The one with the American Idol Top 12: Stevie Wonder Night

American Idol presents the music of Stevie Wonder. Most of the American finalists did not express outright fear at doing the music of one of modern music’s foremost icons, but their nervousness on Top 12 night certainly did show.

Ace Young. Ace Young selected Do I Do, a huge mistake in my opinion, considering the way that Mario Vasquez knocked that one out of the ballpark last year, and Vasquez certainly has more vocal talent than Young, whose only saving grace for his being in the Top 12 is the fact that majority of female and gay America think Ace Young is the hottest thing since Constantine Maroulis on sliced bread. 4/10

Kellie Pickler. Kellie’s choice, Blame It On the Sun is another outright awful song choice for the blonde minx (hey, not my words). Pickler’s voice and jarring outfit selection makes for a horrifying performance that makes me wonder why most of America seems to relish keeping her around. Country chick? Please. Comparing Kellie Pickler to Carrie Underwood is like comparing the Gobots with the Transformers: a useless effort because the latter is so obviously better. 2/10

Elliot Yamin. The near-flawless performance of Knocks Me Off My Feet by Stevie Wonder fan Elliot Yamin is breathtaking and pleasing. Save for Yamin’s occasional flat note and his unsteady vibrato, Yamin delivers another memorable performance and should breeze through this round. He needs to move around that stage more, though. 8/10

Mandisa. I love Mandisa Hundley, but her choice of Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing is steady at best. A shaky start is barely saved by the expected bombastic chorus, but Mandisa’s first bad song choice for the season is a dangerous harbinger of early favorites self-destructing as the season progresses (remember the ghost of Anwar Robinson!). To Mandisa’s credit, she works the performance well, and owns that stage as if she built it with her own two hands. 6/10

Bucky Covington. Superstition is the strange selection of country bumpkin Bucky Covington, and with it arguably comes the most welcome performance of the night. Covington delivers a welcome vocal performance that still displays his country sensibilities but enables him to pull off a funky song and make it his own. The only kink in Bucky’s armor? Who in heaven’s name messed with his hair?! 9/10

Melissa McGhee. Melissa McGhee’s song choice – Lately – may have been a mistake from a distinctly tactical perspective, because it’s a karaoke favorite and two versions – Wonder’s and K-Ci and Jojo’s – will always be compared to hers. McGhee’s rendition is surprisingly good, and her voice suits the song well. Her self-conscious attitude, however, in showing she made a mistake during Lately may work against her, and at this stage in the competition, McGhee has the most to lose if she doesn’t bring it every episode. 5/10

Lisa Tucker. Lisa Tucker murders Signed, Sealed, Delivered. This is my favorite song in Stevie Wonder’s catalog, and every version I’ve heard – Wonder’s, Brian McKnight’s, and British boy band Blue’s, featuring Wonder himself and R&B ingenue Angie Stone – has proven itself worth. This is the first version of Signed, Sealed, Delivered that I did not like, and Tucker simply can’t pull off the maturity of the song at 16, even thought the judges loved it. Joss Stone, she ain’t. 3/10

Kevin Covais. Part-Time Lover is an ambitious choice from Chicken Little Kevin Covais, and unlike Nikko Smith who nailed it last year, Covais took it, popped it into his mouth, mangled it into a pulp, and spat it out like a furball. Pitchy and tinny, unsteady and decidedly amateur, Covais does not deserve to be in this competition, and the fact that he made it this far – at the expense of vocal talent like Ayla Brown and Gedeon McKinney – makes me nauseous. 1/10

Katherine McPhee. Katherine’s selection, Until You Come Back To Me, is a decent choice, and she pulls it off, not too much unlike Basia’s take on the song and a few notches above Camille Velasco’s studio version. McPhee understands she is arguably the most beautiful woman in this competition, and having studied at the Constantine Maroulis school of Eye Contact, milks all sex appeal out of her Rated-G performance and does a little pouty-pouty for the benefit of all red-blooded men across America. Lovely. 7/10

Taylor Hicks. Taylor Hicks chooses Living For The City and proceeds to use the American Idol stage to blues-ify Wonder in the right direction. Hicks also uses the stage to his advantage, lessening his vocal and body tics, all making for an enjoyable performance. 7/10

Paris Bennett. I can’t stand Paris Bennett, but I will concede that she knocked All I Can Do out of the ballpark. A home run for the diminutive Bennett, whose previous song selections were uneven at best. Near-flawless vocals and great stage presence makes for her best performance this season. 6/10

Chris Daughtry. Higher Ground is the selection of Season Five’s resident rocker, and he takes Stevie Wonder’s song, spins it on its head, twists it and turns it masterfully into a tune of epic proportion. Contemporary, catchy, and irresistible. The performance of the night. 10/10

Personal choices for bottom three:
Kevin Covais, Kellie Pickler, Lisa Tucker
Voted out: Covais

Most likely bottom three:
Kevin Covais, Melissa McGhee, Bucky Covington
Voted out: McGhee

Update:
Bottom three:
Ace Young, Lisa Tucker, Melissa McGhee

It’s official: Melissa McGhee is out. Darn it. Darn you, Kevin Covais! Ah, well, I got my first prediction right.

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