'American Idol' Live Dispatch: Comeback kids, Idol Twitter 'wars' and about that 'haunted' mansion

pia-haley-whitney-american-idol.jpgAfter last week's " American Idol" judges' save that shook the world, the stakes are higher than ever for the Top 11. The harsh reality hanging over their heads for Elton John theme week is that not one but two of the contenders will be sent packing on Thursday's telecast (Mar. 31).

For those who may not have been plugged into last week's Idolverse shocker, Casey Abrams (newly coined "love child of Seth Rogen and Taylor Hicks," thank you @blacklow1) was unanimously saved by judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson after a lackluster performance landed him alongside wild card Stefano Lagone in the bottom two. 

Zap2it was on the scene for Wed. night's (Mar. 30) performances and then chatted with the Top 11 post-show (we'll get to that momentarily). Almost all the "Idol" contenders -- operative phrase being "almost all" brought it to the stage with their versions of the Piano Man's tracks. So what did we uncover during our 'Idol' excursion?

Performances: The comebacks and the come-downs
As most media peeps and fans who've attended a live "Idol" taping can attest, "Idol" performances on DVR playback can be night-and-day in terms of how they are received by the live studio audience. Elton John theme night was no exception. Even though our own Zap2it team members and other fellow media peers covering the show via small screen screening have their own definitive takes and opinions on the performances, it was a bit different from where we were sitting in the Idoldome.

Casey Abrams is being heralded the comeback kid and clearly a large percentage of 'Idol Nation's' firm support will buy the sentimental favorite another week after last week's dramatic turn of events. Abrams reaction to the judge's reprieve appeared to viewers as though it was going to result in a "Jackass-style projectile vomit moment" which would've made even Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O proud, as well as a Casey face plant into Seacrest.

Casey's rendition of "Your Song" this week was no doubt a solid performance, but the "moment" felt a bit too contrived and forced on the part of the show's producers. The performance shined on it's own merits, so the carbonated build up and dramatic starry background could've been dialed back just a tad.

Abrams has the audience in his corner, but from where we were sitting Haley Reinhart staged the comeback of the night with her take of "Benny and the Jets" which closed the show.

And Pia Toscano -- whether one agrees with Randy's critique about too many ballads or not -- is a cut above the rest of this year's finalists. She along with James Durbin, who brought down the house with his cover of "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" will no doubt be facing off in this year's finale showdown. However, Lauren Clarkson-Underwood Allaina is running closely behind as a shoe-in for Top 3 placement, and depending on upcoming performances she could dethrone either of the two. Time and tunes will tell.

Other standouts who brought the live audience to their feet during post-performance applause included Jacob Lusk, Stefano Lagone and the aforementioned
Lauren Allaina.

Unfortunately the evening's weakest performances were Naima Adedapo and Thia Megia who took on "I'm Still Standing" and "Daniel," respectively. However, we do really admire  Naima's fearlessness, funkiness and originality. And we definitely love that she's one of Season 10's more self-aware artists in terms of the type of music career she seeks stylistically. But we have to second the judge's opinion that sadly the reggae version of "I'm Still Standing" was just awkward and didn't quite work live or on playback.

Backstage notes from our chat with the Top 11
(Disclaimer: Our recording device malfunctioned so unfortunately we're paraphrasing the deets from our post-show chat with the finalists. #IDOLREPORTERFAIL)

On the rumored haunted mansion: Yes, the "Idol" hopefuls have indeed moved out of the house in the hills they were all habitating. Is the house really "haunted" like some interweb reports claim? Well in short: No, not exactly. But Stefano Lagone did joke there was some minor "paranormal activity" afoot, and confirmed he and his fellow contenders are presently staying at a hotel.

Do the 'Idols' read reviews and commentary online?: Zap2it asked the Top 11 what was the most shocking and/or surprising thing they have read about themselves so far. Jacob Lusk revealed that he has read some of the rather "mean" and "negative" comments around the blogosphere, but does his best to stay away from it.

The general consensus among the top crop was that most of them stick to just reading and interacting on Twitter and Facebook. Naima shared an enlightening exchange she had with a fan over "her terrible Tina Turner performance." The Tweet-off started as a mini war but ended in peace when the fan received a direct response to the critical Tweet, which in turn humanized her to followers and even gained her a "Team Naima fan."

Random "Idol" factual and frivolous odds and ends
  • Randy Jackson has replaced the word "dawg" with the phrase "I have to agree with my friend Jennifer."
  • Jennifer Lopez IS as flawless in the flesh 'on the floor' of the judges circle. #GODDESS
  • Seacrest ditched the spikier 'do in favor of a stylish yet more conservative side comb over to complete his suit-clad GQ cover look. We approve.
  • Don't mess with executive producer Nigel Lythgoe's intended element of surprise i.e. the fiery piano during  Durbin's performance
  •  We'll plead the fifth on which judge's mane receives the most tender, love and care from the show's stylists during commercial breaks. Hint: It's not Randy.
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