Pop Culture

Naima's explosive performance wakes up 'Idol'

Because of the way the semifinals took place this season, three singers entered Wednesday’s performance show with a lot to prove.

Wild-card entrants Naima Adedapo, Stefano Langone and Ashthon Jones are still here not because the viewers like them, but because the judges do. None were among the top five vote-getters of their gender just last week, so they all knew that to stick around, they had to make up some ground on the competition.

Of those three, Adedapo did the best job of standing out, but it wasn’t because of her vocals. She clipped a lot of the lyrics in the first part of her cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and didn’t look to be singing with enough power … until she exploded into a dance-filled reggae performance that had the judges and the audience perking up and taking notice.

Her voice wasn’t among the best of the night, but her stage presence was unmatched. If viewers don’t get her, or just don’t like what she has to offer, at least she’ll leave knowing she gave it her best shot and turned an overplayed song into something that sounded original.

Langone also did a nice job morphing Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” into a dance mix. His stage performance was frenetic, and it might not be enough to get him out of the bottom three, but it was a lot better than his semifinal effort.

Jones, however, may be in trouble. She sang third, right after Lauren Alaina and Casey Abrams, and right before Paul McDonald and Pia Toscano. Surrounded by four of the best voices and entertainers in the competition, Jones’ Diana Ross impersonation with “When You Tell Me You Love Me” looked flat, and the fact that she didn’t have the fan support last week doesn’t bode well for her here.

‘Idol’ women struggle
For the wild cards to move up in the rankings, some of the early fan favorites would have to drop to the back of the pack. Several of the remaining “Idol” women are in the biggest danger of that.

Karen Rodriguez got the dreaded “You look so beautiful tonight” from J.Lo after her performance of Selina's “I Could Fall In Love.” Regardless of the changes on the judges’ podium, one thing remains constant: When the first comment is about how great a singer looks, it’s always followed by something like “... but the vocals were bad.” These particular judges were too nice to come right out and say it that harshly, but they looked like they were thinking it.

Thia Megia sang Michael Jackson’s “Smile,” got lukewarm feedback, and put on her pouty face. She’s probably safe anyway, but will need to pick better songs and handle criticism better to make it to the end. She’s also fortunate that the show draws a younger audience, since not knowing who Charlie Chaplin was could have been fatal if there were more viewers who remembered catching “The Little Tramp” in theaters.

And Haley Rinehart was, as Randy said, “a little sleepy and a little boring.” If she were auditioning for Jimmy Iovine and the music crew, she’d be in great shape because LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” is a tricky song to sing and Rinehart performed it fine. But for all of its difficulty, it’s not the kind of melody that gets everyone up and out of their seats.

Toscano and Alaina, on the other hand, have nothing to worry about. Toscano again received nothing but high marks for Celine Dion’s “All By Myself,” and though Alaina got her first non-rave reviews for her version of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine,” she smiled and nodded gracefully because she knew she’d be back as long as she managed not to beat them up with her microphone.

No surprises among the guys
None of the men who got the most votes a week ago did anything to hurt themselves this week.

Abrams, James Durbin, Jacob Lusk and Scotty McCreery all received lavish praise and can rest easy. Durbin got particular mention for going from Judas Priest to Paul McCartney in back-to-back weeks, while Abrams and Lusk just kept on doing what they do so well.

“You are a rainbow of talent, man. You are a plethora of passion,” Steven Tyler told Abrams. Who knew the Aerosmith frontman could define the word “plethora”?

Meanwhile, McDonald got a little more tepid praise. “I hope America gets it. I don't know Ryan Adams or that song,” J.Lo said. That’s OK, J.Lo — Adams hasn’t heard of you either.

But anyone who liked McDonald a week ago probably liked this performance as well, though the Sergeant Pepper jacket may not have been the best idea in the world.

Teenage boys tend not to do well in this competition, but Scotty McCreery looks more self-assured than most as he tries to buck that trend.

He picked a country song, Garth Brooks’ “The River,” and Jimmy Iovine asked him if he was ever going to change things up. McCreery gave a polite response that boiled down to “probably not.”

Randy’s a fan of that decision. “If it ain't broke, don't even think about fixing it,” he said.

Craig Berman is a frequent contributor to TODAY.com. Want the latest reality television and TV news? Follow us @TODAY_Clicker.

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