Last night on American Idol, the final four contestants again sang two song choices each. In the first round, they chose songs that inspired them. In the second round, they chose songs by writing legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Host Ryan Seacrest reminded us (twice) that in just two weeks we will be crowning a “NEW AMERICAN IDOL”. OMG!! I can hardly breathe.
Like last week, since they performed in two rounds, I will judge them in two rounds.
James Durbin started things with Journey’s epic classic, Don’t Stop Believing. He gave a shout out to judge Randy Jackson (bassist on original studio version and several tour versions), saying, “C’mon Randy, I know you know the words”. Overall, James was pitchy and flat. He hit a couple of sharp notes. But the judges loved him. Randy said he hit the highest degree of difficulty and Jennifer gave him props for hitting his upper register and staying there. I think his upper register is where he ran into some problems. He can hit it, but when he’s not screaming, it doesn’t sound nearly as good. 4
Haley Reinhart took on the King of Pop in one of the most inspirational songs that he ever wrote, Earth Song (also one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs). It was a huge departure from what Haley usually offers up, and you could feel the passion and emotion in her voice. There was little doubt that she was very connected to this song and the message that Jackson was trying to get across in it. With that, she gave another very good performance. Again, the judges slayed her, unfairly. She is the best left and they gave her no props. Randy accused her of screaming through the latter part of the song, and she was, in part. But I just listened to the original and I don’t’ think Michael Jackson had a more passionate song. Wasn’t he screaming through the entire second half? He wanted to be heard. That was the point of the song. So in reality, she was staying true to the message of the song. I think she did a great job and their criticism was completely unwarranted. Just like last week when they tore her apart for singing an unknown Lady Gaga song, WELL, just because it was unknown. They’ve been killing her for weeks, no matter what she does. Yet they fawned all over Jacob week after week, despite the fact that he was so out of range and so all over the place that he didn’t know what key he was even singing in. But they continue to slay the best pure singer remaining in the competition. Where is the justice??? 2
Scotty McCreery sang Alan Jackson’s song devoted to September 11th, Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning). His country runs were riveting and chilling, actually giving me chills. Of course, a lot of that had to do with the lyrics, which he delivered with an emotion and intensity that is belayed by his 17 years. It was a perfect song choice for a perfect week. It’s very hard to say anything bad about any song or lyrics written around 9/11 this week. Really, anything that talks about black smoke against the clear blue sky does me in. Call me a softie. I prefer to think of myself as a patriot. I can live with it. 1
Lauren Alaina went with Anyway by Martina McBride for her song of inspiration, citing the folks in her hometown and in the South suffering from all the devastation caused by the tornadoes. She started off slow, then picked up the tempo with a nice run. Very strong. The second verse had a sweet vibrato that she controlled beautifully. Then she finished up with a nice run at the end. Her biggest problem continues to be her lack of confidence. You can see that as beautiful as her voice is, she still just doesn’t believe in herself and this will ultimately be he undoing. 3
Leiber and Stoller
Haley kicked off round two with I Who Have Nothing, made famous by Ben E. King. She showed some serious strength and power, unlike she has ever shown in any song before. Once again, she had the judges on her feet. Like last week, they destroyed her in the first round and in the second round she rose like the phoenix from the ashes and stole the show. J Lo told her that this is why they can never go easy on her. Because this is what she’s capable of. What is she trying to say? They go easier on the others because they aren’t as good? Talk about mixed messages. 1
Scotty went with The Coasters’ Youngblood from 1957. But not until guest mentor Lady Gaga instructed him to pretend that the microphone was his girlfriend who was going to leave him if he didn’t stick his tongue down her throat. Um, what?? Didn’t anyone tell Ms Gaga that this was a family show? I know young Scotty is confused. Microphone….Girlfriend… They can’t be the same thing, Can they?? Well, his performance was fun and reminiscent of some of the groups of the 50’s, where you have to think he would have felt very comfortable. For the first time of the night, Randy hit the nail on the head: Between Round One and Round Two, we saw two sides of a Scotty concert. Don’t doubt it for a moment. 3
INSANE STEVEN TYLER QUOTE OF THE WEEK (to Scotty): You made Gaga’s yaya go lala
Lauren sang 1958’s Trouble, by Elvis. But she was worried about the line, “I’m evil”, because she didn’t want America to think that she really was. Maybe she should have picked another song, since that particular verse comprises more than half of the lyrics. Gaga told her that when she was 16 she was just too weird for American Idol. Mentor Jimmy Iovine thought it was great for Gaga to pull her out of her comfort zone. We really saw a side to Lauren that we had never seen before. For one of the first times, she moved away from her country side and it worked for her. She was bluesy, energetic, and fun. She actually sang with some attitude, like a 16-year old should. 4
James finished off the night with the infamous Love Potion #9, made famous by The Clovers . He sure got it right in the pre song package when he said “with Gaga, you never know what to expect.” Now, many a folk have sang this song, but none have sang it with the rock edge that James lent to it. And he could go into the studio with it today. The ending was, as former judge Simon Cowell would say, a little indulgent with the now trademark James shriek, but there wasn’t a hell of lot wrong with the rest of the song. 2
GOING HOME: LAUREN ALAINA (and not because she’s not good, because she is. The other 3 are just better.)