'American Idol' recap: Top 13 perform

Janell reports on last night's American Idol. I thought some of the kids did their own idols proud; others, not so much:

Season 10 Top 13 recap, people! We made it to another milestone. The sands of the hourglass keep on trickling down, just like Socrates said. Actually, as I recall, he phrased it thusly: "Dust. Wind. Dude." Thanks for the history lesson, Bill and Ted. Party on. In recognition of how far we've come, and of how far we have yet to go, I'm going to make a pledge to you, the recap-reading audience. I will attempt to correctly identify every song covered tonight. This may mean actual research. Yes, I want to be your one-stop source for both correct song titles and descriptions of Steven Tyler's outfits. Let's see how well I do.


Man, the show does not give us a very long full-body shot of the judges as they walk out. Steven is wearing a white shirt with almost see-through swirly patterns, and it's tied at the waist. Over that is a black blazer with a leopard print pocket square, and he's wearing jeans plus the usual Captain Jack dangly feathers and bobbles. Jennifer Lopez is wearing a cute grey party dress with black polka dots, and she is owning the bright red lipstick. Randy Jackson is wearing a letterman sweater with questionably artistic holes in it.

Ryan informs us that the official countdown to the finale has begun. Isn't that what I just said through Socrates? Tonight, the contestants will sing a song by their personal idol, and they will work closely with Jimmy Iovine and other producers. Let's get started.


Lauren Alaina's idol is Shania Twain, whom she admires for her pop-country blend. She's singing "Any Man of Mine," an upbeat, fun song. She's also working with producer Don Was. Did you all know that he was partially responsible for the song "Walk the Dinosaur"? Maybe this is his way of apologizing to America. So, Lauren sings fine, she's got a big voice and a big smile, and she finishes soft and breathy. It's not necessarily earth-shattering, though. Steven loves her, but "I wish it had been a little more kick-[donkey]." Yes. Jennifer says she always sounds amazing, but "we want to feel high gear." Randy says it's a cool song and she sang it well, but he wants something that lets her shine. We're all on the same page so far. Ryan asks Lauren how she felt, and she says that she didn't want to do a ballad (thank you!), she wanted to kick it up. She apologizes to Steven for not kicking it up, and then says to Ryan, "Thanks, Peaches!"

Casey Abrams is next. His idol is Joe Cocker, who has a growl and "doesn't look that hot, either." He's singing "With a Little Help From My Friends." Jimmy Iovine advises Casey that he can't channel Joe Cocker and be casual, so Casey promises to sweat the music. For the performance, Casey walks halfway down the Stairway of Dramatic Entrances, and sits down for an earnest chat. Then he walks down to the stage while -- what do you call a group of singers that could be a gospel choir but isn't necessarily a gospel choir? I feel like calling it a phalanx -- a phalanx of singers comes out to stand behind him. Casey has some good oooooohs, his voice changes from growly to sweet, and I can tell that he's worked at it. I like it! Jennifer says she felt it, she grabbed Randy in excitement during the performance and asked "What am I watching?!" Randy informs her that she is watching Idol Season 10 The Remix ™. Randy says that Casey is exciting and makes listening fun. Steven calls him a rainbow of talent, a plethora of passion. Then Ryan pops up to remind Jennifer that she's watching American Idol on Fox.

Here's Ashthon Jones. No one is surprised that her idol is Diana Ross, and she's singing "When You Tell Me That You Love Me," a song that I do not know. She's wearing a long silver sheath dress. Her low notes are kind of breathy. I don't think this is an awesome song, but she ends it well. Randy Jackson liked it, although he hints that the song was kind of safe for her. Steven says she's got more in there to show. Jennifer flat out says that she wants to hear songs that we can sing along with. Jennifer Lopez, the Voice of the People! Keeping it real! Who knew?

Paul McDonald's idol is Bryan Adams. For a nanosecond, I wonder if Paul is Canadian and/or fond of movie ballads, because, while I quite enjoy Bryan Adams and have several heavenly ("Heaven"ly, get it?) teenaged memories of his songs, I don't get idol worship from him. Then Paul specifies that his idol is Ryan Adams, with an R. Oh yeah, Ryan Adams, the British guy who spends all his time telling people that he's not Bryan Adams. So. Ryan Adams, "Come Pick Me Up." Paul is wearing a black and red military jacket, which made me think his idol would be Chris Martin, but I was wrong. I don't know this song, it's not the peppiest of pop songs but I like its attitude. Paul is still wobbling, hopping and skipping all over the stage. Steven Tyler loves the raspy voice, says that it doesn't matter whose song he sings, the voice always makes it a Paul song. Then he asks Paul to sing a little more in key next time. Jennifer says the audience was smiling. She hopes America "gets" it, "I don't know Ryan Adams or that song." "You should!" says Paul, in an eager, you-should-totally-check-out-this-awesome-singer way, not in a snobby how-could-you-not-know-Ryan-Adams-with-an-R way. Randy Jackson loves the character of Paul. He has also done his homework (Idol Season 10 The Remix ™ Randy Jackson is here to educate us) and talks about the niche of Wilco and the Traveling Wilburys, two groups that I'm quite sure have never been mentioned on this show before. This makes me grateful for Paul McDonald and Randy Jackson, because they're telling the People of America that it's okay to move on from Diana Ross and Celine Dion ballads. It really is! Then Ryan comes out and tries to copy Paul's dancing, it involves a lot of falling down and twitching.

Now Pia Toscano is on stool chat to tell us that everyone has been working hard and they live together like a big happy family. Her idol is Celine Dion, and she'll be singing "All By Myself." I'm sorry, did I just say we didn't need a Celine ballad? Pia is wearing a gold sequined mini dress with a train to the floor. Sure, she can sing all the notes. Sure, she has a big voice. Sure, she doesn't know what to do with her non-microphone arm so she keeps doing dramatic arm reaching and circling it around, so it's a slow-motion windmill arm. The song has a nice ending. Jennifer is almost speechless, but she says that Pia topped last week. Randy Jackson says that he's been on the show for 10 years (Idol Season 10 The Remix ™!) and he's always advised people to stay away from Whitney, Mariah, and Celine songs if they can't do them, but Pia can hit the notes. It was hot, dope, and cool, all rolled into one. Steven wishes Pia a Happy International Women's Day. (SKK: Except he missed by a day. But it was a nice thought!)

James Durbin's idol is Paul McCartney. I did not see that coming. He's singing "Maybe I'm Amazed." You guys, wait -- no scarf tail! The scarf tail threat level is down to zero! James read the recap a few weeks ago when I told him to embrace the makeover and give up the tail, and he did it. Let me take a moment to bask in my power. He starts singing really clean, no growls or screams to be heard. It's actually kind of soft, and he smiles, too. It's really understated for him, and shows that he can actually sing. I'm sorry if I fawn over him too much (I don't know if it's cool to like him, or if it used to be cool, or what) but that was really awesome. Randy says it's one of his favorites, he loves a voice that can sing anything. "Dude. You slayed it!" And showed his sensitive side. "James Durbin is dangerous." Steven: "You've taken everything you ever felt and kicked it into the middle of next week." Mmm hmm. Jennifer: "Let 'em clap, baby, when they want to clap." She points out the melodic quality of his voice. Then Ryan comes out and points out that the tail is, in fact, gone, and James says that he also got a haircut and a shave. You're welcome, People of America!

Here's Haley Reinhart. She'll be singing "Blue," by LeAnn Rimes, a song that she's been singing since she was 8. She's got the yodel bits down perfectly, and throws in some kitten growls here and there. It wasn't new, but it's a tricky, good song and she did it well. Steven says it was beautiful, and he can hear the rest of America roaring. He also pulls a Randy Jackson and says that he knew LeAnn back when she recorded it. I wonder if they shared a studio. Or a sandwich. Jennifer compliments her unique voice. Randy says that it showed a good range, but he found it a little boring. Jennifer says that it was sensual, not boring, and Ryan points out that provocative things make Randy uncomfortable.

Jacob Lusk gets some stool time with Ryan to talk about his previous career as a spa concierge. He's singing "I Believe I Can Fly," by R. Kelly. That song from that cartoon basketball movie. He stands at the microphone stand, and it sounds a little shaky in the beginning. Out come his backup singers, wearing robes, so I feel confident calling them a gospel choir. He has one cool long soaring up and down note, and basically gets Jacob Lusk all over it. Steven Tyler says it's pure passion, pure music, "I can't even judge you." Jennifer Lopez agrees, then sidetracks on how everyone is good. Randy Jackson gives a shoutout to the Idol Season 10 The Remix ™ talent, and to the fabulous judges who selected them.


Thia Megia idolizes Michael Jackson, and will be singing "Smile." Someone schools her on the fact that the song dates back to Charlie Chaplin, back when the talking pictures didn't talk. She starts out slow, with quiet music, and her voice is as clear as a bell. Then the tempo picks up to something jazzy, and she belts a bit. Randy loved the intro, heard the Michael Jackson and Adele qualities, but then it got pitchy. Steven calls her new and young, and says she has a great future even though he didn't like the end, either. Jennifer didn't like the arrangement, but says she sings like an angel. Ryan asks Thia what she thinks, and she liked the beginning better, too. After the commercials, we've been seeing quick backstage footage of some contestants. Thia went backstage crying, she doesn't want to get booted for this.

Stefano Langone's idol is Stevie Wonder, and he's singing "Lately." I don't know this song, but it's a hard one, with fast and slow sections. Stefano is working it, though, moving around the stage, hitting some big notes. Steven says he pulled it off, it built like a volcano. Jennifer says she was dancing in her seat, "it's not easy to take a classic ballad and do the dance remix!" So I guess the original doesn't go that fast. Randy says that Stevie would be proud.

Karen Rodriguez's idol is Selena, and she's singing "I Could Fall in Love." She's loved Selena since she was tiny, and we see some wacky home video of her imitating Selena. She sings it nicely, makes eyes at the camera. She's wearing a black glittery pantsuit and sparkly jewelry. Jennifer: "I could tell you were a little uncomfortable at the lower end," and she thinks maybe there were audio difficulties. J.Lo pulls for her, calling Karen one of the strongest girls. Randy thinks she was fighting the song, and it was a little sleepy. Steven says it didn't have enough energy to ramp up to the end, and she can sing better.

Scotty McCreery sits on a stool and tells Ryan that he's missing baseball season at home. He's singing Garth Brooks. ***Tangent alert*** I have almost an allergic reaction to Garth Brooks. I'm not really a fan of country, I'm sorry. But then, one summer in college, I randomly moved into an apartment with 3 girls I didn't know. I came home one day and one of those almost-life-sized cardboard cutouts of Garth Brooks was standing in the living room staring at me, and it scared the crap out of me. I don't think any of my roommates were going to school, so I would be in my room studying at night, or trying to sleep, and they would blast that "Friends in Low Places" song over and over. I get a nervous twitch just thinking about it. Garth Brooks was part of a strange and scary time in my life, and I totally hold it against him. Okay, tangent over. Scotty is not singing that song, thankfully. He's singing "The River." I can handle it, because you know what? Scotty is pretty darn cool, and his voice is amazing. He didn't really change the song, and for once Randy is okay with that, screaming "if it ain't broke, don't even think about fixing it!" Steven says "you did The Garth justice," and then quotes song lyrics about carpets and tv and a hole in the moon and Roy Rogers, and I wish he was a little more clear but I'm sure it was positive. Jennifer speaks for the People again as she appreciates that Scotty opened up and embraced the audience.

Finally (yes, finally, this is a very long night), it's Naima Adedapo. She's singing "Umbrella" by Rihanna, and says that the only way to make it your own is to do you. For once, she is not wearing a bright colored dress. No, she's wearing a funky top and jeans with knee-high Chuck Taylors. She is dancing, people! Not just swaying, or step-touching, or hand reaching, but big moves and robot arms. There's a reggae rap section, and then a 2-second dance break, for reals. It's crazy and brave and bold. The song was good enough, I am just impressed at her busting out like that. Steven says she's crazy good, and it was a little pitchy but she brought flavor. Jennifer: "I don't care about pitchy, you got fire!" She also points out that Naima was being a real performer, singing and dancing, and learning firsthand that it's hard to control your breath doing that. Randy says he does care about pitchiness, but he's glad she's learning about breath control, and he loved the reggae bit: "I'm like, what?!" Naima says she "overstands" what they're saying. Is that a new word? It should be.

That is it. There are too many people to even sum up, too many strange and wonderful things. When they show clips of everyone at the end, the range is stunning (crazy Casey to boring Ashthon to crazy Paul to boring Pia to awesome James). I think I'm biased towards the crazy, I'm just tired of overdone ballads in general, so that kind of colors my opinions here. Did you like it? Is Idol Season 10 The Remix ™ working for you? I think it's working for me. Tomorrow night: Adam Lambert! Yay!