Grab your popcorn; we're going to the movies! At the start of the Top 8 performance show we relived the drama of Pia's elimination last week. Ryan Seacrest introduced the judges, who all looked very classy. Today, PEOPLE magazine revealed that Jennifer Lopez is their Most Beautiful Person of 2011, and I don't think any of us would disagree! She's stunning and radiates from the judges' table...even in hi-def!
Ryan talked some more about Pia's elimination, but I was distracted at the difference in shades when you compare his pale hands to his tan face. In the spirit of the theme, would enthusiastic AI audience member and movie star Christian Slater return? We've had Songs from the Cinema as a theme the past two seasons and both times the person who sang Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?" received the fewest votes--Matt Giraud who was saved, and Michael Lynche who sang it as a duet with Casey James. Would any one dare to tackle it? On the flip side, the last two seasons, the person who performed "Falling Slowly" went on to win the whole show--Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze (who performed it as a duet with Crystal Bowersox).
For the fourth week in a row, will.i.am was on American Idol. Once again he was co-mentoring the finalists with Jimmy Iovine. It's almost as if he's not a member of one of the world's biggest pop groups with the amount of time he's been spending on the Idol set. Maybe he's the 14th Finalist of Season 10. Side note: was will.i.am wearing a Twitter armband?
I stand behind will.i.am's suggestion that Paul McDonald slide on to the stage in a shirt and briefs to perform "Old Time Rock and Roll" from "Risky Business." Hey, it worked for the Season 7 Davids on finale night! Paul didn't wear the "Risky" attire, but he did don his famous suit of roses, only in black. I think it's the original white suit, only now it's black from the dirt from four on-stage wears. Paul traversed the staircase and danced all around the stage as he sang. At one point, he caught a tambourine that was tossed on the stage and jammed with a super sexy saxophonist. Although sometimes his vocals suffer from his crazy on-stage energy, I can't wait to see Paul's set on tour. Steven Tyler wants to borrow one of Paul's rosy suits and the rocker appreciates Paul's wild abandon. Jennifer Lopez compared Paul to a diamond in the rough that's becoming more polished. Randy called this performance the first number at the Paul McDonald concert.
Lauren Alaina was super excited to sing "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus from "Hannah Montana: The Movie." To put things into a ridiculous perspective, Lauren is YOUNGER than Miley! The last time a 16-year-old sang this song on Idol, it was Haeley Vaughn and it sent her home. Jimmy Iovine had no concerns and told Lauren in rehearsal that she's a much better singer than Miley. Lauren could really relate to the song about a teen struggling to reach her pop star dreams. Starting with her back to the audience, Lauren took the stage looking age-appropriate in a fun, young, rock dress and cowgirl boots. The teen seemed emotionally connected to the song, and when she was through singing, she was met with long applause from the audience. Jennifer loves the cry in Lauren's voice. Randy said, "You made that song sound like it was written for you." Steven revealed that Lauren was the first Idol that came to mind when the judges were auditioning thousands, and he said he was moved beyond tears. That must be why there's no fluid coming from his eyes. When Ryan greeted Lauren, she said the song perfectly expresses what she's going through with Idol. She was also pleased that "the most beautiful woman in the world told me I did a good job."
This week, Stefano Langone concentrated on his performance skills. He has the vocal chops, but week after week the judges encourage him to connect more. This week he selected Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road" from "Boomerang." Not only did Stefano work on his performance this week, he worked on his lip stubble. Stefano gave a solid performance on the live show and this was the most he's connected. The only thing I didn't like about the performance was his outfit--a cotton tee over a short sleeved dress shirt and tennis shoe tongues that are the size of Stefano's shins. Papa Langone was jazzed about Stefano's performance in the audience. Either that or Howie Mandel is about to "MOB" someone. After name dropping his favorite boyz, Randy Jackson called this Stefano's "best vocal on the stage to date." Steven said this surely won't be the end of the road for Stefano, and Jennifer had chills. Backstage, Stefano said "amazing" as often as Lee DeWyze does.
There was not a movie more appropriate for Scotty McCreery to choose a song from than "Pure Country." He went with George Strait's "I Cross My Heart" because it's a song he grew up with, but Jimmy didn't love the choice. Hoping to do "The King of Country Music" justice, Scotty sat on a stool under a red spotlight and crooned the country tune. Did anyone notice the "Grandmas for Scotty" poster in the audience? It seems he made an impression on our older audience members during his "Country Comfort" tribute to his grandma two weeks ago. The judges had positive feedback for Scotty. Steven thought it was the perfect song. Jennifer had plans to be tougher on the singers tonight, but she just couldn't find anything wrong with Scotty's performance. Randy loved the song choice and exclaimed, "A star is born on this stage!" He explained that Scotty has always been good, but each week he's getting stronger. Country stronger?
The Idol from Idyllwild, Casey Abrams, wanted to sing "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole/David Bowie, but Jimmy Iovine encouraged him to go with "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. I'm not familiar with "Nature Boy," but "In The Air Tonight" seemed like the perfect fit. After some back and forth and rehearsals, Casey stayed true to himself and went the jazzy route with "Nature Boy." With another shave and haircut, an ascot-wearing Casey took the stage with his stand-up bass and gave a performance that was very different from his Screamin' Jay Hawkins number from last month. He interacted with Ray Chew on the smoke-filled stage, and by the end of his performance Casey had all three judges on their feet. Jennifer hoped that America got the performance. Randy called it a Grammy-worthy performance and said there is definitely a place in the industry for Casey. He is proud to judge artists as well as pop stars on the Idol stage. Steven commented on the sophistication Casey brought to the stage tonight. Backstage, an emotional Casey talked about how he's a fan of New Artist Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding. Do I sense a future collaboration?
One of two girls left in the competition, Haley Reinhart met with Jimmy Iovine, and the mentor commented about how Haley was a slow starter who's charging now. Haley selected Blondie's "Call Me" from "American Gigolo." For the first time on the show (in my memory), Haley started at the judges' table with her back towards them and walked up on stage. She was looking very sexy this evening, so hopefully that would get more males to vote. She pressed the mic up against her hot pink colored lips. Has she forgotten about March's "Lipstick Massacre"?! Haley looked like she was having fun as she stomped around the stage and shook her hair out. Randy didn't love the beginning and he thought it was a karaoke performance. Steven loved Haley's colorful frock and her heavy sound. Jennifer enjoyed the parts where Haley wailed and encouraged America to Save The Girls! That's a campaign they should start for these endangered singers.
What do Hank Azaria, Elvira, and Rob Reiner have in common? They're all in the Idol audience. Christian Slater must be so jealous!
When Jacob Lusk met with Jimmy and will.i.am, Jimmy talked about the importance of not preaching to America. In these mentor videos I've seen Jimmy in a brown leather jacket, a navy leather jacket, and a light blue leather jacket. Even the Most Beautiful Woman in the World doesn't have that many wardrobe changes on Idol! Jimmy suggested that Jacob should sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel. YES! That's a great suggestion. Clay slayed it on the Idol stage, but Jacob has a very different voice from the Season 2 runner-up. Jacob took Jimmy's advice and sang the song from "The Pursuit of Happyness." Jacob preached that song...but in a good way! I really felt it and was seconds away from a "Hallelujah!" Steven exclaimed a more unique religious response, exclaiming, "Holy sheesizzles!" He talked about Jacob's "crescendos and innuendos." Hmm, I didn't catch the innuendos, but I don't usually do in a Simon & Garfunkel song. Jennifer called Jacob "a gifted vocalist" and said she tried not to get chills, but she lost that fight. Randy was happy that Jacob took his time with the song and described it as "Perfect harmony" three times.
The underlying theme of the night seemed to be the finalists and Jimmy Iovine thinking of different songs that they should perform for their Top 8 performance. James Durbin had a clear idea of what he wanted to do, and that way heavy metal--the Sammy Hagar song "Heavy Metal" from the movie "Heavy Metal." Jimmy was skeptical about this decision, but he wasn't sure of James' last two performances, and those worked out well for the Santa Cruz singer. In his pre-taped interview, James chanted, "Give metal a chance!" Peace is so 1969. Amongst light and smoke, James stepped on stage with a heavy metal guitarist--Zakk Wylde who played with Ozzy Osbourne and is a part of Black Label Society. His beard is a dreadlock that is so long, it could have strummed the electric guitar for him. James' performance included back bends and high notes and long notes and musician interactions...it had everything but pyro. Jennifer started her critique with a "Yo!" Who is she, the dawg? She said, "Who would've thought that on American Idol we'd have pure heavy metal?!" Randy thought James was unbelievable and was happy he stuck to his guns. Rocker Steven Tyler thought it was outstanding. What a way to end the night!
What did you think of the show? Would the sixth girl in a row go home? We'd find out the next day!
Here's the song list to hold you over:
Paul McDonald - "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger from "Risky Business"
Lauren Alaina - "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus from "Hannah Montana: The Movie"
Stefano Langone - "End Of The Road" by Boyz II Men from "Boomerang"
Scotty McCreery - "I Cross My Heart" by George Strait from "Pure Country"
Casey Abrams - "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole/David Bowie from "Moulin Rouge!"
Haley Reinhart - "Call Me" by Blondie from "American Gigolo"
Jacob Lusk - "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel from "The Pursuit of Happyness"
James Durbin - "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar from "Heavy Metal"