Please note the lack of exclamation point and know that it is a clear indication of my tepid response to this week's theme. Remember last year's Movie Night that found Crystal Bowersox stuck with "I'm All Right" from Caddyshack? SHUDDER!
This year, the Idols did an overall stronger job selecting songs, and I suspect that they were given a deeper pool from which to choose. I found it interesting, too, to see how the Idols clearly struggled with choices this time around with several debating choices or defending their choices to Jimmy Iovine. (In one case, I think Jimmy was totally right. In another, he was sort of right. In a third, I think he was totally off the mark. So the lesson is Jimmy is NOT God...just close.)
With the judges refusing to engage in much constructive criticism (except in one case), the choices for tonight's elimination become incredibly tough. For the most part, it was another stellar night with multiple people establishing a case for their confetti shower. Like I said last week, pretty much every elimination from here on out will be shocking because these kids keep thinking outside the box and putting in terrific performance after terrific performance. And it makes my job here darn tough to try to come up with funny little quips and demeaning ranks.
And yet I soldier on.
1. James Durbin -- Here's where I have to admit I think Jimmy was kind of right in his suggestion that James pick a different song. I loved that James went balls to the wall with a heavy metal tune. (And Jesus Christ, Zakk Wylde on guitar? That's insane!) I do wonder, though, if James might have been better advised to pick a slightly more recognizable hard-driving song. As Jimmy pointed out, "Heavy Metal" doesn't really have a tremendous hook. I think of some other really terrific hard/heavy songs that have appeared in films -- "Welcome to the Jungle" from The Dead Pool, "You Could Be Mine" from Terminator 2, "Eighteen" from The Faculty, just about any AC/DC song from Iron Man 2, HELL -- "Iron Man" itself. With that said, though, I did think James kind of rocked the joint and continues to blaze a trail to victory.
2. Casey Abrams -- Here's where I think Jimmy was wrong. Casey's performance of "Native Boy" was gorgeous, moving, powerful in its subtle simplicity. "In the Air Tonight" is a cool song, but it's also a bit generic. This gave Casey a chance to stand his ground. If he goes home for it, so be it. It'll suck, but at least he will go out knowing that he was true to his art.
3. Lauren Alaina -- Secret confession of the day. I love "The Climb." It's a really inspirational song. If it weren't sung by Miley Cyrus, I would SO have it on my iPod. It is a "Hold On" for the 21st Century, only better. Lauren last night shook off whatever nerves or funk had been holding her back for the past several weeks and not only nailed "The Climb" but improved on it. I will SO be downloading her version for my iPod. Seriously! I still wish someone would work on Lauren's styling. When your mama in the audience is more fashionable than you on stage, something is wrong, Sweet Pea.
4. Stefano Langone -- Stefano may still be the one to go home tonight, but damn if he didn't put up a mighty fight last night. I rolled my eyes when I heard he was doing "End of the Road," and despite a slightly shaky beginning, bam! By the end, I was near tears, watching this scrappy little guy (who seems to be genuinely likable) fight to stay in this competition. I hope it pays off for him. I hope it wasn't a case of too little, too late.
5. Jacob Lusk -- Thank goodness Jacob was one of the few contestants last night who actually listened to Jimmy. Had Jacob gone out on that stage and performed "The Impossible Dream," a song that was over the top and dated when it came out forty-five years ago, I have no doubt it would have been the end for him. And maybe it still will be. While his "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was lovely, it still felt....out of place. It feels like the tide is turning against Jacob. He's starting to feel dated. He's starting to feel cheesy. And this competition is full of kids who are ready to gobble that cheese up and spit it back out -- and have the talent to do it.
6. Scotty McCreery -- Here's where Jimmy was right. I think Scotty should have stuck with "Everybody's Talkin'" rather than pulling out some George Strait song. ("I Cross My Heart." I looked it up. Even the title makes me kind of want to puke. Sorry.) Scotty had an opportunity to do a song that has a slightly higher level of recognizability with the audience and put a contemporary country spin on it. It could have been a home run rather than a solid double that "I Cross My Heart" was. Plus, seriously, Scotty, what the hell is wrong with your neck that you seem unable to hold your head up straight when you sing. It is really starting to get on my nerves. STOP!
7. Paul McDonald -- Danger, Will Robinson! While Paul's performance of "Old Time Rock-n-Roll" wasn't bad, it was the first of the night and was largely forgotten after everything that came after it. Paul looked like a drunk (or deranged, panicked robot) careening around the stage. I still like Paul's vibe, but first is a dangerous spot for him to pull because the quirk is quickly buried by the firepower of James, Casey, et al.
8. Haley Reinhart -- Idol has a lady problem this year. There's no doubt. One by one, America is picking off female contestants. But do you know why that is? Because, for the most part, the girls aren't all that good this year. Look at the list of girls we've lost -- Ashton Jones? Wannabe diva without the diva talent to back it up. Karen Rodriguez? Pitchy and boring despite the Latina flavor. Naima Adedapo? Cool but kind of came across as a bit too over the top in her zeal to think outside the box. She sacrificed artistry for creativity. Thia Megia? SNOOZE! Pia Toscano? Bland despite her clear talent. This thing was off balance from day one when these guys walked in. And think of the talented guys that didn't even make it this far -- like Robbie Rosen or Brett Lowenstern. Haley pretty much phoned it in last night, and like Jacob, her schtick is kind of starting to wear a little thin. Yeah, she picked the wrong song ("Call Me" is honestly one of my least favorite Blondie songs, and I love me some Blondie), but she still didn't sing it all that well. It's like she decided that if she gave a mediocre performance, she could fall back on "song selection" and that would be okay. It may not be. J.Lo's plea with America to stop picking on the girls may work, and it may be Paul or Stefano or Casey or some other guy heading home tonight, but the truth of the matter is that Haley gave the weakest performance last night. If we are really supposed to be voting based on talent (as Simon used to tell us to do), there's no question that it's time for Haley to growl her way out of here.
That popping sound you hear about 8:00 just may be champagne corks popping here at Chez Mel to celebrate Haley's ouster. Or not.