Pop Culture

Iffy singing? So what? 'Idol' judges love the guys

There’s only one semifinal round of “American Idol” this season, and the field of 24 will be cut to 13 following Thursday’s results show. Only five men are guaranteed spots in that group, which is terrible news for the judges, since they loved pretty much everyone.

Well, almost everyone. They weren’t crazy about Jordan Dorsey’s decision to sing Usher, so he’s in big trouble. He was the only singer to get feedback that was truly negative.

Jovany Barreto probably regrets choosing “I’ll Be,” a song that didn’t give him a lot to impress the voters with. And Tim Halperin probably should have picked something other than Rob Thomas to cover, but judge Jennifer Lopez still sent him off with “I would hate to lose you over that. You’re one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.” And objectively speaking, he was one of the two or three worst performers of the night.

Beyond that, any voter looking for guidance from Steven Tyler, J.Lo and Randy Jackson on who to vote for was out of luck. That crutch apparently left with Simon Cowell. Now, the judges don’t seem to care who you vote for, since everyone is just so darned great.

Standouts
While the abbreviated semifinal schedule and the addition of online voting make this a less predictable season than most, three singers look to be locks to advance.

Up until Tuesday night, if “Judas Priest” had ever been uttered on “Idol,” it was by someone who was trying to avoid cursing. But James Durbin brought out some much-needed energy when he broke out “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” and Adam Lambert 2.0 stood out from the crowd.

So did Jacob Lusk, who covered Luther Vandross well enough that J.Lo told him, “(Luther’s) gone. But now we have you.” That’s a little much, even for J.Lo, but it would be a major upset if we didn’t see him again after that act.

And Casey Abrams closed the show with a great performance of “I Put a Spell on You” that had everyone wondering how good he could be if he hadn’t had to spend some of his rehearsal time in the hospital for a stomach ailment. The one criticism of him is that he can be Taylor Hicks-like in his desire to be an entertainer, and if the worst thing to say about him is that he’s too much like the season five champion, that’s a pretty good sign.

Rating the teens
Based on the demographics of the “Idol” audience and the desire of everyone to have at least a teenager or two reach the next stage, it’s safe to say that Brett Loewenstern, Robbie Rosen and Scotty McCreery won’t all be going home. But based on their semifinal singing, it’s hard to guess who is in the best shape.

Loewenstern’s version of “Light My Fire” was more notable for the number of hairflips (14, according to Randy) than the vocals, and whoever told him that trying to cover Jim Morrison was a good idea should have their head examined.

Rosen’s “Angel” didn’t do much for me, but then again he wasn’t singing to me. It was aimed at all the girls in the audience, and he’ll go as far as their texting fingers will take him.

And McCreery shored up the country vote with “Letters From Home,” a song that has the lyrics “there's something funny 'bout the way I talk.” If he picked the song with those words in mind, McCreery should advance on principle.

The wild cards
In an ordinary semifinal round, Clint Jun Gamboa, Paul McDonald and Stefano Langone all would be locks to make it at least through the first week. But in this new system, each has reasons to be confident ... and reason to sweat.

Gamboa started off the show with “Superstition,” and the karaoke host earned praise for, well, not sounding like a karaoke host. He looked very comfortable on stage, but being the first performer on a 90-minute telecast won’t do him any favors.

McDonald went with “Maggie May” and did sound like someone trying to imitate the original singer. He’s unique enough that he has a lot of fans besides those who enjoyed the Rod Stewart cover, but perhaps not quite enough.

And Langone channeled his inner crooner with Bruno Mars and “Just the Way You are.” Of course, the judges loved that one too. He’ll be in good shape if the women of the audience agree.

First to curse
It was obvious that the addition of Tyler to the judges' stand would require the censors to work overtime, and host Ryan Seacrest addressed that at the opening by displaying a cutout of the “American Idol” logo that would appear along with the bleep sound when anyone cursed.

But anyone who predicted that Tyler would be the first to require that would have lost the bet. In fact, it was Ryan who needed bleeping first … though to be fair, he did it intentionally as part of the bit. Tyler required additional bleeping later, as he got carried away with some of the performances.

Whoever the designated censor is for “Idol” should clearly be asking for a raise. It will be a lot of extra work this year.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him , where he live tweets each "Idol" show. Want to get the latest Entertainment news? Follow TODAYshow.com Entertainment .

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