Since the contestants were performing songs by the ultimate showman Elton John this week, it seemed fitting that it was all drama as the show kicked off, with a montage reminding us of last week’s shocking results, as our fuzzy-faced honey Casey Abrams wound up with the lowest number of votes and was saved by the judges. The montage ended with the tagline “Hope has been renewed.” We love Casey as much as anyone, but jeez, did anyone think the Idol brass wanted to keep him safe this week?
Judge fashion check! Randy all in black, Jennifer looking bangin’ in a sparkly purple minidress, Steven in a black jacket and white pants. Bonus Seacrest check: weird sideswept hair.
Paul McDonald, who looks more like LOST’s Charlie Pace every week, decided to sing “Rocket Man,” even though his band covered it years ago and it was, in his own words, “a disaster.” Paul brought both his guitar and his rhinestone flower suit out for this performance, and we were happy to see both of them. Paul’s rendition of the song was pretty delish — really tender and it seemed like he was actually connecting to the lyrics this time. The judges were into it, with Randy calling it some “quiet comfort” from Paul, and Jennifer telling him his voice is better than he realizes. “Have you been watering that suit? ‘Cause there’s a lot more flowers on it than last time,” joked Steven.
The freshly-saved, freshly-shaved Casey Abrams was really, really happy to still be on the show, and proved the judges right for saving him. His version of “Your Song” was sweet and tender and, as Jimmy Iovine noted, very humble. Casey even displayed some unexpectedly awesome falsetto on the closing notes. While we thought last week’s not-so-popular Motown performance was fun, this week was undeniably a vast improvement. The judges all agreed that using the save on Casey was a great decision. Jennifer praised the character in his voice, and Steven added “the last two notes, if those were the only ones you sang, would’ve earned you a standing ovation.”
“Candle in the Wind” is the best-selling Billboard single of all time, and Lauren Alaina did a fabulous job on it, out Pia-ing Pia on a tender ballad. She put a light country spin on the song, although she was oddly dressed like something out of the ‘80s, with crimped hair and a tiered dress with a black sequined bodice. The judges all gushed over Lauren’s performance. “One of the greatest Lauren Alaina performances... very hot, very hot,” Randy said. “Just perfect,” Steven agreed... but only after making a slightly inappropriate comment about Lauren being able to afford the rest of her dress, which made the 16-year-old just a little uncomfortable. Awkward!
Scotty McCreery led off with "Country Comfort," (appropriate!) and broke out his guitar for the first time. The performance was spot-on — the song was an excellent choice for him and he sounded great, as per usual. He even snuck in a shoutout to his grandma mid-song, which was adorable and will surely have sent grandmas nationwide running to hit the redial button voting for him. The judges were big fans of Scotty’s performance. “You have amazing instincts about performing and about what's right for you," Jennifer said. "You have seasoned so fast on this show, I felt that I was like watching at your show, at your concert," Randy added.
Jacob Lusk’s performance of “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” felt more like a really dramatic scene in an opera than an Idol performance. So if you’re into that sort of thing, it was amazing! If not, well... it was pretty overwrought. We preferred the restraint he showed last week; after seeing that, this week’s Great! Big! Drama! was kind of jarring. The judges loved it, though. “The first half of that song just blew me away — the second half was equal for me,” Steven said (which made no sense, but, it’s Steven, so whatever). “That last note — you don’t see that every day,” Jennifer added.
James Durbin was up next, and he pulled out all the stops for his performance — starting in the audience, climbing on the piano, having the piano shoot giant actual flames into the air. You name it, it occurred — it was something of a rock ‘n roll salad. The performance was absolutely entertaining, though he added almost nothing vocally to “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting).” Is James Durbin the real deal, or is he trying too hard? These are the questions we ponder. The judges thought he was very much the real deal, though. Jennifer called it a “full performance of a great song by a great artist,” and Steven complimented James’ “very good rock voice.”
Pia Toscano chose to sing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” because what we really needed was to hear another ballad from her. Jimmy Iovine said Pia needed to go somewhere between Fergie and Axl Rose on the song, but Pia just went somewhere between Celine and Boredom, as usual. Her dress was really sparkly and her heels were really high, in case we’d forgotten that she’s gorgeous (we had not), and the judges just sort of shrugged and forgave her for being a drag. “This just goes to prove some people might have been wrong up here when we asked you not to sing ballads anymore — you sang it, you nailed it,” Steven said. “Listen, listen... you’ve sung a ballad every time, you slayed them every time... I was just trying to get you to switch your gears a little bit,” Randy said.
Hey! We just realized there were no Coketerviews tonight, and The Durbz mentioned having a Pepsi moment. Trouble in Idol Sponsorland? Oooh!
Tomorrow night: Two contestants will be eliminated (Thia? Stefano? Naima?)!
Naima Adedapo followed Scotty with her reggae version of “I’m Still Standing,” and as usual with Naima, the performance was cool and sexy. Naima’s performances always feel like watching a concert, rather than an Idol performance. We thought the reggae interpretation of the song worked surprisingly well, but the judges were lukewarm. “It was more — for me, honestly, I love reggae... but it kinda came off kinda corny, right? And you are not corny,” Randy said. Steven was non-committal, adding “Boom shakalakala baby... I’m gonna say it — good for you for picking a song that fits you.”
Thia Megia, “our youngest contestant,” Ryan reminded us (oh good, we’d almost forgotten), sang “Daniel,” dedicating it to her older brother (whose name we couldn’t quite catch, but did it also rhyme with “Thia” and “Megia”?). As usual, Thia came across a little bit like a contestant in a Miss Teen Wherever pageant, but her voice sounded beautiful. It was better than last week’s uninspiring “Heat Wave,” at least. “I think you sang a great Elton John song well,” said Steven, which about summed up the judges’ polite but unenthused comments. “Still once again very safe... interesting,” said Randy.
Stefano Langone picked “Tiny Dancer.” (Side note: Does it drive everyone crazy that Jennifer always puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable of his name, or is it just us?) While he sounded pretty fab, the performance had a drizzle of cheese sauce all over it. Which, hey, cheese is delicious, but it doesn’t work on the Idol stage. Randy proceeded to win the night by attempting to intercept Stefano’s longing reach for Jennifer’s hand at the end of the song, so at least the performance ended on a high note of sorts. The judges liked him, though, and praised his connection to the audience. “You really moved the crowd today,” Jennifer said. Randy added that when Stefano hits the high notes, he’s “right on.”