When I think of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, I think of Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Aerosmith, and The Who. But tonight on Idol, my idea of what is considered rock expanded.
Gwen Stefani styled the three remaining ladies. Expect a lot of red lipstick! Steven Tyler narrated the package for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame history because he is a member of the Hall of Fame with Aerosmith. Back for the third week in a row, will.i.am helped coach the gang alongside Jimmy Iovine this week. This man loves American Idol! It's pretty darn cool for the Top 9 to get to work with such huge superstars like Gwen and will.i.am too!
Kicking off the night was Jacob Lusk, who admitted he's "not a rock and roll kind of guy." Originally, Jacob chose "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye, but Jacob felt uneasy and couldn't connect with the song because it was "too blunt." He switched to "Man In The Mirror," because he felt more connected to it. Kris Allen performed this MJ hit, but since Jacob is so different from Kris, there won't be comparisons. The best part of the performance was when he picked up the mic and danced around the stage; it's when his voice really soared. "Man In The Mirror" co-writer Siedah Garrett performed on stage with Jacob. After a lengthy applause session, Steven Tyler said, "You bring every piece of yourself to the party." Jennifer Lopez backed Jacob's decision and said that he taught the audience a good lesson about believing in yourself. She called his performance, "Perfect in every way and on every emotional level." Randy Jackson was proud of Jacob. He's been looking for a Jacob moment and said, "There were moments all over that."
Week after week, the judges have been telling Haley Reinhart that she's got a Janis Joplin bluesy voice. Haley gave the judges what they've been asking for with "Piece Of My Heart." When she met with the mentors, will.i.am told Haley, "You sound like an artist, not a singer." He helped her connect with the camera and project her feelings about ex-boyfriends. Haley took the stage and she didn't have to traverse any obstacle courses this week. However, she was met with the challenge of wearing red lipstick after the Lipstick Massacre of March. Haley nailed the Janis growls and moved around the stage. Jennifer said "You keep going like that and you'll be around for a minute." Just a minute? I would've given her at least 15 minutes. Randy said that's exactly what the judges have been wanting from her, and said, "That's the Haley we loved when we first saw you." Hey, Julie Zorrilla is in the audience! Steven couldn't find anything wrong with Haley's performance and he gave us some Janis history.
Casey Abrams originally intended on singing "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police, but he ended up completely switching the mood and tempo by swapping this song for "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. That seemed like a better vocal fit, and now Casey could play the stand up bass. Casey performed in front of a rainy screen and was accompanied by a musician who was sitting at his feet and playing the mandolin, which is essentially a guitar for elves. If Casey is here next week, he should play the melodica and have a musician play the piccolo. Randy thought Casey made CCR and John Foggerty proud, but most of all Casey makes Randy proud to be a bass player. "You made the upright bass we all played forever cool." Jennifer thought Casey was exactly where he belonged--with his bass. Steven called him a true musician and commended Casey for bringing something different to the show each week. "I'd pay top dollar to be in the front row," said Jennifer. Christian Slater was in the audience emphatically nodding his head.
Lauren Alaina chose to sing Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," which is daring because that was my favorite Kelly Clarkson performance from Season 1. It's also a song I never considered to be Rock and Roll. This season, people have taken on some of Kelly's (Lauren), Fantasia's (Naima with "Summertime"), Carrie's (Jacob with "Alone"), David's (Stefano with "Hello"), and Adam's (Paul's "Tracks of My Tears") moments, but it hasn't sent any one home. During rehearsal, will.i.am said the Grammy Awards need to create a new category for "Controlled Artist of the Year" and award it to Lauren. Has a 16-year-old ever won a Grammy? Lauren said her confidence is growing, which is good because Kelly Clarkson had all the confidence in the world when she sang this song. The set doors split and Lauren emerged with a rock look that was very Gwen Stefani. During the huge notes, Lauren adopted the squat that Pia and Haley do. Might as well work your quads while you sing. A Lauren fan from the moment they dueted in Nashville, Steven said, "Four months ago you came in a little girl. Now you're a natural woman." Jennifer agreed with the peanut gallery in the balcony that Lauren is amazing, and Randy said Lauren did a good job with what was probably the most difficult and highly decorated song. He didn't think she "laid it out" the way Kelly did, but he liked it and gave Lauren big props. Mr. Slater seemed to agree and approve in the audience.
What would heavy metal rocker James Durbin perform for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame week? James decided to surprise people and go with the intimate George Harrison song, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Jimmy and will.i.am explained that it's great to take risks, but that he might mess with the energy flow. James took the stage with his brooding style, emphasized by emo bangs. There were no pyrotechnics this time. It was just James, a stool, and a microphone...and a small string quartet and a smoke-filled stage. But the smoke wasn't coming from flames 10 feet high. He did his James thing at the end by holding a note and bringing it to unbelievable heights. When James finished singing, he gently wept and sopped up the tears with his scarf. Jennifer talked about how it's that other dimension that lives deep within that really makes rock work. Randy thought the risk paid off and said, "Taking chances like that are extremely important and you did a good job, dawg." Steven gave a little history about The Beatles and George Harrison. James said he was thinking of his family during the performance, which is what made the sensitive guy tear up.
Scotty McCreery has made it clear that he's an Elvis fan, but I'm glad he brought it up again tonight because it meant more adorable baby pictures of the "Chunky Monkey" (as his mom called him) in Elvis costumes. When Scotty rehearsed "That's All Right" with Jimmy and will.i.am, the superstar said "When you take Country and Rock and sandwich them you get Country-Rock." I would have gone with Crock. Scotty was pushed out on stage by the moving staircase he sat upon. He walked around the judges as he sang and this was the most we've seen him perform. The teen is really coming into his own. A gaggle of girls rushed the stage to act like the fans did for Elvis and The Beatles. Don't worry, no one fainted. Randy gave his "Scotty's in it to win it!" He continued, "Anyone that thought you were a one-trick pony--dude you can perform!" Steven thought it was "all hat and no cattle," which I think was the wrong use of the idiom for this situation because he seemed to like it. Then, the rocker gave us some Elvis history. Steven sure knows his rock facts! Jennifer loved watching Scotty have fun and noticed a bit of R&B/rap flavor in him.
Hey, did you know Christian Slater was in the audience? He was having the time of his life at the show and his daughter is a huge fan. After last week's performance, Pia Toscano promised she'd go up-tempo this week with "River Deep Mountain High." The Ike & Tina Turner song was a little bit of a change for Pia, but Celine Dion covered it so it's not too much of a stretch for the resident balladeer. Jimmy Iovine encouraged Pia to shut everybody up with this performance. This ain't a nature song! Pia took the stage and continued her streak of sky-high heels, but that didn't keep her from walking up to the judges table and around it as she hit all the notes in the song. I was hoping she'd interact with Steven Tyler as she turned the corner, but she didn't. Her neck rings were an unusual touch, but her strong voice took my attention away from the accessory. Jennifer was bouncing in her chair so hard that I hoped she had the wheels locked like a stroller near a street. Pia's performance ended with pyro. "Murderer! Murderer! You killed it!" Steven exclaimed. Jennifer gave her constructive suggestions to study great performers. She wants to see Pia come out stomping her feet. Stomp? I'm impressed the girl can stand in those heels! Randy said he knew Pia could deliver an up-tempo performance, and he gave his second "In it to win it!" comment of the night.
Todd Rundgren was in the audience, but Liv Tyler wasn't this week. That might've been confusing for her to be with Todd and Steven in the same room.
Stefano Langone selected "When A Man Loves A Woman," and I was confused for a second because I didn't think Michael Bolton was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's not, but the song's original singer, Percy Sledge, is. OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder helped Jimmy and will.i.am in the studio, and will.i.am was a riot and kept singing "When a" over and over again but got interrupted with phone calls, sparkly objects, and the like. Stefano started off sitting on the steps with just a simple spotlight. He got up on his feet and walked a little bit as red hearts floated on the screen behind him. At the end, Stefano looked into the camera and I believed he was singing to that woman. His eyebrows are still doing that thing where they meet at a point in the center of his forehead while he sings. Jennifer said that she really felt Stefano for the first time and she called his performance "magic." Randy thought the first part of the song seemed a little jerky, and advised him how to let parts of the song marinate before punching it at the end. Steven thought Stefano nailed it tonight and was impressed with his vocal range.
Closing out the night was Southern rocker Paul McDonald. In rehearsal, Paul was encouraged to sing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" like he's out of his freakin' mind. Jimmy said no one in history was cooler than Johnny Cash, and he always pushed the boundaries. Paul rehearsed the song all-out and then asked if he should tone it down. Jimmy and will.i.am gave an emphatic, "NO!" When he took the stage for the live performance, Paul continued to go all-out and it really worked for this fast song. With a guitar in his hands for the third week in a row, Paul scooted around the stage and gave us some new Paul dance steps. Randy shouted, "I've got three words for you: I loved it!" Steven called Paul his "Perfect imperfect boy," and Jennifer said this was the perfect way to end the show--with Paul right in his lane.
Ryan Seacrest decided to have some fun and kept the hoedown going as he read off Paul's numbers and rolled the highlights of the show. When we came back from a review of the nine performances, the hoedown was now a 9-person celebration. These contestants are so much fun this year! Stefano's moves made me crack up in particular, and Lauren and Paul pulled off some partner dancing.
It was another great show. I threw some votes at every performer, and if it were an option, I'd vote for Christian Slater for having more air-time than anyone else this evening. He could get a side-job as a seat-filler.
Who did you love? Who rocked your socks off? Chat in the forums or write a blog!