Scotty McCreery sang another country song -- surprise! -- on tonight's "American Idol." But he was almost upstaged by his parents, Judy and Mike McCreery of Garner. They appeared in a taped bit where they described Scotty as a child -- a “chunky monkey” who loved Elvis, even dressing as The King for Halloween. (And when he got candy, he would say: "Thank you. Thank you, very much.")
But the best part was the parental McCreerys doing their own deep-voiced takes on “Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low” -- the verse from Josh Turner's "Your Man" that Scotty sang ad nauseum during the “Idol” auditions.
For tonight's show, the 12 "Idol" finalists had to pick a song from the year they were born. For 1993, Scotty chose Travis Tritt’s “Can I Trust You With My Heart.” He delivered a much livelier performance than his country ballads of the past two weeks.
The judges liked that Scotty seemed to be pushing himself more. “I believe in you, buddy,” Randy Jackson said. (After name-dropping that Tritt is his friend, of course.) Jennifer Lopez appreciated the long note that Scotty held at the end of the song, and Steven Tyler declared that Scotty is going to go places. (Who else liked it -- some of Scotty’s “Blue Crew” Garner High baseball buddies who were in the audience.)
The best of the rest:
--For 1989, Stefano Langone said he (thankfully) bypassed songs by New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli and Tone-Loc, instead settling on "If You Don't Know Me By Now." (Simply Red's version of the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes song came out in 1989). It was easily the best that Stefano has been in the competition, and the crowd, the judges and everyone just ate it up. Randy said Stefano took the song "with the highest degree of difficulty and slayed it!" Jennifer went further, saying Stefano (who barely made it to the finals) could win this whole thing.
--Pia Toscano -- the diva with the big, belting voice -- took on another diva, Whitney Houston, with "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" (1989) It was an interesting version of the song, and Pia, as usual, was very good. Steven said Pia is "why this show is called 'American Idol.' " And JLo was thrilled that Pia sang something uptempo. (Well, as uptempo as a Whitney Houston ballad can be.)
--Even though she said she was sick with the flu, Lauren Alaina did a nice version of "The Only One" by Melissa Etheridge (1994). It was much better than her woeful Shania Twain misstep last week. Randy thought Lauren needed to get sick every week if that would improve her singing.
--Acquired musical taste Paul McDonald took on Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (1984). Paul's raspy, scratchy voice seemed even raspier and scratchier than usual. He, too, was sick. So it was surprising that the song wasn't half bad. Jennifer praised his "soul" and "star quality," but Randy said he was wasn't going to give Paul's pitchiness a pass just because he had a cold.
--Rocker James Durbin represented 1989 with Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There For You." He ran all around the stage and seemed to scream more notes than he sang. The crowd was into it, but it didn't really sound all that good. Steven told him not to get "too poppy" with his singing. (Huh?) But Jennifer loved it, and Randy called it "tasteful." Taste being relative, I guess.
--Jacob Lusk said he wanted to step outside his wailing gospel comfort zone by choosing a rock song, Heart's "Alone" from 1987. OK, so there wasn't a gospel choir this week, but Jacob was belting to the rafters as usual before he even hit the chorus. Also as usual, the judges loved him. "The gospel had a baby, and they named it Jacob Lusk," Steven gushed. (Again, huh?) Even more confusing was Randy praising Jacob for not overpowering a note. (Randy, all Jacob does is overpower notes!)
--Karen Rodriguez sang "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dayne (1989). Wearing some sort of weird Judy Jetson-goes-gogo-dancing get-up, the bilingual Karen got her Spanish on again in the middle of the song. It worked better than it sounds like it would. Randy thought it started a little rough but that it was better than last week. Steven liked that she broke into her "ethnic what-it-is-ness." Well, OK, then.
--Casey Abrams once again gets the award for most unusual performance of the night. He sang 1991's grunge classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It was easily the first time a Nirvana song had been performed on "Idol." The judges said Casey is crazy and talented enough to pull off such a risk. JLo, though, found it "a little bit screamy, screechy." At least Casey appeared well after missing last week's results show because of illness.
--Haley Reinhart took on another Whitney Houston song -- "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1991). And it was just a mess from start to finish. The judges said Haley doesn't seem to know what kind of singer she wants to be. What they want her to be is more bluesy. And that Whitney song wasn't bluesy. It likely just gave people the blues.
--Naima Adedapo's version of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1984) was pretty shaky from the get-go. JLo called Naima, right, "consistently pitchy" and warned that she likely would not compare favorably to the other contestants. Yep, she didn't.
--Young Thia Megia picked "Colors of the Wind" (1995? Yikes! Doesn't that make you feel old?) The Vanessa Williams song, from the animated "Pocahontas," is an appropriate choice, seeing as how Thia comes across as a bit of a long-lost Disney princess. She sounded fine, but the performance was certainly not dynamic or lively or even interesting. Randy called it boring, and Steven questioned whether that kind of sleepy ballad is what Thia really should be singing.
On Thursday night's results show, one of the 12 will be sent packing. My guess for bottom three: Haley and Karen (both in the bottom three last week) and Naima.