Over 125,000 people auditioned for American Idol, but just Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Jacob Lusk, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, and Scotty McCreery stood before us. The theme for the week was Carole King songs, and I wondered how familiar this young crop of talent is with Carole's music. I also wondered if Brooke White was jealous that Season 10 got this theme.
Babyface helped Jimmy Iovine mentor the finalists this week. will.i.am must've been busy. Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler took the stage, and Randy appeared to be wearing a Rydell High cardigan. Grease is the word!
When Jacob Lusk met with Jimmy and Babyface, he rehearsed "Oh No Not My Baby," an Aretha Franklin song written by Carole King and Gerald Goffin. We saw a montage of Jacob sing "Oh no" over and over again, and then he pointed to his head when he sang the word "baby." Is that sign language for Babyface? Jacob took the stage in a very preppy outfit, but he seemed to have a blast as he danced in place while singing the Aretha song. This is the most fun we've seen Jacob have all season. Steven commented, "We all knew you could sing, but it's about time you shook your tail feathers. That was beautiful." Wow, that didn't take long for our first "beautiful" from Steven Tyler. Jennifer noticed little spaces where the song wasn't perfect, but she thought that Jacob really brought it home at the end. Randy agreed with the other two judges and said "the scatting was incredible."
Lauren Alaina selected "Where You Lead" which is a Carole King song covered by country star Faith Hill and it was the theme song for the show Gilmore Girls. At rehearsal, Jimmy and Babyface encouraged Lauren to reach for the high notes, and when she did, there were lots of smiles. Speaking of being smiley, Jimmy Iovine invited Miley Cyrus into the rehearsal to talk to Lauren about being a teen in the industry and not letting stuff get to you. How cool! Lauren took the stage and went for the notes. She pulled a young guy out of the audience and sat him down on the stage's stairs, but then she left him there as she circled the judges. When she came back, the guy put his arm around Lauren and she interacted with him. Jennifer said Lauren brought tears to her eyes because of the way she pushed barriers. Randy noticed the "extra little swagger" Lauren came out with, and although he thought the song was safe and boring, he loved that she sang with a vengeance. Steven Tyler told an emotional Lauren, "When your voice broke, that's when you shined."
It wasn't a results show, but we still got treated to three duets! First up were Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart who chose the fun song, "I Feel The Earth Move." We saw footage of the two interacting, dancing, and Casey got flustered as he said he likes growling with her. Their "Moanin'" was pretty magical too. When Casey and Haley performed live, there was a lot of choreography involved, including a cat-and-mouse game at opposite ends of the judges' table. Only one judge--Steven--critiqued the duet. He called Casey "Weird Beard" and straight out asked, "How much in love with Haley are you? It showed...there wasn't anything I didn't like."
Scotty McCreery had a solid song choice pick with "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor. Jimmy Iovine wanted Scotty to deliver the performance with subtlety to move the judges and audience. Scotty took the stage and did just that. He took his time, put his own stamp on some of the notes, and stretched a little bit at other parts of the song. He also held the microphone with just one hand throughout most of the performance. Randy Jackson began his critique with all kinds of fluff words that my English teacher would have put a red line through: "Yo. Alright. So Scotty, dude, you know, listen. Dude, you know what was really cool?" He liked that Scotty showed off parts of his range nobody knew he had. He ended with, "Scotty's in it to win it! Scotty's trying to win it! Scotty wants to win it!" Steven thought this was the most beautiful Scotty's voice has ever been. Jennifer channeled Randy and gave a "For me for you" and said that the strength is in Scotty's storytelling. Scotty couldn't find Ryan when it was time to read off the voting numbers. They regrouped and Scotty gave us some signature eyebrow choreography as Ryan read the numbers. Scotty's letting his personality shine through a little more each week!
James Durbin showed his softer side this week with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles, and written by Carole King and Gerald Goffin. He took the stage and started a capella, and a single light cast quite a silhouette. Then he picked up the guitar and picked up the pace of the song, and Jennifer picked up the pace of her dance moves. To me, the performance had a David Cook feel about it. After the audience cheered for a solid length of time, Steven Tyler called it..."Beautiful!" He really liked the beginning of the song, and he shared that this was the first song he ever made out to. That's funny; mine was "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" by Steven Tyler. Jennifer commented on James' consistency from week to week, a sign of a true artist. With this performance, Randy said that James showed that he's not just a great rock singer, he's a great singer. In fact, Randy stated about James, "This guy just might win the whole thing." And he got up and hugged James! We expect that from Steven, but a mid-critique hug from Randy is far less common!
The next duet came from the common Season 10 pairing of Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery, who assured us that they're not an item, they're like brother and sister. I enjoyed watching Lauren trick Scotty thinking he had food in his teeth, but I enjoyed their performance even more. Although the two joked they don't compliment each other, they complemented each other during their duet of "Up On The Roof." I think this might be their best duet, and Scotty harmonized well with Lauren, who sounded great. Jennifer Lopez remarked, "Lauren, you sang your brains off." She achieved the impossible! She said that Scotty showed some real talent being able to "sing second voice to someone like that."
Casey Abrams selected "Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, and written by Goffin & King. During rehearsal, Casey stated, "Singing is fun, but jamming--there's no beating it!" He began his performance by tickling some ivory alongside Ray Chew. Then he traveled to the harmonica player to sing, and I thought he was going to rip the harmonica out of the musician's hand and give it a toot, but instead he walked around the stage singing, growling, and interacting with the musicians and back-up singers. This performance was like Casey's earlier performances. Randy felt like the song was written for Casey, and he's always excited to see what the jazzy singer is going to do each week. Steven said, "You made my scalp itch, it was so good." Usually things that make scalps itch are bad, like lice or dandruff. Jennifer enjoyed seeing Casey in his element, but she gave him some critiques about loosening up his body a bit more.
Well hello Penny Marshall's face over Randy's shoulder!
During Haley Reinhart's rehearsal of Carole King's "Beautiful," Jimmy and Babyface had her really work on putting feeling into the word "get." I never would have even thought of that, but it seemed to make total sense to Haley. Right after we saw her video package, we cut to Ryan onstage with Haley. After a quick technical difficulty, Haley was ready to go "get" 'em. She didn't let the inner-ear malfunction get to her, and she sang "Beautiful" beautifully. Steven said her heard God in her voice. Jennifer told Haley, "You have one of the best voices in the competition." Although Randy didn't love the beginning of the song, he loved the end.
The last duet of the night came from Jacob Lusk and James Durbin. Although they have very different taste in music, they both have high voices and they sang well together to "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits (written by Goffin & King). Jacob and James interacted well, and when they ran over to the judges' table and spun Jennifer around in her judges' chair, she revealed a whole lot of Most Beautiful Legs of 2011. Steven didn't love it as much as I would have thought. He said it wasn't an award-winning performance, but he's glad they had fun.
Who will leave the competition in sixth place? Everyone is so good; it's a toss-up!
Here's the song list from the Top 6 Carole King performance show:
Jacob Lusk - "Oh No Not My Baby" by Aretha Franklin
Lauren Alaina - "Where You Lead" by Faith Hill
Casey and Haley - "I Feel The Earth Move" by Carole King
Scotty McCreery - "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor
James Durbin - "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles
Lauren and Scotty - "Up On The Roof" by Carole King & James Taylor
Casey Abrams - "Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)" by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Haley Reinhart - "Beautiful" by Carole King
Jacob and James - "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits