LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- “Amercian Idol’s” Top 13 gave their first performances seeking America’s votes on Wednesday night, performing songs by their “personal music idols.”
Under the guidance of Interscope Records Chairman and new “Idol” mentor Jimmy Iovine, along with individually assigned award winning producers, several performers emerged as clear frontrunners, including 20-year-old redhead Casey Abrams.
The bearded Illinois native rocked the house with an energetic performance of Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends,” complete with an onstage choir providing a little “help” with the song’s backing vocals.
“You were so unbelievable and so exciting, you hit all the notes always, you make listening to you sing fun and I loved it, dude!” an excited Randy Jackson enthused. “I loved it.”
“What Randy was trying to say is you are a rainbow of talent, man,” Steven Tyler said. “You never cease to amaze me every time you get up there.”
Jennifer Lopez agreed, saying, “I go by what I feel… Wow! Blew me away!”
Here’s a quick rundown of the rest of the pack’s performances:
Lauren Alaina opened the show with Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine,” impressively belting out the country favorite while strutting up and down the stage. Steven summed up the judges’ critiques saying that though he “loves” her voice, he wished it had been little bit more kick-a**.”
Wild Card winner Ashthon Jones chose Diana Ross’ “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” and won over the judges after a slightly rocky start. “I was a little worried seeing the song that you were doing… but I actually liked it because I saw you grow a little bit more as a singer,” Randy explained. “You paid attention to the notes when you were going a little sharp or flat, you pulled it back in with the vibrato, so I think you actually did yourself some good with that.”
Paul McDonald sang “Come Pick Me Up,” by Ryan Adams. The performance was a bit pitchy, but the judges couldn’t get enough of Paul’s unique vocals. “I’m a huge fan of you – you’re different and I love you for this show,” Randy remarked. Jennifer agreed, saying, “You’re just so unique – there’s just something about you… I hope America gets it… I do really think that you’re great.”
22-year-old New-Yorker Pia Toscano knocked it out of the park with Celine Dion’s version of “All By Myself” – her powerful vocals leaving judge Jennifer speechless. “I think a lot of people were [wondering] what you were gonna do to top last week – there it is!” Jennifer said. “We always say, ‘Don’t tackle [Celine]’… but these notes that you hit, you just hit them dead on, without even thinking about it!” Randy raved. “You have such a natural gift — I’m in awe every time.”
Rocker James Durbin also emerged as a frontrunner after tackling Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which prompted Randy to declare James “one of his favorites in this whole thing.” “Get used to [the applause] because you have such a quality, “Jennifer advised the young singer. “The truth is, you have what the greatest rock singers have and that is a melodic quality to your voice. You can really actually sing. You’re everything!”
Hailey Reinhart crooned LeAnn Rime’s country classic, “Blue,” but left the judges with mixed feelings. Randy was less than impressed, dubbing it “boring,” while Steven called it “beautiful.”
Next up was Jacob Lusk, who took on R. Kelly’s famed ballad, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Steven loved the emotional rendition, declaring he couldn’t “judge it” because it was so good.”
16-year-old Thia Megia chose Michael Jackson’s version of the Charlie Chaplin classic, “Smile.” Starting off with a slow acoustic beat, Thia moved into a jazzy up-tempo rhythm halfway, much to the judges’ chagrin. “It got a little pitchy in spots as you started in with the band with the kind of jazzy arrangement… I loved the beginning more than the end,” Randy commented, while Steven warned, “A little pitchy in the middle there.”
Stefano Langone, who was saved by the judges via Wild Card last week, chose to remix Stevie Wonder’s ballad, “Lately,” but seemed to have successfully pulled it off. “You had me dancing there for a minute there, baby! I was like, ‘Wow!’” Jennifer said. “[Stevie] would be proud of this – by the middle you slayed it!” Randy added.
Karen Rodriguez left the judges wanting with her surprisingly lukewarm performance of Selena’s “I Could Fall In Love,” prompting Steven to remark, “I know you can sing so much better, so let’s see next week.”
Country crooner Scotty McCreery tackled Garth Brooks’ “The River” – a performance Randy “loved.” “This is exactly where you belong!” Randy raved, while Steven exclaimed, “You did The Garth justice!”
The evening closed with Wild Card Naima Adedapo’s energetic version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” – complete with a Reggae-influenced rap addition and plenty of flashy lighting. Steven couldn’t get enough of Naima, saying, “You’re crazy good. I love you. A little pitchy… but you brought flavor tonight!” Jennifer agreed with Steven, telling the Milwaukee resident, “I don’t care about pitchy – you got fire, girl! You’re doing it like stars do it!”
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