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Season 7 featured a slew of unforgettable performers, but Michael Johns stood out — not just because of his sexy Australian accent (by way of Atlanta) and the Jim Morrison-like swagger he displayed on the American Idol stage, there was formidable talent behind those dashing good looks.
And like a fine wine, each of those qualities has only gotten better with age, along with a deeper appreciation of the Idol road which few have traveled — even if it did end at eighth place. Johns is working on new music, some of which was recorded with guidance by Idol judge Randy Jackson. Keep up with him via Twitter and check out his thoughts on Season 10 and the Top 6 below …
First, it needs to be said: It’s really hard to blog about these Season 10 contestants when each of them is so incredibly good! As they should be. We’ve come to the Top 6, and at this point in the season, any one of them could be the American Idol.
I love that that the competition is so much more real this year. It’s not like in previous seasons, where the producers try to inject that constant state of fear. This year, it’s like they’re trying to nurture the artist within every contestant, and it’s showing.
I’m also loving the judges. I think Steven Tyler is a genius and so funny. And Jennifer Lopez, she’s not putting on a pop star act or being a movie star, she’s just being Jennifer Lopez: funny, sweet, encouraging. You can see how she’s made it so far. As for Randy, I think he’s a musical genius, and I love that America is finally getting to see the real Randy Jackson, who I’ve worked with in the studio. It’s like he’s coming out of his shell: He’s funny, constructive and just a genuine talent. It was a tall order to step out of the shadow of Simon Cowell, and he’s accomplished that.
Another great thing about this season, that I so wish we had in my year, is that every performance is given the same stage treatment, complete with bells and whistles. Whereas if you think back to Adam Lambert’s season, for instance, he would come out to smoke and lasers and everything, and then the next person would play with a fluorescent lightbulb as their spotlight. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get my drift. But this year, everyone is on a level playing field, and we get to see the cream rise to the top.
Also, they’re not messing with the sound quality like they did in the past. They use reverb and effects on each of the contestants, but any ex-Idol would tell you, the sound was manipulated in real time. Then you’d listen back on YouTube, and it would f— with you a little. You think, “Did I sound like that?” And as anyone with experience making or recording music knows, you can differentiate when something’s not quite right or the mix is subpar. This year, they’re keeping to the true sound. I like that very much.
With that in mind, here’s my take on how the Top 6 sounded on Carole King night:
Jacob Lusk (“Oh No Not My Baby”): At this point in the competition, Jacob is up against it. He’s a powerhouse, and I think he’s definitely got a career beyond Idol, but he maybe should have picked a different key to this song. Like a half-step lower, and then he could flip up to that amazing upper register of his. But the scatting was really good. All in all, he didn’t seem very comfortable with the performance. Obviously, he can sing anything, but it might have been a tad too high for the whole performance. We all know he has incredible range, but I prefer it when he uses all of his register.
Lauren Alaina (“Where You Lead”): I think Lauren is absolutely Top 2 material. I like her a lot, especially when she sings like she did last night, without her little twang. I like her vibrato, too, and the little flip she does into her falsetto. She’s got spunk, she’s fun, she’s fresh, and she killed it. This solo number was definitely one of my favorite performances by her this season. Plus, she looked like a star. Even beyond Idol, I think she’s incredibly marketable to young country and pop fans — like a Taylor Swift or a Kelly Clarkson; she’s just real. I’ve met her and can say that. Lauren is the all-American girl.
Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart (“I Feel the Earth Move”): I thought Casey and Haley were great together; they sing perfectly and had very good chemistry. I don’t know if I like the duets during the competition, to be honest. I prefer to see it during the finale because you’re still judging them as an audience, but the fact that Casey and Haley were so good makes them look stronger as contestants.
Scotty McCreery (“You’ve Got a Friend”): For someone his age, Scotty is great, and this performance in particular was his personal best, in my opinion. It felt really natural, probably because he’s not walking around. I prefer him sitting but then when he looked into the camera, I was, like, “Don’t ruin it, man. Nobody can pull that off, honestly.” Still, he did make me feel like a 13-year-old girl. What that means, we’ll leave to the Idol Worship readers to interpret for themselves…
James Durbin (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”): James is a class act, and he commands the stage. In the a cappella portion of the song, he was pitch-perfect. His reworking of this classic was great and shows he’s got so much confidence to do both the big songs and the stripped-back stuff. I only wish he didn’t finish on that note. Maybe I’m picky. Besides, what the judges said is true: He’s consistent every week. But I like his high stuff way better than Adam Lambert; it’s more pleasing to the ear. Calm down, Gamberts. Not hating…
Lauren and Scotty (“Up on the Roof”): Again, Scotty’s sitting down, and I like it! In this duet, you can really tell how much Lauren’s voice has progressed in the competition. It’s not as twangy, and she’s really finding herself. That said, Scotty missed a lot of notes in the harmonies, and it didn’t help that he prefaced the song by saying they’re like brother and sister. He tainted the performance before it started!
Casey Abrams (“Hi-De-Ho”): Casey’s talent is unbelievable. He’s by far the most musical person on the show and maybe ever! He was really in his element last night. Perfect song choice and so Muppet Show, in the best way, but he didn’t oversing it with too many growls. It was a great performance, and there’s no doubt what kind of artist he wants to be. You have to wonder how he’s going to fit into the radio world, but at the same time, I say, “Who cares?” I’d rather hear a great artist. I’d be happy to see Casey perform at the 40 Deuce in Vegas with the Pussycat Dolls or something. Sexy…
Haley Reinhart (“Beautiful”): First of all, Haley looked gorgeous. Her song choice I’m not sold on. It started off slow, but by the time it hit the mid, it was spectacular. She did it justice. She’s such a strong singer with great energy. I love her runs — up and down. Haley’s amazing, and she’s the one that came out of nowhere for me. You go, girl!
James and Jacob (“I’m Into Something Good”): You gotta love Steven Tyler for telling the truth, and he summed up this performance perfectly. It was like they were trying to out-sing each other. It wasn’t a duet; it was like a let’s-kick-each-other-in-the-nuts-and-see-who-can-sing-higher contest. It didn’t do Jacob any favors as the last impression of the night, but like Steven said, they were having fun. I love both of them.
So who’ll come out on top? Lauren, James and Haley won the night for me, but Casey was great as well. Unfortunately, I think the bottom three will include Jacob and Haley, but it has nothing to do with performance. In the end, I think it’s going to be James and Lauren in the finale. Do you agree?
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