The Idols sang two songs: the first one was a song that inspires them. The second, a song from the Leiber and Stoller catalogue. To mentor them, Lady Gaga. For the first songs, there was no video package except for some information about how the contestants chose the songs.
For his first performance, James Durbin chose a song that he felt spoke to his "American Idol" journey, "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. He started out on the steps, wearing a black blazer, black message T-shirt and dark jeans. The 1980s rock anthem gave him an excuse to go for some higher notes, but it was a fairly tepid performance.
Steven Tyler thought it was an indication of things to come and pointed out that Randy Jackson would, of course, know the song, having played guitar for Journey. Jennifer Lopez thought it was a great song and a great performance. Randy thinks it's one of the best bands and best singers ever (Steve Perry). He liked that James wore tails like Perry did. He thought the song was the highest degree of difficulty "and you did it!" [James's First Performance]
Haley Reinhart chose "Earthsong" by Michael Jackson because it was a "melodic masterpiece" with a lot of messages. She was sitting on some steps, wearing a gold lame top with black leggings, her hair piled on top of her head. She was very emotional with her performance, backed up by a choir. She really seemed to get the emotion behind this song. Her last note was also very nice.
A shot of Casey Abrams in the audience, applauding wildly!
J. Lo could feel "your feeling in the song." She talked to her about song choice, because it was lesser known. Randy said that J. Lo was right. He thought the song didn't really suit her, that she was shouting. Those kind of R&B chops are not her thing, he said. Haley answered, "I thought it was beautiful the way it was." Steven said, "They're both wrong." He said, "It wasn't a hit song, but you sang it; you nailed it." He predicated that America would hear it. [Haley's First Performance]
Scotty McCreery chose "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning" by Alan Jackson. He played a guitar and sat on a stool, wearing a leather jacket and jeans. His performance got my 11-month-old all excited, who bounced around to the ballad.
Randy thought it was an amazing song and a great lyric. He thought Scotty was ready for superstardom. Steven told him to keep it up, the emotion he was feeling. J. Lo said, "I'm in love with you. I can't help it." [Scotty's Video; Scotty's First Performance]
Lauren Alaina chose a Martina McBride song, "Anyway," which she related to because of the devastation wrought by a tornado last week to her home town. She wore an unusual wine-red dress with a short puffy front and a long back. Her version of the song was a little subdued until the second time the chorus came around. Then she gave it a little more. Overall, not too exciting, which marks most of her performances.
Steven felt she delivered a song like "a blue plate special" and praised her dress and the buckles on her shoes. J. Lo said that she's listening to what they're telling her, which is "to get you in the final" for that last moment with "the confetti coming down." Guess she put it out there: they want Lauren to win. Randy said, "You know what was wrong with that performance? Nothing." [Lauren's First Performance]
Put on the spot to choose the winner of round one, J. Lo couldn't choose a winner, and randy basically said that everybody but Haley won, which seemed to annoy Haley. Will there be a backlash for her lack of sportsmanship? [Assessment of Round One]
Haley chose for her second song, "I, Who Have Nothing." Lady Gaga, wearing a fabulous black outfit with heavy eye makeup an a large black beauty mark, wanted Haley to play up the drama, giving her some hints to achieve that effect. She wore a charcoal dress with one beaded strap and an uneven hem, which large dangling earrings. Her performance was captivating, with some large sustained notes at the end. Very dramatic, although she didn't quite use the extra breath the way that Gaga taught her.
J. Lo justified her earlier critique: "This is why we can't take it easy on you; look what you're capable of." She found it one of the best performances of the year. Randy said that everyone needs a moment tonight, and "you just had a moment right here which put you in it to win it." Steven thought this was "a classic moment with classic Haley" and predicted we'd see her next week.
Host Ryan Seacrest took the judges to task for their uneven criticism and led Haley down to them to make peace. [Haley's Video; Haley's Second Performance]
Scotty went with "Young Blood" by the Coasters. Gaga felt it showed his humor and his personality. She advised him to think of the microphone as his girlfriend and that he has to "make love to the microphone" because every time he holds it sideways, people can't hear him. He wore a red plaid shirt and jeans as he strolled out, having a lot of fun with the song, strolling into the audience and singing a line to Casey, "You better leave my daughter alone." Although some of the song was more talking than singing, I'm sure his fans will love it.
Randy asked Scotty if he'd had a good time. He liked that he was having fun with it and said, "I think we just saw both sides of a Scotty concert." He compared Scotty to a seasoned professional. Steven said, "You made Gaga's yaya go lala." He loved the humor. J. Lo thought he'd really hit his stride and now it's about "the sprint to the finish line." Next week, she wants to see a whole different side of him. [Scotty's Video; Scotty's Second Performance]
Lauren chose the Elvis Presley song "Trouble." Jimmy Iovine advised her to sing the song in character. Gaga told her that when she was 16, "I was way too weird to be on 'American Idol.'" Lauren strutted out, wearing a skin-tight gold lame dress with black leggings and platform shows. As she shook her head back and forth and sang, "I'm evil, evil, evil" it seemed like a big joke. I don't think she quite got the character. It was a weird choice, honestly. Of course, the judges will love it.
Steven wasn't sure if he believed it or not but thought it was well done. J. Lo saw performance quality in her that she hadn't seen before: "It was mature, total attack." Vocally, she thought it was great. Randy observed, "We saw a fun side of you." He enjoyed it. [Lauren's Video; Lauren's Second Performance]
Ryan had Mike Stoller stand up in the audience and asked him if they were doing the songs justice. Stoller said they are and explained that his writing partner is under the weather tonight, which is why he wasn't there.
James Durbin chose "Love Potion No. 9" and wanted a Bad Company/Paul Rodgers feel. Gaga told him not to be afraid to move her hips. Jimmy observed that he was being too casual, and Gaga actually got him to move his hips while he was singing. He started out at the top of the stairs and strolled down them as he sang the high-octane version of the song. At one point, he kneeled down on the stage. He moved through the audience before jumping back on the stage to finish up, deliberately drawing out the end of it with some long pauses and doing a split jump after the last note.
J. Lo said that showed her that "you can sing anything." She had been picturing him doing "Jailhouse Rock" instead, but she thought he can take "any song and put that James thing on it." Randy said, "You are now what I love about sports... You're peaking at the right time." He thought he was having "a moment" every week. Steven said, "What you can't do with your voice you did tonight." [James's Video; James's Second Performance]
Kudos to Haley with a nod to James.
Who's headed for the bottom two? At this point, anyone could be in danger. If it's based simply on performance, James will find himself there, possibly with Scotty. I'd like to see Lauren leave, because she's been overrated by the judges and, this many weeks in, still have failed to impress. But I don't know if it's her time to go yet, if she doesn't. Perhaps, shockingly, it might be the popular James or even Scotty. Certainly, it could be Haley, as well, who found herself on the wrong side of judges' comments.