The top 13 contestants on American Idol took their first spin on the big stage on Tuesday, singing the songs of Michael Jackson. But the twists of season eight aren't over yet: Only 11 contestants will advance to the next round, and word is there's still another twist to come during tonight's results show. Any guesses?
Overall, it was a pretty odd night, with some great performances, a few that will definitely be love-or-hate, and a big bunch in the middle that were solid but maybe forgettable. You can vote for which two contestants you think are going home, and to see my take on the evening, just
Lil Rounds — She just exuded confidence from the minute she strutted down the stairs to sing "The Way You Make Me Feel." She doesn't do anything particularly unique or interesting with the song, but I'm not sure that matters at this stage of the competition. Randy says she put a new spin on it, Kara said Lil will definitely be on the radio, and Simon said it was a lazy choice.
Scott MacIntyre — So good to finally get to see him with a piano again. I was more transfixed by the piano playing than by the vocals, though, which I thought got particularly sketchy when he got to the high bridge of "Keep the Faith." Simon didn't like the song choice and thought it was old-fashioned, Randy thought it was safe, but Paula and Kara piled on the praise.
Danny Gokey — Will I make all of America mad if I say I hated the intro to Danny's take on "PYT"? I thought it was squeaky. But once the song kicked in, he found his groove, breaking out the cool gravelly quality in his voice and even rocking out with Paula and Kara. Simon thought the vocals were brilliant, and I think Paula got a little choked up saying Danny will go far.
Michael Sarver — "You Are Not Alone" showed off Michael's sensitive side. Can't say I was crazy about the arrangement, which seemed to lend itself to oversinging, but he did a competent job and — as Simon said — gave it 110 percent. Paula said he sounded lovely, and Randy said he was one of the best so far (out of four. but still).
Jasmine Murray — Jasmine's take on "I'll Be There" was pretty faithful and straightforward, without a lot of texture or inventiveness; it was the kind of performance I was sure the judges would dub "pageanty," and I agree with Kara that she might have been better off a half-key down. The judges called it a nice attempt and a decent performance but were far from effusive.
Kris Allen — Wow, I wasn't expecting him to break out the guitar! Kris managed to seem more modern on "Remember the Time" than he did on "Man in the Mirror" just a couple of weeks ago, and while the song didn't demand much of his voice, I was reasonably impressed. Kara was glad to see this fun side of him; Randy said it was Jason Mraz-y. Also, Kris's wife hates Simon now. Just sayin'.
Allison Iraheta — I like this Hot Topic-goth-y side of her, and rock songs are definitely her wheelhouse. It's cool to see a contestant who has such a clear idea this early on of her Idol image — remember how long that took Jordin Sparks? Simon said she needs to lighten up a little, but the other judges were thrilled that she knows who she is.
Anoop Desai — Well, OK. I think picking "Beat It" was a bad call, granted. But I did get a kick out of the performance, and I thought what he sang sounded fine. Kara had a good point that it didn't show a lot of range, but Simon was way harsher, saying it was karaoke and absolutely terrible and a poor imitation of Michael Jackson.
Jorge Nunez — He started off with a slinky, almost sexy spin on "Never Can Say Goodbye," and I was with him for about half of the song, when he was doing some cool vocal gymnastics and rolling with the rhythm. Then it all started to sound the same. Kara said she didn't connect with it, Paula said it wasn't the right song, and Simon said it was corny.
Megan Joy Corkrey — So, worst song choice of the night? "Rockin' Robin," with that flute? Nobody else could have even made me sit through a whole performance of "Rockin' Robin," and there were flashes of what makes her voice so distinctive, but I have no idea how people will react to its overall oddness; the judges were certainly split (Kara being most positive).
Adam Lambert — OK, the judges and I have a wee disagreement on this one. I thought Michael Jackson's catalog would be good for Adam, but "Black or White" sounded a little forced to me. He's definitely a performer, though, and he made the song his own. Simon said he was in a different league than anyone else, and Randy said he could top the charts right now.
Matt Giraud — In a dueling piano battle between Matt and Scott, who would win? Matt's take on "Human Nature" did a decent job straddling the modern pop and bluesy sides of his musical style, and as with Scott, it was good to see him back behind a piano. Simon said it was solid, and Kara said she hopes Matt is around for many weeks.
Alexis Grace — I love Alexis's big voice and edgier side, and her "Dirty Diana" was basically what I hoped to hear from her at this stage in the competition. Paula cautioned her about oversinging, and Simon said it was over-the-top and not as good as Alexis thought it was, but it's a fair enough reminder of what she's all about.
Probably safe: Adam, Lil, Danny, Alexis, and after that it gets a little murky. Scott, maybe? Anoop, if his fans come out after Simon's bashing?
Bottom three: Well, here's the question: Are you better off if the judges hated you or if you were solid but forgettable? If being forgettable is worse, then Michael, Jasmine, Kris, and maybe even Allison could be in trouble; if people vote like the judges told them to, then Anoop and Megan will be facing elimination.
Photos courtesy of Fox