'American Idol' Top 12 women: Pia Toscano, Thia Megia, Karen Rodriguez win the night
Seacrest welcomes us again and the strange voice man introduces the judges. J.Lo has come as a disco ball, Randy has on a Cosby sweater and Steven Tyler is wearing the same thing from last night. He probably just slept backstage and rolled out for "Idol." (Yes, I know this is pre-taped, it's a joke, don't email me).
When the women are introduced, I am struck by just how much Asthton/Tatynisa, Julie/Pia and Haley/Kendra are the same person. Seriously, it's like Doppelgangland up in here. But let's get to the singing.
Here are the Top 12 performances, in our order of best to worst:
1. Pia Toscano: "I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders
This is a great song choice for her. It's a ballad, but not slow as molasses, plus has some big ol' notes on the chorus. When she starts, she has some absolutely marvelous tiny runs and then the bridge builds to the key change and the lights come up and there's a huge note and then an even bigger note that actually makes me tear up a little. Good. night. The judges give a standing O. That's all there is to say.
2. Thia Megia: "Out Here On My Own" by Irene Cara (from "Fame")
Let's go my little "America's Got Talent" alum. I said you'd be here, prove me right. The a capella beginning is haunting, she sounds so much older than 15. This is just so quietly gorgeous, the stripped down lights, just the piano backing, perfect, lovely, goosebumps, captivating. The judges go bonkers.
3. Karen Rodriguez: "Hero" by Mariah Carey
I kind of hate this song, just FYI. But I really want to like Karen. With the starry background and the turquoise floor-length dress, it's very Miss America (or Miss Universe, since she starts singing in Spanish). But if you close your eyes to the cheesiness, the vocal is beautiful, plus the Spanish is a nice way to change it from the Mariah version. Karen does the high notes in a beautiful light voice the first time around, then on the second time she rips the lid off and the key change is gorgeous. The little high riff at the ending is beautiful as well. Karen needs serious stage presence help, but she has a fantastic voice. Well done, lady. J.Lo loved it, and not only because of the Latina girls united thing. Randy thought the Spanish was better than the English, but yeah - it sounds prettier. Spanish/French/Italian are so much more mellifluous than English. Tyler calls her one of a kind.
4. Lauren Alaina: "Turn on the Radio" by Reba McEntire
Lauren's schtick is alternately adorable and super annoying, but I like her voice and I love that she's doing a Reba song. She's hard to hear on the verses, but based on last night and tonight, I blame the sound mixers. The chorus is better, but this isn't the best I think Lauren could've sounded. It's not really a singers song. If anybody should've done a former "Idol" song, Lauren should've busted out some Carrie. Talk about the smart play for her voice and for her fanbase. J.Lo calls it effortless but says she knows there's more in there. Randy says she's great and she reminds him of a Kelly-Carrie hybrid. She makes the most adorable "wow" face at that compliment. She then says Ryan is "Peaches" because they are both from Georgia. Ryan looks 90% adorable and 10% gonna kill her, so that's good of him.
5. Haley Reinhart: "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys
This song. Gah. It was great the first 3000x it was on the radio. Then Haley starts singing. Dayum. Seriously, wow on the beginning. She keeps taking two steps to nowhere while acting out the lyrics, so that needs to stop. I mean, when she got to "pleasuuuure," I thought she was having an actual pleasure moment on stage. But whatever, she can work on that. Vocally, this was nearly perfect, just a few weird things, like a chewy ending note that I didn't love because she got all nasal. But pretty great overall. For once, with Steven and J.Lo loving a performance and Randy not liking it, I think Randy's wrong. I thought she sounded great. If you weren't watching her antics, the vocal was beautiful.
6. Julie Zorrilla: "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson
I think it's funny when they do former "Idols" songs. Julie puts in just a few of her own little touches, which is good. But she's getting really lost in the backing music and the backup singers. She really does not have a Kelly voice, she should be at a piano doing a Brooke White-type thing. The ending is nice, but again -- that should not be the only good part, ladies. I was hoping for better from Julie because I think she's really good and that didn't do it. The judges want more from her. Randy says she needed to be special and stand out because there are only five spots. True date. Tyler say she should've taken it up a couple keys and I agree, but based on how she did in that key, I think that would've been too high for her. I don't think she could have taken it up.
Only Advancing If Voting Bloc is On Top of Things:
7. Lauren Turner: "Seven Day Fool" by Etta James
The Bette Midler comparison is apropos because she can really blow but has an atypical look for Hollywood. This is an interesting song choice. It's very low, so it's not showing off her voice as well as it could. That was pretty flat for me. She is also now the third girl to rely on a couple big notes at the end, and a couple big end notes does not a good performance make. The judges loved it, but J.Lo wants to see her do more. I don't think she'll get a chance to do more. If you are not super pretty, you have to blow it out da box. And she did not. Sorry, but it's true. And if you think I'm mistaken, you have not watched a lot of "Idol."
8. Kendra Chantelle: "Impossible" by Christina Aguilera
Kendra is wearing her Slutty Sandy best and boy, did she pick a hard artist to take on. She does really well on the verses, her tone is lovely and she makes the jumps seem effortless. The chorus is a little boring, but she has a nice ending. Like Naima, that might save her. Randy really liked it, Steven hits on her, J.Lo says there is more in her, which - yes, it seems like there is. Added after the entire 12: Kendra was forgotten by the end. It wasn't good enough.
9. Ashthon Jones: "Love Over Me" by Monica
What is up with the denim bustier and just leggings? It's like she forgot her actual outfit and is wearing Cyndi Lauper's underthings. Anyway, the vocal has way too many "heys" and "what up ladies" and stuff throw into it. You are not a big star yet, stop doing that. She hits all the big notes, but that left me really cold. It was just ... boring. The judges go nuts, J.Lo says he has the makings of a diva and the confidence is crazy. Ashthon totally sucks up to J.Lo, which also needs to stop. Randy echoes their critiques, but is honest in that he didn't love the song. Yep. Love Ashthon, but bad song choice. Hope she survives, I think she has it in her to do better.
10. Naima Adedapo: "Summertime" by Ella Fitzgerald
Naima could not look better, she is a Nubian princess ("What's a Nubian?"). She has her jazzy moves down to go with this Ella arrangement. Props for picking this version and not the slow version that Fantasia has ruined for anyone else to ever do. Vocally, there are some nice moments, but as a whole performance this is pretty terrible, like a cheezy cruise ship act. I expect her to run up the back stairs just so she can shimmy down them. The ending might save her, it was very dramatic and pretty. J.Lo calls her an exotic flower, Randy says a little lounge act-y and brings up Fantasia. He's half right. It was lounge acty. But she was NOT trying to do the Fantasia version, she was doing Ella's version, so the comparison is stupid. But he says she nailed the end. Why is Randy in my head?! This is scary. Tyler loves her new old-timey thing.
11. Ta-Tynisa Wilson: "Only Girl (In The World)" by Rihanna
Singing Rihanna is a bold choice, especially while dressed like Madonna circa 1985. It starts off pretty rough. She can't hit those quick runs like Rihanna does, then the verses are way too low, so she's completely breathy and unsupported. If you're gonna do a song like this, you gotta bring it or you are going to sound like a bad karaoke night. Ta-Ty (when did the hyphen arrive?) was bad karaoke. I also kept fearing a boob was going to pop out. Steven and J.Lo sing her praises, but Randy calls it like it is (he does!). It paled in comparison to Rihanna and there were pitch issues. Yep.
J.Lo talks over Randy's critique, which is rude. Step off, J.Lo. He is right and you need to stop being the Paula. I thought we were past that nonsense after your first two audition cities, Lopez. She keeps at him, he fires back and then Ryan makes a fat joke. Lordy.
12. Rachel Zevita: "Criminal" by Fiona Apple
With my eyes open, this is creepy as hell. It's like "Toddlers and Tiaras" grew up and this is what happened. It's also like what she really wants to be singing is the "Cell Block Tango." With my eyes closed, the vocal doesn't get any better. It's theatrical and a complete weird bastardization of this song that I don't enjoy. She can sing, but this was kind of a giant trainwreck. At least she picked an apropos song title - that performance was criminal.
Steven calls it Broadway and Rachel makes a frowny face and cocks her eyebrow, then tells him that's the one thing she's never sung. Uh, don't talk back, little girl. Randy says it didn't work. No, it did not.
During the clip montage, we have Ta-Tynisa and Naima and Kendra, who I forgot all about by now and that does not bode well for them. Then we have the trainwreck that was Rachel and the Spanish beauty queen who I wish had not been shoved into the middle of the order. Not sure what to make of Lauren Turner, her clip is better than I remember her performance being. Ashthon wasting her shot, Julie wasting her shot too and then the final three being awesome.
So it's definitely going to be Lauren, Karen, Thia and Pia, right? Who gets the last spot? Haley did better, but Julie is more well-liked so far. Or does somebody else sneak in there?