This week, Sheryl Crowe provided them with some guidance alongside mentor Jimmy Iovine.
James Durbin was first, singing "Closer to the Edge" by 30 Seconds to Mars. Jimmy Iovine predicted the song would be instrumental for his future. James wore a denim jacket with an image on the back, along with jeans. His hair was done in a self-consciously sculpted pouf. The performance was complete with lights and pyrotechnics, but it was still a somewhat limp outing compared to his previous performances.
Steven Tyler said, "You're ready for Freddie, I think." Jennifer Lopez said he was ready for a stadium. Randy Jackson said that this song showed people where he could go as an artist in a more contemporary setting than the '80s hard rock songs he'd sung before. [James's First Video; James's First Performance]
Talking to Jacob Lusk, who wanted to sing a duet by himself, "No Air" by Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks, Jimmy Iovine said that everyone should be very proud. Emerging through a hole in the back wall to a stage covered with smoke, he sang a falsetto that was just painful, especially coupled with his ridiculous pseudo-sexy dancing. Someone make it stop.
J. Lo said that he has showmanship and his voice is "one of the best that's ever been on this stage," but she thinks it's important for him to pick songs that represent to the audience what he really wants to sing. Randy differed with the opinion. He doesn't think this song is the direction for him. He said that singing a duet himself "made the whole thing a little corny for me," and it was sharp. Steven said he loves Jacob's voice but that he needs to find direction.
Talking to host Ryan Seacrest afterwards, Jacob asserted that he's the type of audience who "appeals to everybody." [Jacob's First Video; Jacob's First Performance]
Lauren Alaina was nervous as she rehearsed a Carrie Underwood song with Sheryl and Jimmy, and she looked about to cry. For her performance, she wore a mystifying outfit of a black no-sleeved top and black leggings with silver fringe hanging down like a skirt. The song was an upbeat country song, "Flat on the Floor" by Carrie Underwood, and she sounded much better than she had in the video of the rehearsal.
Randy found it amazing. Steven said it's "as good as it gets" and added "I think you're it." J. Lo said, "You ate that up." She told her this is what she has to do. [Lauren's First Video; Lauren's First Performance]
Scotty McCreery chose "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry. Jimmy thought the angst of the song and the intensity of the vocal would move people. Scotty wore a denim jacket with a purple button-down shirt and jeans. He came out through the audience and during the chorus, ran off the stage onto the second stage. Instead of being "angsty," he seemed to have fun with it, as if his woman being gone was a good thing. He had a lot of energy, though, and a lot of people (including my 10-month-old, who shook his booty) probably loved it.
Steven said that "Up to now you've been like a Puritan, but I saw you dance with the devil tonight." He liked that he showed another side of himself. J. Lo thought he owned the stage, and she liked the growling (OK for him but not for Casey? Hmm?) Randy said he felt like he was at a concert. [Scotty's First Video; Scotty's Performance]
Haley Reinhart got a rare opportunity to sing a song that is yet to be released, "You and I" by Lady Gaga. Wearing glittering leggings and a black top, she started singing on the steps, purring the opening bars of the song. It's a great song which tells a story, and she pulled it off. She didn't sound like Lady Gaga, but that didn't matter.
J. Lo loved the way she sounded, especially at the end but just wasn't sure this was the best song. She didn't feel the song gave her a big enough moment. Randy said she's a great singer but wasn't sure this song did her any favors. Steven thought she put all of Haley in it. "When someone can take a song you don't know and make it work, that's a beautiful thing." He said she's just one perfect song away from being the American Idol. [Haley's First Video; Haley's First Performance]
For his second song, James went with a ballad, "Without You" by Harry Nilsson, wearing just a black river-boat shirt and dark jeans. He stood at center stage, with stringed instruments on the stage behind him. The opening was a bit weaker, but he built throughout the song and ended strong. Afterward, he had tears in his eyes.
Randy said that "this is the mark of a truly great performer" and thought that, while it wasn't perfect, it was "emotionally perfect." Steven was also impressed. J. Lo said there's more to him as an artist than just hitting high notes. She thought he was amazing. [James's Second Video; James's Second Performance]
Jacob chose "Love Hurts" by Nazareth for his second song, wearing a pewter suit and a purple button-down. He started out in a falsetto and then got deeper, using his full range. He fell off some notes in the bridge and began stamping them into the floor. Near the end he just wailed and then went into a long, sloppy run. Bet the judges loved it, though...
Anthony Hopkins in the audience!
Steven is a "sucker for passion" but felt it again, even though Jacob got lost in the song. J. Lo liked that he "brings out the tricks at the end." Randy said this is what's good about nights like tonight, because he redeemed himself on this one. He compared Jacob to Mariah Carey. [Jacob's Second Video; Jacob's Second Performance]
Lauren Alaina went with a ballad for her second song, wearing a very dated looking, Disney-esque white ball gown with turquoise accents. It was the biggest song she's attempted, and it showed the limits of her voice. Unlike eliminated Pia Toscana, who would have hit it out of the park, Lauren's vocals were just adequate, and in the early part of the song, it was clearly too low for her range.
J. Lo had nothing to say except that "it was beautiful." Randy said that she can "sing like a bird" and liked that she showed another side of her, a tender side. Steven said her voice is "so right." He said he could listen to her all night. [Lauren's Second Video; Lauren's Second Performance]
Next, Scotty McCreery got advice from Jimmy Iovine to just be true to himself. He did "You Were Always on My Mind." He sat on a stool at center stage, wearing a black jacket and white shirt. His version of the song was understated, but it was refreshing to hear something that wasn't over-embellished.
J. Lo said that these two songs have shown what a well-rounded singer he is. She thought there was nothing awkward about him up there. Randy calls him "our youngest veteran." He liked the tender moment. Steven said, "You've just been taking us up and down the trail." He refused to pick the song apart.
Ryan pointed out the fact that Scotty is a quarter Puerto Rican, and his Puerto Rican grandmother was in the audience. She praised him in Spanish. [Scotty's Second Video; Scotty's Second Performance]
To close out the show, Haley Reinhart did "The House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals as a torch song, and you know what? It worked. I finally see what everyone has been raving about with Haley. Wearing a dark tank top and skinny jeans, she let her voice shine with soaring vocals that were spot on.
The judges gave Haley a standing ovation. Randy gushed, "The award tonight for the best performance of the night goes to Haley!" Steven said that the song sold everybody. J. Lo said, "That song has never been sung like that before. Great job." She thought that maybe Haley had been responding to the judges' critique of her previous performance. [Haley's Second Video; Haley's Second Performance]
Kudos to Haley tonight and a nod to Lauren.
Will there be a bottom three this week or just a bottom two? The bottom two should include Jacob and Scotty, but I'm not convinced Scotty will wind up there. If he doesn't, it might be Lauren or perhaps (gasp!) James. It should, however, be Jacob going home this week.
The judges have run out of steam when every performance is "beautiful."