Babyface sat in with mentor Jimmy Iovine to provide guidance for the contestants, saying of them, "They are really talented."
Jacob Lusk and James Durbin
First up was Jacob Lusk, who Jimmy wanted to see "soar." Jacob had selected "Oh, No, Not My Baby." He stood at the piano, wearing a carnival-esque outfit of a yellow button-down shirt with bright blue vest, bowtie, and a blue and white checked jacket (which my husband said reminded him of a guest star on "Captain Kangaroo"). This song was in the higher range, which might not have been the best fit for him. It sounded almost like he was impersonating someone. He had a lot of energy, but the performance probably won't win him any new fans.
Judge Steven Tyler told him, "It's about time you shook your tail feathers," referring to Jacob's dancing. Jennifer Lopez said it was a tricky song and there were little spaces where "it wasn't perfect," but she liked the performance. Randy Jackson agreed it was "sharp here and there" but "you had an energetic performance." [Jacob's Video; Jacob's Performance]
Lauren Alaina admitted to Jimmy that she was freaked out about going for high notes. She did "Where You Lead, I Will Follow," wearing a knee-length white dress with purple streaks and gray cowboy boots. The song had some higher notes in it than she had tried before, and it had a very country feel. At the very end, she sang to a guy from the audience, who came up on the stage.
J. Lo heard her voice crack a little bit but was proud of her for pushing. Randy liked her swagger and told her "it's time to throw down the gauntlet." Steven thought that "when your voice broke, that's when you shined." He cautioned her against letting her insecurities in. [Lauren's Video; Lauren's Performance; Lauren's Critique]
For their duet, Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart did a slightly jazzy take on "I Feel the Earth Move," with Casey in a dark suit and Haley in a black cocktail dress with silver sparkles. They are a real natural together, and despite a couple rough harmonies, it was a terrific performance.
Steven asked, "How much in love with Haley are you? It showed." The other judges didn't get a chance to review the performance, probably in order to keep the show moving. [Casey and Haley's Video; Casey and Haley's Performance]
Scotty McCreery did "You've Got a Friend," and Jimmy wanted him to get out of his usual mode for once. He did in that it wasn't a countrified version of the song. The arrangement took liberties with the melody but stayed close enough to it so that the song was recognizable. Scotty wore a black leather jacket with jeans and sat on some raised steps with the background musicians on stage. The only hint of the old Scotty was when he waggled his eyebrows right before the last "You've got a friend."
Randy liked the "buttery" voice but criticized the way he falls off the high notes. Still, he felt that "Scotty's in it to win it." Steven observed that he feel off those notes because he was at the top of his register. He thought, though, that Scotty never sang better. J. Lo said that he's getting better at reaching for the higher register in his voice. She thought his strength is in the storytelling, and "You told that story beautifully." [Scotty's Video; Scotty's Performance; Scotty's Critique]
James Durbin planned a low-key performance, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," just performing with his guitar. Most of it was a capella at the beginning, with just a simple spotlight on him. Then, on the second verse, the band picked up, which didn't have quite the magic of the beginning. He wore a short-sleeved rust-colored shirt with a gray vest, dark jeans and tons of chains.
Steven told him, "You had me sold on it right in the beginning." At first, he didn't like the rock part, but then "it grew on me." He also said that this was the song playing when he first made out with a girl. J. Lo thought it was "magical." She said that James is very consistent "and that's what's going to win it." Randy loved that "you weren't just a great rock singer; you were a great singer." He went further and said, "This guy just might win the whole thing." After that, Ryan encouraged him to go up and give James a hug. [James's Video; James's Performance; James's Critique]
For their duet of "Up on the Roof," Lauren and Scotty sang on the stage with a skyline on the screen behind them, Lauren in a strapless pink and white party dress, and Scotty in a leather jacket with a blue T-shirt. Lauren seemed a little stiff, but Scotty was very relaxed, and their voices meshed well together.
J. Lo said, "Lauren, you sing your -- brains off." Of course, she had been about to say something else, until Ryan jumped in with the word "brains." [Lauren and Scotty's Video; Lauren and Scotty's Performance]
Carole King's daughter, Sherry, was in the audience.
Casey sang the Carole King song popularized by Blood, Sweat and Tears, "Hidey Ho." He was wearing a fedora and black suit, with a gold tie, sitting next to a piano player as he began. Like a jazz man on a stroll, he also passed a harmonica player and a saxophone player. It was a very bluesy performance, and he was definitely in his element, especially the way he interacted with the band and the audience. Lots of fun!
Randy said he loves that Casey brings "a different thing." He said it took him back to New Orleans, his home state. "I'm excited every time you're up there because I know I'm going to see something different and entertaining." Steven told him "you've definitely found your niche." He added, "You made my scalp itch it was so good." J. Lo agreed with me that "you were in your element." She advised him to loosen up a little bit, and Randy added, "less growl." [Casey's Video; Casey's Performance]
Penny Marshall in the audience!
Haley picked "Beautiful," which she thought was "groovy" and reminded her of The Beatles. She wore an off-white short dress, which looked very '70s, with bright red pumps. This was a great choice by her, because she made the most of the melody of this song, making it sound current while staying true to the lyrics and matching the optimistic energy of the chorus as well as the pensive verses. Never sounded better!
Steven said, "Haley, you are as beautiful as all that song is." He said he heard God in her voice. J. Lo found it "beautiful" and said she has one of the best voices in the competition. Randy didn't love the beginning, and J. Lo said, "whatever." The end, he said was more exciting. [Haley's Video; Haley's Performance]
For the final duet, James and Jacob were amused that they'd been paired up and promised to "take it to church." They started up on the steps, both wearing white pants and blue blazers, performing "Something Good." After dancing with each other on the stage, they pulled J. Lo's chair back onto the second stage and serenaded her, seemingly catching her off-guard. The vocals at times were all over the place, but they definitely threw it down with a wild last note.
Steven wasn't sure if that was the most award-winning performance, but "you were having fun." He asked, "Where were you going with all that?" James responded, "Going to church."
Ryan joked that viewers could vote for Jennifer's legs, since they'd been exposed when the guys pulled out her chair. [James and Jacob's Video; James and Jacob's Performance]
Kudos tonight to Haley, Casey, and a nod to James.
Will the bottom three reflect the performances? If so, Lauren could find herself there for the first time. Scotty really stepped up his game, but will it be enough to keep him out of the bottom three? Jacob will almost certainly be there, and he's also the one most likely to go home.
Two is more fun than one.