It's hard to believe only seven contestants remain. These next six weeks are going to fly by! Grab your spacesuits; this week's theme was songs from the 21st century, including the one and only decade that all seven finalists were around for in its entirety.
But first, all six eliminated finalists returned to the Idol stage. Naima Adedapo, Ashthon Jones, Karen Rodriguez, Thia Megia, and Pia Toscano took the stage looking super sexy and rock and roll in black leather and fringe. The girls sang "So What" by Pink or P!nk, whose name I imagine will soon be "!" much like Prince's symbol. Naima danced aggressively and threw her jacket over the camera. Take that, America! The stage doors parted and Paul McDonald took on verse two in his black suit with pink roses. How much do you wanna bet he'll wear this all summer long on tour? Paul singing Pink was something I never anticipated. And it's crazy to think we had more girls than guys in the competition at one point! It was nice to see these finalists back; this hasn't been done on past seasons until the finale. Steven told the six, "You just made America feel bad about their decision." But would we feel bad? On to the performances to find out!
Of all the pre-performance packages, my favorite is when the contestants describe each other because we get to see their senses of humor and relationships with each other play out. Kicking off the night was Scotty McCreery, and the finalists made fun of the way he holds his microphone, which might be Scotty's only flaw. Scotty met with Jimmy Iovine, and Jimmy continued his streak of colored leather jackets--this time in red--as Scotty rehearsed LeAnn Rimes' "Swingin'." The song was catchy, and although they didn't have Pussycat Dolls swingin' from the ceiling like Jimmy suggested, he had a good time holding the microphone like a flute with eight fingers and no thumbs. He was joined by the cute, nearly identical, back-up singers that look like Kristy Lee Cook. I bet Scotty has never worn jeans this tight. It's a LeAnn Rimes song, but that didn't keep Scotty from hitting an extremely deep note at the end. Typically, Scotty is met with only compliments, but tonight he received constructive critiques. The judges love his voice, but they wished he would have selected a song that was a little riskier.
The Idols question James Durbin's scarf tail and Haley Reinhart and Scotty McCreery attempted the Durbin backbend, which Scotty got stuck in. James brought the first Muse song to American Idol, although Adam sang "Starlight" on the Season 8 Tour. A marching band of drummers came parading through a side door on set, followed by James. This boy has entered the stage every way but the normal way. James made his way to the stage, but the drummers banged it out behind the judges. I have no idea how they were able to hear James, and how they appeared to be unfazed by the drumming near their ear drums. James used the mic stand like a baton and marched around the stage in his post-Apocalyptic jacket and fingerless gloves. After his performance, the audience was chanting for James. After everyone settled down, a sparkly Jennifer Lopez and a tuxedo-shirt wearing Randy Jackson both predicted that this would be the best performance of the night (and we were only at the second performance!). Steven Tyler compared James' look to "Mad Max meets a Stormtrooper on Melrose" (what does that even mean?!) and remarked, "You'd be surprised how expensive it costs to look this cheap."
As he introduced Haley Reinhart, Ryan led James' drummers through the audience. The six finalists made fun of Haley's growling and the way she puts her arm up when she belts out the high notes. Haley met with Jimmy Iovine to rehearse one of my current favorite songs, Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." This is a MUCH better song for Haley than Blondie's "Call Me." Jimmy encouraged her to put all of her heartache into it. Sitting behind the judges' table and dressed like a 21st century Minnie Mouse, Haley sang the song while doing a lot of finger pointing and shaking. These backup singers are good; they went from country to British jazzy-pop in a matter of minutes. Randy thought this was the perfect song choice--and I agree after seeing her get jazzy with "Moanin'" on last week's results show--but he thought she had some sharp notes. Steven noticed the feeling within Haley's voice like Adele has when she sings. Jennifer Lopez, who has been neck-and-neck with Adele on all the music charts over the past few weeks, said it took a lot of guts for Haley to perform such a well-known song, but there were moments in this performance where she really shined.
The finalists had a fun time joking about Jacob Lusk being a diva and some of them imitated his "Yiggity Yahs." Jacob lost his father when he was 12, so this week he chose "Dance With My Father" by Luther Vandross, who Jacob was compared to earlier this season. Dressed in a shiny suit and sitting under a spotlight, Jacob began his performance. He stopped for a brief moment and I thought it was because he was overcome with emotion, but he took his inner-ears out (the device, not anatomically speaking) and kept on trucking and got his "Lusky stank" on. Steven called him "Luther Lusk" and he said that Jacob reminded him of why he loves music. Jennifer said, "Emotionally, it was a great performance," as did Randy, but Randy would like Jacob to take off his restraints and go through the roof. When Ryan caught up with Jacob, the singer explained that there were drum tracks in his inner-ear which threw him off.
Where would the contestants begin when it comes to poking fun at Casey? With his beard of course, and they each took turns wearing an Amish chin strap of hair. Then there's the melodica segment, which showed us who is a germaphobe. For James' and for Scotty's take on Casey, the camera panned to the actual bearded man who was standing just off camera and then slapped and chased his friends. This week, Casey returned to his old aggressive style of singing with Maroon 5's "Harder To Breathe." Casey played the guitar as he sang, but I thought the other guitar player on stage was Casey at first. At the end of his performance, Casey walked over to the judges' table and sang very close to Jennifer, who turned her cheek towards Casey. After he whisper-sang into her ear, he sealed it by planting a kiss on the cheek of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World! Jennifer commented on Casey's lips (You're going to have to fight Kelly Clarkson for him!) and was glad that he took the pop-rock song all the way rock. Randy loves Casey's constant elements of surprise, and Steven called Casey a cult hero. Look for The Bearded Idol at Comic-Con this summer! A very passionate Steven began telling Casey how good he is before his mic got hot, and Ryan Seacrest came on the scene with the beard on. He looked like a character from Fiddler on the Roof and made a few quick-witted jokes before Casey ripped the beard off, nearly waxing Ryan's face. "Ahh, Kelly Clarkson!"
The guys and the girls easily deemed Stefano Langone as the Casanova of the group. He's suave, he's confident, and he's flirtatious. Keeping with that theme, Stefano selected Ne-Yo's "Closer," which Jimmy Iovine said was about sex and movement and passion. Dressed subtly like a sexy firefighter with Captain Planet rings, Stefano moved a lot around the stage and even busted out some smooth moves. Did Mark Ballas teach him those moves? Stefano did a good job connecting with the camera and kept his eyes opened the whole performance. Randy was glad that Stefano took his time with the verses. Steven said, "Nobody could say you weren't all up in it." Jennifer spoke for all the girls in the audience and said it was like a Stefano concert and he owned the song.
Once again we saw poor Lauren Alaina's fall down the mansion's staircase. Hopefully she'll never have to give it a go on the moving staircase on the Idol stage. Lauren's Idol friends imitated her accent, and on playback, Lauren realizes she has one. When the southern belle met with Jimmy Iovine to rehearse Sara Evans' "Born To Fly," the mentor invited music producers Rock Mafia to act as Lauren's audience, which made the singer nervous. Showing no signs of nerves on stage, Lauren rocked out to the song with the violinist. I love how she often stomps her feet as she sings, which I've noticed Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood do during the fast songs at their concerts. I had a feeling Lauren would get similar critiques as Scotty--of all the songs from the century, why not pick a song she could have had a moment with? Steven Tyler called her naturally good, and Jennifer agreed. However, Jennifer suggested that Lauren practice really reaching for new notes in the shower. Randy appreciated her "Mariah run" at the end of the song, and he also encouraged her to challenge herself.
I'll leave you with Steven Tyler's final thoughts: "God said all men are created equal, but some men are created more equal than others." And with that, go vote for the ones you think are more equal!
Here's the song list of 21st Century tunes from tonight's show:
Eliminated Finalists - "So What" by Pink
Scotty McCreery - "Swingin'" by LeAnn Rimes
James Durbin - "Uprising" by Muse
Haley Reinhart - "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele
Jacob Lusk - "Dance With My Father" by Luther Vandross
Casey Abrams - "Harder To Breathe" by Maroon 5
Stefano Langone - "Closer" by Ne-Yo
Lauren Alaina - "Born To Fly" by Sara Evans