Last night on American Idol, the six remaining contestants had the honor of choosing songs from the great Carole King Songbook. As host Ryan Seacrest pointed out, King has written songs for over 1000 artists, so they certainly had a large catalogue to choose from.
The past couple of weeks, producer Jimmy Iovine has been assisted in his mentoring duties by the always entertaining will.i.am who has proven to be a very humorous sidekick as well as an insightful mentor to our Idol hopefuls. Last night, will.i.am was replaced, perhaps only temporarily, by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds. While Babyface didn’t provide any humorous interludes, he did interject some timely, very helpful tips to a couple of the performers that actually made a huge difference in their performance.
Last night we also got to hear both solo performances and duets. Sometimes the duets work out great, like during Season 8 when Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta’s got together and tore the house down with their version of Foghat’s Slow Ride. And then sometimes they don’t work out so well. More on those later.
But first, the solo performances:
Jacob Lusk started things off singing Oh No, Not My Baby. Well, I’m not sure if what he did was really singing. He was all over the place with this song, particularly in the first half. It really was one of his worst performances. That is, until he jumped into a nice falsetto in the second verse. From there it was pretty smooth. But the whole first half was a hot mess. He couldn’t seem to find the right register to sing in and stay in. And I’m no Mr. Blackwell, but his outfit was atrocious. He looked like he just auditioned for clown college. He was wearing a blue plaid jacket, a sky blue vest, a bright yellow shirt, and a purple bow tie. Don’t they have advisors on this show that tell these people, “Hey, that may not be a good look for you out there.” 6
Lauren Alaina chose Where You Lead (I Will Follow) from the infamous Tapestry album. Of course, she countrified it somewhat, putting in twangs here and there. But this has now become her trademark and where she is most comfortable. The only problem is that this is also becoming her “safe zone” and they’re at a point in the competition where she needs to find a way to break out of that. The judges told her last week that she has to start taking chances. Granted, there’s not much that she can do with a singer/songwriter like King, but she should have tried not to go county again. How fun would it have been to see her to Loco-Motion or even One Fine Day? 5
Scotty McReery probably got the most out of his pre-song meeting with Jimmy Iovine and Babyface. He chose to sing You’ve Got a Friend, made popular by James Taylor. While singing it for the two, he started in his normal baritone, but Babyface, ever the producer and somewhat musical genius suggested that it might sound a little better if he started it in a different octave. So Scotty went up to a tenor, and holy scales Batman!! It sounded great. He hit the stage and shocked everyone when he started in a higher voice instead of the usual deep baritone we’re so used to hearing. He showed great range, depth and emotion that we are not used to. And he maintained it through the entire song. Very nice arrangement in the second verse, changing it up ever so slightly and adding a nice run. Young Scotty seems to get better every week and really takes the judges’ advice to heart, however sparse it is. 2
James Durbin went with his version of “unplugged” and sang The Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. There were no pyrotechnics, no marching bands, no nothing. This was James, stripped down. He sang the entire first verse a cappella. It was pure and rich and he showed America what he can really do with his voice when he’s not screaming. And let me tell you, it was impressive. Then, as the instruments came in, his voice strengthened with them. Of course, he had his signature Durbin scream as the final note, but with that notable exception, it was pretty awesome. He took a 50 year old song and made it current. And as a bonus, we got to find out that this was the first song that Steven made out to a girl to. J Lo said that James has had a strong week every single week since they’ve started the Top 13. Ahem, let me point out that he’s been either my #1 or #2 every week. I’m just sayin… 1
Casey Abrams sang Hi De Ho, made famous by Blood Sweat and Tears. Tough, tough song choice, but a perfect song for Casey to showcase his blues techniques. It’s a great blend of blues, jazz, and rock, almost what you’d expect Cab Calloway to sing if he was singing today. The only problem is that he’s starting to pigeon-hole himself as much as Scotty was, albeit with much more difficult song choices. But he’s staying in the same genre week after week. He needs to change it up. 4
Haley Reinhart sang Beautiful, from the Tapestry album. The change in tempo from the first to second verse, then back to the chorus went off without a hitch. She handled it like she’s been doing it for years. Once again, the less the growls, the better the song. This time, there was only one minor one at the beginning and one near the end. 3
Haley and Casey Duet #1: For the 1st duet of the night, Haley and Casey sang Carole King’s legendary hit, I Feel the Earth Move (Under My Feet). It was great, that is, until Casey chimed in. Haley should have sang this one solo. I’m a big fan of Casey’s, but he was off-key from the first note. This song just wasn’t for him. And I know he can sing a duet with Haley. He already proved it a few weeks ago when they did a kick-ass version of Moanin’. I’m only ranking this first among the duets because Haley was so good. 1
Steven Tyler’s Insane Quote of the Week: (to Casey after the song) “Hey Weirdbeard. How in love with Haley are you?” Way to call a brother out, dude.
Lauren and Scotty Duet #2: For the 2nd duet of the night, Lauren and Scotty went with James Taylor’s On the Roof. I wasn’t thrilled with this. Much like the last duet by Haley and Casey, Lauren’s voice overpowered Scotty’s and there was almost no point in him even being there. I’m really starting to dislike these duets. 2
Jacob and James Duet #3: For the 3rd duet, James and Jacob sang I’m in for Something Good originally done by Herman’s Hermits. All I’m going to say about this is that it reminded me of those dreadful Idol group numbers that they do in the beginning of the results show on Thursday nights that I wish they would get rid of. Enough said about that. 3
GOING HOME; JACOB LUSK – He’s been on his way out for a couple of weeks now. He was terrible in his solo and his duet. But I’d also pick him this week because of what he wore last night