American Idol Top 8 Sing Songs from the Movies, Go Off Script

The Top 8 finalists on “American Idol” continued their march to the finale Wednesday evening in Hollywood, making the job of the voting viewer just a bit more difficult as they all — for the most part — seemed to do what needed to be done to get to the Top 7. Except for that rebellion thing that came on strong. It appeared as if some of the contestants were going with songs they felt were right for them instead of the songs mentors Jimmy Iovine and (from the Black Eyed Peas) suggested they sing.

Not one of the finalists delivered a bad performance this week. The theme was “Songs From The Movies,” so the Top 8 could just about choose any song they wanted (then see if was ever on a movie soundtrack, which most hit songs seem to have been at one time or another). However, when it came down to choice, they didn’t always see eye-to-eye with their musical advisors.

After host Ryan Seacrest announced that judge Jennifer Lopez was People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” the show got down to business. Singing from the movie “Risky Business,” Paul McDonald started off the night. He went all rocker after last week’s rousing “Folsom Prison Blues” finale and tried to recapture that enthusiasm, rasping out Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Regardless of his vocal stylings, which are unique but somewhat limited, Paul is a great performer, and his epileptic-chicken-puppet-on-a-string dancing is just fun to watch.

Jimmy Iovine then told Lauren Alaina that she was a better singer than Miley Cyrus (but it doesn’t take a legendary record producer to hear that), but Lauren looks shocked and begs him not to say that. Lauren sings “The Climb” and does a great job with it, perhaps even better than the “Hannah Montana” star’s version (even though it is probably the best tune Miley Cyrus has done to date).

Stefano Langone sings Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and brings down the house. The mentors, a continued tag-teaming between producer Jimmy Iovine and that began last week, were hard on him again, but he took it in stride, then nailed the song in the performance. Judge Randy Jackson told him he was going to get a call from the original singer and he was going to say that Stefano “slayed” the song.

Scotty McCreery went into rehearsals with the idea of do Harry Nillson’s “Everybody’s Talking” from “Midnight Cowboy” (which he probably chose for the movie title; it’s doubtful he’s seen the movie, or even knows what it’s about, but who knows?). But he was oversinging it and said he wanted to get back to his “country roots.” A surprising comment, since he’s never left them — not once. He performed “I Cross My Heart” from the legendary George Strait. He did a passable rendition, if a bit over-sung. He’s got the tween girl vote as well as the mom vote locked, so he’ll be around for the next few weeks no matter how goofy he looks while performing (The creators of Howdy Doody or Alfred E. Newman could sue for trademark infringement).

Casey Abrams took Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” into the rehearsal studio and Jimmy Iovine told him it didn’t work. Casey asked, “Did it suck?” and asked what they suggested. “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins was tossed at him, but Casey said he wanted to do song that he felt good about, that “defined” him. Going against the mentors is one thing, but his performance of the laid back jazzy tune got him a standing ovation from the judges (a sign of an “artistic difference” war of words to come?). Jennifer Lopez tells him he could be the next Norah Jones and sell millions of non-pop albums. Judge Steven Tyler tells him he’s a true artist.

Haley Rinehart continued her sensual string of songs, singing Blondie’s “Call Me” from “American Gigolo.” The mentors are afraid she might not be able to hit the high note in the chorus. But she does. In fact, she even nails it and manages to get in her little torch-singer growl as well. It is a pretty good performance but the judges panned her (as is usual with Haley; they have rarely had good things to say about her singing or her performing).

Jacob Lusk was immediately put in his place by Jimmy Iovine when he walked into the rehearsal studio. The producer told him that he was lucky to have survived last week’s “Man In The Mirror,” saying, ” You don’t preach to 24 million people when you haven’t made a record yet.” Jacob then sang a weak “Impossible Dream” that Jimmy said was “corny.” He suggested “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which allowed Jacob to get his Jesus on and it worked. Like his style or not, Jacob’s vocals are inspirational.

The final performer of the night was James Durbin. The boy is a rocker and wanted to do Sammy Hagar’s title track from “Heavy Metal.” Jimmy didn’t like it. James said you couldn’t tell a hit song from hearing it once on the piano, which Jimmy took exception to, saying he once knew a hit when he heard it hummed. James ignores the mentor and rocks the house. He also had an ace in the hole — Zakk Wylde, who toured with Ozzy Osbourne for nearly two decades, stepped out and played a blistering lead guitar. Randy Jackson said he could see James at the next Ozzfest.

With Casey and James going completely off script on the mentors — mostly on Jimmy Iovine — and the judges giving them props for sticking to their artistic guns, “American Idol” might be setting up another controversy (and what is “American Idol” without just a little bit of controversy?). Regardless, the finalists made it difficult for the undecided voters — and probably the Pia Toscano voters as well, although Jimmy told Lauren she had a chance to get all of Pia’s votes if she played her cards right. As cold-blooded as it sounded, he was correct. “American Idol” is a contest and many of Pia’s fans will still be watching and voting for someone.

So who is going home this week? Tune in on Thursday evening for the results show on Fox Television, when one more unlucky finalist gets to hear David Cook’s “(Don’t You) Forget About Me.”



“American Idol,” Fox Television

“Top 8: Movie Music Performances,”