Nothing makes me feel old more than when the American Idol contestants sing songs from the years they were born, especially when I was able to drive to the store to buy some of the albums when they first came out.
And during Wednesday night's episode, I felt like I was somewhere between Kirk Douglas and Larry King.
But strong performances by Stefano Langone, Scotty McCreery and this season's frontrunner Pia Toscano helped make it worth it.
We had to sit through about an hour of performances that ranged from mediocre to dreadful before Langone pulled off his best performance of the season with an impressive cover of Simply Red's 1989 hit "If You Don't Know Me by Now." It was the perfect song choice for the ballad-prone Langone and he milked it for everything it was worth, showing off his range with multiple, but not incessant, runs over the lulls in the song.
The world knows McCreery because of how deep his voice is, but the teenager sang more than half of his cover of Travis Tritt's "Can I Trust You With My Heart" in his upper range. Even though the Idol judges and mentors keep telling him to keep doing what he is doing, I fear that one week he'll feel pressured to stray from the country genre just to prove that he can. If he doesn't fall on flat on face, he could be the first one-trick pony to pose a real threat to win American Idol.
I'll forgive Toscano for the distracting white jumpsuit she was wearing. Because, for the third week in a row, she pulled off the best performance of the week with her up-tempo cover of Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go."
The rest of the Top 12 were in competition for this week's Bottom 3.
Two of those spots - and this was a no-brainer after two terrible performances - will be Naima Adeapo and Haley Reinhart.
Adeapo kicked off the show with awful pitch and stiff stage presence during her cover of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It." I know that the American Idol voters traditionally don't look favorably on reggae performances, but so far the little reggae breakdown she did last week is the only thing that she has done this season that I've liked. It seems like it's impossible for her to sing without pitch problems. She was able to overcome that last week, but she won't be able to stay that lucky.
And Reinhart was just downright awful. Her rendition of Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight" was all over the place pitch-wise, and she seemed to be trying to cover it up with some overly dramatic, growling vocal runs. At first I thought that she was bouncing around from genre to genre - country to blues to pop - to show off her diversity, but I'm starting to think it's because she doesn't know what kind of music best suits her. If she doesn't know, how are we supposed to?
As for the contestants in danger of joining them in the Bottom 3:
- Paul McDonald: Usually his unique voice makes up for his strange stage presence, but being clearly under the weather could hurt his chances with a voting public that is probably still very much on the fence about whether they like him or not.
- Thia Megia: Her performance was much better this week, but it was still very boring - and, sorry Thia fans, even the judges said so.
- James Durbin: It would be a huge surprise for him to be in the Bottom 3, but it is not out of the realm of possibility due to a karaoke-ish cover of Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You." Durbin has a voice capable of pulling off Bon Jovi, but I think he played it too safe this time by singing mostly in his lower range.
- Karen Rodriguez: She set up her performance by saying that she wanted to show that she could do other things than just sing in Spanish. But then she proceeded to struggle with the first half of her cover of "Love Will Lead You Back," which she sang in English, and by the time she hit her stride, she was singing Spanish again. Personally, I don't care if all she does is sing in Spanish. A beautiful voice is a beautiful voice. But when she makes a point to say that she doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as the girl who sings in Spanish, she should actually try to go two minutes without singing in Spanish.
- Casey Abrams: He is likable, but I fear that he could have shot himself in the foot with his cover of Nirvana's 1991 grunge hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Kurt Cobain was intense, but underneath the yelling, he was still carrying a tune. Abrams seemed to forget that part - focusing more on the yelling. And while it was good to see him finally performing with an instrument again, Casey's stage presence was too over-the-top sinister, something you'd expect more from the lead singer of goth metal band than a plaid-wearing grunge singer from Seattle.
- Lauren Alaina: She overcame the flu to perform a more-than passable cover of Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One." But she still had shaky moments and many of the voters could be tiring of her ditzy personality.
- Jacob Lusk: The judges love him, but I can't stand the way he uses his voice. The kid has range, don't get me wrong. But by starting every song at the top of his range, he has no choice but to stay there and that gets old fast.
Of this group, I think that Rodriguez will end up in the Bottom 3.
However, I think Adeapo will go home.