'American Idol' Top 9: Best week this season; best week ever?

idol-recap.jpgFor the "American Idol" Top 9, the theme is Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. We kick things off with a Jeff Beck/Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame thing that's kind of interesting, but also - let's get to the singing, huh? I understand that that's the theme, but maybe they could've squeezed this into an hour if they cut all the filler, hmm?

Before we list the singers best to worst, may we just say - this was a fantastic week. Fantastic. Best week so far this season easily and one of the best we can remember in "Idol's" history - can you think of another week where it was so solid top to bottom? I can't.

Great Idols:

1. Pia Toscano, "River Deep, Mountain High," Tina Turner

She went up-tempo and it totally works. She is just soaring on the chorus. Her tone is crystal clear, so pure. That was fabulous.  Pia is almost in a different league from the others, vocally. She has a powerful instrument. Tyler screams, "Murderer!" at her because she killed it. She really did. J.Lo encourages her to keep pushing and study the greats for inspiration to get even better. J.Lo gives great advice.

2. Paul McDonald, "Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash

I am wary of Paul doing this song, but surprisingly - it's really good. He doesn't have Cash's voice and he doesn't try to have it. He's just rocking out and having so much fun. It's like Joe Cocker on speed covers Cash. The changes he makes to the melody are wonderful, holy moly. I expected to hate this and I am actually delighted, what a fun number. The judges go crazy, as they should. This isn't so high just because it was the best vocal - it really wasn't. But it was such a great performance

3. (tie) Haley Reinhart, "Piece of My Heart," Janis Joplin

Great choice for her. Superb. She looks like a bombshell and this shows off her voice amazingly. She's got some southern rocker stuff going on without having quite the four-packs-and-a-bottle-of-whisky that Janis had to her voice. Plus, bonus points that Faith Hill covered this - the people who vote for this show are more likely to know that version and that can't hurt Haley. Very fun performance. J.Lo calls her a contender, Steven says he can't find anything bad to say, she nailed it.

3. (tie) Casey Abrams, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?," Creedence Clearwater Revival

Another great choice! This is letting Casey show off his voice and the sexy stand-up bass. He sounds like he could front a band like CCR, plus he's keeping his weird Casey growls to a minimum, which makes them so much more effective. Gosh, this episode is off to a strong start. The judges love it, rightly so.

3. (tie) James Durbin, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," by George Harrison

This is another excellent song choice. This is like Glambert's "Tracks of My Tears" week - the rocker slows it down and nails it. I cannot get over how good this week is! He's a little swoopy in parts, but the falsetto is nice and he also still manages to get some good rocker big notes in there. Wonderful, nice change of pace and seeing him be so emotional just really plucks at the ol' heartstrings. Randy says he's an artist.

Good Idols:

4. Lauren Alaina, "Natural Woman," Aretha Franklin

Bold choice, since Kelly Clarkson pretty much killed this song. However, that was a long time ago - Lauren probably wasn't even born yet. She's got a great Gwen Stefani look going on and the opening verse is low and lovely. Let's see if she can handle the chorus - and she can! Her first chorus has just a touch of the big stuff, but it's still pretty quiet, so she can really build to the final chorus via the bridge. Wonderful, nice last note. The judges liked it, but Randy does mention that he wasn't jumping out of his chair - it was just good.

5. Scotty McCreery, "That's Alright, Mama," Elvis

Scotty is finally doing his Elvis, which is wonderful. He still has the most white-gawky-teenager-at-prom stage presence, but that's part of his endearing charm, I think. This is one of his best vocals, it's right in his wheelhouse. He gets a little growly, he dips low and there's a fun ending. Then some girls rush the stage to hug him, which is probably a little terrifying for Scotty. Bee tee dubs - a girl tried that when Bieber taped his "Idol" performance and security had her down like a calf at a rodeo. Randy says Scotty is in it to win it and is not a one trick pony. J.Lo loves his sense of humor and wants to know if he has "flavor." Hehehehe. Please let him do rap some week. Please.

6. Jacob Lusk, "Man in the Mirror," Michael Jackson

Is Naima his backup singer? Doesn't it look like that from far away? Haha, that would be amazing. Like just - I'm back, y'all! Anyway, vocally this is probably the least gospel-y Jacob has been so far and it really rocks. It gets gospel at the end, but he manages to rein that in a bit at first, which is nice. He's just a great big white ball of hope, isn't he? (White 'cause he's wearing all white. Don't email me.) Great way to kick off the show, very emotional and powerful. The judges love it.

7. Stefano Langone, "When a Man Loves a Woman," Percy Sledge

It starts off too high - Stefano is pretty weak on that high stuff. It gets better once he's into it a bit, perhaps that was just nerves or an off start. When he hits the lead-in to the chorus, he really gets the pipes working and there's a big note the girls are sure to love. The key change isn't perfect and some of his runs are very off at the end of the song. I want to like Stefano, guys. I just don't think he's as strong as the others. J.Lo continues to slobber over Stefano - next week, she just mounts him right on stage. Randy gets it right - it was OK, but he wasn't jumping up and down. There were too many runs and they didn't work.

There is no third group. All the Idols were at least "good" tonight. I have no idea who is going home. I think Stefano is the weakest, but I don't think it's his week. So maybe America will not start looking at the man/woman/child in the mirror and Jacob goes home?

The ending where Ryan dances around with Paul is hilarious. Who doesn't love to see Seacrest cut loose a little sometimes?


Photo/Video credit: FOX
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