By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes
On Now & Then night of American Idol, wherein the Top 5 chose a contemporary song to sing and one from the past, I found myself missing Simon for the first time this season.
It took going to a rock concert recently for me to realize how utterly cheesy James Durbin’s stage antics are, and how Simon would never let him scream, “I want to hear you scream!” to get the audience involved in the first thirty seconds of performing. Don’t get me wrong, I like James, and I like how he commands the stage, but on Wednesday it just seemed cheesy. His first performance, a rendition of 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Closer to the Edge,” was incredibly off pitch, and failed to compare to the original.
His second song, Harry Nilsson’s “Without You,” was slightly better, if only because it was more personal and emotional, and I like seeing James connect to the music on such a personal and subdued level. Vocally, on the other hand, I don’t think it was his best.
I don’t dislike James. I actually like him, and have always felt that he could win the season and it wouldn’t be a head-scratching victory, but neither of his performances on Wednesday night seemed winner-worthy, even if the judges think he has the title on lock.
Another place where I disagreed with the judges was on Haley Reinhart’s first performance. I know it’s gutsy to sing a song that no one knows, but it’s just as gutsy – if not more – to sing one that everyone knows incredibly well. Here’s my thought on the matter: If you get handed an unreleased, unrecorded Lady Gaga, and have the blessing from Lady Gaga herself to sing the song, you do it. Why not? That’s a huge vote of confidence from a record exec and the world’s biggest pop star, and isn’t that what this show is all about?
Haley sang the Gaga song well, but her shining moment was in her show closing rendition of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” which was one of the best moments of the season on American Idol. I have chills just thinking of how truly fantastic she was, and how perfect the song seemed for her.
I’m not surprised in the slightest that Jacob Lusk chose to sing both sides of a duet. That just seems like the type of contestant he’s always been. I don’t think singing Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown’s “No Air” was a good choice. Jacob, whose voice is normally quite fantastic, sounded terrible on it. His dancing, in which he imitated a grinding male stripper (the same thing that did Stefano Langone in earlier this season), wasn’t much better. His second performance of “Love Hurts,” was similarly messy and not up to Jacob’s normal talent. The judges, who’ve seemed incapable of giving a poor yet deserved critique all season, didn’t seem to improve their track record, choosing to find little things, like a super high note, to highlight.
Lauren Alaina is finally heating up, and finding the power that the judges knew all along that she has in her voice. She first sang Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor,” and I thought it was fantastic. She was lively, she was energetic, she powerfully hit all the right notes. It’s the perfect direction for her musically. Of course, I also always want more from Lauren, because I think she’s capable of it, but I was pleased.
Her second performance was a beautiful version of the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” and I loved it. She chose a song that everyone knows well and sang it really well. It probably won’t be what she’s remembered for this season, but it was good.
Scotty McCreery gave typical Scotty McCreery performances, first with Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone.” I liked it more than I like Scotty’s normal performances, since it seemed different, despite being country. It was another song that reminded me that Scotty is actually a talented guy. His second performance was not shockingly, Elvis’ “Always On My Mind,” and it was again, typical Scotty. He plays it safe every week, but it also works for him. However, the true shocking bit of Scotty this week was discovering that he actually has a Puerto Rican grandmother, and that he wasn’t just pulling J Lo’s leg when he said he was a quarter Puerto Rican back in the auditions.
My Bottom Three: Jacob, Scotty, James. Finally! Do I think it’ll wind up this way? Not necessarily, but last night I realized that the girls are “in it to win it,” to borrow Randy’s overused phrase.