By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes
As Ryan Seacrest dutifully reminded us at the start of the episode, tonight is the most important of the season: tonight four contestants sing two songs, and the three that emerge victorious get to do their big, fancy hometown visits.
The first song theme was “Songs That Inspire You,” and I felt that this was all kinds of cheesy, and with the exception of Lauren Alaina’s song, everything seemed so poorly chosen. The second batch of songs were from the Leiber and Stoller songbook, and were brilliantly mentored by Lady Gaga. I’m shocked to admit that she is miles away the best mentor that American Idol has ever seen. She brought out some fantastic performances, but seemed to really relate well with the contestants.
My favorite of the night was Lauren Alaina, who I feel not only chose the only appropriate song in the first round, but also gave the best all around performance of the first round. She sang Martina McBride’s “Anyway” and dedicated it to the people whose lives have been affected by the destruction after the tornadoes in the South. Her voice was at its biggest, she hit the bold notes the judges have wanted her to hit, and it was a long overdue performance of excellence from Lauren. She needed this badly.
Her second performance of Elvis’ “Trouble,” wasn’t as strong as her first, but she came out with a sense of confidence that we haven’t yet seen in her. Jennifer said that she was on the “attack,” and I completely agree. The gospel section wasn’t incredible, but she didn’t back down the way she would have in weeks past.
James gets the default second slot in my mind, because he is the most consistent contestant on the show. He always gets on stage and delivers a fun, high-energy performance. His first performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” was a little too cliché for me (must everyone always cover this song?) and was a little too screamy and yelly for my tastes, but his second performance of “Love Potion No. 9” was standard James fare: he rocked the stage, inserted dramatic pauses, and sang really well. It wasn’t anything bold or new for James, but it was entertaining.
In true Haley fashion, her performances get the “best and worst” split. Her first performance of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” was easily the night’s worst, and quite honestly, one of her worst performances in recent weeks. Sounding like she was screaming for half the song wasn’t bad enough, but the song wasn’t much of a “hit” for her, as the judges reminded her.
What potentially did Haley in was her back and forth bickering with Randy over his very harsh criticism. I don’t like when contestants get a little too full of themselves and fight back, because it never portrays them in a good light. I totally understand that emotions are at such an intense high at this point, and she is trying to fight for survival and prove to the audience that she did a good job, but arguing is never a good move on this show.
Shockingly, Haley somehow conquered her tears, and put her anger to good use, as she belted out “I Who Have Nothing,” in potentially the night’s best performance. It was as if she wasn’t completely demoralized by the judges just twenty minutes earlier, because after this performance, they were giving her a well-deserved standing ovation. Lady Gaga wanted her to bring the drama, and she did, along with some of her best vocals to date.
I know that many bloggers and American Idol pundits believe that Scotty will win the title, but I really feel that he was the worst tonight, and that he should go home. Why should Scotty get praised for “knowing who he is as an artist?” while Pia and Jacob were sent home for being too one-dimensional, even though they certainly knew the artists they each wanted to be? His first song, which he said he sang because he’s proud to be an American, Alan Jackson's post-9/11 song, "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" was timely, but it wasn’t great. First of all, I found the lyrics to be ignorant, but this isn’t about attacking the original song, it’s about me not thinking it was appropriate for Scotty to be singing. I will always be wary of using 9/11 as a means to appear more patriotic, but it did not sit well with me to have someone who could not have been older than seven on 9/11 sing such a mature song about how those events impacted him on a deep level. I may be entirely alone in this, and I am okay with that, but I found Scotty’s performance to be offensive. On a musical note, his singing wasn’t that great, and his performance was just as phony as it normally is.
His second song, the Coasters’ “Young Blood,” was slightly better, if only because it showed that Scotty has somewhat of a sense of humor. I couldn’t really hear the vocals too well, presumably because of his annoying way of holding the mic, but it was an energetic performance for him, which I feel he really needed. I hate that the judges think he’s such a lock, because I really don’t see it. I see nothing remotely interesting or genuine about Scotty McCreery.
I think Haley is in danger of going home, if only for her fighting back to Randy, but I really wish it would be Scotty.