American Idol Season 10: My Picks for the Top Five
I'm so surprised by the talent on American Idol this season-- it's a welcome contrast to last year's lackluster group, which culminated in the totally anticlimactic win of Lee DeWyze. I have a feeling that the people who are voting are not necessarily the ones buying the music, as runner-up Crystal Bowersox has had far better album sales than DeWyze. But, I digress. This season rocks!
It's going to be tough voting from now on. As the judges keep saying, this really is a competition now. I've had a couple favorites from the start, but as the season progresses it's becoming harder to choose who is really the "best" of the bunch. Everyone brings something different to the table. Last night, 26-year-old Naima Adedapo from Milwaukee and 15-year-old Thia Megia from Hayward, CA were sent packing. I wasn't all too surprised or disappointed because I felt like I had seen all they could do. Naima seemed to fall back on the same reggae beat/dance routine for every performance. And Thia, while she does possess such a gorgeous voice, didn't seem to take enough risks or improvise enough with her song choices.
"Bennie and the Jets" - Haley Reinhart
"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" - Paul McDonald
My Top Five
Here's who I think should be in the top five and why.
1. Haley Reinhart- I love this girl. I knew she was incredible after seeing her performance of "God Bless the Child" during Hollywood Week. She's got everything a singer should have- beautiful tone, emotion, the ability to improvise in the right places and make the song her own, and of course, that jazzy growl pioneered by the likes of rockabilly stars Brenda Lee and Wanda Jackson. (Watch a video of 9-year-old Brenda singing "Dynamite," the song that gave her the nickname "Little Miss Dynamite," here.) I'm so relieved to see her out of the bottom three and coming into her own with her performances of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Bennie and the Jets"-- a song I never even liked until now!
2. Pia Toscano - It goes without saying that this girl is a phenomenal singer. You just don't find too many artists nowadays who can sing the way she does. Her tone, power and expression is reminiscent of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. She can sing anything, and it's obvious that she doesn't even have to try. Belting it out is what comes naturally to her, and it's so much fun to see a singer who can do that effortlessly. Worth checking out: her performance of "I'll Stand By You."
3. Casey Abrams - I've liked Casey from the start. This guy is a true artist; he plays jazz piano and he wowed Randy Jackson (and the other judges) as the only contestant to ever perform with a stand-up bass. Casey has real soul; like Haley, he improvises different parts of a song, making it his own while still being true to the original. This is such a crucial thing for a singer. I'm glad the judges saved him last week, and I hope he can get over his nerves and sing the way we've seen him do so in the past few weeks.
4. Lauren Alaina - I wouldn't have been sad to see Lauren go after her uninspired performances of Reba McEntire's "Turn on the Radio" and Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine." They were good, but not great. I was a little concerned about her taste level-- she is an amazing vocalist for sure, but perhaps a little too young to make better song choices. My tune changed (ha) after her more recent performances of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and Elton John's "Candle in the Wind." The latter was phenomenal, showcasing her range, power and ability to connect emotionally to softer material. I'm happy to see her getting better and better each week.
5. Paul McDonald - Now these are just my picks, so I know they might not be accurate. I know that James Durbin (the second coming of Adam Lambert) has a much better shot at the top five than Paul, what with his rock star persona and power vocals. Paul, though, is quite a character and I think the soft quality of his voice is unique and often underrated. Why should the guys have to belt it out every time? His delivery seems much more genuine and emotionally connected to the material than Durbin's. I loved his performance of Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues" (video above)--his totally unchoreographed, endearingly silly dance moves remind me of Mick Jagger. I hope he shows us more of what he can do vocally.