Ranking the ‘American Idol’ Top 3: Are They “In it to win it”?
The “American Idol” Top 3 only delivered one genuine moment on performance night, and a bunch of bland performances and missteps. At this point in the competition, we should really be getting a more explosive exciting night. All three contestants have talent, and it’s a shame that the production just hasn’t done them any favors this year.
Easing Up on the Sabotage?
While it’s been pretty clear in the last few weeks that the producers wanted to shoo away that fly Haley, on performance night it seemed as if some of the criticism was shifted to Lauren. It almost seems like they’ve decided that as long as Scotty is in the finale, they don’t care which girl joins him. When Haley initially got some praise, I expected that maybe they had realized an all-country finale wouldn’t be the most-watched show in “American Idol” history. I hoped they would try to ease up on Haley. Not so. They gave her the pimp slot, but then saddled her with the toughest song of the night–that didn’t suit her range–to close the show. They also gave the two teens the sweet, serious and squeaky clean songs and gave Haley the evil, vindictive screaming chick song.
When they showed a bit of the hometown packages at the start, it was pretty even-handed. However, when they showed how the contestants received their song choices from the judges, Lauren and Scotty received their texts in front of crowds of screaming fans. Haley received hers in the limo, alone, even though there’s footage of her on YouTube getting a text while in a crowd of fans at her local AT&T store.
The Beyonce Mentoring
Beyonce was one of those mentors looking for the positive in everything, but like Sheryl Crow, if you listened carefully, you could see her real feeling lurking between the lines. Or in Haley’s case, spilling out all over the lines.
Scotty McCreery: Like Jennifer Lopez often is, Beyonce seemed a bit squee-ish around Scotty, and gushed over his “innocent charm.” She complimented his “full and warm” vocals, and said the “simple melody” was well suited to Scotty’s voice. She also hoped he was confident enough to hit the higher range in the performance. She seemed a little nervous for him, and for once, I thought Scotty actually did better on performance night than in rehearsal.
Lone Star’s “Amazed” was a nice choice by Scotty. The fact that he had to concentrate more to hit a few of the higher notes seemed to dial back his goofy eyebrows and contorted facial expressions, so it was one of his more pleasant performances. Beyonce was also right, that the song showed off his pretty tone. As for wardrobe, I’m done with the plaid flannel shirts. The girls have to come out in all kinds of extravagant outfits, and yet Scotty gets to look like he’s about to pitch some hay out in the barn.
Steven admired that Scotty seemed to get a bit angry at one moment in the song, though Scotty seemed confused by this critique. J-Lo pointed out how all “a million girls were wishing you were singing that song to them.” Apparently she is one of those girls. Randy mentioned Scotty was pitchy in a few spots, but then said he “put the period on it” and “that’s money.”
“Okay,” Ryan drawled, “so he’s got punctuation and money.” Somehow I feel that was an “oh snap” moment. It’s all in the delivery.
Lauren Alaina: Following the script of the past few weeks of Lauren being the shy girl incapable of going for notes, Beyonce addressed Lauren’s confidence level. She noted that Lauren did better on “fun” songs, and that she needed to adopt Beyonce’s mantra before going on stage, that included: “I deserve it” and “I’m a diva.” Lauren didn’t seem convinced.
Lauren came out in a red trapeze top, dark jeans and white boots, looking a bit like a modified Wonder Woman. I have also just now noticed that Lauren and Scotty wore red, white and blue. Sheesh. Maybe they should have had a slice of apple pie on a table next to them. Though she’d been apparently singing the song since she “was a kid,” Lauren seemed completely out of breath on Faith Hill’s “Wild One.” She was yelling more than singing, falling off the notes, and her heart didn’t really seem to be in it.
J-Lo called Lauren “our little baby.” Then the three judges proceeded to talk around Lauren’s performance, noting things that she should do, and then trying to imply that she had done them. There was a lot of talk of Lauren “having fun,” but nothing about actually hitting the notes.
“Shy” Lauren cozied up to Ryan and then announced, “I always put my hand on your shoulder!” Droll as always, Ryan replied, “That is why they hired me. I’m like a lean-to.”
Haley Reinhart: After Beyonce was effusive with the other two contestants, I was hoping we might get a little something extra for Haley, and we did. Beyonce threw a pile of adjectives at Haley, admiring her song choice of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” as showing her “gut, fearlessness, conviction and #$%!” Beyonce getting bleeped–you know that’s even better than a Steven Tyler off-color compliment. She said Haley had presence “even when not singing,” and that all of Haley’s qualities contributed to “being a superstar.” Sadly there was no mention of the fact that Led Zeppelin actually offered Haley their songs after they heard her rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun.” Can’t give the girl an unfair advantage, now.
Haley, in her drawling, “hey man” musician sort of way said that she was excited to have her Dad playing on guitar for her performance: “He rips pretty good.” Indeed he did, as Haley launched into a bit more bluesy version of the Zeppelin tune–then getting that trademark arm raising to help her wail out the choruses Plant-style. Haley made it down the huge flight of stairs without incident, then sadly took a spill in front of the judges’ table–earning a whooping cheer from them and the audience when she immediately got back up and delivered the next line with the same power as before. She absolutely nailed a tough, complicated song, and delivered an explosive performance–the big moment of the night.
The judges agreed. After Randy, who loves to tear into Haley, shouted enthusiastically about Haley “slayin’ it,” Haley went and kissed her guitarist dad in thanks. Randy said the song choice was “not for the weak of heart” and that it was “one of [her] best performances.” Steven slyly asked Haley, “Did you fall for me? Then added it’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get up.” Next J-Lo and the judges rambled about other artists who have fallen, and when J-Lo’s sound went out on a recent concert, and how it’s a sign of a professional to just keep on going. J-Lo grudgingly had to admit then that “It was a good round for you.”
We got the sweet parent moment, then, with Haley and her dad. Haley said “We got the lead out,” and then said the fall wasn’t great, but her dad was there to pick her up. “I wish I could have picked you up,” her Dad replied with genuine emotion. Awwww….
Round Two–From Auditions to Top 3
Watching the audition segments for all three contestants, I feel the same now that I did at the start. All three have talent. Haley can do amazing things with her voice, but needs a little fine-tuning. Scotty has beautiful lower tone, a mature sound for his age, but limited range. I was also so glad that he’s grown his hair out–he looks much more handsome now. Lauren has her moments on the big notes, but is too breathy on verses. I thought it then, and I still think that she’s overrated.
Scotty McCreery: Scotty tackled “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” Scotty had the guitar on this one, which cut down on the dreaded T-Rex arm movements. He also did nicely on the vocals, though I just never feel any real spark on these types of songs from the teenage Scotty. He always seems to be approximating how one would woo a girl, and sadly turned out the goofy eyebrows on the final notes to emphasize his “seductive” question.
Steven said he’d “never heard you deliver a chorus like that,” which we think was praise. Jennifer stammered her way through trying to give examples of great little “moments” like when Scotty grabbed his guitar, or when he “laughed a little.” Then she inexplicably asked him to shave his head for the finale, which seemed a startling non sequitur, and really horrible advice. Randy tried to say J-Lo would kiss Scotty if he did it, but she protested loudly that she was a “married woman.”
Randy has gotten so predictable he asked Ryan to “guess what I’m going to say”–which was of course, his famous “in it to win it.” He then dared to say Scotty was “approaching Garth level.” He and Ryan then traded quips on waxing, and the critique went to a place that will no doubt have Scotty kissing his cross again later.
Backstage, Scotty no doubt fired up his female fan base by reiterating that he was asking all the girls in America “Are you gonna kiss me or not?” He’s becoming more savvy, and with a couple more years of maturing, this boy will really know how to turn it on.
Lauren Alaina: This was the moment when I felt they were throwing Lauren under the bus where Haley used to be. They decided to show Lauren getting make-up applied to her legs because her pantyhose had ripped. They showed it extensively, with Lauren getting more and more embarrassed. This may have been even worse than Ryan wiping Haley’s smeared lipstick off of her face after a performance earlier in the competition. The two girls can commiserate on personal embarrassments now–they’ve also both been shown falling on stairs.
If Lauren could be said to have a moment on Top 3 night, this was it. The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” was perhaps a bit too serious for Lauren to tackle emotionally, but she went for all of the big notes and displayed her beautiful, clear tone. She was a little weaker at the start, but I thought she built it up nicely. Not as compelling as her “Candle in the Wind” earlier this season, but still a nice performance that was worthy of a Top 3 spot.
Jennifer said Lauren had “the most beautiful tone of all our finalists,” and then spent a long time trying to explain why Lauren missed some words and notes at the end because she “got caught up in it.” Randy complimented her for noticing when she “missed the modulation” and going “right back into it.” He compared this to Haley getting up after her fall, which somehow seems more of an uncontrollable reason for missing notes, but hey, it’s Randy. To be honest, I didn’t notice that big of a flub, and Lauren showed her inexperience by using her little girl voice to confess “I missed the key change!” The judges were trying so hard to wrap her mistake up in compliments, that she should have just taken the love and counted on the rest of the audience not really realizing what she’d missed.
Haley Reinhart: Lauren’s performance perhaps making her nervous, Haley confessed before she went on that she was hoping she would “remember the words” to the “fast-paced” Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. She relished the “cool, eerie vibe” and declared “I hope I do it justice.” Her moment with Jimmy Iovine was important because she actually got a hug from the typically stoic judge, who thought she would “fit right in” with Stevie Nicks.
Haley did fit right in. She slowed down the pace of the song, and they brought in what my hubby dubbed “the Stevie Nicks wind.” As she got into the “Rhiannon” refrain, she swayed in front of the fan, the breeze fluttering her gorgeous blond hair and silky dress. She looked lovely, her tone was so sweet, and she seemed lost in the beauty of the song. That was her true Stevie moment. It was more of a sedate performance, and didn’t allow her to highlight her more bluesy growl, but it was nice to see a different side of her.
Randy called it “pitch perfect,” though he felt it a little more “somber” of a performance. Steven said it reminded him “of why I fell in love with Stevie in the first place.” Jennifer said she thought Haley was going to “take it higher at the end,” but felt it was a “pretty moment.” After giving the first round to Haley, J-Lo and Randy gave this second round to Scotty. Steven, who praised all three in round one, gave this one to Lauren.
Haley seemed pleased with her own performance, saying she felt like she had been “channeling Stevie” and “collecting all her cool vibes.”
Beyonce Video, “Run the World (Girls)”
Though I generally like Beyonce, I am not a fan of her latest. The large cast of women dressed in revealing outfits and bling looked like “America’s Next Top Model”-does-“Mad Max.” Beyonce’s bizarre, vibrating “dancing” looked more freaky than appealing, and the song sounded like the harmony and bass line of a song–with no melody in sight. Not feeling it, or the supposed empowerment of crawling around in your underwear in the sand.
The Judges’ Picks
I have no idea why “American Idol” chose to sabotage its own Top 3 night by having the performers sing the songs they were comfortable with at the start, and then giving them the tough songs at the end and watching them flounder as the last remaining image of the night. The conspiracy theorist in me feels like it was a way to sabotage Haley’s pimp spot, and leave everyone with the memory of her weakest performance, rather than her take on Led Zeppelin that easily won the night.
Scotty McCreery: Once they released the news that Scotty would be singing “She Believes in Me” by Kenny Rogers, I suspected he was going to be in trouble. And he was. Scotty displayed all of his faults in this one number, dropping off the end of every word, never sustaining a note. The higher range proved to be too much for him, and while he didn’t totally destroy it, his delivery was thin and strained–and a few notes simply twanged out before reaching full potential. Definitely his weakest performance of the night.
The judges of course tried to make it seem like Scotty had met the challenge they’d put down, even though he hadn’t. Their comments involved the usual doublespeak, with Randy saying it was nice to see Scotty “believe” he could hit the notes. Jennifer said they had wanted to see if Scotty could hit the higher range, and “guess you showed us.” Yes, he showed that he couldn’t.
Lauren Alaina: Strangely, there was no mention that Lauren had been giving the Lee Ann Womack song that made Scotty sing “Nuts of Wonder” to cover his loss of the lyrics in the Hollywood competition. “I Hope You Dance” was yet another song that Lauren failed to connect with emotionally, when that is true power of this beautiful ballad. After receiving some criticism in the last round, Lauren seemed almost to have given up on this song. She was breathy, didn’t hold any of the notes, seemed to be rushing through the lyrics, and started laughing her way through the middle and end. It was one of the most pageanty and unsatisfying performances we’ve seen from Lauren to date.
No one seemed to be buying it when Jennifer claimed to have goosebumps “or goosies.” She declared Lauren the winner of the round before Haley even came out, once again proving her distaste for the diva in training. Randy then complimented Lauren’s long, seafoam sparkly gown–and started to say something about how he’d been telling J-Lo if she wore that color–and then he seemed to realize he was telling an inappropriate story to a 16 year old. Nice. Steven then said that Lauren sang the tune “like you owned the Grand Ole Opry.”
Ryan quipped during the repeat of the phone number that: “If you get the goosies for Lauren, dial…” Ryan was definitely in a snarky mood tonight. Love it.
Haley Reinhart: I’d known the judges choice could be the kiss of death for Haley, and I’d really hoped that she would do the acoustic version of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” Instead she sang the rocker version, but oddly the band was nowhere to be found–either visually or musically. It’s like they left her out on stage alone to flounder, and she struggled her way through the deep, monotone (and sanitized) verses. She did have a beautiful moment when she stalked around the stage and feistily delivered “when I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it!” to Randy, who gave a “Randy performance” of being shocked and a little scared. Once she hit the wailing chorus she found her footing and nailed it, and her final notes were sublime.
The judges actually weren’t too hard on Haley, mentioning how she “rocked out” on the choruses, but had a little trouble with the verses. Jennifer said that as far as power, “no one can match you.” She and Randy then chose Lauren as the winner of the round, but Steven said he had to give it to Haley: “You slayed me tonight.” Then an enthusiastic male fan yelled out, “You’re the winner, Haley!” Oh, how we wish he was right.
The Final Verdict
I have to give it to my astute husband once again, who asked partway through the night, “Is it just me, or does Haley have much harder songs to sing?” Look at Lauren and Scotty, who were given six moderate country tunes to sing, with Beyonce even talking about the “simple melody” of Scotty’s first tune. Then look at Haley, who’s been told she’s a bluesy Adele-type singer, and then they gave her Stevie Nicks and Alanis Morissette–and she rocked out to a Led Zeppelin tune. While Haley struggled particularly with the Alanis song, it’s clear that there’s no way either Lauren or Scotty could have even come close to her performances on her three songs tonight.
All three contestants had up and down moments tonight. If the voting went correctly, it should be a Scotty and Haley finale. Haley won the night with her rock performance. Scotty was slow and steady, with a few stumbles. Lauren had one good song–but with a mistake. She seems to have run out of energy, and her heart doesn’t really seem to be in it.
The problem is that Haley’s struggled for a fan base from the beginning, while Scotty and Lauren have had a crowd voting for them from the start. Haley did manage to hang on by gathering new fans with performances like “Bennie and the Jets” and “The House of the Rising Sun.” Lauren has had the producer and judge pimping from the get-go, however, while Haley has always been treated like cannon fodder. There’s also been some inexplicable backlash from James fans, who feel that Haley is somehow to blame for him getting voted off. This is a shame, because it’s likely many of his votes could have gone to Haley, rather than the country vote.
Throughout the season, it seemed like the “American Idol” powers were hoping for a James/Lauren or James/Scotty finale. When James unexpectedly got voted out, they didn’t know what to do, because an all-country Top 2 is certain to alienate a large part of the viewing audience. I expected them to try and pump Haley up more on performance night to try to get her into the finale, but while they threw a few bones her way, there heart didn’t seem in it. They still love Lauren, even though she’s failed to deliver on the promise they thought she had.
After a group of much more interesting contestants was picked for the Top 13, I really expected something better once we got to the Top 3. It seems that the heavy producer involvement this year didn’t do anyone any favors, and the quirkier contestants suffered the most under the restrictive song choices and tinny, pathetic arrangements. A Haley/James finale would have been sublime, and a Haley/James/Casey or Haley/James/Naima final three really would have been so much more entertaining than what we had here tonight. As it stands, if Haley doesn’t make it into the finale, the two country teens are going to need a lot of help from guest stars to make it any kind of an exciting night.
Don’t forget! “American Idol” airs on TUESDAY and Wednesday next week, at 8/7c. on FOX. Mark your calendars!
Check out: ‘American Idol’ Top 4 Results Night Shocker: A Guy Goes Home or Yahoo TV review: ‘American Idol’ Top 4: Gaga Scares Scotty, Lauren Stands Up for Haley