Recap: ‘American Idol’ Top 3 Performances

05.18.11 6 years ago 19 Comments


It’s time for the “American Idol” Top 3 and Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and charging darkhorse Haley Reinhart are singing thrice apiece on Wednesday (May 18) night. Their first performance? Personal choice. Second performance? Jimmy Iovine’s choice. Third performance? Judges’ choice.

Who gained the upper hand? Click through for the full recap…

Singer: Scotty McCreery
Song: “Amazed”
My Take: Dude. I wanna be mentored by Beyonce. She loves Scotty, but she’s worried about his confidence with his upper range. It’s a mighty predictable song choice for Scotty, but what’s the point of a personal song choice if you aren’t going to pick an utter no-brainer for yourself? Equally predictably, Scotty’s much better in the lower-ranged verses than in the build to the chorus, which pushes him to a high point where he’s getting lost in the excessive arrangement and background singing. There are at least a couple notes which benefit from being lost. He closes with a nice, assertive note and a smile.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Steven Tyler thinks Scotty keeps getting better and somehow imagines that Scotty got angry somewhere in the song. I don’t even know what that means. Jennifer Lopez loves that Scotty took her advice and started doing vibrato on every note. Randy produced a version of the song and therefore he thinks it was a great song choice. And oh gosh, Randy actually noticed the pitchy parts. Crazy, right?

Singer: Lauren Alaina
Song: “Wild One”
My Take: I’m very pleased that Lauren didn’t do one of three or four Faith Hill songs I’d instantly have guessed. Beyonce advises Lauren to be fearless and a diva. I’m not sure what character Lauren is playing tonight, but it’s another character she can’t fully embody. And this is yet another song that accentuates that even if we think she’s a sweet girl and we like her spirit, her voice remains disappointingly thin every time she’s asked to live up to the standards of her idols (or the standard she set in her very first audition). There are rough notes, strained notes and whispered notes aplenty. And guess what? Nobody’s going to mention this to Lauren, because all season long, nobody’s had the heart to take Lauren to task for not showing any vocal growth in four months of coaching and training.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo compliments Lauren for attacking the song. What an utterly worthless comment. Randy loves seeing Lauren having fun. He loves that in her heart, she seemed to be loving it. But what about THE WAY SHE SANG THE SONG? Steven loved the way Lauren was singing. “You’re ready for America to just be all over you,” Tyler leers inappropriately.

Singer: Haley Reinhart
Song: “What Is and What Should Never Be”
My Take: This is why I like Haley. She’s insane. It’s like she’s channelling her buddy Casey Abrams and intentionally trying to confuse and alienate the judges and viewers. And doing an initially version of a Led Zeppelin classic? That’s just bonkers. And presumably the dude playing guitar stage right is, indeed, Haley’s dad. Her smile and the infusion of warm seeing him is perhaps the most unforced emotional reaction of the entire season. The performance? Well, it’s a bit frantic, even before Haley trips falling up the stairs. Total face-plant. Total. Like, “Uh-oh. What do you do when that happens?” The answer is that Haley drops a couple words before picking herself back up like an utter champ. She’s initially unsteady, but pulls right back into the song and she smiles broadly til she reaches the end, at which point the judges stand for her effort. I think that wins her a lot of support, because you wanna talk about bouncing back? What Haley just did was take what would have probably been a derided or questioned performance and turn it into a “heroic” (again, true heroism isn’t often found on reality shows) triumph. And with her dad there with her? That’s a Moment. Girl turned faceplant into faceplantade. The only bad part of that performance for Haley? That it came in her first performance rather than her third.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: “This is what it’s all about,” Randy cheers, calling her “fearless,” and one of her best performances ever. “Haley, did you fall for me,” Steve Tyler says and adds, “It’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about how many times you get back up.” J-Lo says that when people fall down, you keep going. Randy declares that “hands down” Haley won Round One.

Singer: Scotty McCreery
Song: Jimmy’s Pick: “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?”
My Take: I don’t know this song, but it’s Guitar Scotty, so I approve. It is, in fact, a pretty boring song. But Scotty turns it into a solid vocal — better than his first performance, because it requires less strain — and a vocal that plays directly to the teenage girls (and really inappropriate older woman) who love him. Simple. Smart. Savvy. Successful. Scotty.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Steve says Scotty was living that song. There were so many moments J-Lo loved. “Can you shave your head for the finale,” J-Lo requests. Scotty, you’d best take J-Lo’s advice. Randy agrees on the short hair and thought it was a good pick for Scotty. Randy then absurdly says that Scotty was “approaching the Garth level.” Finally Randy runs off two cliches: One, it was like being at a Scotty concert. And two, Scotty is in it to win it. Will Scotty return for his third performance with his head shaved? And then Ryan and Randy go off into some banter about chest-waxing. It’s just not the same without Simon, is it?

Singer: Lauren Alaina
Song: Jimmy’s Pick: “If I Die Young”
My Take: Haley falls flat on her face, so Lauren has to create a near-tragedy of her own. In this case, her hose have ripped and she has to remove them and get a rub-down. On-air. Sigh. Now her legs are distracting shiny. I shouldn’t be commenting on Lauren Alaina’s legs. Stop. Jimmy’s doing well on the song-picking. This is a song that doesn’t require that Lauren have a Faith Hill or Carrie Underwood-sized voice. The first half of the song is situated right in her range and asks her to do nothing she isn’t good enough to do. And she sounds good. Then Lauren has a gaffe of her own mid-song. Does she lose the melody? Does she lose a word? Stop trying to be Haley, Lauren. From that point, the song gets bigger and Lauren starts fumbling, as she does. Still, in the end, instead of thinking about her limitations, all I’m thinking is “That’s not the right dress to be sitting down on the stage in, young lady.”
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo says Lauren has “the most beautiful tone of our finalists.” I disagree. But OK. Randy and Steven both praise her for the blunder. Lauren explains that she missed a key change. Ah. Ooops. 

Singer: Haley Reinhart
Song: Jimmy’s Pick: “Rhiannon”
My Take: Didi Benami did this one last season. As much as I love Didi Benami, she didn’t have the voice for it. Haley does. Before the performance, Haley warns us that her problem is going to be when the lyrics get a bit fast and wordy. That is, indeed, where she runs into trouble a little trouble. And who can blame her? That’s also when the wind machine and fog machines kick in simultaneously. Is this Haley’s Dream 1989 Music Video? It’s mostly a growl-free performance, which should make the Haley-haters happy. But after her first performance? How could she top it? The solution was not wind-and-fog. What this is is another typical Haley gear-change, something she’s better at than her two “Idol” rivals, if voters happen to appreciate things like that. After a long season — and in the middle of a string of lengthy days of upfronts coverage — I appreciate the variety and versatility.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy thought she did a good job with it, praising her pitch. Randy’s disappointed that guys don’t get wind and fog machines. Steven’s all, “I get that stuff all the time.” Steven’s a fan of the performance. J-Lo thought it looked beautiful, but she wanted a Haley wail in the end. Ask to judge Round Two, Steven gives it to Lauren Alaina. J-Lo gives it to Scotty. Randy agrees with J-Lo.

Singer: Scotty McCreery
Song: Judges’ Choice: “She Believes In Me”
My Take: Although his hair remains unshorn, Scotty’s done enough to lock up his place in the Finals. I can’t even begrudge his presence there. Given these three options, he’s definitely one of the best two, even if he’s a little sharp on the higher notes in the chorus here. He’s holding the microphone straight, hitting the lower notes well. Once again, it’s a straight-to-the-base performance. Why change strategies now?
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Tyler’s happy. J-Lo said they all wanted to see if Scotty could hit the big chorus. She says the answer was “Yes.” I’d say the answer was “Mostly,” which is good enough. Randy says he was “sweet and tender in the front.” Ummm. OK. Scotty’s dad is proud of him. And Scotty’s dad sings a few notes. It’s Father’s Day on “Idol.”

Singer: Lauren Alaina
Song: Judges’ Choice: “I Hope You Dance”
My Take: Yawn. Uninspired song choice from the judges. And uninspired production choice sticking Lauren with the fog machine as well. The result is foggy, utterly acceptable note-for-note karaoke. Vocally, this is Lauren’s best performance of the night, but I’m not sure it should be enough.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo has “goosies from head-to-toe.” Then J-Lo says that Lauren’s won this round for her already. Really, J-Lo? BOO. Randy loves Lauren’s sea-foam dress and tells Ryan that Lauren is in it to win it. Tyler says Lauren sang it perfectly.

Singer: Haley Reinhart
Song: Judges’ Choice: “You Oughta Know”
My Take: The judges apparently want growling. But what did Dave Coulier ever do to Haley Reinhart? The song is deceptively low through to the first chorus. Much too low for Haley. MUCH too low. She fights through the first verse with its sanitized raunchiness (“Would she go out with you to the theater?”), but when she gets to the chorus, she gets to wail. And nobody does it better. And because she’s a trooper, Haley even goes running up and down the stairs, this time without incident. Without question, it was the night’s sexiest performance, but Haley’s drained. You can tell. The arc of the show was such that she had to put so much effort into the first two performances that she’d probably have killed for closing torch song of some sort. Instead, she had to deliver the night’s first and second highest energy performances as the bread, with freaking Stevie Nicks as the filling. That’s hard.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Will the judges admit that they choice a song that wasn’t really right for Haley’s voice? Randy loved hearing Haley rock out and gives Haley her second “in it to win it” of the night. Steven calls it perfect and says Haley nailed the choruses. “There’s nobody who can match you there,” J-Lo says of the choruses. And yay! J-Lo mentions the lowness problems, though doesn’t take responsibility for the choice. Steven gives Round Three to Haley. J-Lo and Randy both give the third round to Lauren. Wow! What a shocking coincidence that Randy and J-Lo both gave each of three singers one round apiece.

TONIGHT’S BEST: Your Finale *should* pit Wire-to-Wire Favorite Scotty against Underdog Haley.

TONIGHT’S WORST: Lauren was not bad. Of this group, she’s just got the weakest voice and the least performing confidence. I don’t hate her. At all. She’s gonna sell albums. I don’t doubt that. But the finale will be ever-so-much duller with her in it.

IN DANGER: I said it last week and I was wrong, but I’ll try it again: A girl is going home this week. Scotty’s the only one who doesn’t need to worry.

What’d you think? And did you laugh at seeing the stars of FX’s “Wilfred” — the dude in the dog suit and Frodo — in the audience?

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