The last time “American Idol” had an Elton John Week as a music theme was Season 3. I wasn’t watching the show back then. This time around they decided to recycle it. During my youthful days the songs of Elton John was constantly on the airwaves. I literally grew up with his music.
On Wednesday night (March 30) the Top 11, once again, would take on an artist, songwriter and showman whose music spans from the early ’70s to the ’90s. Before the competition got started we were treated to a lengthy déjà vu film of last week’s miraculous save for Casey Abrams. It was a lot of fun watching it once again. Everyone did an admirable job with their song choice, but here is what I liked the most to least.
My Favorite Elton John Songs
1.) Paul McDonald – “Rocket Man”
This is by far my favorite Elton John song of all time. I’m now growing accustomed to Paul’s “Hey, how you’ll doing tonight?” shoutout before he performs. No other finalist has ever done that on a weekly basis. His version was definitely different, but not my favorite. It’s one of those songs that only Elton can do. Nevertheless, Paul is a fascinating performer and vocalist. He is very unpredictable and I like that about him.
2.) Pia Toscano – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”
Here’s a song that never gets old when I hear it on the radio. In my opinion, even though Pia did another ballad, she upped her game by doing it as a power ballad instead. Once again she was outstanding in her performance. Like the judges have said they wanted her to do something with movement, but were still pleased with this week’s piece. All in due time will we see Pia’s evolution as an entertainer.
3.) James Durbin – “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”
Naturally Durbin would choose this Elton John hard rock song. It was the perfect match, along with his rousing arena rock-like show complete with a flaming piano. His “Pepsi” remark was funny considering it is heavily-sponsored by Coca-Cola. He was using the analogy, because he did not want to end up like Michael Jackson. Durbin’s hair was caked with highly-flammable hairspray and there were pyrotechnics nearby.
4.) Casey Abrams – “Your Song”
We got to see a gentler, kinder side to Casey with his now trimmed beard. He changed things up dramatically with a soft ballad. This is a great song by Elton John. It was a nice performance and by far my favorite of the entire evening.
Most Improved Performances
5.) Stefano Langone – “Tiny Dancer”
When I heard Stefano was doing this song I literally cringed. It is another one of my personal favorites. At first I was not enjoying his version, but then it grew on me. He was like a different performer. For once he did not close his eyes constantly. Overall, I ended up being pleased.
6.) Lauren Alaina – “Candle in the Wind”
I could not believe she was taking on a song about Marilyn Monroe and later to Princess Diana. She actually did a decent job and improved a great deal from the last few weeks of her sassy type songs. Ballads seem to be Lauren’s niche.
7.) Haley Reinhart – “Bennie and the Jets”
Talk about a night of surprises. I think it was only her song choice that landed her in the last spot. It was certainly her best performance, though I thought it was the worst one of the night. Haley’s constant shouting of the chorus with the repetitive “Bennie, Bennie….” was giving me a headache. I have never heard a singer growl as much as she does. It’s getting to be a rather old gimmick.
Other Good Performances
8.) Scotty McCreery – “Country Comfort”
It was news to me Elton did a country song. The albums I had of his from the mid 1970s did not feature this song. However, it was an album track from his third album released in 1970 “Tumbleweed Connection.” I’m not a fan of country music, but Scotty added his unique vocals to it. I agree with Jennifer Lopez when she says he has good instincts.
9.) Naima Adedapo – “I’m Still Standing”
Unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of Elton’s songs released in the ’80s. This was one of those songs. However, Naima is so entertaining and unpredictable I loved her reggae twist to it. She did a superb job. When Ryan did the teaser intro about Naima before the commercial break I though she would do “Island Girl.” That would have been an awesome reggae song too.
10.) Thia Megia – “Daniel”
Once again many of these finalists chose a lot of my favorite Elton songs from the 1970s. This is one of them, though I thought Thia brought the tempo down ever further. She’s always making me sleepy whenever I hear her.
11.) Jacob Lusk – “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”
Last but not least, another ’80s release from Elton that wasn’t my favorite. This is a really sad song. I’m very glad Jacob was able to restrain himself. His vocals tend to be an acquired taste for me.
Being an Elton John fan I was very pleased with the excellent song choices by everyone, even if some weren’t from my favorite era of his. One song that has been performed on “American Idol” was “Levon.” This would have been the perfect song for the wild and crazy Casey, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Two are going home on the results show. If I had to make a choice it may likely be Stefano and Thia. However, some of them will have to go.
American Idol – Official Site for Videos, Photos and Community, American Idol.com
Gil Kaufman, “‘American Idol’ Elton John Night Boosts Haley Reinhart, Casey Abrams”, MTV.com
The Online Illustrated Elton John Discography, Eltonography.com