'Idol' surprises

Who's winning over the judges, who's floundering and who's failing to make an impression so far

March 28, 2011|By Sarah Kickler Kelber and Amy Reiter, Tribune Newspapers

We were expecting to learn who would be in the American Idol Top 10 last week – and also who would be on this summer's tour.

But Idol has always been fond of the fakeout, and Thursday's results show was full of them.

In what Ryan Seacrest promised would be a shocking result, Casey Abrams learned he'd gotten the lowest number of votes and would be out, unless the judges decided to use their single "save" of the season, which seemed like a longshot.

Abrams was singing "I Don't Need No Doctor" when Randy Jackson interrupted him to tell him they were indeed saving him. Abrams got pale and visibly shaky, and viewers — especially those who knew he'd been hospitalized twice so far this season — had to be wondering whether he really did need a doctor. "It's the Top 11," he exhorted the judges. "Why would you do this?"

He got an even bigger shock when Seacrest told him that the rules stated that if the save were used during the cut to 10, that the Top 11 would be included on the coming concert tour.

Two contestants will be cut on Thursday's results show. Could it possible have as many surprises as this week? We'll have to tune in.

Here's where the Top 11 stand so far:

Here's a rundown:

Casey Abrams: Casey tackled "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and gave us the first taste of the stepped-up production values that defined the night. Accompanied by backup singers and a line of violin players, Casey strolled through the audience and tried to remember musical mentor Jimmy Iovine's direction to contain his natural musical enthusiasm. Forseeing why he'd later vote to save him, Tyler called Casey the "perfect" entertainer

Naima Adedapo: Instead of retreating from the dancing-while-singing stuff that has gotten her into trouble in recent weeks, Naima went all in with a version of "Dancing in the Street" that incorporated African dance. The judges were smitten. "It was E to the Z to the tweedlydee," said Steven. "You're an exciting performer ... I love watching you," said Jennifer, noting that the performance brought her "my first goosebumps of the night." Randy thought the performance was "smart."

Lauren Alaina: Lauren may or may not have been referring to her critics in the media, whose sometimes unflattering coverage she said had been getting her down, when she sang "You Keep Me Hangin' On." Jennifer loved her attitude, and Randy agreed: "She's now got her swagger on high, dude." And Lauren's not-at-all-secret admirer Steven offered the highest (and strangest praise): "Well, baby, you ripped that song another beauty mark, didn't you? That was just beautiful."

James Durbin: James was given the final "pimp" spot for his performance of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." It was kind of uneven (if undeniably energetic) and ended on a strange note, but Jennifer was over the moon. "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," she said, encouraging James to bask in the audience applause -- "Soak it up, soak it up." She then said the performance had left her "speechless." Randy said it started a bit rough, but then hit its stride and became "unbelievable." Steven said, "I think sometimes it takes a little bit of being crazy to make a difference in this world and that's what you are all about … and you nailed it."

Stefano Langone: Stefano tackled Lionel Richie's "Hello" (he'd never heard the song before — why, why, why must "Idol" keep reminding us how old we are?), vowing to pull back a little, keep his eyes open and connect with the audience. None of which, alas, he did, turning in a schmaltzy performance. The judges congratulated Stefano on his pipes before letting him know that the connection was missing. "I don't want the intensity coming from you want[ing] to do well," Jennifer said in a rare moment of critique, noting that to reach the audience, the song "has to come from the heart."

Jacob Lusk: In a performance that prompted Steven to rush up afterward and give him a hug, Jacob showed a new restraint that caught fire when it collided with his all-in vocals on "You're All I Need to Get By." Randy couldn't have been any more laudatory, proclaiming, "Yo, yo, yo man. The great [Motown founder] Berry Gordy is somewhere saying, 'Oh, my god'" and calling it "the second best performance ever" on "Idol" (the first being Jacob's own take on "God Bless the Child" during Hollywood Week).

Thia Megia: Thia set out to prove that she could sing something other than boring ballads, taking on the upbeat "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave." She bounced her way through it and ultimately achieved her goal. "OK, now I feel like we're scratching the surface with you," Lopez said. Jackson encouraged her to dig even "deeper," and Tyler declared: "I'm good with it."

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