The judges were stuck in a fantasy film when the top eight "American Idol" contestants performed movie songs Wednesday night.
Talk about inflated praise. Members of the three-judge panel said virtually nothing negative during the entire show. While addressing criticism that the judges are too positive, Jennifer Lopez told a contestant, "You all are so damn good."
Unfortunately, that's not entirely true.
Wednesday was one of this season's weakest performance nights. We saw footage of the singers working with Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am. Yet contestants still struggled with song choice and delivered little uniqueness on stage. Yes, there were exceptions. But the episode made me seriously question this season's potential to find a major mainstream recording star.
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Here are my rankings; share yours in the comments section.
1. Scotty McCreery, "I Cross My Heart"
2. Jacob Lusk, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
3. James Durbin, "Heavy Metal"
4. Lauren Alaina, "The Climb"
5. Stefano Langone, "End of the Road"
6. Haley Reinhart, "Call Me"
7. Casey Abrams, "Nature Boy"
8. Paul McDonald, "Old Time Rock and Roll"
Check out my full recap of Wednesday's episode. Thursday's results show airs 8-9 p.m. on Fox.
Paul McDonald, "Old Time Rock and Roll"
Paul comes on stage wearing just a collared shirt and his underwear. KIDDING! Perhaps I'm resorting to bad humor to avoid mentioning the fact that this performance is really rough. First of all, the tune isn't exactly a singer's song. Second, Paul seems like a drunk uncle at a family wedding. Yes, I am imitating Simon Cowell right now. Paul interacts with the audience a lot and has fun, but I'm not crazy about his vocals. There's just nothing too special about this. Well, aside from the sax player.
Steven: "I love your crazy, wild abandon, manI liked it."
Jennifer: "It’s just so great to watchGood job."
Randy: "I loved that."
Lauren Alaina, "The Climb"
I love how Jimmy Iovine tells Lauren to try to snag Pia's fans. Um, yeah. I don't know if that's going to happen. This performance is fine, but there's not a lot of uniqueness here. It's basically what you'd expect from a teenager with a good voice singing a Miley Cyrus song. No major flaws, but nothing that changes my opinion of Lauren's vocal skills, either. Though she hits some nice big notes toward the end, I feel like she kind of played it safe this week.
Jennifer: "I loved hearing you sing that."
Randy: "The Lauren that we first saw in Nashville is roaring back."
Steven: "I love what you bring to a song and I love more what a song brings to you."
Stefano Langone, "End of the Road"
Oh man. I love this song. Yes, I did attend a Boyz II Men concert with my dad in sixth grade. Is Stefano's version as good as the original? Not really. His voice can't quite handle the big notes. And in true Stefano fashion, it gets a bit boring in the middle. I want more emotion. That said, it's one of his stronger efforts so far this season. I don't hate it.
Randy: "You are back...You made the right move at the right time."
Steven: "This is so not the end of the road for you."
Jennifer: "You got it."
Scotty McCreery, "I Cross My Heart"
Scotty initially wanted to sing "Everybody's Talkin'" but he changed his mind. Did the switch pay off? Well, Scotty singing a George Strait song isn't exactly a huge shock. Still, he pulls off a very solid performance with nice vocals and a decent amount of emotion. Does it sound like most of his other performances this season? Yes. But maybe that's a good thing. At this point, I doubt he's struggling for votes. My only complaint is the big note at the end. I'm not sure his voice can handle it. Anyone agree?
Steven: "I just love your voice, man."
Jennifer: "You all are so damn good...All I really wanna say is wow."
Randy: "I actually love you singing George Strait."
Casey Abrams, "Nature Boy"
Casey debated between Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" and Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." The mentors wanted him to do Phil Collins. He chose Nat King Cole. Perhaps that drama was a bit manufactured. Casey takes the stage with his upright bass. Hmm...I get the concept, but I'm not going crazy. This song isn't exactly something that lends itself to amazing vocals. He seems to talk his way through most of the song. There's too much growling and not enough singing. It's entertaining, but doesn't do anything to demonstrate Casey's relevance as a current mainstream recording artist. But what do I know? The judges give him a standing ovation.
Jennifer: "Good job." Compares Casey to Norah Jones. My response? NO.
Randy: "We have real true artists on the show...I hope America gets this...I thought it was absolutely genius."
Steven: "You do what's in your heart...You are so good, man."
Haley Reinhart, "Call Me"
I'm not incredibly impressed with the song choice. I wish she'd been a bit more creative. The performance starts out a bit rough. I like the end much more than the beginning. And to channel Simon Cowell again, at points it seems like something you'd hear at an amusement park. However, I still think Haley has one of the most unique voices in the competition. She hits some pretty nice notes toward the end of the song. Yeah, it's kind of a bar performance. We've seen much worse on the "Idol" stage, though.
Randy: "I didn't love the beginning of it...It wasn't a singer's song."
Steven: Mumbles some incoherent thoughts, then compliments Haley's outfit
Jennifer: Sides with Randy, but says she wants the girls to stick around. "It wasn't the best."
Jacob Lusk, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Mentor Jimmy Iovine gives Jacob a little lecture about his annoying comment to the audience last week. Jimmy also suggests this song to Jacob. I have some concerns about Jacob's lack of a clear niche in modern music. Then again, I really can't complain too much about this performance. There's lots of emotion and power behind the notes. And while he's singing a ballad again, it doesn't seem like Jacob is desperately trying to force a "moment" on us. Very nice overall. I might still like Clay Aiken's version better, however.
Steven: "It's astounding to me how angelic you sing."
Jennifer: "Congratulations," says he gave her chills
Randy: "I love that you took your time with this...Great job, very controlled."
James Durbin, "Heavy Metal"
James takes the stage accompanied by Zakk Wylde on guitar. FYI: Zakk Wylde is the former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. I don't know...I'm pretty divided on this performance. On the plus side, it's really fun and James hits some pretty intriguing big notes. On the other hand, it gets a bit manic at times. Did I channel Simon Cowell again? OK. The whole performance mainly makes me wonder if there's really a big market for emerging heavy metal artists. It's one of those love it or hate it deals.
Jennifer: "That felt really, really real."
Randy: "This is unbelievable, man...Tonight you did you."
Steven: "Outstanding, Durbin."