It is rather nice that Paul McDonald smiles while he sings. Everyone else on American Idol looks so serious.
But while Paul breaks the mold a bit by wiggling like the coffeehouse love child of Chris Martin and Mick Jagger up there, the point is to still be smiling once the judges have revealed what they think (especially since this season includes quickie interviews with the finalists after they've heard their critiques).
How did the Top 13 fare tonight singing the songs of their own personal idols? Did America—and the judges—do right in selecting this baker's dozen to advance?
We're happy to report that nothing was tragically bad. And some performances downright soared. But first...
There were some boring moments, like when Lauren Alaina did a great singing-in-my-car version of Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine." Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se.
All Naima Adedapo really offered was a Rihanna impression, the wild-card pick not really choosing wisely by selecting "Umbrella" for her comeback tune.
Haley Reinhart sounded nice but put Randy Jackson to sleep with "Blue," a tearjerker originally intended for Patsy Cline but not brought to life until LeAnn Rimes released it in 1996. The ballad did wonders for LeAnn, but it might not have been the best choice to try to insta-charm a live audience.
And the usually delightful Ashthon Jones put us to sleep with Diana Ross' "When You Tell Me That You Love Me." (Maybe record exec Jimmy Iovine shouldn't have been quite so quick to get Motown legend Berry Gordy in the house.)
Even 15-year-old wunderkind Thia Megia didn't impress as much, choosing to go way back with the Charlie Chaplin-era "Smile," which was also said to be Michael Jackson's favorite song.
The judges went gaga, however, over Pia Toscano doing "All By Myself," despite the fact that it's a Céline Dion signature tune and really overdone.
Randy deemed it a "very hot, dope, cool performance" and Steven Tyler called it "the sum total of all the work" she's done until now.
The judges also got with Stefano Langone's Stevie Wonder program, although that's usually a no-no as far as Randy is concerned. But they were impressed by how he turned "Lately" into a danceable tune toward the end.
Karen Rodriguez did not work the same magic, unfortunately, with Selena's "I Could Fall in Love," her voice proving way too small to handle the big ballad. (Proof: Jennifer Lopez began her critique with the kiss of death: "You look so beautiful tonight.")
While Paul did Ryan Adams justice on "Come Pick Me Up," Randy and Jennifer wondered whether the voters at home would "get it." (J.Lo also lost a few street-cred points by admitting she didn't even know who Ryan Adams is). But at least Paul has Mandy Moore's vote, right?
No one should fear, however, for Jacob Lusk or James Durbin.
The former ripped into R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" with that soulful yet operatic (and bordering on over-the-top voice), while the latter flattered Paul McCartney with "Maybe I'm Amazed."
James started out merely singing (quite beautifully), but our minds were already racing ahead in anticipation of the screams we knew were coming. Clever song-picker, that James Durbin.
Casey Abrams also picked another growler to replicate, this time Joe Cocker. The judges loved his perfectly great take on "With a Little Help From My Friends," but we want more bass fiddle!
And Scotty McCreery just sounds like he's been singing country music forever and he did more of the same with "The River" by Garth Brooks. We imagine that whoever loves the genre can't help but love Scotty.
The field will be cut to 12 on Thursday's results show. Is it just us, or is this season already shaping up to be another win for the guys?
(Originally published March 9, 2011, at 7:20 p.m. PT)