American Idol 2011: Top 7 performance recap – Way better than I expected

The “American Idol” Top 7 took on songs from the 21st Century and the overall show was way better than I ever thought it would be. I was very impressed with the opening number from the eliminated contestants. What an amazing idea that was. Pia Toscano even had great stage presence! I think that’s something they should do from now on once or twice a season. I’m calling this the best show of the season.

Now on to the performance recaps. As always, I’ll review each performance and assign the letter grade I think it deserves.

In order of performance

*Scotty McCreery, “Swingin'” by Leann Rimes. Scotty really sang a 1983 song by John Anderson but was able to pass it off as a 21st Century song because Leann Rimes covered it. Was that a clever move or a deceptive way to dodge the theme? At any rate, it’s a silly song. And the Top 7 isn’t the time to be pulling out silly songs that have no depth. But I guess when you’re Scotty you can do whatever you want. People are in love with him. I still get it, but I still think he might be getting too confident. If he wants to win it, he HAS to branch out. Carrie Underwood branched out. Look at the list of songs she sang. She did Phil Collins, Pat Benetar, Donna Summer. That’s how she reached beyond the country fans. Scotty is still good. I’m not cutting on him. I just really want him to take some risks. B

*James Durbin, “Uprising” by Muse. What the what? That performance was insane. Insanely good. That’s not even my kind of music but I loved it. This season has really opened my eyes ears to genres I never gave the time of day. This truly is one of the best seasons of “Idol” ever. I do have one little thing to pick at. Can any of them REALLY decide they want a drumline or a piano fire for their performance? Is James the only one with that kind of vision or is “Idol” playing favorites? Oh well, best performance of the night. A+

*Haley Reinhart, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. A (very close) second-best performance of the night (for me) goes to Haley. Not only was her song choice completely brilliant and timely, she performed it perfectly. Haley made a smart move with Adele. She is so huge right now that Haley was probably able to get some votes in her pocket that otherwise wouldn’t have made it there. I think it’s her best performance to date. A+

*Jacob Lusk, “Dance With My Father,” Luther Vandross. Well, Jacob didn’t do what he had to do to interest me. And that’s sing something modern and upbeat. Instead he tried to put me to sleep. Again. At least that’s better than making my ears bleed. I guess I’m just never going to like this guy. I’ve tried. His performance was still solid and kudos for coming right back after that opening technical glitch. Oh, and now we officially know Jacob is  a diva. Everyone said it. I’ve been saying it all season. So now no one has the right to attack me for saying it. B

*Casey Abrams, “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5. Did he really pick that song or was I dreaming? I wasn’t dreaming, was I? It wasn’t a bad performance, it was just weird. All of it. His movements, the arrangement, his stilted singing. I didn’t like it at all. He’s way better than that. Oh well, he has nothing to worry about. Especially after all that extra airtime with the joking and fake JL0 flirting. Steven even singled him out at the very end of the show. Enough with the Casey pimping! C+

*Stefano Langone, “Closer” by Ne-Yo. I’ve always been a Stefano fan, so this is a hard review to write. I thought this performance was his worst and the worst of the night. Note to TV viewers: Moving all around the stage and dancing like a Chippendale’s dancer does not equal great performance. It’s a singing competition and he BARELY sang. And when he did sing it was pitchy and screechy. The backup singers did most of the singing so he could dance. And he’s not even a great dancer. It really came off as male stripper/Napolean Dynamite. I struggled with the grade to give Stefano. I originally gave him a D+ but I think that’s too harsh. C-

*Lauren Alaina, “Born to Fly” by Sara Evans. I’m not sure why this was the pimp spot. I guess because they can’t give it to James every week. Anyway, I don’t think this was Lauren’s best. It wasn’t even her third of fourth best. It was just OK. I think she would’ve been better off picking a song or artist more people know. She’s still an effortless performer. It’s never bad, it’s just sometimes boring. Like tonight. B+

And now, the impossible task of trying to figure out who will go home based on America’s votes. As always, these picks are based on just that — NOT my personal opinions, but what I THINK the outcome of America’s votes COULD be.

(Note: I have a strong feeling about this Bottom 3, so I’m just going to go ahead and put it on record despite how wrong I could be)

100 Percent Safe: Scotty McCreery, James Durbin

Most Likely Safe: Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart

Possibly the Bottom 3: Stefano Langone, Jacob Lusk, Lauren Alaina

Possibly Going Home: Jacob Lusk

My thinking: I think most people will think Stefano is going to be heading home. And he might be (I’m not saying I’m going to be 100 percent correct). But I think some new 15-year-old girls may have noticed him tonight. I also think Haley’s song choice could’ve pushed her ahead of Lauren, which puts her in the Bottom 3 for the first time. I guess if Haley doesn’t change places with Lauren, Casey could, but I seriously doubt that. Not with all the pimping.

What do you think will happen Thursday night and how ’bout that Top 7 performance show?