'American Idol' 2011: Top 12 guys perform
The guys sing for viewer votes for the first time Tuesday night on "American Idol."
Clint "June Bug" Gamboa kicks things off. And, though the show's been around for years, the producers still have not figured out how to keep the band and backup singers from drowning out the competitors we're trying to hear. But June Bug puts up a good fight. What with his teeth, and those glasses, and his oversize red shoes, he looks like Bugs Bunny's smarter brother, which is not who you expect to see singing "Superstition" on "Idol." The judges like it. "No karaoke singer in the world has got that kind of vocal talent," raves Randy Jackson.
Jovany "No More Shipyard for Me" Baretto picks the oft-"Idol"-ized "I'll Be" to perform. Wait a minute, was his last job that of shipyard worker or cruise ship entertainer? Because we could see this guy delivering that number at night, then posing by the pool, with those shoulders, for the edification of the female passengers.
"Holy Shipyards, you brought it again," judge Steven Tyler raves. "I'm happy right now," adds Jennifer Lopez. Randy, who is the New Simon in His Mind, says he has to "break up the apple cart a little bit" - whatever that means - because "for me it felt very karaoke." "Idol" singers fall into two categories for Randy this season: karaoke, and non-karaoke.
Jordan Dorsey mangles Usher's already dippy tune "OMG" - as in, "OMG what am I doing here? He's bluffing and looks as though he knows it, though when he removes his jacket the little girls in the audience squeal with delight. He caves immediately when JLo asks: "Is that who you want to be as an artist?"
"No! No! No!" Jordan says.
Randy notes it's "not a singer's song." Whose song is it then? Is he saying Usher is not a singer? This needs looking into. "I'm not a jumpy singer," Jordan assures show host Ryan Seacrest, in re his stab at Usher's steps. But, Jordan promises, "you're gonna see a whole lot better from me." We hope not.
Seabiscuit asks Tim Halperin about how the press is making so much of the caliber of performers on the show this season on the show. Tim can't explain it, but announces that with him, what you see is what you get. What we get is Tim as miscast as Rob Thomas as Jordan was as Usher. Tim's performance of Thomas's "Streetcorner Symphony" is just meh -- a cup of warm milk looking for brandy. The judges tell him too that he isn't the artist they thinks he is.
"It didn't show America who you really are as an artist," says JLo, who would have us believe Tim has "one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard," so she has no credibility. Seabiscuit asks Tim what he takes away and Tim plays the "Idol" maneuver of ignoring advice, which has worked so well for previous contestants (though usually they were far more talented contestants) and tells Seabiscuit he thought it went really well.
Brett Lowenstern has, tragically, chosen the Doors' "Light My Fire" as his first performance on the "Idol" stage. Here's a novel interpretation of that classic: singing like a guy who isn't in heat but really just needs a light. Brett's voice isn't sexy, just thin, like it's coming out of the speaker box in the drive-thru lane at Jack in the Box. But the judges have already decided he's good, so they focus on his flaming red hair which he shook around to great effect during the tune. Or, it distracted us, anyway. The judges equate this with "being who you are." JLo notes there was "more hair tossing than me and Beyonce put together, the last ten years!" Her credibility is restored. Randy counted 14 shakes of Brett's hair in that number, adding, "you're definitely bold and fun."
Then James Durbin performs "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and his is the only voice so far this evening that can win the death match with the backup band. Durbin is right on the money with the kind of artist he is - pushing it hard, walking into traffic. He rocks it credibly with this Judas Priest tune, and the judges lavish praise on him. Tyler: "That was [Idol Logo Flash Card] crazy good!"
Robbie Rosen wobbles his way through "Angel" -- aka around my house: "In the Arms of the Angel"-- the despairing Sarah McLachlan song. And Robbie has reason to despair. We do too, because he reminds us of Adrien Brody singing in the weird beer commercial, which we don't like either. Anyway, the judges love him, Tyler calling it a "beautiful thing" and JLo gushing that "you made choices I love better [than McLachlan's]." It's left to Randy to say it: "Really pitchy...you never quite settled in."
We keep trying to get excited about Scotty McCreery, who has a mature voice for a 17-year-old that will certainly serve him well through a long country-music career while his skin weathers. If only his voice wasn't so generic-country. Does that provoke the judges to say he's got to bring something different to his singing? No, just the opposite. Randy compliments him for not trying to be cross-over country but straight ahead, don't bring nuthin' different country.
Stefano Langone's Competent Pop version of Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are," is okay for any other "Idol" season, but he's outclassed this year. But he's more than okay for the judges: "This kid could be on radio right now, a real star that can compete right now," raves Randy.
Paul McDonald has that light-grade sandpaper voice, so performing the Rod Stewart number "Maggie May" is typecasting, but Paul puts his own veneer on it and he's a comfortable performer on stage -- a likeable guy all around. "That McDonald two-step..you got a real character about your voice and I love that," says Tyler. "I like the possibility that 'Idol' can embrace this kind of singer that's really so quirky and different," adds Randy.
And then, Jacob Lusk takes on the ghost of Luther Vandross with "A House Is Not a Home" and wins. His voice fills the hall; he takes Vandrossian runs with ease. He commands the attention of the entire crowd like no other performer we've seen tonight. The judges are reverential. "I'm honored to be in your presence," gushes Tyler. "You make me cry when you sing. I don't know where you get it." Lusk points heavenward.
Casey Abrams is such a puzzle, with the shaggy face and the jazzy performance. He's like the punch line to a joke that starts, "So Grizzly Adams walks into the Blue Note club..." Tonight he's doing Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put A Spell On You," with screamin' like a man who just cut off one of his finger tips. It's safe to say "Idol" has never seen anything like it. Just for giggles, Casey ends it on a little lilting blue note.
"Casey -- you're sexy.... Casey wants it bad...You ate it all up. I love it," JLo says flirtatiously. The American Idol Decency Police can't believe their ears. "Scream' Jay is somewhere jumping up and down, really proud," weighs in Randy.
Lisa de Moraes
| March 2, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: "American Idol"
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