There’s an air of inevitability here, isn’t there? I mean, we’re pretty sure Haley (or maybe Lauren) goes home this week… the other girl goes home next week… and we get our pre-ordained rock vs. country final (James vs. Scotty) in two weeks… which, of course, begs the question… how are the producers going to screw with us now?
Perhaps it’s with tonight’s double theme… “Leiber & Stoller Music” (yes, another modern theme) and “Songs that Inspire” (in other words, “Whatever You Damn Well Please”). So, without any further ado… THIS… is American Idol!!!
By way of intro, we’re reminded that the final three get to go home for Hometown Hero week… and it’s already leaked that at least one hometown concert is set for this Saturday. Will it matter? We find out… after the credits roll and the judges and Seacrest get their intros…
The Lieber & Stoller round will be mentored by Lady Gaga (go figure)… but first, it’s…
Songs That Inspire
James Durbin – “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Journey)
He’s in concert mode, working the crowd, wearing the Journey T-shirt (and referencing Randy’s past with this song and band)… glad to see he didn’t do a Steve Perry soundalike… he kept it within himself, and it worked. A solid performance, but not a “moment” – definitely a good start for the show, though.
We come back through Plugville – promotional consideration for Coca-Cola and for best-selling author Steven Tyler… before we go to…
Haley Reinhart – “Earth Song” (Michael Jackson)
One of the memes of Idol is that the artist who “grows” the most during the season is rewarded… at this point, you have to say that’s Haley. She’s found her confidence and her vibe the last few weeks… although this performance may have betrayed that a bit, as she yelled the song as much as she sang. Good, but a missed opportunity. She’ll need a big second song. She’ll also need the judges to not beat her up – on the other hand, standing up to the judges’ muddled and conflicting criticism might be a good thing.
Plugville again – Steven Tyler’s new video premieres tomorrow night, and Scotty gets the Product Placement interview.
Scotty McCreery – “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?” (Alan Jackson)
He’s on guitar… A cynic would note the choice of a 9/11 tribute days after Osama bin Laden was put down… but I won’t go there. Or did I? Cynicism aside, it was Scotty doing what Scotty does… old school country. Sincere, and heartfelt, and all but guaranteed to go through to the final three… good job.
Hey, look… Casey and Paul showed up tonight… probably because AI Top 11 tour tickets are on pre-sale now and officially on sale Friday…
Lauren Alaina – “Anyway” (Martina McBride)
Once again, it’s a performer staying close to her comfort zone, as she sings a song that she relates to the tornado outbreak a couple of weeks ago… good work. (“in it to win it” count = 1)
Before the break, the contestants are brought out for the judges to tell them who “won” Round 1…
Halftime: It would appear, to a neutral observer, that the judges ganged up on Haley in order to pursue the finale the producers have wanted since they cast James, Scotty, and Lauren. The problem is, the Chosen Three all did enough to get by… and Haley didn’t hit the home run she needed. But what happens as we switch gears to songs from the ‘50s? Let’s find out… after a…
Lieber & Stoller Music
They never change the singing order in two-round shows… until now… and guess who gets the Loser Slot in the second round… as well as “advice” from Lady Gaga… who’s made up to look like a raccoon, for some inexplicable reason.
Haley – “I (Who Have Nothing)” (Ben E. King, 1963; translated from original Italian by L&S)
I peeked ahead – Haley is the VFTW choice tonight, and she needs the help… oh, dear, she started screaming again… someone told her, apparently, that yelling can replace emotion in a song… and, unfortunately, she may have cost herself the chance to steal a Top Three spot. It was good (and started to show some power toward the end), but again, she left an opportunity on the table… unless one of the chosen ones implode in the next few minutes, her time is up. Of course now, the judges are going to make the appearance of “making it right”, but the script seems to be written. (“in it to win it” count = 2)
Scotty – “Young Blood” (The Coasters, 1957)
Interesting choice – definitely not country… I guess hanging around Gaga gives one a case of crazy eyes? Scotty does a fun country-tinged-rock version of the song, and pulls it off (mostly by ignoring everything Gaga told him)… very good performance, and he’s locked in for next week.
Lauren gets the Product Placement Zone treatment before…
Lauren – “Trouble” (Elvis, 1958)
There are a lot of people in the blogiverse who find Lauren evil, so they probably don’t understand why she’s so ambivalent about this song… so, of course, she finally found her way through the song, and even appeared to have fun with singing about being “evil”… the song frayed at the edges at times, but overall, a very good performance…
They broke with tradition to give James the honor of opening and closing the show… let’s see why… after we get a quick interview with Mike Stoller in the audience (Jerry Lieber is ill tonight, alas)…
James – “Love Potion No. 9” (The Clovers, 1959; The Searchers)
It took about 10 seconds to see why they put this performance in the Pimp Spot… it’s not like James needed a boost, but this is the most memorable song of the night, so why not put it last… he tore into the song, and did it in a way that I doubt L&S would have ever expected… and he got the full Rock God treatment in the staging, including a raised center-stage platform. That was fun. (“in it to win it” count = 3; “slayed it” count = 1)
Cue the montage…
One For The Road: Unfortunately, Haley needed to go for it tonight, and she did two rather sedate ballads… I’m sure “Earth Song” had meaning for her, but she fell into a trap I’ve seen way too often – performers who forget who they’re performing for. The other singers brought the audience into one or both of their songs… Haley sang at the audience. She made it further than anyone thought, far enough to ensure at least one album post-Idol, but where the other three will go home to sing for their neighbors, she’s just going home.
If this were a live blog (instead of tape-delayed), the now-cancelled “Breaking In” would be next (I told you it’d be another Christian Slater failure, didn’t I?). See you tomorrow night, just past 9pm Eastern, to give you the (inevitable?) result amidst another 50+ minutes of fluff and filler… along with Jordin Sparks, Enrique Iglesias, Lady Gaga, and Steven Tyler’s new video (all that’s missing is Topo Gigio)…