'American Idol' Recap: The Right Song - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: The Right Song

What happens when the contestants get to choose?

Lauren Alaina

Michael Becker / FOX

During last night’s installment of Kids Sing While Three Adults Cheer, Jennifer gave a defense of the non-judging that’s been going down: “Everyone wants us to be tough with you guys, but the truth is you guys are so damn good!” Generalization: sweeping! Are all of the contestants “damn good,” or does Paul move like a drunken hobo? Did Casey sing like he is plotting each one of our murders? Will Stefano pull a muscle from trying so desperately to keep his eyes open?

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The only critique of the night that wasn’t America just had front row tickets to your concert! went to Haley, who being a girl probably doesn’t have much time ahead of her as it is. She picked Blondie’s “Call Me.” When you factor in Idol‘s time constraints, that song is basically just the phrase “call me” sung over and over again. It wasn’t at all a showcase for Haley’s vocal abilities, said Randy. Jennifer agreed, instructing Haley  to “step it up.” Shocked to hear actual judging from the judges’ table, the audience booed roundly. But the judges were right! The “songs in cinema” theme meant Haley had total freedom and squandered it. Case in point: after Jimmy Iovine introduced Jacob to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Jacob informed us that the tune is from The Pursuit of Happyness (like “Mrs. Robinson” is from American Pie). Did anyone know that previously? No. Exactly. Haley could have picked anything, and what she ended up with was a five-minute chorus.

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Scotty and James were crowd-pleasers, with the very obvious choices of country and metal (George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart” for Scotty, and “Heavy Metal” by Sammy Hagar for James), but the smartest picker by far was Lauren Alaina. She sang “The Climb,” by Miley Cyrus, and not only did she put Miley’s version to shame, she looked like she was having fun doing it. This was bound to happen, considering A) how much stronger Lauren’s voice is than Miley’s, and B) the infectiousness of “The Climb,” a classic car/shower/you-just-realized-you’re-singing-loudly-over-your-headphones tune — dramatic, but with a simple premise. That is: 1) Its always gonna be an uphill battle, and 2) Its the cliiiiiiiiiiiimb. Lauren took the titular word and ran with it, starting in low territory and scaling to a snowy peak. Her “cliiiiiimb” was a cube to Miley’s square. There were new sides to investigate. Her voice literally climbed! Towards the end she let out her first believable smile since her audition. Finally, on this Songs In Cinema day, the song from the Hannah Montana movie could make its perfect debut. Part country, part pop, and all the emotion brimming in a 16-year-old’s heart, which is to say, a lot.

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