9. Stefano Langone (Last week: 10)
I don’t get the impression that Stefano really understands the songs he sings (like last week’s ”Tiny Dancer”), and his facial expressions of intense and panicked capital-F Feeling aren’t cutting it. Counting the headlights on the highway is really not as traumatizing as Stefano made it look.
8. Jacob Lusk (Last week: 7)
Jacob took on ”Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” last week with his usual pulsating vibrato. I guess I can see him selling records within his niche, but it really has become visually jarring to watch him. For better or worse, his ecstasy looks like agony.
7. Paul McDonald (Last week: 4)
The hoarse whisperer needs to keep practicing ”quiet comfort” and not go crazy with background singers or an overwhelming band for tonight’s rock theme. And no creepy-parent whispering at the end, you silly goose. I mean it!
6. Haley Reinhart (Last week: 8)
Our bluesy beauty, who looked all dressed up for some sort of sexy Wednesday-night mass, reveled in her final-spot status on Elton John night by writhing around on the piano to begin ”Bennie and the Jets.” So at least people will remember she exists. And being consistently in tune never hurt anyone.
5. Casey Abrams (Last week: 6)
The man who transformed from an unraveling beast into a sophisticated, kindly bear kept it safe last week with a starry-night version of ”Your Song.” A week after his big Save, it was the best move to remind us he’s a musician first and a hack Kurt Cobain impersonator second.
4. Lauren Alaina (Last week: 5)
She put only a slight country spin on ”Candle in the Wind,” and it was all in her own twang and lilts. No surprises, nothing dramatic. The 16-year-old stair tumbler is quietly hovering just above mid-pack.
3. Scotty McCreery (Last week: 1)
Last week, all Scotty had to do was basically say, ”Hi, my grandma’s in the audience” for the judges to act like he was a superstar. He may be a one-trick pony, but he’s still fooling us.
2. James Durbin (Last week: 3)
In between his stunts (hurling his mic stand across the stage, climbing aboard a flaming piano), the Durbs’ vocals are consistently among the best of the group. Even if he tones down the spectacle, his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance should be strong.
1. Pia Toscano (Last week: 2)
The woman with a name like a fine (maybe mid-grade) wine promised to sing Ike and Tina Turner’s ”River Deep Mountain High.” Randy wants uptempo, Pia. Don’t f— it up! :-)