It's one week until the finals and American Idol celebrates by extending the show an extra 30 minutes (because that's what Idol needs — more filler!). Tonight, each finalist will perform not once, not twice, but three times. They'll pick their first song, Jimmy will pick their second and the judges will pick their final performance of the evening. After Lady Gaga's awkward yet hilarious appearance on the show last week, this week Beyoncé serves as the mentor during the first round (she is also plugging her new music video, of course). Again, she's not the first artist I would pick for the two country kids and a rocker like Haley, but she's won 16 Grammy awards and she's even married to a one-time music executive so she should have some sort of wisdom to pass on, yes? So did she help give the Idols that extra something to get them to the finale? Let's find out.
Scotty McCreery, "Amazed"
First off, did anyone else notice that Scotty is actually holding his microphone semi-normally? Thank you, Lady Gaga! As for the song itself, he starts the performance leaning on the piano and mugging hardcore for the camera, which doesn't do a lot for the energy of the performance. However, Scotty starts moving around and by the midpoint of the performance; he really explores the higher range of his voice and puts some emotion into the song. He holds out a note at the end — something we haven't seen from him that much — and his few risks actually pay off.
The Judges Say: Steven thinks he heard Scotty "get angry" and says he keeps getting better and better. J. Lo applauds him for using his vibrato. Randy — after name-dropping that he produced this song with Boyz II Men — says Scotty was pitchy at parts, but that he "put a period to the end of the song." Randy adds that Scotty "has money!"
Lauren Alaina, "Wild One"
Beyoncé says she's glad Lauren chose something fun so that she could loosen up. Judging from her performance, it looks like Lady B was right. The song is nothing special, but Lauren goes for the high notes from the beginning. She sounds a little pitchy during the second verse and she fails to move around the stage nearly as much as she should. In the end, this is hardly one of Lauren's most memorable performances, but it will do.
The Judges Say: J. Lo says "that was very good." Randy says he knew that Lauren had a great connection with the song and that she's at her best when she lets go. Steven says she sang like she owned the song and she's ready for "America to be all over" her.
Haley Reinhart, "What Is and What Should Never Be"
Haley starts the song out slow, but kicks into full gear pretty quickly, thanks in no small part to her dad playing guitar onstage with her. I am not too familiar with this song (yes, I know, insert your criticism below) but it feels like she gets too slow during the verses and gets a little too worked up during the chorus. Case in point: She runs quickly and furiously towards the judges table, but then ends up falling on her butt as she makes her way up the steps and back to the stage. Her fall looks pretty hard, but she only loses her breath for a quick minute and keeps on going. At the end she delivers some of her trademark crazy runs, but it fits perfectly for the song.
The Judges Say: Randy says it was one of her best performances ever and that she is, indeed, "in it to win it." J. Lo compliments her for getting up after her fall and says she sang a tough song "really, really great."
Round 1 Recap: Randy says this round is "hands down Haley" and Steven says Haley "got her freak on." J. Lo also votes for Haley for creating a moment.
Scotty McCreery, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not"
Jimmy says he picked this song because it has a great "Tom Petty" feel, and Scotty decides to break out his guitar for this performance. Again, he's singing higher and really showing his range for the voters, which can't hurt. This song definitely has a little more of a rock feeling, but after Scotty takes a pause in the song and performs a spoken word, it feels like he needs to push it to the next level and he doesn't.
The Judges Say: J. Lo says there were lots of little moments she really enjoyed and then randomly asks Scotty to shave his head for the finale. Randy says he felt like he was at a Scotty concert and says he is in it to win it.
Lauren Alaina, "If I Die Young"
After a small wardrobe malfunction (her pantyhose ripped!), Lauren takes the stage. Again, she doesn't have enough energy to keep me really captivated, but the song choice is definitely unusual and a departure from the high-energy "Wild One." Disaster really strikes when Lauren sits down in front of the judges in the middle of the song and somehow gets caught up in the moment and completely misses her key change. She doesn't handle the mistake well — awkwardly smiling during the depressing tune as soon as she realizes the error — and it's completely downhill from there. She hits several raw notes at the end and the song, finally, draws to a close.
The Judges Say: J. Lo acknowledges her couple of bumps, but justifies it by saying she got caught up in the honesty of the song. Randy says she has a beautiful tone and that it was a good song choice despite her couple of stumbles.
Haley Reinhart, "Rhiannon"
This Fleetwood Mac song is a good pick for Haley, but at times she feels overpowered by the backup singers and by the instruments. There are also more pauses in the song than I want for the week leading up to the finals, but it's a good contrast to her running-all-over-the-place in her previous performance. After falling earlier, Haley also stays right in her spot for the entire song while she is attacked by a very intense wind fan (did Beyoncé loan it to her?). It's dramatic but also distracting. My biggest complaint here is Haley doesn't personalize the song enough with her signature wails and whatnot.
The Judges Say: Randy says she was "in the zone." Steven says it reminded him why he fell in love with Stevie Nicks. J. Lo thought she was going to take it further, but says it a nice contrast to her earlier performance. You can see Haley holding back her stink eye from J. Lo.
Round 2 Recap: Steven says Lauren Alaina did it for him. J. Lo and Randy agree it was Scotty. Jimmy adds his two cents, saying Scotty transformed into rock-country star (a Bruce Springsteen-Garth Brooks baby, to be exact).
Scotty McCreery, "She Believes in Me"
I would have liked to see the judges pick something slightly more groundbreaking than Kenny Rogers, but Jimmy's pick was probably as rock as we can get Scotty to go on this show. The first verse is OK, but it's his powerful and moving chorus where Scotty really takes flight. He hits the high notes beautifully and shows his vocal stamina. He goes low for the last few words but then ends on a very soft, but stunning high note. This was one of his stronger performances of the season and a great note to go out on.
The Judges Say: Steven says he's never seen Scotty tackle a powerful chorus quite like that. J. Lo says she is so proud. Randy says he was so sweet and tender and then really hit the chorus.
Lauren Alaina, "I Hope You Dance"
This is a great song period and a great judges' choice for Lauren. Despite her well-known nerves, she recovers really, really nicely from her second performance of the night and adds some great riffs and higher notes to what could otherwise be a ho-hum rendition. This is far and away Lauren's best performance of the night.
The Judges Say: J. Lo has "goosies" from head-to-toe and says Lauren won Round 3 already. Randy name-drops again that his friend Lee Ann Womack would think Lauren did a great job. Steven commends Lauren for singing the song perfectly and he is so happy for her.
Haley Reinhart, "You Oughta Know"
Alanis! This seems like a perfect song for Haley and it is — sort of. She kills it really and truly on the chorus and fills the place with her voice. However, the lower parts of the song in the middle, when she needs to sing fast, were a bit of a mess and the amped up speed makes her lose her rhythm. She also starts flailing her arms around way too much and does yet another run around the judges table (not going to lie, I was praying she didn't fall again when she approached the steps).
The Judges Say: Steven, Randy and J. Lo all agree that Haley was great on the chorus, but Randy and J. Lo also both take note of her rhythm problems in the beginning.
Round 3 Recap: Steven says Haley "slayed" him, but J. Lo insists that Lauren had one of the best performances of the night. Randy also says Lauren won.
Overall, that means each finalist took one round. Have fun with that, voters!
So will Lauren's missed key in her second performance cost her a trip to the finals? Or will Haley's botched performance of Alanis and her earlier tumble take her down? Or do you think Scotty didn't branch out enough to stay another week?
Who do you think is at risk? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
It's one week until the finals and American Idol celebrates by extending the show an extra 30 minutes (because that's what Idol needs — more filler!). Tonight, each finalist will perform not once, not twice, but three times. They'll pick their first song, Jimmy will pick their second and the judges will pick their final performance of the evening. After Lady Gaga's awkward yet hilarious appearance on the show last week, this week Beyoncé serves as the mentor during the first round (she is also plugging her new music video, of course). Again, she's not the first artist I would pick for the two country kids and a rocker like Haley, but she's won 16 Grammy awards and she's even married to a one-time music executive so she should have some sort of wisdom to pass on, yes? So did she help give the Idols that extra something to get them to the finale? Let's find out...