'American Idol' Top 12 men: James Durbin, Scotty McCreery, Jacob Lusk should be safe

american-idol-top-12-boys.jpgIt's here! The moment has arrived! Finally we are going to see the "American Idol" contestants perform (pretty much) live and we get to start voting. Who ya got?

J.Lo is looking very chic for her first live show. Steven looks like he just stepped out of an Aerosmith concert next door and popped over to judge. Randy is the Man in Black.

There is a sign in the audience that says "Tourette's Rocks." If that sign-maker had really been thinking, the sign would read "Tourette's [expletive, expletive] Rocks."

Ryan kind of clears things up about the process at this point by saying that after tonight and tomorrow, the Top 5 guys and Top 5 girls advance, then the judges get to choose Wild Cards - presumably a couple of each gender? Since we are 11 or 12 weeks from the finale? Start with 14 finalists, that gets you through 12 weeks leaving two standing at the end.

Steven and Ryan have some witty F-word banter (eye roll, since this is taped), then they finally introduce the Top 12 guys. The song choice this week is any song they want, which is almost too much, I think. With no parameters, it's hard to not have a million songs you want to do and keep second guessing yourself.

Here are the Top 12 performances, in our order of best to worst:

Definitely Advancing:

1. James Durbin, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest

Durbin gets his Adam Lambert on right out of the gate with white lights, wailing guitar and lots of devil hands. Vocally, this is good, hardly a stumble. I wish the sound mixing was a little better because yes, we hear your guitar, it's loud, thanks. Durbin's wails in the middle are spot on, the competition finally started with him. Well done, Durbin. The judges go nuts.
 
2. Scotty McCreery, "Letters From Home" by John Michael Montgomery

Scott sure has his "aw shucks" look down for the camera, which is probably just his normal face. He picked an absolutely phenomenal song for both his voice and his fanbase. Scotty is going to be super popular. All that aside, the vocal is nice. Not the most interesting song in terms of range or complexity, but he hit all the right notes and even threw in a big high note at the end (high for him). Tyler praises the song choice, which - yes. Brilliant song choice.  

3. Jacob Lusk, "A House is Not a Home" by Luther Vandross

This could be either really great or really terrifying. Jacob's a bit of a wild card. Luckily, it ends up being the former. Jacob looks incredibly dapper and his velvety voice is rich and gorgeous. The way he builds, then pulls back, then builds, then pulls back, then builds to the ending was wonderful. It wasn't perfect - there were some bum notes in there and he needs to pull back on the cutsy-pie looks he gives the crowd, but it was very good. Steven Tyler says he will bathe in whatever Jacob Lusk has. J.Lo says he did Luther Vandross so proud. Randy says they are lucky to have him. He's tearing up, it's very sweet. 


Probably Advancing:

4. Casey Abrams, "I Put a Spell On You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins

I love that the ginger Grizzly Adams is getting his sexiness on again. There is a lot of growling and snarling. I wish he had pulled back on that juuuust a touch so we could hear more of his vocal because the guy can sing. The ending was beautiful.

5. Paul McDonald, "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart

I loved the snippet we saw of Paul singing "Maggie May" for his audition, so getting to hear more of it is exciting. He has such a weird voice and some Taylor Hicks-like affectations when he bops around the stage, but that 1000 watt smile is just gorgeous. Ahem. Back to the singing - he doesn't do anything original or interesting with the song, so it's just good, not great. But I was to see more of his weird butt. He should definitely be fronting a band, his weird stage presence would be better in front of a band. The judges giggle about his character, while J.Lo is also smitten with his smile.

6. Stefano Langone, "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars

Difficult points for Stefano, he picked a tricky song that is very popular right now so comparisons to Bruno are going to be huge. He does alright with it, some of the big notes are good, others are not so good. Then he hits those high notes and it sounds like someone stepped on a cat. Yikes. Ambitious choice and it only sort of panned out, but I commend him for tackling that song. The judges point out the flaws because he had them rocking and could be on the radio right now. Hmm. I do not agree.


Only Advancing if Voting Bloc is On Top of Things:

7. Tim Halperin, "Streetcorner Symphony" by Rob Thomas

I've been looking forward to this little cutie since his "Something" duet with Julie in Vegas. The song choice isn't great - this number has about four notes and doesn't show off his vocals at all. It's more of a group sing song. He makes a good effort to do the white boy get-on-up engagement with the audience, but even they are like, "No thanks, dude." The judges are with me - that song did not show off Tim's voice at all.

8. Clint Jun Gamboa, "Superstitious," Stevie Wonder

The Partridge Family bus background is distracting, but that's probably good since this is a really lackluster performance. Clint is a tiny little thing and he is not commanding that stage at all. It's not that he's off-pitch, it's just not exciting. He throws some screams in there that liven it up a bit and the ending is good, but that's because the band cuts out. The backing was really overshadowing him. The judges like it, but don't lose their minds. J.Lo does call him on starting off really nervous. That's understandable, but it still wasn't that great.

brett-loewenstern-melissa-leo.jpg9. Brett Loewenstern, "Light My Fire" by The Doors

Brett ... kinda looks like Melissa Leo tonight. He is also giving a total coffeehouse performance of this song. While I appreciate coffeehouse-type songs, this song is not right for this mellow crunchy vibe. This is a rock song, let it rip! Brett kiiiinda lets it rip at the end, but it's not a coincidence that the crowd is just sitting there, staring at him. He also has some pitch problems. Steven Tyler inexplicably likes it, J.Lo goes with the patented "talk about their looks" route, while Randy says "pitch problems." Randy is in my head tonight.

10. Jovany Barreto: "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain

Mr. Six Pack chooses the total milquetoast song about being love's suicide. It's a total snoozefest. His singing isn't really grabbing me either, not until the key change. He does some nice things on the key change, but other than that? It was just ... there. Plain, boring, not bad, but not great either. Steven and J.Lo are complimentary, but of course they are. It's their first live night, they are afraid to criticize. Randy is in my head because he says it was boring karaoke, but the modulation was kind of interesting. Yes, exactly. 

11. Robbie Rosen, "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan

This song always makes me think of the ASPCA commercial that makes me cry (and donate, so well played, ASPCA). Robbie does an interesting arrangement - the more uptempo beat makes it a little more current and definitely sounds different from the original, so that's cool. There are vocal missteps. He needs to learn to sprinkle in the falsetto, like once or twice for effect, not every other sentence. The potential is there, so I'm not writing him off just yet. The first two judges are on board, calling it beautiful and praising his storytelling. Randy is with me - it was just OK.


Definitely Out:

12. Jordan Dorsey, "OMG" by Usher

Of course he chose this song. Of course he did. It's mildly ironic since instead of there being so many ways to love Jordan, there are actually not any. He starts off too low, his voice is breathy and fuzzy. He must not be able to hit the high stuff later, so he had to start super low. He handles the fast lyrics well, but that's like giving me props for knowing all the words to "It's the End of the World As We Know It." Jordan loses his pitch a couple times and he's got his legs spread in a weird froggy stance. There's that icky feeling. It even gets pans from the judges. J.Lo nails it by saying he's Nat King Cole more than Usher. His audition with that weird "Over the Rainbow" was so great and this was terrible. He says it's not him as an artist, but then - why did you choose that song?

In the clip montage, there is a lot of shrieking highlighted, interspersed with some lackluster ballads (save Jacob) and whatever the hell it was Jordan did. So this was it - the one and only time to see the guys during the semi-finals. Who's got your vote?

Photo/Video credit: FOX
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