Tomorrow, viewers will be given a number to text to donate for the rescue, recovery and clean up efforts.
For the evening's performances, the contestants chose songs from the year they were born, and their introduction packages featured baby pictures and family interviews.
Naima Adedapo's mother used to carry her mother onto the stage with her when she was performing. She selected "What's Love Got to Do with It?" by Tina Turner. She started out on the steps, wearing an odd combination of a yellow and red tank with a silver lame vest and leggings. Unfortunately, her dance mix of the song was fairly tuneless, and her last note was very flat. [Naima's package; Naima's performance]
Steven Tyler praised her: "You opened up a can of whoop-dee-doo on us." Jennifer Lopez observed she brings her specific flavor to everything and that last week she'd given her a pass on the pitchiness. But now, she said that Naima is consistently pitchy and that's hurting her. Randy Jackson said that, watching the show back, he'd thought, "This really wasn't great at all." Tonight, he said, the vocals were a mess. "They were all over the place, babe."
Paul McDonald went with "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues" by Elton John, and he wore a black jacket and skinny jeans with a white and rust floral button-down shirt. He sounded very much like Rod Stewart doing a Elton John cover, and he bopped around the stage again like a drunken sailor. I'm just not getting it. [Paul's package; Paul's performance]
J. Lo observed that he was struggling up there, but "you have so much soul and so much star quality." She alluded to the fact that he has a sinus infection. Randy felt some of the notes were pitchy in the beginning. Steven thought that Paul is very distinctive.
Thia Megia was born in 1995 (feel old yet?). Wearing a tan evening gown, she sang "Colors of the Wind" from "Pocahantas." While her voice is lovely, the performance lacked heart. I can now see why some reviewers compare her to a pageant contestant. Simon would have told her that the performance was very old-fashioned and that she needs to find her youthfulness. [Thia's package; Thia's performance]
Randy thought the vocals were OK, but the problem he was having is she's singing ballads every week and this was boring. "I felt like I was at some pageant somewhere." (I typed it before he said it!) He wanted her to choose something different next time. Steven thought she has a beautiful voice but asked her "is that song who you think you are?" Thia answered that she thought it was the best song from the choices that she had, and she's not just a ballad singer. J. Lo said she has an Adele quality in her voice but she's playing it safe. In addition, J. Lo thought she needs to work on her vibrato.
James Durbin was in rocker mode again, doing "I'll Be There With You" by Bon Jovi, dressed in all black, a black leather jacket, with his scarf "tail" returned. The beginning was a bit rough, and though he had a lot of fun working the crowd, it wasn't as good as previous performances. [James' package; James' performance]
Steven teased James about having dolls when he was a baby. "I have leftover sandwiches under my bed older than you." He told Steven, "Don't get too poppy on me." James told him he'd pull out some Aerosmith in the finale, and Steven told him he'd sing with him. J. Lo admitted she'd been singing along. Randy said that, despite some problems earlier on, he liked it overall.
Haley Reinhart sang "I'm Your Baby Tonight," wearing a red top and black leggings and going for a kind of scat-a-licious version, with lots of growling in her voice. Though it didn't match her pseudo-sexy dancing and her kilowatt smile, I thought it was one of the most interesting vocals of the evening so far. [Haley's package; Haley's performance]
J. Lo pulled a Paula, telling her, "You look beautiful." Although Haley has an interesting character in her voice, she noted that Haley is a bit awkward onstage. Ryan stepped in to try to help her get some lipstick off her chin, where it had been transferred by her mic. Randy was confused by her constantly changing pick of songs. He told her that she needs to figure out who she was, and he thought it wasn't a great performance. Steven thought it was sweet and tough but "We want to hear more blues."
Born in 1989, Stefano Langone chose "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Simply Red. Not a surprising choice for Stefano, who seems to always go with a ballad. He wore a white button-down shirt and a dark suit jacket, jeans, and sneakers. His delivery of the song was less than convincing in parts, especially when he got really "pointy," jabbing his finger at the audience. If you just closed your eyes and listened, however, it was pure melody, in perfect pitch. [Stefano's package; Stefano's performance]
Randy observed the song was originally recorded by Teddy Pendergast and called it the best performance of the night so far. Steven liked the phrasing and said Stefano would make singing mentor Jimmy Iovine more famous. J. Lo advised Stefano to connect more with the audience. After the criticism, host Ryan Seacrest allowed Stefano to run into the audience and hug his mother, who was there to watch the performance.
For Pia Toscano, born in 1988, her singing aspirations began early, with her family recording her singing performances for her grandfather. She selected the Whitney Houston song, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" Wearing a cream satin pantsuit that looked very 1970s, she sang a version of the song that had a distracting drum beat background that made it sound like a disco tune. Her vocals were strong, but not enough to make up for the odd arrangement. Though she's fast becoming one of my favorites, I didn't love this one. [Pia's package; Pia's performance]
Steven told her that "you took that song over the top." J. Lo was glad to hear her do something up tempo and gave the credit to the arrangers. Randy said that every week "you're producing amazing vocals." He said that "Pia is in the competition to win it."
An Elvis impersonator as a child, Scotty McCreary was born in 1993. He chose a Travis Tritt song, "Can I Trust You With My Heart?" He wore a brown suede jacket with a blue button-down shirt, black jeans and, of course, cowboy boots. This song was right in his comfort zone, and he sang it well. At the end, he held a sustained note for a few seconds. His performance could use work, however, as it mainly consisted of more winking and lip curls. [Scotty's package; Scotty's performance]
J. Lo thought "you pushed it out there." She wants to see him keep growing. Randy once made a record with Travis Tritt. "You did him proud." Steven predicted that Scotty will go places.
Karen Rodriguez had a weird Barbarella look going on, with a huge poof on top of her head, giant hoop earrings, and a black vinyl minidress. She performed the Taylor Dayne song "Love Will Lead You Back." I'm really getting tired of all the sappy ballads; these early rounds are sometimes really rough, musically. Her rendition of the song added very little, except for a little Spanish near the end, a trick she can't always rely upon. [Karen's package; Karen's performance]
Randy felt it started a little rough, but she found the pitch and range by the chorus. But he's still not "jumping up and down." Steven loves it "when you break into your ethnic what-it-is-ness." J. Lo noted she'd been scared and that she just "attacked it." Also, "if you're nervous about certain notes, don't go there." Good advice.
Casey Abrams grew up with older parents and chose Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," because he likes to take risks, musically. He accompanied himself on bass guitar as he started out the song, bathed in golden light, wearing a beat-up jacket, T-shirt, and an ascot. When he reached the chorus, he was in full growl mode and actually looked kind of angry. The audience loved it, but I wonder what the viewers at home will think. [Casey's package; Casey's performance]
Steven told him, "You're so crazy and you're so talented, and that's the perfect match." J. Lo said that he'd had some big shoes to fill and that it got a little bit "screamy, screechy." She still loves him, though. Randy said what he's most impressed with is that, like great bands like Radiohead, Casey loves taking risks. Even though it wasn't his best vocal, Randy likes that Casey is fearless.
In a pre-interview, Lauren revealed that she's been sick and pulled out surgical masks for her and Randy to wear. OMG, in the video package, Lauren Alaina looked just like her mom. In fact, I wondered at first why they were interviewing her sitting next to her dad. Born in 1994, Lauren selected the Melissa Etheridge song "I'm the Only One." She wore a yellow-brown leather jacket, cream blouse, dark jeans, and fringed boots. The opening of the song was a little weak in spots, but she seemed more comfortable on the chorus. "Let me hear somebody scream," she asked the audience in the middle. I don't think her performance alone had enough energy to provoke that sort of reaction. [Lauren's package; Lauren's performance]
J. Lo pronounced the performance "very nice." She liked the country flavor and says that Melissa Etheridge is one of her favorite performers. Randy thought it was very nice, too. He liked it. Steven thought that she'd done it again.
Bringing the evening home, Jacob Lusk had picked one of my favorite songs, "Alone" by Heart. I loved the teasing back and forth with him and his mother in the taped opening, where he insisted she couldn't sing, and she warbled a song. For his performance, Jacob wore a purple button-down and a black military-style jacket with dark pants as he belted out the song, taking gospel-style big steps as he launched into the chorus. His key change was a little rough as he got into his upper range, but then he pulled out of it. At the end, he reigned it all back in. Solid. [Jacob's package; Jacob's performance]
Randy noted that he got sharp and then found the pitch again (stop reading my mind, Randy!). He thought that, ultimately, "It was genius, dude." Steven: "Your momma may not have been able to sing, but she gave you the moxie... If the gospel had a baby, and they named it Jacob Lusk." J. Lo loves that he gives himself "completely to every performance, every song."
Kudos to Jacob and Pia, with a nod to Stefano and Casey. They should all be safe from elimination. On shaky ground are Karen and Naima, who are likely to end up in the bottom three, joined by either Paul or Haley. As the judges noted, Naima has consistently had a problem with pitch, so she's most likely to be going home, although if Haley is in the bottom three, she is also in danger of singing her swan song, because she has yet to make a strong impression.
This is not the time for safe choices; step it up!