Wednesday's American Idol reminds us that this week's vote will decide which singers get to go "home as heroes." I personally think they'll all go home pretty famous, but I won't get into that now. In any case, to win those all-important votes, the singers must sing songs that inspire them before diving into the songbook of Leiber and Stoller, who wrote many hits in the post-World War II era. And who is the best person to guide the wannabes through that classic song book? Lady Gaga! Yeah, I don't get the connection either, but Gaga is in the house. So, who was the best? Let's find out.
James Durbin, "Don't Stop Believin'"
James chose the perfect song. And even though Glee has made the karaoke standby ubiquitous, I didn't mind listening to it once more. (Not sure if that's a credit to James or the awesomeness of the song.) As for the vocals, they were pretty much spot on, as they clearly are in James' wheelhouse. I do have to question the fact that James got pyro (again!), while many of the other singers' stage setups are much more bare. Any favoritism there?
The Judges Say: Steven says he couldn't have picked a better song. Jennifer says it was great and Randy says he chose the highest degree of difficulty and nailed it.
Haley Reinhart, "The Earth Song"
I will admit to suffering Haley fever in recent weeks, but this song choice scared me. It just doesn't feel like an Idol song to me. That said, Haley sang it very well, although she leaned a little too heavily on the growl at the end. (I know Haley loves the growl, but I prefer it when she balances it a bit more.) The other reason I was afraid of this song choice is because of the judges' stupidity. Speaking of...
The Judges Say: Jennifer felt Haley's emotion, but says Haley needs to choose songs that will help her compete. James set the bar, and she didn't measure up. Randy says the song didn't fit her as an artist and that she was screaming the end. Steven says Randy and Jennifer are full of crap.
Talk Back Time: After giving J. Lo the stinkeye for the second week in a row, Haley fought back, telling Randy that she was feeling the song and didn't do crazy runs or blow the roof off her range because the end was perfect as it was written. Haley is the first to really come back at the judges, which is usually not that well received. But I'm glad she did it. The judges are clearly being harder on her than any other singer, which is frustrating. She might not be the best, but the other three don't deserve a free pass.
Scotty McCreery, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?"
Scotty knows who he is, and who is audience is. So given the renewed interest in Osama bin Laden and 9/11, he picks the perfect song to tap into his heartland roots. It's not a flashy song, but Scotty sang it well, and he even mixed up the arrangement a little bit in the last chorus, which gave the song a little energy. A fine performance.
The Judges Say: Randy likes the song choice and says Scotty has made his mark. Steven says he saw passion in Scotty's eyes that was, say it with me class, "beautiful." Jennifer says she's in love with Scotty and what he stands for.
Lauren Alaina, "Anyway"
Lauren comes back from Jimmy's verbal scolding on last week's results show with perhaps her best performance in weeks. (Though I'm not sure why the stylists keep outfitting her in half dresses.) Lauren showed a lot of power in the vocal, and unlike last week, attacked the big notes instead of running away from them. Of the first round of songs, this was probably my favorite performance.
The Judges Say: Steven says it was pure and perfect. Jennifer says she can tell thatLauren listens to the judges and that the result is a great vocal performance. (Take all the credit! You are, after all, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World!) Randy says it was amazing and that Lauren is back and... yep, you guessed it, "in it to win it."
Round 1 Recap: In case we missed anything, the judges take the chance to tell us again that Haley chose the wrong song. Randy even goes so far as to say that it was a three-way tie of greatness in the first round, except for Haley. Sorry, guys, he's just keeping it really real.
Haley Reinhart, "I (Who Have Nothing)"
Like last week, Haley puts her fury toward the judges into her second performance and blows it out of the park. Gaga tells her the singing I perfect, she just needs to bring the drama. And Haley does, showing tremendous range and control — and, yes, plenty of theatricality. She earns a standing ovation. Suck it, judges.
The Judges Say: Jennifer says it was one of the best performances of the year. Randy says Haley had a moment and delivered her best vocal ever. (Yeah, she's in it to win it, too.) Steven says she "Reinharted herself into the middle of next week." Hey, that's as useful as anything else coming from the judging panel!
Scotty McCreery, "Young Blood"
Oh, boy. I hated it. This is Scotty at his worst, in my opinion. Although it was upbeat and fun like "Gone" last week, it was annoyingly cheesy and easily the most eyebrow-y performance from Scotty all season. The camera cuts during the repetitive vocals didn't help. Gaga advises Scotty to pretend the microphone is his girlfriend and stick his tongue down its throat. Not sure that he did that, but it certainly wouldn't have made this any worse.
The Judges Say: Randy says Scotty showed his fun side after being more serious earlier. He is a seasoned professional. Steven says Scotty made "Gaga's ya-ya go la-la." Yeah, whatever. Jennifer says he's hitting his stride. Hey guys, how was his singing? Anything?
Lauren Alaina, "Trouble"
It's official: Lauren should never talk on the show. When she's singing, I can forget her age and root for her to win. But intro packages like this one, where she complains about singing the lyric "I am evil," are maddening. Considering that the song says that lyric about 15 times, maybe you should choose a different song, right Lauren? It's OK, Gaga is there to bring out Lauren's dark side. And the perfrormance, while not as good as her earlier outing, was pretty solid.
The Judges Say: Steven says he liked the character that came out of the song, and Jennifer agreed that the performance quality was something new Lauren hasn't shown. Randy liked her doing something bluesy and stretching outside her country-pop comfort zone.
James Durbin, "Love Potion No. 9"
Lady Gaga thinks James needs to work his hips more, and when he doesn't oblige, she grabs his butt and makes him move. Hilarious, right? However, James' heavy metal arrangement for the live show didn't really leave much room for hip-swaying. He did, however, shoehorn in a few screechy wails, as always. The performance was fine, but once again, his stage setup included a giant pedestal for him to stand on. (Just coronate him already!) Between that and the fact that the singers were rearranged, leaving James to open and close the show, I can't help but note the producers sending some not-so-subliminal messages.
The Judges Say: Jennifer says James can sing anything and make it work. Randy says James is peaking at the right time, and Steven says James proved he can do things with his voice that he shouldn't be able to. Or something.
Round 2 Recap: Randy says everybody is... "in it to win it." Is that possible? Might that tear a wormhole in the universe?
I fear that because of the harsh critiques, and yes, because she talked back, that Haley might be in danger of going home. But Scotty most definitely deserves to sweat it out a bit after that ghastly second performance.
Who do you think is at risk? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Wednesday's American Idol reminds us that this week's vote will decide which singers get to go "home as heroes." I personally think they'll all go home pretty famous, but I won't get into that now. In any case, to win those all-important votes, the singers must sing songs that inspire them before diving into the songbook of Leiber and Stoller, who wrote many hits in the post-World War II era. And who is the best person to guide the wannabes through that classic song book? Lady Gaga! Yeah, I don't get the connection either, but Gaga is in the house. So, who was the best? Let's find out....