Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pia Toscano Unleashes Rock And Roll Mettle On 'American Idol'

Pia Toscano finally broke out of her comfort zone on Wednesday's (April 6)"American Idol," stepping away from torch-song balladry and moving into more uptempo territory, a transition the judges have been urging her to make for weeks.
She did so by scaling, on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Night, one of the grandest songs in pop music history: Ike and Tina Turner's towering "River Deep - Mountain High." The 1966 offering was considered by its producer, the legendary Phil Spector, to be his finest creation, and its subsequent failure in America helped kick-start his slow decline. It was ultimately recognized as a masterpiece, though its initial reception caused Spector to go into seclusion, sliding into a deep depression that would later consume him.
Mentors Jimmy Iovine and — the latter making his third guest appearance of the season — knew what was at stake for Toscano, who has made her mark in the competition by hitting glory notes in huge ballads (Eric Carmen's "All By Myself," Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"). The Black Eyed Peas frontman warned her not to go out there "like Madonna singing Tina Turner, 'cause you're just like, 'What, boo?' " Iovine, meanwhile, said she had to go out and attack the stage. "Pia's gotta get pissed off tonight," he said.
Toscano wanted to make a lasting impression as well. "I wanna shock everybody," she said. "I can't wait to show that other side to me, that performer."
However, it was that performer side that struggled to shine through. Toscano's vocals were spot-on, and she showed she can keep up with a song when the beats per minute are cranked up past slow-dance terrain. But her moves were timid and she lacked spark onstage, which especially stood out when taking on Tina Turner, of all performers.
When the judges weighed in, they urged her to focus on her physical presentation of the song. "Vocally, you proved to us — you proved to everybody — you can sing an uptempo," Jennifer Lopez told her, but added that the New York native needs to "get that performance into it." Randy Jackson, too, said she needs to "work on the movement," but praised her overall. "Pia's in it to win it!" he beamed.
And Steven Tyler — on what was by and large one of the softest nights of critiquing in "Idol" history — labeled Toscano a murderer. "You killed it!" he gushed. "Pia, you've gotta know, there's a million guys out there in a million bars havin' a million drinks about you tonight."
Overall for Toscano, an important step was made during the show. Now that she has proved she can do something other than ballads, she's moved one huge mountain out of her way in the competition.

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