In a night of many surreal moments -- Expletives! Fake beards! Drum lines! PIA! -- I have to start with the most awesome one: when Steven Tyler stuck his tongue right through Ryan Seacrest’s mug on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter. You couldn’t ask for better publicity, so thank you, Steven! You rock.
And in celebration of rocking songs from the 21st Century, Idol threw those angry Pia Toscano fans a bone. And no, I’m not talking about Mark Ballas sitting in the audience.
Pia returned to the stage with the rest of the Idol castoffs, Karen Rodriguez, Ashthon Jones, Thea Megia, Naima Adepapo, and token boy Paul McDonald, with a performance of Pink’s “So What?” It must be said: if Pia had dressed that way every week, she would still be here. Not like it matters anymore -- when was the last time you saw an AI contestant show up to sing on a competing network’s reality show this fast? It’s the nature of this particular season: And so what? They are all rock stars, but there can be only one American Idol. Also in the audience: Steven’s daughter, Mia, supplying the lipstick, members of Glee, Fringe, and Mark Ballas’ dad, Corky.
First up was Scotty McCreery, who chose “Swingin,” a 1983 John Anderson song covered by LeAnn Rimes. I found it funny that my usual critique of Scotty, the way he holds his microphone to the side of his mouth, was openly mocked by everyone in his video package. Scotty took it in stride, and asked somewhat rhetorically (I think), “Who doesn’t want to hold their mic like a flute?” He dropped the octave on the song to suit his natural register, but can we talk about the weird performance? The scrunched faces, the raised eyebrows, the elbow rolls? It was like some strange country fair where the rodeo clown is warming up the audience for the bull riders. Not his best performance at all, but he will be safe next week, as Lauren Alaina noted, thanks to the 15 million little girls voting for him. Steven wanted more boot scooting, Jennifer Lopez loved his story-telling, but felt he should push past his comfort zone, and she was expecting more. Randy shocked everyone by actually telling Scotty his song choice was boring and safe.
After a video package of his fellow contestants bagging on the scarves and his trademark wail, James Durbin filled us in on his apocalyptic vision with Muse’s “Uprising.” He pulled out all the stops -- the Mad Max outfit, the drum line, the wail, and the cane. I appreciated the drama James brought to the song, and the high notes were just crazy, although some parts sounded too low for his register, but that’s just me being nit-picky. I love James’s energy and appreciate the fact that he’s bringing Muse to a mass audience. Of course, Randy couldn’t resist the opportunity to name drop frontman Matt Bellamy, who challenged James to up the octave on the last part. Steven told James to stay out of his closet, then ripped off Dolly Parton with a line about “how expensive it is to look this cheap.”
Haley Reinhart, she of the growls according to her fellow contestants, decided to take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Jimmy Iovine warned her that she had to deliver magic, or else she would be in trouble. Haley started seated on a stool wearing a cool red polka-dotted dress and this time, the growl was working for her. I have to admit, I’m enjoying Haley much more this week. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly as angry as Adele’s version, but you know what? I agree with Randy about the direction Haley chose with the song, despite going sharp, as he said, in the falsetto. Steven loved what she did in the middle. Jennifer thought Haley sang some parts better than Adele by bringing in her Haley moment. Again, I am worried about Haley’s voice because in her post interview with Ryan, she sounded like she was starting to lose it. Someone get that girtl some tea with honey, stat! I hope she survives another week, because she was really on her game tonight. As an experiment, I dialed up Haley’s voting number and it was crazy busy, so she may make it.
Jacob “I am not a diva” Lusk embraced the Luther Vandross comparisons last night with the singer’s late-career hit “Dance With My Father” (incidentally, covered by Scotty “The Body” Savol in Season 4). The song means a lot to Jacob, because he lost his father at the age of 12, and Jimmy thought it was a great choice because the audience “knows that Jacob can sing, now they’re going to find out if he can feel.” Additionally, April 20 is Vandross’ birthday, so his presence was felt last night. Jacob had trouble from the beginning with his in-ear monitor, which forced him to pull the microphone away and he missed a note. But he can feel all right. He could hardly hold back the tears, and manages to hit one big crazy note at the end. Jacob is still struggling with the vibrato, though, maybe because the emotion throws him off balance, like Jennifer suggested. The judges all said it was an emotionally great performance, but Randy wants more. He said he wants the “return of the old Jacob,” and that he should let loose the way Durbin did. Treading awfully close to Simon Cowell territory, Randy described Jacob as a race horse with the restraints on. Can’t say I disagree, but I don’t know if America is ready for Jacob to cut loose.
For the next taped package, the contestants all got to riff on the bearded one, Casey Abrams
, aka Yukon Cornelius. Casey and Jimmy are at peace with his song choice, a big change from last week. Throwing another element into the mix, Casey decided to play guitar this week and delivered his usual stalky, intense stare for his performance of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe.” He rushed the first chorus, growled the lyrics with his signature “Casey-isms,” stiffly marched across the stage, accompanied his own guitar lead, then smooched Jennifer, who said he has “soft lips.” Steven cracked that Casey accomplished what he’s been trying to do for four months. Randy loved Casey’s element of surprise, and enjoyed the jazz, indie rock vibe. But did Steven forget kids are watching the show? What’s with all of the expletives
? Casey is changing our lives?? WTF? Did Randy call Jennifer Sarah? And Ryan, oh Ryan. That had to pain him so to adorn his manscaped face with the Casey Beard. The wheels have definitely come off.
Stefano Langone is apparently quite a flirt according to his fellow finalists. Said Jacob: Stefano would hit on a piece of paper if it had some estrogen in it (again, Jacob, you’re not a diva?). However, Jimmy doesn’t think Stefano is sexy enough when he sings, and that great looking guys shouldn’t be pleading for women to come “Closer.” He's right. “Closer” is a sexy song – I’ve seen Ne-Yo perform it live and he is an entrancing entertainer. Stefano’s idea of seducing us is motioning with his finger and contorting his eyebrows with this come hither, “How YOU doing?” vibe. The Situation on Jersey Shore has more game than Stefano. Though he was moving a lot better on Wednesday and hit one big note (eyes closed, it must be noted), the way he was playing to the camera just didn’t seem like he was connected to the song. It felt like he had Jimmy in his head yelling, “don’t BEG!” Randy expected mad karaoke, but was pleased that he took his time and Jennifer spoke for the girls in the audience -- she felt he owned the song and got his swagger back.
According to Jimmy, Lauren Alaina can win Amercian Idol if she stops pulling back on stage, but Lauren is still intimidated when everyone else hits “big crazy notes.” Sticking to her zone, she picked Sara Evans’s “Born to Fly,” and it was a good choice. She stayed close to the original version and pulled it together with some runs at the end, but it would have been nice to see her go off a little more. That fear was still there. Plus, the fiddler player upstaged her a bit. To win Idol, you need to take a chance here and there, and the judges actually told her that. Steven suggested trying a Shania Twain (she tried that already with "Any Man of Mine" and it wasn't her finest moment) or Alison Krauss song. Jennifer suggested she go home and practice the big notes by herself when nobody is listening. Randy told her to believe in herself. It all started to sound like a Stuart Smalley pep rally, with Seacrest asking the teen if she believes she can win. She almost seemed apologetic with her answer. If you want to win Idol -- go for it. Take it. So What? You’re a Rock Star!
So who is going home? I call Stefano. I think his time has come. What's your take on this week's show?