‘˜American Idol’ Six Crown the Night with Songs of Carole King

Host Ryan Seacrest opened Wednesday’s “American Idol” homage to Carole King by emphasizing that of 125,000 who auditioned for that coveted stage, six were still standing. Contrasting the earthiness of King’s compositions, the judges must have received a memo to wear shimmer and shine, because Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler joined Jennifer Lopez in adding some sparkle to their attire! I was one of those who wore through every groove on King’s “Tapestry” album, which stayed at number one for 15 weeks and on the charts for six years, but I wondered how a country crooner, a roaring rocker, and old-school soul singer, and a jazzy scatter would take on her song book, much less the two ladies. Well, I soon got my answer, and it was completely different than anyone expected!

Urban hip-hop performer-producer and collaborator with Carole King, Babyface Edmonds, was brought in as special mentor for the six, and his performer’s ear paid off! In spite of singing the song 65 times, Jacob Lusk had more fun than ever on “Oh No Not My Baby,” nary any technical glitches onstage, effervescent with some fun leaps in his footwork along with his voice! Jennifer Lopez exclaimed he “killed it,” and Randy Jackson said he had truly “sung” in his own gift for the first time in a lot of weeks. You know what they say about going first, though, and Jacob may get forgotten and lose out in the picking. Lauren Alaina had some morale boosting from Miley Cyrus for “Where You Lead,” letting her voice break her self-imposed barrier once or twice. Jennifer Lopez applauded that she was “pushing” her talents, and Steven Tyler warned “not to let it in” when the 16-year-old is plagued by doubts. This week, the six were paired off for duets, too, and Casey Abrams and his favorite partner, Haley Reinhart, sizzled like sausage on a spit on “I Feel the Earth Move.” These two simply exude joy, delight in performing, and nothing sparks an audience like a performer who loves his work-and both this set of his and her do love what they do! Steven Tyler teased Abrams as “weird beard,” kidding him about his affection, but proclaiming the pair “nothin’ but good.” Scott McCreery sang more from his soul than ever for “You’ve Got a Friend,” and boy, the country boy made an impression. Using his tenor tones over the baritone, he served up his most personal and purely tender performance. Randy Jackson called it his best vocal performance, and multiplied by the pulsing audience reaction, Scotty will be staying around! James Durbin tamed and toned down his rocker side, going more teen idol on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” Jennifer Lopez called him the “star of the night.” Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest dubbed him “superstar” already, with Jackson proclaiming he could “win the whole thing!” Would he have stretched himself, though, to try a song so different, if not compelled by the show? He certainly has talent, but superstar so soon is a stretch in itself.

Lauren and Scotty teamed up as has been their custom, subtly singing to “Up on the Roof,” and bearing up to Ryan Seacrest’s kidding over romance. They clearly get along, but not on that level. Reviving a hit for Blood, Sweat, and Tears, written by King, “Hi De Ho,” Casey Abrams couldn’t have picked a more perfect song for himself, oozing with swagger, charm, and pure personality. He worked the stage like a marionette, and having sexy, short-skirted horn players never hurt, either. Randy Jackson said it was like being in New Orleans for the “Casey Show and Revue,” Steven said it was “mother-lovin'” trying to watch his mouth, and that it so good it made his scalp itch! Jennifer Lopez implored the bearded one to move his legs more, but who’s looking at his legs? It was another great night for Casey. Haley Reinhart had a subdued but still sparkly peasant dress look for her performance of “Beautiful,” and it was probably the purest singing she’s done on the Beatles-esque song. She left her growl and sensuality behind, and simply let her voice run! Steven Tyler said he saw God in her voice-now, that’s powerful! Jacob and James pranced and play-fought on their duet of “I’m Into Something Good,” saying they were going to take the song to church, but they also took it to Jennifer Lopez and her legs! Their teasing testosterone was fun to see!

It will come down to the Top 5 after tomorrow’s vote, so stay tuned!

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“American Idol” telecast, April 27, 2011 FOX TV.