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Does Pia Toscano’s Single Live Up To The Hype?

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Pia Toscano reunited with her old "American Idol" crony Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show Monday to premiere her debut single, "This Time," and as she did, all the pop world was thinking what I was thinking: This better be good.

After all the outlandish hype surrounding Pia's shocking ninth-place elimination--and her rumored reality romance with Mark Ballas, and her big contract with Jimmy Iovine's Interscope Records, and the fact that she is (somewhat controversially) the first "Idol" semifinalist who's gotten to perform a new original single on the Idols Live Tour since fourth-placer Tamyra Gray did in Season 1--Pia needed to come up with a killer single to prove herself worthy of all this propaganda (or, as I like to call it, Pia-ganda). So, did she? Well, yes and no.

First, the good stuff. "This Time" has an impeccable pedigree behind it: It was co-written by Ester Dean, whose credits include megahits like Rihanna's "Rude Boy" and "S&M," Katy Perry's "Firework" and "Peacock," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," and other tunes for the likes of Britney Spears, Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Keri Hilson, Usher, and Ciara. More importantly, Pia's voice sounds absolutely flawless on the studio version of this track--no excessive AutoTune, no multi-tracked backup singers, none of the crazy computer effects that plague the overtooled, ProTooled recordings of today's more vocally challenged pop fembots. Better yet, Pia's recent performances on the just-launched Idols Live Tour prove she's totally capable of pulling off this multi-octave song live.

But of course, whether or not Pia can SING was never in doubt. ("My goal on 'Idol' was to prove myself as a singer, and I think I did that," she said, stating the obvious, in a recent Yahoo! Music interview.) Pia was arguably the technically best singer of "American Idol" Season 10--which is exactly why the public outcry was so intense, with "Idol" fans practically storming the Fox gates with blazing pitchforks in hand and threatening to boycott the show entirely, when she was eliminated. So the real question now isn't whether Pia can sing, but if she can sell records.

Of that, I am not so sure. My main gripe with Pia when she was on "Idol" was that she often came across as old-fashioned and vanilla--not enough oomph, not enough edge. (Ironically, my favorite "Idol" performance by her was her most uptempo effort, "River Deep Mountain High," the performance that actually got her voted off.) And while "This Time" doesn't quite come across like a snoozy pageant ballad, as some of her other "Idol" performances did--it's a move in the right direction, with a bit more fire and fierceness than we're used to hearing from her--it is a little underwhelming, and it doesn't exactly sound like a hot club banger or what the kids are listening to these days. Frankly, it's difficult to imagine "This Time" on the radio alongside whatever Ryan Seacrest normally plays.

Still, there are still plenty of music fans out there who long for the classic diva era when truly vocally gifted females (you know, the holy trinity of Whitney/Celine/Mariah) ruled the charts, and those fans are probably going to adore this. And considering how wildly successful unlikely pop star Adele has become, maybe America is ready for real singing again--and thus, ready for Pia. Perhaps this is indeed Pia's time.

What do you think of Pia's new single? Does it measure up to all the Pia-ganda? And does it sound like a hit to you?

[Photos courtesy of Interscope Records/RyanSeacrest.com]

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