'American Idol' Recap: It's Haley's to Lose - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: It’s Haley’s to Lose

Beyoncé coaches the hopefuls, J. Lo gets ‘goosies’ and Haley turns on the confidence for a trio of classics

Hailey Reinhart performs on May 18, 2011.

Michael Becker / FOX

The night opened on footage of our three contestants headed home, where crowds of fans stood in the aisles of grocery stores, parking lots, by a Verizon sign, anywhere so long as they had a view of their king or queen. A little girl acted as Lauren’s page, handling her cell phone and all incoming texts. But in real life, the three were back in the land of that one staircase they’ve walked down for ten weeks and that one island of judges they have to circumnavigate each and every performance, without fail, until there’s no tension left. Haley actually fell this time as she crossed back downstage, and it was no big deal. She got up and kept going. Great job on her part, but at this point that cross-section of stage is impossible to dramatize. She could probably ascend to heaven and the judges would beam as usual and say that this time, for real guys, they felt like they’d just been to a Haley Reinhart concert.

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The live show unrolled with a camera pan over the crowd that revealed a girl holding a sign that said: “Thank You Ford.” Ford thanks you too, obedient little girl. Ryan introduced the visiting superstar coach/album hawker: “Beyoncé was an irreplaceable choice,” he went. According to Beyoncé, Scotty is charming, Lauren should stick to fun songs, and Haley is “a rock star.” “Your tone is so warm and your raspiness is so natural,” Beyoncé said, uttering her last until the handing over of her pound of flesh, a premiere of her brand new video. Beyoncé and a dance army writhe hypnotically in a desert. For more, please see Beyonce.com.

Now for the children, who after all, are our future:

Scotty sang his “favorite song” by Lonestar, “Amazed,” as opposed to his favorite song of all time by anyone, man or beast, “Baby Lock Them Doors.” He spoke directly to every girl edging off her parents’ couch pressing the volume upppp, with lines like, “I want to spend the whole night in your eyes.” The money shot, said Randy, was when Scotty looked in the camera at the last second. That, and every other time. His next, Jimmy-Iovine-chosen song was Thompson Square’s “Are You Going to Kiss Me Or Not,” yet another unabashed plea to young girls. The judges felt like they were at a Scotty McCreery concert (they attend one at least once a week) and Jimmy Iovine called Scotty the lovechild of Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks. Only two of those ideas are hyperbole. Scotty closed with the judges’ choice, “She Believes In Me,” by Kenny Rogers, an expression of the weird, maudlin road he could have gone down at the start of the season if he’d wanted the grandmother vote. Sitting on the stage in a maroon vest/tie combo, he looked exactly like he was peddling an album of Christmas songs. Judges loved it.

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Lauren sang “Wild Child” by Zaca Creek, because it reminds her of the best friend she used to sing with growing up. Beyoncé suggested she calm her nerves on stage with the ultimately scarier thought experiment of replacing everyone’s heads with her best friend’s. Don’t do it Lauren! She ended up with a good, not great performance. Still: “You’re ready for America to just be all over you,” said Steven. Hmm…ok, Steven. (Don’t do it America!) Next up, Jimmy Iovine’s choice of last year’s country chart-topper, “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry. Lauren started off beautifully but lost steam halfway, though Steven still called her the round winner. Last: “I Hope You Dance,” the judges’ choice. This suited Lauren’s country pop sensibility and inspired Jennifer to call her goosebumps “goosies.”

Haley’s trio was Zeppelin‘s “What Is And What Should Never Be,” Fleetwood Mac‘s “Rhiannon,” and “You Outta Know,” by Alanis. She did the second two justice to be sure, looking as dreamy for her Stevie Nicks impression as one can with an enormous fan blowing in face. But the biggest stunner was the Zeppelin number, which she chose on her own. There’s something about Haley that seems too self-assured for Idol, too cool, and this was the embodiment of it. No one so far has been as confident and wild as she was spinning around the stage and picking herself up from the nothing fall, her vocals on. With her dad strumming guitar at her side, she looked for all the world like the director, producer and star of…yes, a Haley Reinhart concert.

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