Last Night on American Idol, James Durbin Discovers His Muse, Scotty McCreery Goes Swingin’

Last night on American Idol, the seven remaining contestants got to pick Songs from the 21st Century.  Oh good, songs they were actually had some familiarity with.  That alone should make the whole show just a little more comfortable.   At least we don’t have to cringe and smack ourselves in the forehead when we hear one of them say, “Uh, I never heard of that before,” when talking about an absolute classic.

Before the show kicked off with the actual remaining contestants, we got to hear the formerly kicked off contestants.  And if you think that’s hard to read, you should have tried writing it.  But anyway, we had the privilege of hearing Paul, Naima, Thia, someone else (how soon we forget), and Pia do a pretty piss-poor group rendition of Pink’s So What.  How appropriate.  So what?  My sentiments exactly.  Yeah, let’s hope they don’t do that again.  We’ll call this experiment a FAIL.

We’ll get to Steven Tyler’s Insane Comment of the Week nice and early this week.  In fact, he said it before the first contestant even took the stage:  (to the former contestants – “You just made America think twice about their decision!”  Really???  They were awful.  All they did was confirm America’s vote.

Back to the show:

Really tough to score last night’s show because I honestly thought that with the exception of Jacob and Stefano, they were all very, very good.  And Jacob was better than usual.

Scotty McCreery started off singing Swingin’, by LeAnn Rimes.  What?? He chose a country hit?  Really?  He kinda cheated here a bit because this originally was a hit in 1983 by John Anderson first, but if they let him get away with it, good for him.  It was actually one of the first times that he had some life in his voice.  I mean real life.  With changes in tone and everything.  He showed range changes in register and connection to both the song and the audience.  Plus, he was really having some fun walking around the stage.  He really looked and sounded like country star. Randy said he was playing it safe, and he was.  And Jennifer certainly didn’t like it, “you had a decade of country music to choose from…and we were expecting more from Scotty.”  I more or less agree with both of them.   But even with that, this may have been his best performance. 2

James Durbin chose a new song to Idol (yet another surprise), Uprise by Muse.  The first time I heard this song on Saturday Night Live last year I loved it (I don’t care what you say, Bruce).  Durbin added his own Heavy Metal edge to it, making it just a little better than the original while still keeping true to the main message of the song, something that these contestants have a problem with on occasion (think of Paul McDonald doing a cheerful, party version of Johnny Cash’s Folsom City Blues).   In Randy’s critique, he mentioned that Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of Muse, sent Durbin an email, challenging him to do the song but raising the last verse by an octave.  He did exactly that and it couldn’t have worked out any better.  We could have done without the screaming in the second verse, but I guess that’s what makes James James, doesn’t it??  1

Haley Reinhart sang Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.  She sang it almost better than Adele.  There was definitely something in the water last night.  This was probably her best performance as well.  It was a great song choice.  Her raspiness was near perfect for this song.  She hit a couple of sour notes, especially during one of the “Deeeeep” runs in the second verse, but she overcame it so quickly it didn’t matter.   What was really great about her performance was for the first time since we first met her, she didn’t feel a need to utilize that now familiar throaty growl of hers.  And she was really a pleasure to listen to without feeling like we were being seduced.  3

Jacob Lusk chose Luther Vandross, who he was somehow compared to earlier in the season.  He picked the very emotional Dance with My Father.  It was good, better than his usual histrionics, but not great.  He did show tremendous control, especially considering that this song meant so much to him, having lost his father at a young age.  One thing I liked was that it didn’t have his over the top drama that he brings to most songs.  And ironically, this one would have given him a pass.  In Randy’s critique he said that he feels like someone is putting restraints on a racehorse and he wants the church boy back.  I say, no friggin way.  I like him much better controlled and without all the crazy drama.  At least like this, he doesn’t look like he’s about to start breaking down into a quivering mountain of tears every time he’s singing.  6

Casey Abrams sang Maroon Five’s Harder to Breathe, and he went with the guitar this week instead of his usual stand up bass.  He changed the arrangement quite a bit, starting off the song much slower and adding some serious scat in the middle with some jazz guitar.  Nice filler.  I didn’t like the way he stiffly walked around the stage, trying to interact with the young girls in the front rows.  He needs to loosen up out there.  The end was pretty creepy when he got RIGHT INTO Jennifer’s Lopez’s face, and with no music said, “It’s getting harder and harder to breathe.”, then I’m pretty sure he planted one on her.  Yeah, he did.  He kissed People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman in the World for 2011.  Balls, dude. Balls.  Especially with hubby sitting right behind her.  I don’t care if it was a peck on the cheek.  It was still enough to make her blush.  Overall his performance was good.  But I think I would have rather have heard stick with his bass and do Maroon Five’s Sunday Morning.  I think it would have suited him better.  4

Stefano Langone chose Ne-Yo’s Closer.  It wasn’t great.  It was pretty choppy. It had a nice run in the middle and he had a nice falsetto run that glided right back down but it was a disappointment after last week.  The judges seemed to like it, but I thought he was off-key and unsure of himself through most of the song.  One of his worst performances in several weeks.  Stefano has been very close to saying goodbye a few times already.  This may be it for him.  7

Lauren Alaina grabbed the coveted “pimp spot” and went all country on us, singing Sara Evans’ country hit, Born to Fly.  They brought out fiddles and everything for this one.  I thought I was at a hoedown.   Like Scotty, she is a natural country singer.  She just has way more range and vocal ability than he does.  This really is her strong suit and where she is clearly most comfortable.   Randy accused her of playing it safe, and she did.  Steven asked her specifically to sing some Allison Krause, Shania Twain or Faith Hill next time, so be watching for that.  5

Steven’s most observant line of the night, to Casey:  God created all men equal, but some are more equal than others.

GOING HOME: Stefano Langone