J. Lo and Randy act as if Scotty, James, and Lauren have cracked an impossible code before their very well-paid eyes
American Idol Top 4
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Of course — of course! — I’m sick of Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez acting like American Idol is this super-complicated jigsaw puzzle and that James, Scotty and Lauren have SUDDENLY SOLVED IT. But as the judges stuck nearly word-for-word to the same tired script as last week, I somehow stopped being angry that the terrible two had once again singled Haley Reinhart out as the only final four contestant who’s ever done anything even a little bit wrong. Haley’s already decided their comments don’t matter, so why should I? Their weird bias could get the growler more votes anyway, so good for her.

No, what struck me about the two treacherous toddlers this week was how they absolutely refused to be candid, EVER. J. Lo — so passionate about her groundbreaking role as Lead Actress in a reality series — might as well be reading directly from her NigelsNotes the entire time, and I don’t think Randy’s endlessly repetitive praise-babble has ever pissed me off more. His comments can rarely even be targeted to the person in question! He’s awful. He’s a pile of air crisps that ends up leaving you hungrier than you were before you stupidly decided to burn calories by chewing a “snack.” The whole performance show this week played out like a sad, sad script of what Randy’s been saying for years and what J. Lo thinks an Emmy-worthy TV character should say. It’s nothing. Viewers get…nothing. We lose. Good day, sir!

Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude:

It really was. Deep breath. Here we go.

NEXT: It’s James Durbin’s journey; we’re just along for the ride For the first round of performances (Songs That Inspire You), James Durbin chose Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.'” “And the reason that it means so much to me,” he explained, and the reason it’s so inspirational…is because every young person in America associates it with Glee! No, not really. The song reflects James’ American Idol journey instead. JOURNEY, a great band Randy had the pleasure of being in. I get it. I’m feelin’ ya, James. In fact, I do know this song.

Basically, James hit all the notes here and pulled it off. Sure, I’d rather hear Steve Perry do it, and if you threw literally any decent male singer up there next to the Durbs and asked me to choose one of them to sing Journey, I bet I’d go with the other guy. But I’ll give him this: If I saw James Durbin stunting it up in a karaoke bar, I’d be like, “Man, that particular drunk guy can really sing.” And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude:

That too. But the gem-hunter in me did spot a worthy unsung hero after the Durbs’ first performance: James’ fish face! Loved it. A worthy addition, almost as refreshing as a Coca-Cola.

NEXT: What about Haley? Aaaaaaaaah Oooooooooh… I might have preferred to not have heard from Haley Reinhart before she began performing Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.” I do believe that she cares about the planet and knows it ain’t easy being green, but she lost me (and my Idol viewing/recapping partner in crime Richard Lawson) when she tried to call the song “one big, beautiful, melodic masterpiece” with a straight face and then all of a sudden there she was with her dramatic updo and clouds whizzing by on the LED screens behind her. I mean, don’t get me wrong — the transition from staged candor to carefully camera-blocked singing is always jarring no matter who’s at stake. Whoa, look at me, singling Haley out for no good reason. I’m as bad as the useless judges! Please refer to me from now on as Ann(d)ie Jackson or A. Lo.

Haley growled at the end, and I liked it because she was completely feeling the music and lost in her own world. Not to mention, have you seen the video for “Earth Song”? MJ shouts at the end, too. His are more like hoots than shouts, maybe. It’s amazing. According to stupid Randy, Haley royally effed up by not adding crazy riffs and runs at the end. How dare she deny herself that great American liberty of relentless self-indulgence? The nerve on this girl. “I don’t know if I should have changed that,” Haley shrugged, slyly. “I thought it was beautiful.”

Did someone say beautiful? Steven Tyler perked up, finally jumping in for his very own Idol moment. “What do you get from that?” he asked Haley, looking alive. “THEY’RE BOTH WRONG.” And then he quieted down and merely mouthed, pointing at Randy, “Don’t believe him.” Best non-singing moment of the season by far. The sudden energy on S. Ty contrasted so wondrously with Haley’s “over it” face. What a spectacle. Wild applause! Whatever, Randy. You didn’t like it? I did. Difference of opinion is in it to win it, right, dawg? “That’s what it’s all about.”

Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude:

Adam was in it to win it!

Missy wants to f—ing win it!

Ooh, I have been working with Taio Cruz and Coke for the last few weeks, Ryan. I better listen up.

NEXT: And the Kristy Lee Cook Song Choice Award of the Night goes to… The esteemed KLC award goes to Scotty McCreery, who sang Alan Jackson’s ode to 9-11, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).” “These lyrics mean so much to me as an American,” Scotty explained, “but I think they speak to everybody else in the country.” The other Americans. So we’re all on the same page. Scotty, just a singer of simple songs, launched into and then maintained his usual drawl. Solid performance, like most of his others. I can picture Scotty doing this onstage at a national disaster relief concert or anti-war benefit. Who’s that, the menfolk will wonder. You know, it’s the 45-year-old teenager from TV with the bizarrely low voice, sillies, their wives will say. And that’s where the story ends, for they all will have fallen asleep.

What will probably stick with me most from Scotty’s first performance is this illuminating behind-the-scenes detail from Ryan during the Coke chat:

“I hear the girls screaming all day long.”


Wow. Completely obsessed with this Google Chrome commercial featuring the It Gets Better Project. I love that a 90-second video supporting gay teens aired during Idol. LOVE. It does get better. Listen to your Aunties Gaga and Glambert.

And now Lauren Alaina will sing a song about how great God is, because it’s about that time. She definitely hit the glory notes of Martina McBride’s “Anyway.” Yeah, sing it any-WAYYYYYYY, girl! I loved that. Hated the gown with a chunk ripped out of the front, but loved the power surge. I can live with that. Actually, now that I’m thinking about the episode hours later, I’ve decided Lauren and Scotty can both perform pretty well at that same all-purpose network television benefit. (This event has really taken on a life of its own in my head, and yet I still probably wouldn’t watch it.) But Americans besides me would be so proud of their lil’ Idols, singin’ up there for their country. He’s seated; she’s standing. That’s it. Scotty and Lauren are competent vocalists. They both showed up tonight.

Ugh, Randy attempted to bring out that tired old “This is the Lauren we fell in love with on week one” story line out. Yo. Yo. It’s still not working. Lauren has not had any sort of dramatic arc on this show. None of maniacal applauder Nigel Lythgoe’s hopes and dreams for the sweet 16-year-old ended up coming true. Really, it’s not going to happen. And yet: “America, Lauren is back in it to win it!” Good God, Jackson. It means even less than you think it means the 101 bazillionth time you say it.

NEXT: Round 2! Songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike StollerUp first, Haley Reinhart acted the hell out of Shirley Bassey’s “I (Who Have Nothing),” which Jordin Sparks memorably took on in season 6. That weirdo Lady Gaga suggested Haley amp up the drama because “she’s so good at singing” (HELLO) and the Edith Piaf of American Idol season 10 stepped up big time. “Give them a little I’m crazy and then laugh away a tear”? No problem.

I much prefer Haley in a quieter, more intimate setting where her voice is allowed to shine against, say, a gorgeous string section and a starry alternate galaxy in which the judges’ opinions have zero relevance. Because duh, that’s where Haley lives. Call it a bad attitude or call her a hero: Even more than last week, Haley is refusing to play along with the judges’ forced theatrics. After J. Lo faux-triumphantly cried out “Look what you’re capable of!” Haley merely smirked in slight recognition that someone had spoken. If facial expressions had subtitles, this one would say “Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder? My performance had nothing to do with you, YOU IDIOTS.”

“You just Reinharted yourself into the middle of next week,” growled Our Voice of Reason.

Suddenly — terror alert — Ryan had shepherded Haley down the steps (even though she was all “ew, no”) and into a proximity exercise with the three Fates. Has she ever even been that close to them for longer than an awkward cheek (non-)kiss? Yikes. So incredibly awkward. I liked how Haley instinctively inched away from the two dummies and cozied up near her favorite loon Steven Tyler. It was really gracious of J. Lo to put so much body glow and hairography into her all-knowing nods and leans, but Haley is just not buying anything the House of Denim That Looks Like Formalwear is selling.

Lady Gaga freaked Scotty McCreery out when she asked him to treat his mic like a delicious hot dog, so she had to artfully modify “hot dog” to “girlfriend.” Finally, a heteronormative language Scotty the Body could understand. Smooth move there by the disco S&M panda bear. Scotty kissed his cross necklace to make sure he wasn’t going to hell…and….we’re clear. Whew! Close call. Then it was Idoldome time, for Scotty’s nutter butter rendition of the Coasters’ “Young Blood.” I liked the song and he sang it well, but anyone who saw this remembers just one thing: Crazy eyes. YOU get a crazy eye, and YOU get a crazy eye, and YOU get a crazy stye. Everybody in the audience gets a googly glance from Scotty McCreery they’ll never forget!

I mean, this was so ridiculously corny, I’m not even sure what to say. Did it objectively sound good? Sure. Would I ever want to watch something like that again? Hell to the no. (Oh wait, omg, lol, brb, let me go kiss my cross. K thx.) According to J. Lo, Scotty is currently in it to win it on a “sprint to the finish line.” But if only we knew whom she liked.

NEXT: What is evil?

Lauren Alaina didn’t want to say the word evil, but she also didn’t want to go home. So screw you, morals: Elvis Presley’s “Trouble” it was. Seriously, why even pick this song if you don’t like the word that comprises 50 percent of its lyrics? Can she read? Holy crap…is that the dramatic story arc we’ve been waiting for? I never learned to read. (It might have worked, too, but only if they’d whipped it out last night. Tonight, I think Lauren’s a goner.) Lady Gaga tried her mightiest to get Lauren to let go and embrace the dark side, but the bottom line is she’s really not able to infuse her performances with any convincing character. Lauren Alaina: Good voice, not evil. But don’t tell ‘er ah said that, or she’ll about have a stroke.

Lady Gaga wanted to loosen James Durbin up for the Clovers’ “Love Potion No. 9,” but considering the worrisome tightness of his jeans, I’m not sure that was even possible. I wonder if his logic is that his security tail will have even more room to breathe and flap free if the neighboring legs are as vacuum-packed as possible. I’m barely kidding; this is a legitimate train of thought. (It’s 5:30 in the morning; anything is.) I’d have rather seen James slow down the song slightly from the original and actually attempt to swivel his hips like Gaga suggested. Maybe he did show appropriate hip action atop his pedestal, but he was atop a pedestal, stopping and starting the song like God extending the hand of life to…a really, really mediocre imitation of Adam Lambert. Okay, that was a stretch. I hope James stretched.

Major split jump action there at the end. And pyro! This is the word of the Randy: “You’re peaking at the right time, having a moment every single week.” I couldn’t have written a better script myself.

“Thank you very much for that activity,” Ryan told James. Oh yes, Ryan. Good luck in the coming business year.


For the record, this is evil.

Use your evil when you want. See you tomorrow.

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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