Wednesday (April 27) night is Carole King Night on “American Idol.” Or, as most of the “Idol” target demographic calls it, Who? Night.
How did the Top Six handle both solos and duets? Click through for the full recap…
Singer: Jacob Lusk
Song: “On No, Not My Baby”
My Take: That’s a courageous plaid blazer and purple tie and blew vest and yellow shirt that Jacob’s wearing tonight. The performance starts with Jacob almost in falsetto already, but what does it mean to do a falsetto of a falsetto? Is that even possible? Apparently it’s possible for Jacob, though sometimes the results are as sharp and head-y as you might fear. I feel like Jacob isn’t quite sure on the pacing for the first half-minute, but once he gets comfortable, it becomes a nicely mid-to-up-tempo track. And he’s having fun for the first time in ages. He smiles. He laughs and he even does a funky little dance that’s every bit as geeky, but amusing as his outfit. And you know what? Jacob having fun isn’t quite fully infectious, but it’s a nice relief from Jacob being solemn, emotional and sincere. This is perhaps the best “Idol” performance George Huff ever gave, which isn’t the highest praise, but it’ll do.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: “It’s just about time you shook your tail-feathers,” says Steven Tyler, who also calls it “beautiful” and “magic.” Jennifer Lopez say spaces that weren’t perfect, but she says Jacob “killed it.” You know what Randy loved? He loved that Jacob brought himself back. He observes that Jacob can sing, which is why he’s around.
Singer: Lauren Alaina
Song: “Where You Lead”
My Take: It’s just *too* perfect that Lauren Alaina, with her impressively youthful mom, is singing the theme from “Gilmore Girls.” Plus, Lauren Alaina got mentoring from Miley Cyrus, popping up to bully Jimmy Iovine, who manages to be reduced to a stuttering nerd in the presence of the 18-year-old superstar. Lauren gives the folksy song a slight country twist and even brings some dude up onto the stage with her. Or, rather, she does a little dance with him and he interprets it as an invitation to join her on stage. Well, Lauren didn’t actually *plan* to bring a stranger with her on-stage and she’s not free enough to ditch her programming immediately, so she promptly ignores him for a minute before returning for some really, really awkward and kinda sweet flirtation. Vocally, it’s more of the same from Lauren, but the on-stage interloper effectively humanizes an otherwise robotic performance. Lauren should send him flowers if she advances this week.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: “Yes, clap. Clap,” J-Lo tells the winged monkeys in the crowd. J-Lo is on the verge of tears because she’s so proud of Lauren Alaina for pushing. Randy talks in circles. He didn’t love the song, which he found safe and boring. But Randy loves that Lauren sang the song hard. Steven says that Lauren manifested the light. The guy from the crowd is 19-year-old Brett, an older man, but still the Jimmy Iovine to Lauren’s Miley Cyrus. “We have rules,” Ryan has to instruct him.
Singers: Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams
Song: “I Feel the Earth Move”
My Take: Haley and Casey did a fantastic duet together just a couple weeks ago and somebody was wise to put them together again. Unfortunately, this is so clearly the song that Haley should have done as her solo, because it has exactly the sassy attitude she’s been cultivating for a few weeks now. And while Haley and Casey were well-paired on a jazzy song previously, this is a much more traditional two-parter and Casey is dragging Haley down a little until they regain the necessary comfort by the end. I definitely think Haley “won” the duet.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: “How much in love with Haley are you?” Tyler asks Weird Beard. “There wasn’t anything about that I didn’t like,” Tyler says. Nobody else gets to talk.
Singer: Scott McCreery
Song: “You’ve Got a Friend”
My Take: Sorry, Ryan Seacrest. There’s only one “Scotty the Body” and he’s a grouchy phone-thrower from Ohio, last name “Savol.” Last week, the judges asked Scotty to show them something, so there’s big responsibility as he takes on one of King’s biggest hits. One thing’s for sure: Scotty’s been practicing his microphone posture. It’s not completely straight, but you’ve gotta applaud the evident effort. It’s not going to surprise anybody to hear that Scotty has countrified the heck out of “You’ve Got a Friend.” And sure, it sounds like Scotty McCreery singing it, but who would you want him to sound like? It’s definitely a more expansive, measured vocal than anything he’s done previously. The low parts are excellent, but at Babyface’s urging, Scotty’s actually started higher than usual and whatever his ceiling is, he’s hitting up against it, but not doing any melodic damage. And towards the end, I found myself remembering the weeks or months ago when I was initially impressed by Scotty. I’ve already predicted Scotty as the season’s winner and I’m not about to pick anybody else now, but I think this is a good enough performance to guarantee he coasts into the Finals. [Watch him be in the Bottom Three tomorrow.]
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: You know what was cool about this for Randy? The extra range. He wishes Scotty had held the high notes a bit longer, but calls it otherwise “flawless.” “Scotty’s in it to win it,” Randy raves. Tyler doesn’t think Scotty’s ever sounded better. “That’s why we couldn’t let you get away with what you did last week,” J-Lo says, happily.
Singer: James Durbin
Song: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
My Take: “Carole King and James Durbin were made to come together,” Jimmy Iovine says enthusiastically. After an initial guitar strum, James does the entire first voice a cappella. It’s tremendous. It may be the most impressive 15 or 20 seconds of the entire “Idol” season to date. The performance becomes more conventional when the musical accompaniment kicks in, but the overall effect is damned enjoyable. And put side-by-side with Scotty in a match-up of possible presumptive Finalists, James wins handily. The rock wailing is kept to a minimum and when he closes in-wail, it works.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Steve loved the beginning. This was apparently the first song that Steven Tyler ever “made out” to. J-Lo thought it was “totally magical.” J-Lo adds that James hasn’t blown a single week. You know what Randy loved? That tonight, James proved that he’s a great singer, calling it one of the performances of the last couple months. “This guy just might win the whole thing,” Randy gushes, before being called up to give James a hug. The hug achieves a Lauren/Brett level of awkward.
Singers: Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery
Song: “Up on the Roof”
My Take: I think we’re afraid to pair anybody over the age of 18 with Lauren for fear of ickiness. So this is the third time that Lauren and Scotty have dueted. Because tonight is Embarrass Lauren Alaina Night, Seacrest tries fabricating a showmance. Lauren tries to play along and calls Scotty cute, but Scotty promptly says that they’re like brother and sister. It’s unclear who is sublimating which lustful emotions. No chemistry appears between them on-stage. As with Haley on “I Feel the Earth Move,” there’s an instant sensation that Lauren would have been better off doing this one as her solo. If I only listen to Lauren, this is a good performance. The harmonies are dreadful.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: J-Lo praises Lauren and kinda praises Scotty for taking the back-seat.
Singer: Casey Abrams
Song: “Hi Dee Ho”
My Take: Casey’s gunning for American Hipster Idol tonight. He’s got a natty suit, a black hat and he even sits down and tickles the ivories for a couple seconds. But mostly he’s instrument-free, growling from start to finish. He has a born-showman’s rapport with the individual members of his band and, as a result, he makes the big “Idol” stage feel very intimate. That’s the complimentary part. On the other hand? Vocally, it’s a bit one-note. Casey has definitely done more nuanced jazz vocals this season. And for the first time, you can hear vocal fatigue as he shrieks his way to the end.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: You know what Randy loves? Casey’s always doing different things every week and this performance took Randy back to New Orleans. “You’ve definitely found your niche,” Tyler says, praising him aptly for working the stage. J-Lo would love to see Casey loosen up physically a bit. Randy also asks for “less growl.”
Singer: Haley Reinhart
My Take: Ah, live TV. A technical gaffe delays the start of Haley’s performance. It’s a badly over-blown arrangement. I could have done without the horns and the background singers. Just let Haley sing. Predictably, the attitude she brought to the stat of “I Feel The Earth Movie” is missing here, as she fights just to be heard over the band. There’s a struggle in the middle, but Haley closes strong.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: “Haley, you are as beautiful as all that song is,” says Tyler, who says that Haley let him see God. “Beautiful,” J-Lo says. “I didn’t love the beginning, but I loved the end,” Randy says.
Singers: Jacob Lusk and James Durbin
Song: “I’m Into Something Good”
My Take: This is a huge mistake by the producers. Why would you close the show with this mismatched duet rather than closing with Haley? BOO. What a dumb botch. Nobody needed this. These are not two voices that go together well and this isn’t a song that’s well set to two incompatible voices. If Haley goes home tomorrow, I’m blaming the producers for cutting off any momentum she might have gotten from the end of her performance with this trainwreck. Or why wasn’t this performance slotted where James’ solo went, leaving James to close the show as he darned well should have? Way to leave a bad taste.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say:“Man, where were you going with all that?” Steven asks. For once, Tyler is the voice of reason.
TONIGHT’S BEST: James Durbin was easily Wednesday’s best. I think Scotty may have been second best? Maybe?
TONIGHT’S WORST: Lauren Alaina had vocal missteps and unpleasant romantic entanglements and her solo was a low-light. I didn’t like the first half of Haley’s performance, but she eventually redeemed herself. I didn’t like the exhausted second half of Casey’s performance, but the stagecraft was solid. And Jacob’s performance, while energetic, ultimately ended up being forgettable.
IN DANGER: Jacob and Haley are headed for the Bottom Three, probably with Casey joining them. I think Thursday will be Jacob’s farewell.
Who did you like? Who did you dislike?