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American Idol: "4 Finalists Compete"


American Idol

"4 Finalists Compete"

Season 10 , Episode 34

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Last weekend, while I was walking my dog down the alley, I had a vision that Idol’s final two this season will be Scotty vs. Haley. While I wish I had more profound visions, it at least gave me some food for thought regarding tonight’s episode. Could my vision be wrong or is it more probable that I just can see the future? 

After tonight’s episode, I’m not sure who America will choose. Thanks to the contestants choosing two songs, one they found inspirational and another by Leiber and Stoller, all the singers were guaranteed to appeal to wide audiences and move people. But you know me. I hate it when people are moved. 

Let’s start with Round One. James took on “Don’t Stop Believin’” and I’m just going to let you figure out how that song inspires him. James’ rather-endearing fanboyism was on display, as he wore a Journey t-shirt and threw a shout-out to Randy at the top of the song. I wonder if I would have felt differently about the performance if I liked the song as much as James does. I’ve never come close to liking “Don’t Stop Believin’”, not even when it was the White Sox’s unofficial World Series theme. To me, I didn’t hear anything in James’ performance that surpassed Steve Perry’s or even Glee’s rendition. It’s clearly a difficult song to sing and James hit the high notes (although he sounded fairly nasal at the beginning), but it didn’t do anything for me, dawg.  By the way, from now on, unless I say otherwise, you can just assume the judges loved everything about each performance.

Last week I thought that Haley was styled as Janis Joplin’s exhausted little sister. This week, with her first song she came off as exhausted Celine Dion. Styled horribly, looking at least ten years older than she is, Haley chose “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson as her inspirational choice. I was thrown off by her veddy serious intro but then grew a little more hopeful by the first chorus of the song. I was lost once more, though, when the background clouds rolled in. Haley growled (I got the sense trying to make her voice crack in earnestness) as she bemoaned the state of the planet. It was just off. I was happy that both Jennifer and Randy also found it screamy and a strange choice although it was annoying that the audience booed over Randy’s criticism—they’ve had to sit through so little criticism this season you’d think they’d like to hear something different. Steven said “Don’t listen to them: they’re wrong,” which I hope Haley is smart enough to know means bad news.

So, Scotty sang about September 11 with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning.)” From a singing point of view, I don’t think Scotty showed us anything new or special, although the lyrics clearly made him emotional so he couldn’t sing very clearly. I’m not familiar with the song and tried to listen to the lyrics but was mostly distracted about how Scotty was probably going to inspire a lot of people to call him tonight and is that weird? I don’t know. But more importantly, inspiration is nice and all but it’s still a singing competition and I don’t think Scotty’s performance was as great as his intent. The judges loved him, though. I think James and Scotty had been praised at this point for choosing songs that meant a lot to them while Haley got dinged for it, but so far none of the contestants had turned out genius performances.

I’d say Lauren handily won the Inspirational Song Round, in addition to Most Inexplicable Dress Round. Lauren looked so ridiculous in her trashy curtainslike dress and hair sparkles I had a hard time taking her seriously on Martina McBride’s “Anyway.” But while Lauren sounded like the 17 year old she is telling victims of the flooding in the south that “It’s okay to rebuild their lives,” she hit her sweet spot with that song, especially in the second half. Randy declared her In It To Win It.

At halftime, Ryan wanted Jennifer to pick who she thought won the round (hint: Lauren) but she refused to say. Randy kind of hilariously dissed Hailey when he said that Lauren, Scotty and James all won the round. 

I don’t know how untamed Lady Gaga is if she’s mentoring on American Idol and selling her music through Farmville, but whatever, I can’t pretend like I don’t have several of her songs on my iPod. I think her affectations (like the cardboard paper face-pastes) are a little tedious but I found her to be a charming mentor for the second half of the show. I’m not sure how she got brought on to help with the songs of Leiber and Stoller, but that was what we got.

Even though I haven’t been a fan of hers since the week before last, I admit that Haley killed it, vocally, on “I Who Have Nothing,” and I even thought Gaga’s advice to her on adding a bit of drama turned out okay. I am still disconcerted by the fact that Haley used to be spunky singer who apparently now is all about the super-dramatic ballads.  Haley’s an undeniably good singer but I like her when she’s more fun.

I think Scotty flopped with “Young Blood,” a goofy song I know best by the Beatles’ cover. Gaga liked and encouraged his humor and there was a slight thing between them where he apparently found her too shocking (unless the cameras just played that up). We’ve seen Scotty sing well and pull off semi-humorous, but tonight I thought the song couldn’t be un-cornified and he came off creepy. Scotty’s stage technique consisted of bugging his eyes and waggling his head. The song’s lyrics can be kind of lecherous and he basically played the part of a creepy old man. We’ve seen much better from Scotty, and I would have expected more from him at this point in the competition. 

Lauren took Elvis Presley’s “Trouble,” and was worried about singing the line “I’m evil,” since America believes every single lyric it hears. But silly hangup or not, Lauren went with it and was way more confident on the stage than she’s been in a while. I have a theory that both the fun sparkly dress and the stage-stompin’ were relics of Haley from a few weeks ago. I didn’t think it was a terribly deep performance but it was entertaining, Lauren sounded pretty good (when she wasn’t a tad shouty) and I’m sure her butt will inspire a few discussions as well. 

It didn’t occur to me how truly random the night’s second song theme was until James sang “Love Potion No. Nine,” a song that cannot be updated even if you change “1956” to “1996.” It’s a goofy, jokey song and James did his best, but I found the whole performance a little corny, until the drawn-out end, which I just found annoying. Jennifer almost agreed with me that the song choice didn’t work until she changed her mind and said everything James does is great.

So, back to my earlier vision. I have absolutely no problem seeing Scotty in the top two, but as for Haley, I’m not sure. The last two weeks she’s had one performance that had at least two judges critiquing her, so maybe she won’t make it. Overall, I was hoping for more from our top four tonight, but I think the combination of Concert Experience and Inspirational Song tended to turn out self-indulgent, and poor old Leiber and Stoller didn't add anything in particular.

--I find it endearing when Lauren goofs around with Ryan. The show keeps trying to dress her up like her 28 year old mom or 40 year old grandma though for some reason.

--Is Gaga sticking her toe into Fake British Madonna waters or has she always spoken that way?