Last night, Idol went all Carole King, and the show was slower and more soporific than any so far. There were still surprises afoot, with Babyface taking over Will.i.am's job (definite improvement), and Miley Cyrus stopping by to tell Lauren Alaina all kinds of things about haters that really apply more to Miley than to Lauren, seeing as Lauren isn't big enough yet to have haters. But for the most part, the performances were neither amazing nor objectionable.
Jacob kicked off the night with a loose rendition of King's Motown-ish ditty “Oh No, Not My Baby.” Jimmy Iovine called Jacob more screwed than anyone else going into last night, which was a fair assessment. But Jacob pulled out all the stops, which in his case actually means he restrained himself. At no point did he look like he might have a demon inside him.
Next was Lauren, and man, is this girl psyching herself out. Her biggest concern was going for those elusive high notes the judges keep insisting she hit. Babyface gave her a killer logic boost, asking, “When you try for those notes, do you ever not hit them?” (Answer is no.) Unfortunately, the epiphany didn't really translate into a different Lauren onstage. Her rendition of “Where You Lead,” a.k.a. The Gilmore Girls Song, was pretty much like everything else she's done so far, save for an awkward bit where she dragged a 19-year-old boy onstage only to turn her back on him for most of the song. Still, the judges loved it, calling the moment they heard her voice break “exciting.”
Casey and Haley shared the first duet of the night, a nod to the rumors about their supposed romance. “I like growling with her,” Casey said winkily. Haley was the real standout in their performance of “I Feel the Earth Move,” a position she's starting to claim in general. Casey continued to look like he wants to kill us.
Then came good ol' Scotty, who, poor thing, is suddenly on the judges' list of problem kids. In an attempt to break out of the old Scotty voice that the judges inexplicably now hate, he enlisted Babyface (Babylockthemdoorsface?). The result was a “You've Got a Friend” in which Scotty started out soft and high. This was enough to convince the judges he had range.
And now for a trivia question (do not cheat and watch last night's episode of American Idol to find out the answer). Question: What's the first song Steven Tyler ever made out to? Answer: The song James sang last night, that song being “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Steven said he didn't like James' rock version at first (his memories of the original are too fond, probably), but Jimmy Iovine was all praise for James' practice session, calling it “magic.” Indeed, this was his most convincing performance yet. There weren't burning pianos or drummer boys, or any one of the number of distractions that usually make it seem like he's trying to hide his voice. Just James crooning while Steven scowled mildly in the distance.
Scotty and Lauren sang their third duet together, “Up on the Road.” Both of these contestants suffer individually from being too predictable, and Idol's tendency to lump them together as “the country ones” probably doesn't help. They sang well enough. According to Jennifer, Lauren “sang [her] brains out,” and Scotty got a lowly “You were good, too.” Please, for the love of God, Idol producers, split these two up and rock their worlds!
Casey followed, singing “Hi-De-Ho.” At this point, Casey can do no right. He was once a frontrunner whose surprise near-elimination shocked pretty much everyone. Literally from the next week on, it was a wonder he wasn't booed all the way to Idlewyld. His stageside manner got worryingly creepy and aggressive, and he starting batting at the hands of his fans. Like a crazy person. There is no explaining what's going on, but it happened again last night.
Up next was Haley, “the pride of Chicago,” according to Ryan. Haley's gone the opposite way of her beau Casey, taming the growl beast and choosing her songs wisely. Last night she sang “Beautiful,” and the melody varied in just the right way to showcase Haley's voice, which benefits from speed-ups and slow-downs. The judges loved it. Steven said he'd just seen God. As good as Haley was, Steven clearly has low expectations for God.
Last and least was a duo by James and Jacob, the clear cast-offs in the duo department. They had no idea what to do with each other and it showed pretty early on in “I'm Into Something Good.” There was a lot of “casual” back-and-forth with each other onstage, and Fifties dancing, and then they wheeled Jennifer out without her permission, and there was almost a crotch shot that she saved by crossing her legs. At the end, Steven delivered his first harsh criticism in weeks. “Where were you going with that?” he asked. For this season, that shit was cutting.
Last Episode: Where Have You Been All Our Lives, Stefano?
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