The ‘American Idol' semi-finals are here at last, and while I'm still mourning the loss of the King of the Scarf-tails, it's homecoming time for the remaining three contestants. That's right, after months of getting to know Scotty, Lauren, and Haley, this week we finally get to tag along as they were welcomed back to their hometowns in nothing less than superhero fashion- more of that to come tomorrow!
Before we get into tonight's events however, let's first touch on what went down last week, as it appears that I wasn't the only one surprised by James' elimination. Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe went on the record once more about the overwhelming response to his departure, stating: "The ones that believe we manipulate everything, it drives me crazy sometimes 'How dare you let James go from "Idol"!' 'We know that you hate Haley!' This is just crazy. I always end up having to go, 'You morons out there ...' or something like that, and realize that I'm arguing with 7 or 8-year-olds from Wisconsin. It's annoying, because 'Idol' of all shows, really goes with what the public demands, whether we like it or not." Uh-oh. Don't get too hot and bothered, Nigel.
Back to more relevant matters... this week is probably the one I look most forward to in the entire competition- producers/judges' pick. I love that for the first time, someone other than the contestant gets to select what they'll be singing. And let's be honest, the result of a fresh perspective is usually mind-blowing. As usual, we got three rounds to savor tonight- Round 1: Contestants' choice, ROUND 2: Jimmy Iovine's choice, and ROUND 3: Judges' choice. Let the madness begin!
Scotty kicked off the night with Lonestar's "Amazed," and I was totally feeling it. Like this week's special helper Beyonce mentioned, it's so refreshing to hear him sing in his upper register. Towards the end of the song he started getting a little pitchy, but I'm willing to forgive that. Steven pointed out that he keeps getting ‘better and better,' and JLo gave him kudos for taking advantage of his vibrato. Randy also thought that he made a very smart song choice.
Lauren decided to channel Faith Hill when she belted out "Wild One." It was probably one of Lauren's better performances on the Idol stage, mainly because she brought her same big voice while acting confident simultaneously. JLo loved that she attacked the song, and Randy loved seeing her having fun and that she had such a great connection with the song. Steven commented that she was ‘singing like she owned it.'
Taking what I consider to be a big risk, Haley chose to sing Led Zepplin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" with her dad on the guitar. The risk was well worth it. While she perfected her vocal as usual, perhaps the most entertaining part of the song was when she wiped out (yes, literally fell over) on the stairs in front of the judges' table. Looks like someone was rockin' a little too hard- whoops! Randy gave her props for slaying Zepplin, and commented that this was one of her best performances ever. Steven called her ‘superb,' and JLo thought that it was a great round for her.
ROUND 1 goes to...HALEY!
Jimmy picked out "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" by Thompson Square for Scotty. He turned the charisma on high for this one, which I'm sure resulted in teenage girls across the country melting away into their couches. It was cute, but not overwhelming. Steven that that he 'sang it real good,' and JLo requested that he shave his head for the finale- ok, slightly irrelevant. Randy added that he was so good he felt like he was at a concert.
Lauren (sans pantyhose), sang The Band Perry's "If I Die Young" as selected by Jimmy. I love the song, but couldn't help feeling that she didn't do enough with it. JLo complimented her beautiful tone and Randy gave her credit for recovering in perfectly after messing up at the modulation. Steven simply pointed out that she ‘nailed it again.'
For Haley, Jimmy picked "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac- a perfect choice in my opinion. The gorgeous vocal was complimented nicely by a very liberal use of both a fog and wind machine- fancy. Randy praised her perfect pitch and perfect use of ‘Haley-growl.' Steven said that she sang it so well that it reminded him of why he fell in love with Stevie Nicks, and JLo thought the song was a great contrast to what she sang earlier.
ROUND 2 goes to... SCOTTY!
Scotty traveled back to North Carolina where he discovered that the judges chose Kenny Rogers' "She Believes in Me" for his third and final song of the evening. I was into the intimacy of the song and the full strings section playing behind him, but he has done better. Steven said that it was ‘the first big chorus he's sang in a big way.' JLo also gave him props for nailing the chorus, and Randy commented that it was ‘very nicely done.'
During her trip to Georgia, Lauren found out that the judges chose "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Anne Womack for her. I was rooting for her to kill it from the beginning, and she made me very proud when she started taking up the second verse and chorus. It was very well done. JLo said that she ‘gave her goosies from head to toe,' an Randy pointed out that ‘this girl's in it to win it.' Steven commented that she sang it like she owned the Grand Ole Opry.
When she returned to Chicago, Haley discovered that she'd be singing Alanis Morissette's "You Outta Know." For as sloppy as her low notes were at the beginning of the song, she absolutely killed the high ones in the chorus! Nicely done, judges. Randy loved seeing her rock out in a soulful way, and Steven and JLo agreed that she nailed it.
ROUND 3 goes to...LAUREN! Well I'm glad tonight was such a landslide...
My official consensus of the week: Though I think that Haley is the best vocalist at this point in the competition, I can't help but feel that Season 10 is Scotty's to lose. And it's seems like about that time to revisit the Season 10 Twitter-followers Hypothesis- here are the current standings: Scotty: 139,206, Lauren: 112,969, Haley: 93,655. Very interesting indeed.