(LOS ANGELES) -- American Idol's top 12 contestants sang songs from the year they were born on Wednesday night's show, but the program started off on a serious note.
Judge Steven Tyler sang a snippet of the Aerosmith hit "Livin' on the Edge" before asking for donations to help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest also revealed that proceeds from downloads of this week's performances will go to the Red Cross's relief efforts in Japan. A way to text in donations will be announced on Thursday night's show.
Wednesday night, the contestants had to earn America's vote to stay alive in the competition. Here's what happened:
Naima Adedapo was born in 1984 and was actually carried onstage as a kid with her mother, who sang in jazz groups. She chose to sing the huge 1984 hit "What's Love Got to Do with It" by Tina Turner and gave it a fresh 2011 spin. Tyler loved it, saying she had a great grasp of melody. Lopez said she brought her own flavor to everything she does, but she warned her about pitch problems. Jackson called the vocals a mess.
Paul McDonald was born in 1984, as well, and he chose to take on Elton John's hit from that year, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." He was having some vocal trouble, and his voice seemed a bit hoarse and weak during the performance. Lopez said he overcame the vocal problems with soul and star quality. Jackson thought some of the notes were pitchy, but he thought he made the song his own. Tyler said he defined a "cool dude in a loose mood."
Thia Megia came into the world in 1995 and sang Vanessa Williams' "Colors of the Wind" from the Disney movie Pocahontas. Jackson thought the vocals were okay, but said the performance was safe and boring. Tyler wondered if she really identified with "Colors of the Wind," and she said that it really applied to what was going on in the world right now. Lopez wanted her to break out of the ballad mode and work on her vocal performance.
James Durbin was born in 1989, and he rocked out with that year's hit "I'll Be There for You" by Bon Jovi, aided by a few pyrotechnics at the end of the performance. Tyler said he had leftover sandwiches under his bed older than him, but the rock icon warned him not to get too poppy. Lopez was singing along and said he always brought her joy. Jackson said he really made the Bon Jovi tune his own.
Haley Reinhart was born in 1990 and grew up singing with her parents. She took on the Whitney Houston hit "I'm Your Baby Tonight," but the tongue twister of a song proved to be a challenge for her. Lopez thought she was a little tense and unsure in her movements. Jackson thought she needed to find who she was musically, and Tyler wanted to hear more blues in her voice.
Stefano Langone was born in 1989 and sang Simply Red's hit cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now" from that year. Jackson said it was the best performance of the night so far, and Tyler loved his phrasing. Lopez said it was a perfect song choice and predicted he could take the whole competition this season.
Pia Toscano's birth year is 1988, and she sang the second Whitney Houston song of the night, 1988's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," giving it a little more tempo than the original version. Tyler said she was the reason the show was called American Idol: he said she nailed it. Lopez loved that she did an up-tempo number and added that she was perfect every time. Jackson said she was in it to win it.
Scotty McCreery was born in 1993, and decided to sing Travis Tritt's hit from that year, "Can I Trust You with My Heart." Lopez thought he showed some growth with this performance, and Jackson said he did Travis Tritt proud. Tyler encouraged him to stay true to himself.
Karen Rodriguez sported a huge Snooki hair bump to sing her song from 1989, Taylor Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back." Jackson thought it started rough but said she found her way halfway through. Tyler said he loved when she broke into her "ethnic whatever it is-ness," and Lopez applauded her for overcoming her fear during this performance.
Casey Abrams, born in 1991, sang Nirvana's breakthrough hit from that year "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It was the first Nirvana song ever performed on American Idol, and he played electric bass while performing the aggressive tune. Tyler said he was crazy and talented, though Lopez thought parts of the performance were screechy. Jackson compared him to Radiohead and Muse for putting art first. Jackson didn't think it was his best performance, but he loved his fearlessness.
Lauren Alaina was born in 1994, and performed the Melissa Etheridge hit "I'm the Only One," albeit with a higher arrangement to show off her voice. Lopez loved her strong vocal performance and the country flavor she gave the song. Jackson loved her vocals too, and Tyler called her a shining star.
Jacob Lusk, born in 1987, took on the Heart classic "Alone" and started out really strong. Jackson liked that he stepped out of his comfort zone and called the performance "genius." Tyler said "gospel had a baby and they named it Jacob Lusk," while Lopez loved that he gave himself completely to the performance.
Someone is going home on Thursday night's American Idol, airing on Fox at 8:00 p.m. ET. Season nine winner Lee DeWyze returns to perform, and the Black Eyed Peas will appear as well, performing their new song "Just Can't Get Enough."
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