As always, birth year night on American Idol spawned some good, some bad and some pretty ugly performances.
At least all newborns are cute, and we were treated to a host of baby pictures and sweet anecdotes from the Top 12's parents. And, all proceeds from downloading Wednesday's performances will go to the American Red Cross' relief efforts in Japan.
Yup, that's the good news...
Most of last week's standouts kept their hot flags flying. Pia Toscano, for instance, has yet to hit a wrong note in the judges' eyes, and Stefano Langone obviously didn't let his skeleton in the closet bother him.
But those who didn't bring it last week only slipped further tonight, and while that initial halving of the competition was rough, we're ready to send about five or six people home right now.
Haley Reinhart was the recipient of the dreaded "you look beautiful tonight" critique after she further detached from her growly, sultry roots with Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight"—which probably isn't even a good idea for Whitney herself to sing anymore!
"I'm a little bit confused," Randy Jackson said, noting that Haley sang country last week and Alicia Keys the week before that. Translation: "Who is Haley Reinhart?" (She was in the bottom three last week and is most likely headed there again tomorrow.)
Randy, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler didn't mind at all that Pia tackled Whitney's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?," however, but that's because she nailed it. Weird up-tempo arrangement and all, her clear-as-a-bell pipes triumphed over adversity.
Tina Turner's legacy is safe, meanwhile, after Naima Adedapo's take on "What's Love Got to Do With It" only proved that she can sort-of-sing and stomp around at the same time.
And we haven't heard much from Taylor Dayne lately, but we bet downloads of the original are going to top downloads of Karen Rodriguez singing "Love Will Lead You Back." She couldn't even make the Spanish portions fly this time, and we think she'll be in trouble once again.
Thia Megia, who probably has one of the best vocal foundations of any contestant this year, put us to sleep with Vanessa Williams' "Colors of the Wind." (Yes, that would be from the 1995 Disney flick Pocahontas. Thia is quite young.)
The ever-grooving Paul McDonald was plagued by a hoarse throat, but he still sounded exactly like Rod Stewart singing Elton John on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." But if you dig Paul, he still has done no wrong.
"You define a cool dude in a loose mood," Steven offered.
We doubt Nirvana purists are going to love what Casey Abrams did with "Smells Like Teen Spirit"—the first time anyone's ever performed a Nirvana song on Idol and the first time the lyrics to the modern-day classic have ever been that decipherable—but those folks probably weren't watching anyway.
The judges mainly beat around the bush, calling the cuddly 20-year-old "fearless" and "crazy" and other adjectives that meant, "Nice try, now get serious again."
James Durbin, however, remains safe in his little arena-rock corner after belting out "I'll Be There for You." Same with Scotty McCreery on the country end of things after singing Travis Tritt's "Can I Trust You With My Heart."
"I've got leftover sandwiches under my bed that are older than you!" Steven Tyler exclaimed in pondering James' sophisticated rocker presence. No tail this time, but the kid did trot out specially made studded leather bandannas tied around his shoes and cuffs. (Steven reminded him to "not get too poppy," though we thought he said "cocky," which would have fit, too.)
And Lauren Alaina, despite suffering from the flu, actually had a comeback tonight with Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One." It didn't differ that much from the original and she had some rough notes (probably due to sickness), but at least she came roaring back after looking so dejected last week.
"Have a cold every week!" Randy advised.
Jacob Lusk closed the evening with a twist on the perennial performance of Heart's "Alone," the first time it's been done by a guy on the show, to our knowledge. Again, if you tend to like the way Jacob devours his songs—swallows them whole, really—then you probably loved this.
"Genius, dude," Randy praised, though it was Stefano and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' (and Simply Red's in 1989) "If You Don't Know Me by Now" that earned "best performance of the night" honors from the judges.
(Originally published March 16, 2011, at 7:09 p.m. PT)