To start off, I’d like to mention I didn’t feel the excitement I usually feel going into Wednesday night’s American Idol performance show. I miss Casey Abrams and all his wonderful artistry and I didn’t miss him any less as the show went on. Was I disappointed at the end, though? Hell no! Excellent show with some excellent performances. This is really anyone’s game.
Part One: The Performances
Wednesday night’s mentor is one of my personal idols, Miss Sheryl Crow. She is a woman that makes no apologies for who she is and I felt she’d have a lot to offer the contestants. With nine Grammy’s under her belt, you know she knows what she’s talking about. She offered suggestions and advice instead of telling the contestants what to do, and I think it helped a lot of them.
This week’s theme was Now and Then. Contestants were asked to select one contemporary song and one song from the sixties. I loved the whole idea, but I’m not sure all of the contestants made the smartest choices. They started off with the contemporary songs, returning to the stage later for their sixties number.
This is the first time this season that each contestant has performed two solo numbers. For some of the contestants, the second song gave them the chance to redeem themselves after a lackluster start. For others, the second performance overshadowed the first for the wrong reasons. Let’s take a look at the performances and talk about who might go home.
James Durbin – Now: Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars
James seemed pretty thrilled to get the chance to sing with Sheryl Crow although Sheryl seemed pretty excited to get to sing with James as well. As for the actual performance, I really thought it was only okay. This is one of my favorite 30 Seconds to Mars songs, so perhaps my expectations were just too high. It started off shaky, but he definitely got control over it. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t blow me away.
Professional Opinion: I’m pretty sure James could belch into the microphone for the duration of his performance and the judges would love it. Steven says James kicked the songs ass and is “ready for Freddy”. What does that mean? No idea. Jennifer told James the competition is his to take.
James Durbin – Then: Without You by Harry Nielson
Not to incur the wrath of the masses, but I really didn’t like James’ second song. Two things bothered me about it. First, the tears. I can only imagine how hard it is for James being away from his family but here’s my problem – does he think things will get better when he’s a rock star? He’ll be on the road away from his family for months at a time. I’m not sure James fully understands what he’s in for. Vocally, the performance wasn’t his best because of the emotion behind the song but all the same, I knew the judges were going to love it – which is the second thing that bothered me about the performance.
Professional Opinion: Usually I would save this for the conclusion but this is a big part of what took away from James’ performance for me. Remember a few weeks back when Jacob performed Dancing with my Father and the judges criticized him for not being able to control the emotion in his performance? Yeah. There’s no consistency in the judging. It’s favoritism and it hurts the contestants.
Conclusion: I think the evening would’ve gone better for James if the sixties song was first and he was able to end with the more high energy 30 Seconds to Mars song. By the end of the night, I almost completely forgot about his first song and honestly, his performances in general.
Jacob Lusk – Now: No Air by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown
A few contestants chose to make gutsy moves last night but none was more gutsy than Jacob Lusk taking on both sides of a duet. It… didn’t work. In fact, I found it painful to watch and to listen to. It’s almost like Jacob gave up trying to win the competition and that’s such a shame. Jacob has so much talent. Remember God Bless the Child? He used to give me chills every time he hit the stage. Then this happened. Randy went as far as to call it corny. Not looking good for Jacob.
Professional Opinion: The judges went pretty hard on Jacob, but this time I really felt it was justified. It was a terribly song choice and while I admire Jacob’s gutsy choice, I can’t help thinking this cemented his trip home. There’s always his second song though.
Jacob Lusk – Then: Love Hurts by Nazareth
Well I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this one when the rehearsal clip was being shown. Sheryl Crow really convinced Jacob it was a good idea and damned if she wasn’t right. Yes his voice cracked, but he was singing for redemption and he got it. It was passionate and soulful – all the things we’ve come to love about Jacob.
Professional Opinion: In a total reversal of his earlier performance, the judges had nothing but praise for Jacob’s performance. This was the Jacob they want to see and Jacob was clearly thrilled with the praise.
Conclusion: The night was a great metaphor for Jacob’s run on Idol. Sometimes he falters but that incredible talent is always in there. Once again, though, he came across very cocky with the “I’m an artist that appeals to everyone” comment. He isn’t. I honestly don’t think there’s an artist out there that does appeal to everyone. Could his arrogance cost him the competition? Perhaps.
Lauren Alaina – Now: Flat on the Floor by Carrie Underwood
I’ve been saying for quite some time now that I missed the fun Lauren that we saw in the beginning of the show. I’ve also been saying I’d love to see her take on a Carrie Underwood song. She did and she nailed it. Simply put – my favorite Lauren Alaina performance since the live shows started.
Professional Opinion: The judges went crazy for Lauren’s first song. Steven says the sky is the limit for Lauren and I’m inclined to agree. Lauren looked so proud of herself and so confident. Lauren is back.
Lauren Alaina – Then: Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers
I hate, hate, hate to say this, but I really didn’t like this performance. I found it boring and sleepy. Worst of all, I found Lauren played it so safe. She completely bailed on the biggest note in the song; giving us a sigh in its place. We’ve seen her perform this song before and do it so much better. I wish we would’ve seen that. As a side note: Lauren said I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith was one of her parents’ songs. Earlier in the season, she also said that about Unchained Melody. Quit crapping on Lauren over nothing.
Professional Opinion: The judges seemed… polite about this one. They said they loved it and there was ‘nothing to judge’ but I honestly think they’re just afraid to be hard on her.
Conclusion: Lauren definitely would’ve benefited from a different song for her second song or from having the order of the performances reversed. Unchained Melody wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly doesn’t seem leave the voters with the strongest impression.
Scotty McCreery – Now: Gone by Montgomery Gentry
Holy cow! Scotty! Where did that come from? This performance was, hands down, my favorite Scotty performance. It was full on energy and Scotty genuinely seemed to be having the time of his life on that stage. It was so nice to see this side of Scotty. He really let go and just had a blast up there and the audience had a blast right along with him.
Professional Opinion: The judges went crazy for Scotty. Steven said he was dancing with the devil and while Randy may not have liked that analogy, I got where Steven was going with it. We saw a whole new Scotty and the judges definitely appreciated that.
Scotty McCreery – Then: Always On My Mind by Elvis Presley
First, I had no idea this was not originally a Willie Nelson song. Second, I liked this performance but I didn’t love it. Scotty have a heartfelt, tender performance without going overboard on the sentiment. I found it a bit on the sleepy side, but it was still nice. Not his best, but alright.
Professional Opinion: Jennifer praised Scotty for showing what a well rounded artist he is. Steven said America loved his voice and Randy called him their “youngest veteran”.
Conclusion: As with Lauren and James, I think this performance would’ve been alright, but again, it was really more of an opening number. His first song was so impressive, I think that should’ve been what voters were left with. With that said, I don’t think Scotty’s in any danger this week.
Haley Reinhart – Now: You and I by Lady Gaga
Jimmy said Haley’s ‘got it’ and I agree. I loved this performance. She rocked the stage and her voice was incredible. I have no idea what performance the judges were watching but definitely not the same one I was. It was a huge gamble, but I think it paid off.
Professional Opinion: Randy and Jennifer seemed to think it was a bad idea to go with a song no one really knows with Jennifer going as far as to say “I don’t think that’s the best advice Jimmy has given you”. The judges were wrong on this one and the greatest part is that Haley knows it. Listening to the criticism, Haley looks pissed and I can understand why. It really seems Randy picks on her every week. He has his favorites and Haley isn’t one of them. Not fair, dawg.
Haley Reinhart – Then: The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
Haley fuckin’ Reinhart ladies and gentleman. That was incredible. I wasn’t sure about Sheryl’s advice to start out acapella, but Sheryl was so right. Until now, Benny and the Jets has been my Haley moment on Idol but Wednesday night, she blew it out of the water. Haley has some so far in this competition and I absolutely love seeing it.
Professional Opinion: Jennifer called it – Haley was pissed after the comments from earlier and she poured that aggression into the song. Randy gave her the award for performance of the night. Steven called Haley sweet and sour. Standing ovation from the audience and the judges (first of the night, I might add).
Conclusion: I loved both of Haley’s performances but House of the Rising Sun was definitely the performance of the night. It blows my mind that there are people out there that don’t think Haley’s talented. This girl is the shit and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.
Summary and Predictions
Wednesday night’s performances were a mixed bag. I was impressed by Lauren and Scotty’s first performances but felt their second ones were a step back – Lauren’s more than Scotty’s. Do I think that puts Lauren in danger? At this stage in the game – absolutely. She’s so talented, but I think the pressure of the competition is weighing on her. Even so, I doubt she’ll be heading home. Same with James. He needs to get his emotions under control. His career after Idol is going to take him away from his family a lot and he needs to decide if that’s what he really wants. Inevitably though, I’m positive Jacob has reached the end of his Idol journey.
Part Two: The Results
Once again, Ryan Seacrest proved to be kind of a dick with the results, but in fairness, I don’t think he has much of a say in how the results are announced. I won’t lie – this week was tough. Luckily, there was a lot of between-the-results stuff to lighten the mood including my favorite set of clip packages thus far. Let’s get moving.
Ryan Seacrest started the show by letting us know a season high 60 million votes were cast Wednesday night. After a nice plug for Steven’s book (title: Does the Noise In My Head Bother You?), which I can’t wait to read, by the way, and a little discussion about Jennifer’s album, Ryan tells us not to forget Randy’s bake sale. Poor Randy – nothing to promote.
Performance One: The American Idols perform Happy Together by ‘The Turtles’
Is it my imagination or do these group performances get worse every week? This was almost painful to listen to. The contestants are extremely talented on their own but together? Yeah, not good. Can we skip this next week? Please?
The Ford Commerical: Just Be Yourself by The American Idols
Morcheeba has long been one of my favorite groups so I was pretty excited to hear one of their songs on Idol. I have to admit the song sounded good even though I wasn’t a big fan of the accompanying commercial. I liked it more than last week’s though.
Clip Package: Gordon Ramsay and the Omelet Challenge
Yes, I know it’s filler but I absolutely loved this clip package. Basically, Chef Gordon Ramsay made a special appearance to find out with Idol contestant is the best chef; giving them all five minutes to make an omelet. It didn’t go well with almost all of the contestants receiving very negative reviews from the famously honest chef. Lauren won – and was the only contestant to actually get a favorable review. Jacob seemed thrilled to get the second runner up prize. My favorite part? Chef Ramsay’s advice to James: “James… it would help if you turned the stove on.”
Performance Two: Lady Antebellum performs Just a Kiss
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this in my past Idol recaps, but I’m honestly not a huge country music fan but I do have my favorites. Lady Antebellum are among those favorites. I loved their performance. These guys are great.
Clip Package: Song Choice and Wardrobe
I always like seeing the Idol contestants get a chance to play around, but I don’t know… this package felt a little empty to me. It was fun, I suppose, but it was no Chef Ramsay. I liked hearing a little more about how the contestants choose their songs although honestly, I would have preferred having a more extended package about that. The wardrobe part was cute – especially Lauren. Every time she’s on the screen I want to hug her she’s so adorable.
So this is how the results were handed out this week. Each contestant was called forward individually and a recap of their Wednesday night performances was played. Jimmy Iovine was asked to give his review of each performance and I just have to say he did an excellent job. Was he a bit tough? Yes – but that’s why the show and the contestants need. He said the things I was screaming at the judges the night before. They need to have Jimmy play a bigger role next season if he returns.
I’m so glad Jimmy called James out on getting control of his emotions. This man speaks the truth, even though I sometimes don’t agree with him. He is willing to offer an honest critique which is something the judges don’t seem willing to do. He said in weeks past he would rate James a nine or a ten but would only give him an eight last night. I wholeheartedly agree, although if we’re rating out of ten, I’d give James a seven. It wasn’t bad, but it was the worst I’ve seen James do. At the end of the package, James is sent to the far side of the stage. Could James really be in the bottom three?
Jimmy starts by praising Lauren’s take on Flat on the Floor but points out that her fear got the best of her when she completely backed off on the biggest note in Unchained Melody. Jimmy says she needs to get control of that fear or she won’t make it to the final three. Haley is outshining Lauren because Haley is fearless. Jimmy predicts that based on Lauren’s Unchained Melody performance she’ll be in the bottom two. Did not know it would be a ‘bottom two’ tonight. At the end of the package, Lauren is told to stand on the near side of the stage. Don’t like where this is going.
Clip Package: Gordon Ramsay’s Blind Taste Test
Thank heavens for a little distraction. Tonight’s show is pretty intense. We head back to Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen where Lauren and Haley will face off in a blind taste test to determine who the best chef is on Idol. This may possibly be the funniest clip package I’ve ever seen on Idol. Lauren wins the whole thing and I start thinking I might want to tune into Gordon’s shows (Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and Master Chef).
Performance Three: Jennifer Lopez Performs On the Floor
Sure Jennifer’s new album Love? hasn’t been getting the greatest reviews, but this performance (and the single itself) was a lot of fun. Even so, I couldn’t help wondering how far Jennifer would’ve made it on American Idol as a contestant. She really doesn’t have much to offer vocally but the woman sure knows how to put on a show. Like Bruno Mars and Katy Perry before her, Jennifer’s performance was taped in advance. I don’t know why Idol just doesn’t tell the audience. I doubt anyone would be all that upset. It takes time to put up an elaborate set. We get it. Just tell us the truth next time, okay? No one likes feeling lied to. We get a glimpse of Jennifer’s new video, I’m Into You, following her performance. One thing is for certain – that is one gorgeous lady.
Well, I think we all knew this one was going to be tough. Jimmy doesn’t really seem to like Jacob all that much – only giving his performance a six last night. He feels that Jacob’s nerves are getting the best of him and I’m inclined to agree. It’s the exact same problem Lauren’s having. I also think Jacob is trying too hard to please everyone when he simply can’t. Jacob doesn’t have a voice or a style that is going to appeal to everyone. In trying to target everyone, he’s losing his core audience and eventually, that’s going to catch up with him. At the end of the package, Jacob is sent to the near side of the stage to await his fate alongside Lauren. I think we’re looking at the bottom two there.
I think Casey was Jimmy’s favorite contestant on Idol and with Casey gone, I think Haley is Jimmy’s new favorite. You can tell by the way he talks about her that he truly believes in her as an artist. I think he sees Haley as someone who has a viable career after Idol – regardless of the results. How much does Jimmy believe in Haley? He rates her a ten and said she won the night. I definitely agree. Haley is sent to join James on the far side of the stage and I’m more convinced than every that Jacob and Lauren are the bottom two.
While Jimmy clearly believes in Scotty, he doesn’t seem entirely convinced Scotty has a chance at winning the whole thing. He did say, however, that Scotty’s performance ‘killed’ him and that he will have an extraordinary career regardless of what happens on Idol. His problem with Scotty’s performances Wednesday was solely a problem with Always on my Mind. He felt Scotty came up a bit short after such a strong performance of Gone. I agree entirely. Again. After the clip package, Seacrest clarifies last week results. Scotty was not – and never has been – in the bottom two. He then tells him that the trend has continued and announces the first results of the evening – Scotty is safe.
After announcing Scotty is safe, he asks Scotty to stand with the group he thinks is also safe. Scotty refused, underlining why I love him so much. He makes two statements repeatedly in this moment: “Don’t do that to me” and “I’m not doin’ that”. Scotty is not someone that’s going to do something he doesn’t want to do – especially if it means hurting someone he has obviously grown to care about. Kudos Scotty!
Ryan leads Scotty over to James and Haley’s group. Haley looks over and asks: “You actually did that?” to which Scotty replies, “No, he pushed me.” I don’t think Seacrest is going to be able to get any of the contestants to play that game this year. So there we have it; James, Haley and Scotty are safe while Lauren and Jacob are our bottom two.
At this point, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Lauren Alaina. I love this girl. She has so much talent. When I heard her audition, I was convinced she was going to win the whole show, then something happened. The live shows started and Lauren started losing confidence. She really needs to find that spark she had the first time we saw her or she is in real danger. Jacob… well, we’ll talk more about Jacob in the conclusions.
It wasn’t surprising to see Jacob take his final bow on the show. It wasn’t surprising to see Lauren start crying the moment she wound up in the bottom two. What surprised me was how sad I was to see Jacob go. He’s arrogant and full of himself but watching his exit clip package, I was reminded of just how talented he really is. Will he have a future in music? Well… again, I’ll talk about that more in the conclusions. Regardless of his future or his past on the show, he gave a heck of a final performance and handled his departure with grace and class. He went out on a high note with A House is Not a Home by Luther Vandross and I loved that. It nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Summary and Predictions
Jacob may have handled his on screen goodbye with grace and class, but his exit interviews? Well – they’re painting a bit of a different story. He’s blaming the judges, and especially blaming Jimmy, for his elimination saying he didn’t get the boot because he’s horrible but because he was given bad advice. I’m sorry Jacob, you’re a talented man, but that’s bullshit. If you didn’t feel comfortable with the direction you were heading in, you had every right to say no. James did it. Casey did it. Scotty did it. You could’ve done it to. You made some bad choices and the worst was performing No Air. It was horrible and it’s the first time I can say that about you.
Burning bridges with Jimmy is a terrible idea. He is a legend and he can open so many doors for you. You were already labeled a diva by your fellow contestants. No one wants to work with someone who has a diva-tude before they’ve even put out an album. The proof? According to reliable sources, Pia Toscano, Paul McDonald and Casey Abrams have already been approached by artists and record labels to work with them. Jacob has not. Comments like “America fell in love with me” and “I’m an artist who appeals to everyone” hurt Jacob far more than help him.
Jacob is phenomenally talented, but a little bit of humility will go a long way to helping him further his career. With that said, I want to see him do big things with his career and I truly hope he does. I’ll definitely miss him on the show. If you need a little reminder of how talented Jacob is, check out the video above. It was the moment I fell in love with him and represents all of the things I will miss most about him.
So now we’re down to the top four and a few of the contestants remaining surprised me. I expected Haley to be gone a while back but I’m thrilled she is still in the game. I think she has a real shot at winning if she continues to evolve as she does. Lauren needs to find her confidence and deliver a heck of a performance week if she wants to avoid going home. Scotty – well, I think as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing he’ll be fine. And James… well, if he doesn’t get control of his emotions he’ll probably continue to perform worse and worse, but it won’t matter. James is going to win this thing and I think Scotty will be runner up based only on the fact that he and James are the only two contestants remaining that have not been in the bottom three. Of course, who knows? Maybe Scotty would’ve been in the bottom three tonight had there been one. It’s American Idol. Anything could happen… especially next week.
What’s to Come?
I couldn’t be more excited about next week Although I still miss Casey, I’m excited to see what Haley does next week. The theme is going to be The Leiber and Stoller Songbook. Don’t know who they are? How about these songs: Hound Dog, Stand By Me, Jailhouse Rock or Spanish Harlem. I have to tell you – this one is going to be great. In addition, the musical mentor stepping in to help the contestants out is going to be none other than the Mother Monster herself – Lady fuckin’ Gaga. I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb to say this one is going to be incredible.
What did you think of Jacob’s elimination? Should he have gone sooner? Should someone else have gone home in his place? What do you think of Lady Gaga’s mentoring next week? Who will make it in to the top three? Come back here next Friday for my full recap.