Because I was at a movie last night -- "The Adjustment Bureau," by the way, which I liked a lot -- and had a class tonight, I did not catch up with "American Idol's" Top 24 in the entirety until tonight. But this evening I watched the men and the women, and the judges, back to back.
General comments: Much prefer the three-judge format to four. Seems to move along better. Randy deciding to be tough judge is interesting, but I wonder how long it will last. There seemed a general desire to be kind by the judges on both nights. And Randy is devolving into catch phrases, including "That's how you do it." And Steven says "beautiful" way too much (especially when the performances are not). Of course, the show appears to still be fine-tuning; on Tuesday, the judges' comments were in the same order each time -- Steven, Jennifer, Randy -- while tonight they rotated the order of comments.
Also of note: On each night, while they held a (presumably) big performance for the pimp slot, they put a potential big singer in the next-to-last spot as well, almost to hedge their bets. And on neither night did I think the show-closer was the best of the night.
After the jump are my thoughts on the male performances from Tuesday. I've put them in descending order of quality, to my way of thinking. I doubt that many voters will agree. I'll do the same with the women in a separate post. Overall, I found the men much more erratic as a group than the women.
On to the ranking.
1 (tie). James Durbin and Scotty McCreery. I gave each a B minus, which should tell you that nothing really sold me on Tuesday night. And I have reservations about both these guys. James doing Judas Priest's "Another Thing Coming" made perfect sense. I think both he and Scotty will benefit if the show does not, in fact, get too specific on theme nights. If Durbin can stay metal-y and McCreery hard country, then they at least won't fall prey to the evils of Disco Night. Also, the show can then sell more music by more narrowly targeting individual singers to different genres. Scotty, meanwhile, did John Michael Montgomery's "Letters From Home" and, while it wasn't to my taste (although my wife loves this guy), I recognized its general competence. One potential drawback a friend observed: Scotty looks a lot like Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman. Certainly more than he did during the previous rounds; he seems to have put on weight, making his face rounder, and with the haircut, it's quite Mad.
3. Casey Abrams. C+/B-. I find Abrams' voice interesting, and the show thought him enough of a rouser to get the closing slot. But "I Put a Spell on You" is a song that doesn't lend itself to a lot of vocal variety -- not really a verse/chorus thing even -- and his performance got monotonous rather quickly.
4. Clint Jun Gamboa. C plus. I'm not crazy about him as a rule, but his version of "Superstition" was all right, and it started the telecast relatively well. I wish he would do something about his glasses.
5. Stefano Langone. C plus, but a little bit lower C plus than Clint's. Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" is catchy pop, but judging from his Grammys work Mars has more interesting vocals in him. And Stefano seemed to embrace the blah-ness of the song.
6. Jacob Lusk. C. Possibly the biggest disappointment of the night, considering some of what we've seen of him before. His "A House Is Not a Home" seemed to alternate good vocal line/bad line/good line/bad line. He has great stage presence, and he really knows how to work the camera. But I wasn't thrilled with the vocal in total. By the way, I know Luther did this song, and magnificently, but couldn't we have gotten a little love for Dionne Warwick?
7. Tim Halperin. A lower C for his version of Rob Thomas's "Sweetcorner Symphony." Started badly. Was constantly overpowered by the band. Just mediocre, and not even upper mediocre.
8. Robbie Rosen. C minus. In my notes, his rendition of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" has a low C. But his falsetto even briefly used was terrible, the performance overall was bland -- and I love the original. So I'm dropping him a notch.
9. Brett Loewenstern. A lower C minus. I understand what he was trying to do -- lay back a bit, lean a little toward Feliciano's "Light My Fire," and seem mellow. But it so did not work. He was talking more than singing and he got boring fast.
10. Jovany Barreto. C minus/D plus on Edwin McCain's "I'll Be." Very wobbly, and the show seemed to work especially hard to protect him -- a LOT of backing vocals covering his lead. One of those performances that make you wonder how this guy got even this far -- and yet not the worst on my scorecard.
11. Jordan Dorsey. D plus. His "OMG" had a weak start, a ragged and breathy rest and a bad falsetto.
12. Paul McDonald. F. I know, he's a goofy guy. But his "Maggie May" sounded like Rod Stewart on helium. Terrible vocal, and the tempo was off through most of it. Easily the worst of the night.