coats? (Side note: the chemistry between the judges is really working for me this season. They relate to each other so naturally. I enjoy.)
I think Scotty McReary has officially and finally rejected Beth’s request for a cowboy hat. This would have been the perfect night to break it out, but at least he gave us the Man in Black look. Even more importantly, he deep fried “For Once in My Life.” See what I mean? Motown and Country are best friends. I loved it at the beginning. I loved it in the middle. I giggled at the end. Note to Scotty: you can’t just shake your head and expect powerful notes to come out. You gotta earn that payoff, son. Loved the style, though.
Apparently this is “try not to insult Stevie Wonder” night. Pia Toscano is taking on “All in Love is Fair,” which, in my eyes, is her biggest test yet. This is where we separate the Cheez Whiz from the cheddar. I don’t know what that means. I do know that Pia is g-g-g-gorgeous. Her voice is, too. I’m not thrilled with her when she’s not piledriving high notes into our ears, but wow, can she hit the big notes (yes, she can). Still . . . I’m kinda bored with her music.
Okay, here we are. The bizarre moment we’ve all been waiting for. Paul McDonald. I actually think I might like him singing Smokey. “Tracks of My Tears” is beautiful. And he’s holding a guitar, so that should stop him from pointing at us, right? And hey, look at that! Paul is pretty much rocking and sounding interesting. A+, Paul. (I’m grading on a personal curve for you, Paul.) I really liked it. And Randy’s right: the end sealed it.
Are we done yet? Did we go back to 24 contestants? No? Man, this is taking forever. C’mon, Naima Adedapo, make me dance in the street like your song says you will. Or, you could give me shelter in the spacious confines of your bell-bottoms. I like Naima. I do. But I’m not in love with her vocals. And the dancing was a little too Napoleon Dynamite-y. The judges love her. I just like her. As a person.
James Durbin is in on the Stevie Wonder festivities. “Living for the City” is no easy task. It’s no frivolous one, either. I’m not sure how I feel about the song choice for Idol, but here we are. Um . . . sorry, James. I’m a fan of yours. But I can’t listen to this. However you sang (pretty well), I’m afraid you missed the point. I hope this is your lowest moment of the season. But that was the essence of what people hate about Idol. Great songs turned cheap.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty decent night that could have been much better. Beth? Hurry back.
My pick to go home: Naima. Sorry, girl.