Every season, Idol has its archetypal contestants and Season 10 is no different. They have the tall, handsome cowboy, John Wayne Schulz, the slightly off-balance drama queen, Ashley Sullivan, the adorable teenager, Jacee Badeaux, etc..
What Idol does not have every year is the kind of contestant who amazes. The contestant who possesses such a natural gift, that he or she is in class all their own and it hardly seems fair to pit them against the others.
After her Nashville audition, the web was abuzz over Lauren Alaina. The 15-year-old girl – with the voice and swagger of a professional twice her age – was predicted by many to be the next American Idol. Does she flirt with Steven too much for her own good? Probably. Does her natural enthusiasm sometimes border on annoying. Definitely. But when Lauren opens her mouth to sing, this girl can do no wrong.
Tonight, she serenaded the judges with the song that really captured the nation's attention in Nashville, Aerosmith's, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," and it was as riveting tonight as it was the first time. Sure, the element of surprise was missing but the proof that Nashville was not just a fluke, more than made up for the lack of surprise.
The judges recognize her talent too. Jennifer Lopez stares at her with a mixture of awe and envy as she marvels at her age. Randy's eyes flash dollar signs as he imagines producing with her and adding her to the collection of names he frequently drops. And Steven Tyler looks at her with . . . well . . . uh, let's just say Steven Tyler is fond of her. With the judges' reactions and the nation's attention, Lauren Alaina could go all the way in this competition.
Casey Abrams, however likely has something to say about that and after delivering one of the best Hollywood auditions in the history of Idol, a lot of people are listening to Casey Abrams right about now.
Casey, unlike Lauren, isn't the type that often gets showcased on Idol. He doesn't have a dramatic past – the fact that his past isn't mentioned at all would suggest that this kid has never so much as suffered the loss of a pet goldfish. He isn't so young that teenage girls would develop Bieber-esque fever over him, and he isn't tall, dark, and handsome with a Southern drawl. Casey is by all accounts, just Casey.
Unassuming, kind, slightly off-beat and, well, a musical genius. Unlike many other contestants, Casey is not just a vocalist, he is a multi-instrumentalist. In Austin, he demonstrated that he could play the melodica and people smiled at his quirky attempt to be noticed. When he dragged an upright bass onto the stage in Hollywood, many likely assumed it was another attempt to differentiate himself. But it wasn't the double bass that differentiated Abrams Thursday night, it was the phenomenal rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on my Mind," that made people stand up and take notice of Casey.
What's that you say? There were other contestants on this episode of Idol? Yes, of course, its just that they were momentarily forgotten in the delightful reminiscences of Casey and Lauren's performances. But the Ghost of Idol Past urges viewers to remember that America, by nature, is a fickle people who vote far too often, not with their heads or their ears, but with their hearts and there are still another 48 contestants vying for the chance to steal the hearts of viewers.
As predicted in yesterday's blog, Ashthon Jones is really becoming a force to be reckoned with. Her performance this evening proved that she is definitely peaking at the right time and could indeed go far if she continues to infuse her killer vocals with just the right touch of diva attitude.
Clint Jun Gamboa, Idol's resident villain after his decision to boot, "so-cute-you-want-to pinch-his-cheeks," Jacee Badeaux from his group Wednesday night, proved that one doesn't need to be a Good Samaritan to be deliver a good performance, and he too secured his spot in the top 50. Joining him, despite another Lifetime Television for Women inspired drama on stage, was Ashley Sullivan.
Two other contestants who could steal America's hearts for very different reasons are Chris Medina and Carson Higgins who both chose to sing Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." By now everyone knows Chris's background and it has endeared him to many viewers. It is truly a story of heartbreak and devotion, but if Chris's story becomes a little too deep and heavy for you then Carson Higgins has the antidote.
Higgins's infectious jubilation is a refreshing change of pace from a season too weighed down with sorrow and life-lessons. Is he the most gifted vocalist in the world? Certainly not. But as Steven Tyler and JLo can attest, you don't need to be a remarkable vocalist to make it in the industry. One just needs to have that special je ne sais quoi that makes people take notice.
Both Chris and Carson make it through to the next round. But it must be said that based on talent, Chris has not merited the progression he's enjoyed on Idol thus far. His rendition of "My Prerogative," was like a replay of Season 9's, Andrew Garcia's, performance of "Straight Up," minus the charm.
Time for another recap of early predictions:
Naima Adedapo: Check.
Chris Medina: Check.
Paul McDonald: Is it time to take him off the list? What harm is there in holding out for one more week?
Lauren Alaina: Check.
Casey Abrams: Check.
Brett Loewenstern: Check.
Ashthon Jones: Check.
While Ashthon Jones took James Durbin's slot on the prediction list, it should be noted that Durbin also made it through to the top 50. It would be a big surprise, and frankly a big disappointment, if Durbin secures a slot in the top 24.
Adding Carson Higgins to the list would be more of a result of wishful thinking than any legitimate Idol experience, so for the sake of giving airs of Idol authority, he will not be added.
(Dear Carson, if you are reading this please know that your name is at the top of the list that this blogger keeps under her pillow. xoxo)