It was hard for Scotty McCreery to go too country with this week’s theme – the songs of Carole King. So he did the next best thing, singing two songs famously covered by another Tar Heel singer, James Taylor. (As we predicted!)
Each of the six finalists sang twice tonight -- once alone and once as part of a duet.
Scotty went with “You’ve Got a Friend” for his solo, and he really tried to change up his usual deep-voiced twang. He got some good advice this week from regular mentor Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. (And Wolfpack fans will be happy to note that Scotty wore an N.C. State T-shirt during the mentor session.)
The song started quietly, with Scotty sitting on a darkened stage. He got louder (and the lights came up) on the chorus. It was easily one of his best “Idol” performances. Judge Steven Tyler declared that Scotty had never sounded better. Jennifer Lopez said Scotty “told the story beautifully.” And Randy pronounced it “nearly flawless” and said “Scotty’s in it to win it!” Even fellow contestant James Durbin talked about how Scotty keeps raising the bar for all of them.
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Scotty's duet, with Lauren Alaina, was "Up on the Roof." It was OK, but nothing particularly surprising or innovative. Only Jennifer offered any commentary, and that was mainly praise for Lauren. This was the third duet for Lauren and Scotty, and host Ryan Seacrest asked whether there was any romance between them. They said they are more like brother and sister.
The best of the rest:
--James Durbin's version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” was fantastic. The usually shrieking rocker gave an emotional version of the song that uniformly won raves. Jennifer called him “the star of the night.” Randy went further, saying James, left, “just might win the whole thing.” Steven told a completely unnecessary story about how this was the song playing when he first made out with a girl at a bowling alley.
--Lauren Alaina's take on "Where You Lead" (aka "The Gilmore Girls Theme") was a fun, uptempo performance. Lauren seemed more confident than she has in weeks. (Though it was odd when she picked a random guy from the audience to bring onstage to sing to.) Jennifer said she was so proud of Lauren that she was almost brought to tears. Randy found the song boring but didn't think Lauren was. (Um ...OK)
--Both Randy and mentor Jimmy wanted Jacob Lusk to go all over the top and back down the other side with his falsettos, wailing and the like on "Oh No, Not My Baby." And that's just what Jacob did. If you're a fan of his over-emotive schtick, you probably loved it. For the rest of us, it was too much -- as usual. (And the plaid, purple, yellow and blue outfit didn't help. It looked more like Jacob should be selling drinks at the circus.) Steven said he liked that Jacob "shook his tail feather." (Must have been the cumulative effect of the peacock-hued getup.) The other judges liked it, too. I. Just. Don't. Get. It.
--Casey Abrams did his usual quirky jazzman thing, but not on the King song you would expect -- "Jazzman." Instead, he picked "Hi-De-Ho." Casey stalked the stage like a wild man, in a performance that was half-sung/half-hollered. Of course, the judges used all sorts of adjectives -- jazzy, bluesy, different, entertaining. But they never really said the singing was good. Because it wasn't.
--Haley Reinhart's "Beautiful" was most memorable for the problem she had with her earpiece before starting. Other than that, it was just ... blah. Within five minutes, you couldn't recall a thing about it. Randy was critical of the beginning, but thought it got better. Steven's critique was way out there -- something about how he "saw God" when Haley, right, performed.
--As uninspiring as their individual songs were, Casey and Haley's way-too-cutesy duet on "I Feel the Earth Move" was much worse. The two are reportedly a couple offstage, but they had virtually no chemistry onstage. Their voices mix together about as well as white wine and tomato juice. And then there was their cheesy head-bopping around the judges' table, followed by bumping their bottoms together on stage. Only Steven gave a critique, and, of course, he liked it. Yuck.
--the night's third duet, the unlikely pairing of Jacob and James on "I'm Into Something Good," was just odd. The two, looking like they were dressed by the "Glee" wardrobe department, clearly seemed to be having fun as they pretended to face off over a girl. They also did what is fast-becoming the new cliche for the "Idol" male singers -- going to the judges' table to sing directly to Jennifer. All in all, it wasn't bad, just silly. Even Steven -- who likes everything -- said he just didn't know what to make of it.
On Thursday night's live results show at 8 on Fox, one of the six will be eliminated. This week's bottom three should be easy -- Jacob, Casey and Haley.