American Idol 2011 – Motown Week

Otherwise known as “songs that have already been done to death on this show” week.

Casey Abrams : At this point, I’m pretty much anticipating a niche cable channel commissioning a documentary called Casey Abrams: Where Did It All Go Wrong? I’m sure at some point he seemed like a viable winner for this competition, but somewhere over the past couple of weeks he lost all his momentum and turned into this bizarre sort of self-parody. As such, this week was supposed to be Dapper Soulful Casey, whereas in reality he turned up looking like the funny homeless guy who the rich kids kit out in a spare suit and sneak into the society party in order to Make A Point About The Unfairness Of It All in a shitty teen drama. As far as the vocals go, I think it tells you all you need to know when I point out that our ITV2 reception went a bit haywire during Casey’s performance, and Chris and I were actually quite relieved to have a couple of seconds’ break from having to listen to it. All that vocal coaching he got in the VT just seems to have made things worse – he started out squeaky, then became underpowered, and ended on one of the worst glory notes I’ve heard since Danny Gokey attempted ‘Dream On’. SCORE: 3/10

(I think it was the blood transfusion. He appears to have been flooded with the blood of an unbearable bellowing tit. SCORE : 2/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 4 times)

Thia Megia : Good Lord, please tell me that, after a decent showing last week from everyone’s adorable parents, the one genuine highlight of “Songs From The Year That You Fell Out Your Mother’s Vagina, Or Were Removed By Caesarian Section, We’re Not Judging Week”, our VTs aren’t from now on going to be solely choked up by Jimmy Fraggle-Face and his army of interchangeable producers, all of whom are the best in the world at what they do. I honestly don’t care about the backroom button sliding and fiddling that goes into producing the arrangements. Anywho, this week, after merrily ploughing her little MOR furrow for the past two months, Miss Thia Megia went UP-TEMPO! But don’t worry yourself, it was still resolutely MOR Up-tempo, as she precociously twirled around in her frilly skirt (and possibly brand new shiny Clarks shoes) like every smiley 12 year old Star Search contestant in every mall in America. This is exactly the type of performance you deploy as filler when you want to coast through a week without accruing permanent vocal cord damage, but sadly this was supposed to be Thia proving something and mixing things up, and as such was pretty much a failure. It certainly left J-Lo scrambling to remind us all that Thia at some point in this process had been 15. That’s still a totally salient and vote-winning fact right? (SCORE : 5/10)

(Come on, Thia, develop a personality. Any personality, I really don’t mind. SCORE: 4/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 4 times)

Jacob Lusk : I can’t imagine that Jacob Lusk was anything other than an awesome spa concierge. I bet he made sure everyone had a fresh towel, just the right blend of essential oils in their sponge bag and a full itinerary card, and left them all with a warming smile. I feel a bit sad that the world of music has called him away from what was clearly his natural calling, but the muse does what it does. So powerful is Jacob’s muse that he really genuinely can’t sing a song unless he means it. That House REALLY isn’t a home. He REALLY believes he can fly. He REALLY wants to get you alone (AH-LOOOOH-NE). He’s just that earnest. Happily this week he was telling his inner Tammy Tyrell that she was all he needed to get by, and his inner Tammy Tyrell was speaking right out through his face back to him, and also apparently his inner Tammy Tyrell is a total drag queen. It was like one of those gross cabaret acts where someone is dressed female on one half, male on the other, and they sing an entire song alternating between their “girl” and their “boy” voices, except that Jacob was channelling both at once and it was amazing. I don’t really want to touch on how apparently Jimmy Fraggle-Face was completely right to tell him to rein it in, because that’ll only encourage him to think there’s any point to him and his Interchangeable Producer Army. And we can’t be having that now can we? SCORE : 10/10

(I love this song. Luckily, he didn’t let me down. SCORE: 9/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 3 times)

Lauren Alaina : In a night of painfully MOR song choices, ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ ranks as one of the most egregious. Not that it’s not an amazing song, because it is, but it has pretty much been covered by everyone and his stoat by now, so I don’t really know what Lauren was supposed to do to make it different and special. To be fair, she actually got off to quite a good start, but fell into a common trap this series: an intro that’s a bit different and inventive gives way to a straight-up cover after about 10 seconds, and by the time the performance is over you’ve forgotten that even happened. She did a good job of owning the stage, and delivered an impressive amount of sass in the spoken-word “and there ain’t nothing I can do about it” part of the middle eight, but the performance never quite reached take-off speed. However, I do give her credit for dedicating the song to The Haterz, who exist Out There Somewhere, who aren’t going to stop her from Doing Her Thing. You go, girl. SCORE: 7/10

(Obviously I should be nice then SCORE : 7/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 3 times)

Stefano Langone : Poor, poor Stefano. Apparently nobody passed him on the memo that all future performances of ‘Hello’ must be whined dirgely over a grungey guitar, because back in 2008 St David Of Cook officially took over ownership of this song, wrote his name inside it, proposed to it, married it, took out his mighty penis and jizzed all over it, etc etc etc. So with that in mind, Stefano automatically gets bonus points from me for completely ignoring all of that bollocks and doing a fairly traditional version of it. Having said that, there was nothing terribly exciting, memorable or contemporary about this performance to recommend it on its own merits, and it all sounded a bit like what MySpace Sensation Karen Rodriguez would’ve done with it, had she not already been dispatched. It’s the kind of performance that Simon (who?), were he still here, would’ve likened to something he would here in one of those hotels he frequents that constantly hire sub-par jazz musicians to perform in the bar, even though no one else in the universe has stayed in one of those hotels since 1953, but the general idea’s the same. It was dated, is all. SCORE: 5/10

(I’d like to apologise now for Steven’s issues with David Cook. We’re getting him therapy I swear. SCORE : 6/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 1 time)

Haley Reinhart : Hee, bless her. I love that her introductory VT was basically her going “actually, I would quite like to not be in the bottom three this week, please. It’s getting quite annoying now. Put one of the boys there instead, ffs. Paul’s still here: you know that, right? He SUCKS. Why is Paul still here while all the girls are getting the boot?” Okay, some of that might have been me. But I think the point is just as valid. Unfortunately for Haley, I don’t think this is the performance that’s going to save her from the bottom three (or indeed from elimination), because it was all a bit weird. She started with one of the less gracious entrances down the stars this show has ever borne witness to, and was wearing an outfit that suggested she’s stopped by the show on her way for cocktails. In the 1980s. I applaud her for trying a song that wasn’t completely overdone on this show’s history, but it seems like she got bored halfway through her performance. I know I did. SCORE : 5/10

(She can have a bonus point for being the only person doing a song that’s never been done on Idol before, but also a point taken off for sucking all the sardonic lustiness from the arrangement, which is the best part by a zillion miles. SCORE : 5/10)

Scotty McCreery : My on-going downwards spiral with Scotty continues. I mean obviously this was the week everyone was waiting for – when he was finally poked out of his lane (although Motown and country aren’t THAT far apart if you sift through the massive back-catalogue of Motown hits enough. I mean, it’s not as though it’s Gloria Estefan week or anything) and we all got to boggle at the train-wreck. But I had hoped it’d be better than this. This was basically Kristy Lee Cook doing “Eight Days A Week” except not awesome (What? Shut up! It was!) (…well it was funny anyway) because it highlighted just how thin his voice actually is when it’s actually pushed, just how much he relies on a truly hideous repertoire of stage twitching and wrist-flicks, and also that he’s getting a burgeoning ego to rival Lauren’s (which…nice of Iovine to basically call her out on air for behaving like a brat and people still think she’s The Chosen One). Seriously – “making it Scottie?”. You’re not a thing that things can be made quite yet McCreery. At least make it onto the tour first. SCORE : 2/10

(If this is him stepping out of his comfort zone, I think we should put him on The Amazing Race and watch him fall apart completely when he gets to India. SCORE: 4/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 3 times)

Pia Toscano : Nice of Pia to provide us all with the answer to that burning question “How can Pia conceivably sing better, and yet get less interesting?”. The answer apparently being “root through the Motown archives for the most boring ballad by the most overdone artist on American Idol and bland your way through it”. It’s so dull that Kat McPhee sang it for Chrissakes. Still, at least they called her out on it and maybe now she can go on and be interesting next week, which is rumoured to be Elton John Week. Here’s hoping for a “The Bitch Is Back” rather than a “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” SCORE : 5/10

(Dissing Kat McPhee and Pia Toscano in the same paragraph, in the same blog post as you defended David Cook? It’s like you want a divorce or something. SCORE: 7/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 3 times)

Paul McDonald : Let’s just say I’m not surprised that his performance got about 10 times more bearable when they planked a guitar into his hands. Admittedly this is mostly because having a great big whacking prop like that meant that his performing… style was cut off from reaching its full stumbling, whirling, wrist-flicking, shit-eating grin nonsense height. Not that he didn’t try, but the guitar-anchor left him looking a bit like a balloon tied to a lamp-post in a rainstorm. Bobbling around something fierce, but not actually going anywhere. The problem of course is that he still can’t really sing, and his indie-arrangement affectations (oh, are we closing out with the opening lyric repeated in a slow and mournful fashion yes we are tum-ti-tum) are as rampant as ever, but he tried bless him. I would say something at this point about crazed Adam Lambert fans getting all territorial over a song their hero had a “moment” with, just as Steve covered the David Cook acolytes, but frankly the Glambert Glitter-Kittens, or whatever the fudge they’re called, are ever so slightly scary. So I won’t. I will of course cover Randy’s paean to “Rod Stewart Cool”, like that’s been a thing since 1993 at the latest. SCORE : 4/10

(“I can’t sing it like Smokey.” Oh Paul. You had me at “sing”. SCORE: 2/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 1 time)

Naima Adedapo : Speaking of egos, I don’t want to get on Naima’s case or anything, because obviously I love her, and she could have any number of weapons, semi-automatic or otherwise, hidden under those giant fabulous multi-coloured muumuus, but if you’re going to the trouble to tell me that Martha meant Dancing In The Street literally, rather than as a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, I’m going to say that Martha didn’t really “pave that road” for you so much as people who are actually being successful. I mean, 7th-9th place finishing reality show contestants are people too, and some of them are even awesome people who themselves pioneered the introduction of mid-song dance-breaks to American Idol, but you’re really more of a side beneficiary of Martha’s road-paving. Anyway, I loved the vibe of this performance : half African Tribal Mother/Cult Leader, half Vic Reeves performing in the club style. Of the many sides of Naima Adedapo (lyrical poet/Reggae krumper/screechingly out-of-tune chanteuse/funky janitor) this is…yet another one. Who even knows what she’ll pull out of her big bag of tricks next week. Hey, at least she’s not boring. SCORE : 8/10

(At least she seems like she’s having fun. Like, actual fun, rather than the “fun” people claim to have had when the judges have just slated them. SCORE: 7/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 1 time)

James Durbin : Here’s a rare instance of me offering some positive feedback on song choice – this was one of the few occasions this evening (or indeed this season) where I thought “ooh, good choice” when I discovered the song that was about to be sung. ‘Living For The City’ is hardly a leftfield choice, but it suits James and the whole swagger that he’s got going on. He continues to know exactly what to do with the stage, and I’m starting to think that if he doesn’t win they should just shift him sideways onto Glee, because he’d probably be quite useful on that show. I’m sure Ryan Murphy has all kinds of wacky ideas of things to do to him. Anyway, this tied with Jacob for the best vocal of the night, and leaves James as probably the most consistent contestant of the series thus far. SCORE: 9/10

(He worked that crowd a little too hard, and it didn’t stop when the song did either. Other than that, pretty darned good. SCORE : 8/10)

(Performed Before Factor : 1 time)


7 thoughts on “American Idol 2011 – Motown Week

    1. monkseal Post author

      Of course she did – she was UP TEMPO.

      Casey seems to think everyone wants to see him act like a serial killer. I don’t think that was ever any sort of element of his basic charm to begin with.

  1. darrell

    I really like your breakdown. It would be nice though if you would remind us of which songs each contestant sang. thanks.

  2. shriggles

    I LOVED the look on Pia’s face when Casey got the save. It clearly read, “that save was MINE!!!”

    Slightly (or, rather, completely) off topic, I’ve heard that the new season of Dancing With The Stars won’t be shown on UK TV. Does that mean you won’t be blogging about it? Watched it for the first time last season and your blog was the most entertaining part.

    1. monkseal Post author

      Oh God, you could tell at least three of them were thinking “I WAS GOING TO NEED THAT IN ABOUT FOUR WEEKS TIME THANKS A BUNCH”

      And yeah, I’m not watching this series of DWTS, so no blogging. To be fair, with this cast, and the fact that I got bored 2/3 of the way through the last series to the extent that I gave up recapping it, it was always touch and go even if it had been airing in a convenient time/place.

  3. Ferny

    I have to say that Scotty is still in my top 3 I’m afraid. I can’t help it. Also loving James and Jacob, with Naima in 4th for entertainment value!

    I think Casey could definitely be helped with an image overhaul…the beardy weirdy look (especially slicked back and homeless looking) isn’t helping him.

    1. monkseal Post author

      Maybe they’d hoped they could hold off on Casey’s makeover for a little while longer. Obviously not.


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