At the top of last night’s “American Idol,” a brief montage recapped last week’s shocking elimination of Pia Toscana, with graphics reading, “It was the moment no one saw coming. Every vote counts.” The montage ended with tearful judge Jennifer Lopez saying to Pia, “I wish there were something we could do.” There might have been, except that the judges used their one save of the season to rescue Casey Abrams weeks before.
Host Ryan Seacrest then took a couple minutes to announce that J. Lo had been named the most beautiful woman in the world by “People” magazine. She thanked him but seemed a little embarrassed by the attention, especially when they dimmed the lights, put a spotlight on her, and played a snippet of the Sinatra tune, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”
This week’s theme was music from the movies, with Paul McDonald kicking off the evening. In the videotaped segment, Paul said he choose songs by imagining they’re the encore for a concert. He chose Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll” from “Risky Business,” where Tom Cruise danced in his underwear. Mentors Will.i.am and Jimmy Iovine suggested off-the-wall things, such as sliding onto the stage and using beat box in the middle of the song. Jimmy said Paul has to “bring the great time.” Wisely, Paul ignored the advice about sliding in and instead ran down the stairs, wearing a black suit embellished with red sequined roses. He danced wildly throughout the first part, and caught a tambourine from offstage to “jam” next to a saxophone player on the bridge. Well, that was different. He definitely brought the fun.
Steven Tyler thought the sax player was good, and he asked to borrow Paul’s suit when he goes on tour. He liked the performance and thought Paul got a good crowd response. J. Lo said she thought watching Paul is like watching a diamond in the rough that every time gets more polished. Randy Jackson said, “America, you just witnessed the first number at the Paul McDonald concert.” He said Paul is not just a singer but an artist.
Lauren Alaina chose “The Climb” from the Hannah Montana movie, and Jimmy Iovine told her she’s a much better singer than Miley Cyrus. Wearing a black party dress with a poofy skirt and sweetheart neckline with black cowboy boots, she started out subdued. At the point in the song where she should have flown away with her vocals, she had trouble reaching the note, and she did the same thing after the key change, dipping her voice as she climbed up to it. I’d rather hear Miley Cyrus sing it, frankly.
J. Lo loved hearing her sing that song and likes the “tear you have in your voice.” That’s tear as in crying, not as in ripping cloth. Randy said “The Lauren we first saw in Nashville is roaring back.” He said she sang it like it was written for her. Steven likes what she brings to a song and “how you own it in your spirit and your voice.” He added, “You moved me beyond tears.” Really?
Jimmy Iovine told Stefano Langone to get the idea out of his head that he’s going home, that he could actually win. Stefano chose “End of the Road” by Boys II Men from that cinema classic, “Boomerang.” Stefano vowed to start fresh. Wearing a gray and black striped sweater, jeans and white sneakers, he was in modern crooning form. His voice felt pinched at times; he really must be feeling the pressure. My 10-month-old liked it, though, and bounced and giggled. Then again, my 10-month-old can’t vote.
Randy thought that “his boy” from Boyz 2 Men (name drop much?) would be calling him soon to say that Stefano nailed it. He called this his best vocal to date. Steven said Stefano proved he knows how to milk a song. J. Lo told him that he’s stopped singing to stay and is now singing to win. Then somebody (J. Lo, I think) said something that got bleeped out.
Scotty McCreery originally picked the Harry Nilsson song “Everybody’s Talking” from “Midnight Cowboy,” a very smart choice. Jimmy Iovine was mock upset when Scotty called him “dude.” After further thought, Scotty went with a safer choice: the George Strait song “Across My Heart” from “Pure Country.” Jimmy said he would have kept the original choice. He started out on a stool, wearing a dark brown leather jacket with a plaid shirt and jeans. He seemed out-powered by the background singers on the chorus, which shows he still has some growing to go. The key change was a little rough, but as he stood and walked toward the audience, teenage girls in the audience screamed.
Steven said he loves Scotty’s voice. “You did it again; you picked the just right song.” J. Lo said that “everyone wants us to be tough, but the truth is, you all are so damn good.” She said it wasn’t her favorite song choice, but he performed it beautifully. Randy liked the song for him. His motto in life: “If it ain’t broke, don’t ever consider fixing it.” He declared that “a star is born” in Scotty. Casey Abrams said it’s difficult to find a song that defines him as an artist. He chose “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole, featured in “Moulin Rouge” among other movies. Jimmy Iovine said he got too “small” with it, so he encouraged Casey to go with his second choice, Phil Collins, “I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight.” Casey ultimately decided to resurrect “Nature Boy.” Casey took the stage with an upright bass, wearing a brown suit, his beard trimmed down to barely there. His performance did start quietly, but he opened up more throughout the song, and he inserted a number of grunts into it. On the bridge, he jammed out on the bass while scatting. The risk paid off with an original peformance.
The judges gave him a standing ovation. J. Lo said, “At the beginning, I was nervous,” but as it went on, he liked that there’s a diversity of artists in the contest. He reminded people of Norah Jones, who is a jazz artist that crosses boundaries. Randy reasserted that Idol hasn’t had anybody like him ever. He said he hopes that America gets this, and he could hear Casey making an album like this. Steven told him he’s an artist in the truest sense of the world. He told him to do what’s in his heart.
In her taped segment, Haley Reinhart said she believes she’s growing as an artist, and she finds it hard to believe she’s one of only two girls left. She chose Blondie’s “Call Me,” featured in “American Gigolo.” Jimmy Iovine said Haley has to transform herself into a powerful character for the song. She started out rough, flat on the first note, but tried to make up for it by prancing across the stage in knee-high high-heeled boots and a glittery minidress with a stained glass pattern. She strutted across the second stage during the bridge as she purred in French. She was definitely amping up the “sexy angle.” But will it work with the primarily female viewers?
Randy didn’t love the beginning and felt she was getting into it at the end. He felt the song was very karaoke and wasn’t a “singer’s song.” Steven agreed, but said that she did great with the chorus, and he loved her dress. J. Lo liked where “you started wailing at the end.” But she said she’s afraid to say anything about the girls, because she doesn’t want the girls to go home.
Elvira and Rob Reiner were in the audience together, and not even to promote something!
Jacob Lusk got a dressing down from Jimmy Iovine about his statement last week about “if you’re not feeling ‘Man in the Mirror,’ you’re not willing to look in the mirror.” He reminded him people don’t like to be preached at. He and Will.i.am weren’t thrilled with Jacob’s first choice and suggested the Simon & Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Jacob wore a light brown suit and started out with a toned down delivery. Predictably, he started to soar halfway through the song, backed by a choir of singers. It was not his best performance, though; a little shaky at times, and he was a touch flat on his final note.
Steven said something that got bleeped and then told him he sang angelically. “And I know America hears that.” J. Lo called him a gifted vocalist and said, “I didn’t want you to give me the chills, but you did.” Randy agreed with Steven and J. Lo. He liked that he took his time with this song, let it “marinate” and then “blew it up at the end.”
No surprise, James Durbin initially chose the theme song from “Heavy Metal,” sung by Sammy Hagar. Reviewing the song, Jimmy Iovine didn’t like it. He asked, “Where’s the hook?” and James told him “That was the hook.” But James stood up to Jimmy, and Will.i.am backed him up, saying that he himself has had conversations like that with Jimmy. “Give metal a chance, America” James said at the close of the package. He came out wearing a black leather jacket, gray T-shirt, dark jeans, and black boots, singing with guitarist Zakk Wylde. He went over to the judges’ table, threw a boot up on the edge, and screamed out a high note. Then, he interacted with the guitarist, who was doing a solo, and James did a deep back bend just like Russell Brand had urged him to do the previous week! He finished with a fist in the air to audience applause. At the end, James gave it up for the guitarist and then ran over to a little fan with “Cole” on his jacket and gave him a high five. “That song was for Cole,” he announced.
J. Lo was excited about the diversity on the show tonight, saying, “We can have a country idol… a metal idol,” etc. Randy told everyone that Zakk plays with Ozzy Osbourne and that he was happy James stuck by his guns. Ryan asked Zakk what he thought, and he said, “He sang his ass off.” Steven told him he was glad he went with his feelings. He told James, “Great, as usual.”
Kudos to James and Casey, who took chances but made them pay off. A nod to Stefano, who may have finally found his mojo.
Most likely to end up in the bottom three are Jacob, along with Haley and possibly Stefano or Scotty. If J. Lo managed to convince people to vote for the girls, it will probably be Jacob going home.