‘American Idol’ On April 13, 2011: Musical Styles from Heavy Metal to Jazz to Rock & Roll

Fox, April 13, 2011, 8 PM (ET) “American Idol,” fresh off what host Ryan Seacrest dubbed “the moment no one saw coming,” (which means the week that contestant Pia Toscano was eliminated from the competition), had a tempest in a teapot over whether an audience member was told she was too fat to sit in front. This gem was all over “The Insider’s” TV gossip, but the show on the tube was pretty far ranging, musically speaking.

The contestants’ musical choices ran the gamut from heavy metal to jazz on tonight’s show. At least three of the remaining 8 singers refused to take the advice of record execs Jimmy Iovine and singer Will. i. am.

First singer of the night, Paul McDonald, gave the audience a song they knew: Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N Roll.” Attired in a crazy jacket and pants, he shared the stage with a hot female saxophone player. Steven Tyler called Paul “crazy wild” and talked about his “abandon.” “I liked it,” Tyler said. J-Lo said Paul had “killed it” and Randy, mentioning Paul’s gaudy suit as being “a Porter Wagoner throwback look” said, “Good on you, Baby.” Paul, after his performance, said, “I had a blast.” Given the selections that were to follow, I have to admit that Paul’s song choice sounded better and better as the evening went on.

Lauren Alaina sang next and she selected “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Wearing a short black dress and cowboy boots, she was off-key at one point, but none of the judges mentioned it. All the judges pronounced her performance to be “just beautiful.” By comparison, the judges were much tougher on Haley Reinhart, whose song (“Call Me”) from the movie “American Gigolo,” a Blondie song, was dissed by all three.

Stefano Langone, looking like the understudy for Charlie Brown in his black-and-white horizontally striped shirt, sang “We Belong Together.” Stefano did a good job with a ho-hum song. Randy declared that it was “the right move at the right time” for Stefano, while Steven Tyler said it was “not the end of the road, but just the beginning.” It was tough to tell, what with the dead air, but it appeared that Jennifer Lopez had called Stefano’s choice “ballsy.”

Singing fourth was Scotty McReery, who had rejected a Harry Nilssen song (“Everybody’s Talkin’ About It”) in favor of a George Strait C&W song “I Cross My Heart.” I am not a big country music aficionado. I had never heard this song before. Therefore, I did not care for it, but everyone else, I’m sure, will be in country and western heaven. Scotty did a nice job, as usual, with Steven Tyler saying, ‘I just love your voice. You’re good.” Jennifer Lopez said, “You ALL are so darned good.” Randy took the hyperbole to an even higher level, saying, “A star is born on this stage. That was hot.”

Fifth up was Casey Abrams, who also rejected the judges’ suggestion that he sing Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight,” from the movie “Against All Odds” to sing, instead, a jazz-y rendition of “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole. Casey played the stand-up bass and displayed less facial hair than in previous appearances. The judges’ comments were mainly about how Casey is “a true artist.” Jimmy Iovine, when Casey insisted he was going to sing this relatively old Nat King Cole song rather than the better-known Phil Collins number said, “You’d better be right.” I found Casey’s song choice and performance to be quirky.

Sixth performer of the night was Haley Reinhart, who sang Blondie’s “Call Me” from the Richard Gere movie “An American Gigolo,” as per the night’s theme of music from the movies. The judges were less kind to Haley than to any other contestant, while I actually liked her song second-best (after Paul McDonald’s). I hope that Haley is not cut, since the competition only has 2 girls remaining.

Jacob Lusk sang seventh. He had rejected “The Impossible Dream,” and”You’ll Never Walk Alone” in favor of Jimmy Iovine’s suggestion that he sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Jacob turned in his usual impassioned over-the-top dramatic Broadway-tinged performance, while wearing a tan suit. Steven Tyler said it was “astounding how much you put into a song. Incredible. God bless you.” Jennifer Lopez said that Jacob was “a gifted vocalist.” In other words, the judges liked Jacob.

James Durbin was yet another of the performers who rejected expert advice and insisted on singing Sammy Hagar’s song “Heavy Metal.” He made some humorous remarks about “give metal a chance.” Backing James on guitar was Ozzie Osbourne’s guitarist, Zack Wilde, who did a great job. Jennifer Lopez told him that his performance was “really, really real” and that he was “killing it dead.” Steven Tyler declared James’ performance to be “outstanding” and also added, “Nice lip to Jimmy there.” Randy called James’ performance “unbelievable” and said, “Tonight, you did you.” Randy made some comment about how James could immediately play Ozfest and I had a mental impression of Ozzie Osbourne tottering around in his kitchen on the reality show he and his family used to have. Based on that memory, I am ready for OzFest.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the elimination of another contestant. Most likely contenders, in my mind, would be Haley (because of the judges’ commentary), Casey or Jacob. This doesn’t mean I would agree that these 3 were the worst. It means that any voting public that would kick Pia Toscano off, before Stefano (et. al.) would vote the arguably most talented contestant (Casey) off because he chose a weird song. I also think that, much as the ballad-singing got old when Pia did it so beautifully time and time again, people are wearying of Jacob’s Broadway uber-ballads with Gospel flair. Who would I like to see go? Even though he did well this night, I’ve been unimpressed with Stefano’s song choices (same old/same old) and he has almost been voted off on at least 2 prior occasions.