Considering this is arguably the most important episode before next week, the opening actually seemed muted. I thought there would be a Chris Harrison worthy intro about the most emotional rose ceremony ever or something to focus on this being the TOP 3, just one spot short of the finale, etc. Instead, we got some abbreviated video of the Idols during their hometown visits followed by an E! Celebrity Bio on former Destiny's Child singer Beyonce. About an hour later, the show started.
Three singers doing three songs somehow equals two hours worth of show. So get comfy. To aid us tonight, there will be three separate counts: the number of times Steven says "beautiful," the number of times Randy says someone is "in it to win it," and how often Randy name drops or pats himself on the back. Predictions??
The winner of the only American Idol contestant to never get the pimp spot contest is one Scotty McCreery. Either the producers don't adore him as much as we think they do, or his numbers are so astronomically higher than anyone else in this contest that they have to force him to go first just to make it fair. The first song, which Scotty picked for himself, is not, surprisingly by Josh Turner. Nor is it sung in an octave deep enough to get a seismograph to register. Instead, it's the song "Amazed" by Lone Star.
The mentor for this round, Beyonce, has a clear favorite. She is totally smitten with Scotty whose charm and innocence have beguiled her and she bestows on him the title "cutie pie." Did the frontrunner really need any more adulation? Are the producers secretly splicing one second images of confetti to reinforce that Scotty is our winner? But then Beyonce gives Scotty some questionable advice, telling him to try and sing in his higher range. Danger, Will Robinson! Whatever happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" I thought he sounded strained when he went for the glory notes, but it was another unexciting but solid vocal. I am wondering if by the finals, someone will figure out how to rig up Scotty's cross so it lights up and flashes.
Lauren Alaina picks "Wild One" by Faith Hill for her first song, and it occurs to me that this is the first time in ten years that I had never before heard the songs picked by the first two singers. This really isn't my genre. Lauren has more makeup on than a "Toddlers and Tiaras" contestant and her outfit is a crime in every state above the Mason-Dixon line. Dolly Parton would tell her to tone it down. But when she sings, she has the most beautiful tone, I forget all about the visual assault.
There were some problems with this performance, mostly involving the fact that she apparently just got off the treadmill before she started singing. She was breathless, not in that sultry way, but in that, I'm being chased by a mountain lion way. Probably nerves, but it's something she needs to work on. Because anyone who can do what she can with the little tear in her voice and her control on the big notes should not sabotage themselves by panting like an Iditarod dog at the end of a race.
Haley Reinhart decides to dance with the one that brung ya' and continues to take daring chances with her song selections. This time, ignoring the fact that the resident rocker was just sent packing, she goes all Led Zepplin on us with "What Is and What Should Never Be." In the most pimp-worthy move since Chris Medina had his fiance at his audition, Haley brings her aging rocker dad on stage to whack the old axe. Perhaps this was all part of some settlement with American Idol attorneys for the show's mistreatment of Haley over the past three months. But, it smacked of the most egregious favoritism in the show's history.
Haley, if you pardon the pun, rocked the vocals and even earned additional points for falling with style and getting back up with grace. She did not miss a beat. Very impressive. But unless they're going to bring Scotty's grandma on stage with a tambourine for his next number, I'm crying foul. Nevertheless, round one goes to Haley.
Round two has the contestants singing producer/mentor/person they hope to work for Jimmy Iovine picking their song. He gives Scotty "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" by Thompson Square. Hey, I'm two for two. Haven't heard of the song or the artist this time. It's a silly, jokey song that I think is completely wrong for Scotty which is why I'm here writing a blog and Jimmy is there masterminding the careers of Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. I get it.
Jimmy says he picked the song because it reminds him of Tom Petty. I don't see how he heard any rock at all in that country song. For me, it reminded me more of Richard Petty. But who am I to argue with the guy who's worked with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen?
So the plus is, Scotty isn't leaning on a piano (which, I agree with the chat room is redundant) and he isn't finding new awkward ways to hold a microphone, but instead he takes on this weird macho persona which is greatly at odds with the Howdy and the Doody aspects of his Alfred E. Newman face. He's a 17-year-old red head -- I'd suggest taking all romantic songs off the table for at least a decade. Again, his vocals are fine. I don't know that he's reinventing the wheel or doing anything that other country singers haven't on the show before. But he's consistently good.
Jimmy picks "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry for Lauren and I wonder if maybe she's his favorite. It's a beautiful song and she, if you pardon the expression, kills it. I love her voice. It's strong, clear, passionate. She has by far the best recording voice, even if she did hit one bummer note after a little mental glitch during the song. Staging is not her strong suit, and she manages to look awkward just sitting, but she has a natural gift and if nurtured she will be giving Taylor Swift a challenger as country music's darling.
I must now apologize to Haley. What they gave her in the first round, by letting her daddy play with her (wow, that sounds wrong), Jimmy took away by making her try and sing Stevie Nicks. Even Stevie can't do Stevie anymore. Rhiannon is one of those seminal songs that everyone has imprinted on their brains and no amount of wind machines, beautiful dresses and favorable lighting can erase the original in our minds. Haley had one nice, sweet run of notes, but other than that it was a forgettable performance. Round two to Lauren.
The last round has the judges' choices (if we're all suspending belief for a moment that the producers had nothing to do with the selections). Scotty is saddled with the Kenny Rogers workhorse "She Believes in Me," a song that should have been put out of its misery years ago. The only thing worse than seeing that hirsute, bloated guy sing this song is watching cherubic, virginal Scotty sing it. Just...no. Yeah, the vocals are good, no complaints, but there is no emotional connection and it all seemed phony and forced to me.
Speaking of phony and forced....So Jennifer Lopez tears up at the end of this song. C'mon, JLo, don't even try. You're just not that good an actress. You're lucky the "I'm just so sweet" bit has been bought by the AI viewers. Don't push it. But, getting back to the vocals, Scotty sounded better in the upper register than he has before...so good job.
So we see them touching up Lauren's makeup before her next song. Somewhere Tammy Faye is saying...too much! The judges give Lauren a beautiful song, Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance."
This is unfair. I'm not sure anyone wouldn't give me goosebumps singing this song. I did find Lauren's pageant dress a bit distracting and I hope that her next reality show appearance is on "What Not to Wear."
After Lauren doesn't win this season of American Idol maybe she can go on the "I Was Robbed" tour with Adam Lambert and Crystal Bowersox. She has the best voice in the competition, but her lack of confidence has been a problem for her since she got to Hollywood. Seeing the video of that ballsy girl during the audition, who was orchestrating her moment and directing Steven, makes you wonder where that girl went and why she always seems so skeered on stage.
The last performance goes to Haley Reinhart and she's given the anthem "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette. I always found it funny how Alanis went from Debbie Gibson teeny bopper to Amy Winehouse manic depressive in such a short period of time. But it was a good career move. It is also amusing how the lyrical alterations made for the PG TV audience strips the power from this song.
Someone forgot to put the stripper pole up for Haley. Oh well, she does a fine dance without it. Her vocals are weak when they're supposed to be soft, but she nails the loud, angry parts. Haley lacks subtlety when she sings which was why those few notes during the last song were such a nice change of pace. She should work on developing that part of her voice. Otherwise, she's just a good, solid rocker chick going into a music business that does not support the genre. She has a lot of potential, but of the three I'd say she's least ready to make an album tomorrow.
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for. The final count. There were four "beautifuls" from Steven Tyler, just 2 name dropping pats on the back by Randy Jackson, but a whopping four "in it to win it" comments -- for just three contestants. Masterfully played Randy.
So with some 90 million votes being counted, and I only managed to log in a dozen for Lauren, I have no predictions. My gut tells me that Haley will make it to the end, but I can't bring myself to say that Lauren is going home.