'American Idol' Recap: On the Upswing - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: On the Upswing

Some of the contestants are getting savvier at handling their PR

Frank Micelotta / FOX

Last night, Jacob insisted his decision to switch “Let’s Get It On” for “Man In The Mirror” was a make-or-break career move. “If I end up in the bottom three it won’t be because I sang the song wrong, it’ll be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror,” he said, with mournful, accusatory eyes. Lies! All lies. If anything, Jacob stands to gain votes for outing his “principles” and taking a stand against Marvin’s sex anthem (too sexy, Jacob said). America loves principles almost as much as it loves looking at itself in the mirror. Equally puffed up by the “riskiness” of his choice was one James Durbin, aka He Who Screams In Place Of Song. Last night James chose not to scream, at least not all the way through. He unfolded a highly Durbin “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” full of beckoning looks to the camera and catches in his voice. There was some screaming folded into the end, but for the most part he accomplished his goal of showing us he’s not all fun times and kick dances. That said, his voice wobbled a lot in the slow stretches. These are the blemishes kick dances hide.

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Pia proved she can do an uptempo song, even though she already proved this very point, like, three weeks ago. Somehow everyone seemed to forget her disco-chic Whitney revival, and here she was again, in a printed jumpsuit and metallic choker, spinning it out with a retro-ey “River Deep – Mountain High.” In a week we’ll know if Randy is still concerned that she’s not able to do uptempo.

Haley’s “Piece Of My Heart” was spirited and fun, but the growls! If she could just cut her growl count in half, she’d be the most appealing singer in the competition. Meanwhile Casey and Lauren continue to perform just under where they should. Paul turned in a bouncy “Folsom Prison Blues” that deviated far from the narrative pull of Cash’s version, but roused the crowd and judges enough that he’s probably safe. Tonight’s likely loser: Stefano, who has the kind of inoffensive talent that’s hard to remember. Last night’s unlikely winner: Scotty. He sang “That’s All Right,” made popular by Elvis. The reaction from tween girls in the front row, while not quite Elvis-mania proportions, was silly enough to mean something. In this world, little girls are very powerful.


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