The American Idol contestants had the opportunity to pull from songs of one of the greatest songwriting duos ever - Elton John and Bernie Taupin - on Wednesday night.
But unfortunately most of them proceeded to over-dramatize the already dramatic catalog to the point that the "Rocket Man" would have gladly stayed in orbit if it meant he wouldn't have to sit through the two-hour mess that was this week's episode.
We saw Naima Adedapo talk and sing in a ridiculous fake Jamaican accent to turn "I'm Still Standing" into a pitchy reggae train wreck.
Paul McDonald squashed all of the good will that he finally built up with Idol voters last week - who seemed to finally start "getting" him - by slowing down one of the most recognizable songs from the catalog, "Rocket Man," to an awkward crawl.
We listened as Stefano Langone cut short his phrasing to the chorus of "Tiny Dancer," of all songs. I understand the need to change up the songs so they don't come across as karaoke-ish. But I think that changing up the rhythm to a chorus that people always feel compelled to sing along to because it is so familiar, is the best way to alienate the audience. If you can't figure out where the song is going, there's no way you can sing along.
We had to endure Jacob Lusk seemingly throw a temper tantrum through his whiney rendition of "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," Haley Reinhart shouting and hissing her way through "Benny and the Jets," and Thia Megia trying to bore us to death with a slow, dull cover of "Daniel."
There were some good performances:
- Scotty McCreery managed to find one of Sir Elton's only country songs ("County Comfort") and, of course, he made it sound like a country staple.
- I'll forgive Pia Toscano for lying to us (this week) for singing yet another ballad instead of going up in tempo this week like she said she would. But only because her cover of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" was terrific.
- Lauren Alaina looked unsure of herself on stage for some reason this week, but her soft, sweet and controlled version of "Candle in the Wind" was my favorite performance of the night.
- James Durbin + a rock & roll cover "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" + a flaming piano = a fun all-around performance.
- The judges spend most of their allotted "judging" time following Casey Abrams' performance justifying their poor decision to use their judges' save of the season last week to keep Abrams around. Abrams thankfully did get back to demonstrating the kind of controlled vocals that made me a fan of him with his tender cover of "Your Song" - one of my favorite songs by the duo, next to "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." But the judges still used the save too early in the season.
But the biggest bright spot of the evening was that it will finally lead to two of the weaker competitors going home.
In my Bottom 3 this week are:
- Naima: I like the idea of the changing up the song to reggae and I think the arrangement was very good, but Naima didn't come close to pulling it off and the ridiculous decision to put on a fake Jamaican accent was a terrible mistake.
- Paul: His slow cover of "Rocket Man" reminded me way too much of William Shatner's famously terrible rendition of the song, which he talks and breathes his way through.
- Haley Reinhart: I don't care that the judges praised her, she came across like a trashy Cabaret singer at the beginning of her performance and an angry smoker yelling at a Wal-Mart cashier at the end of it. And would someone please explain to me what all of that hissing was about?
Naima is going home for sure, but I think that Paul will manage to edge Haley to stay around at least another week.