The top 8 sing their favorite songs from films, whether Jimmy Iovine likes 'em or not

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:22 PM EDT
Frank Micelotta/Fox/PictureGroup
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This week, American Idol was all about variety. Remember, everyone: “We could have a country Idol; we could have a pop Idol; we could have whatever,” said The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. In other words, a country or pop Idol would be great. Vote now!

The judges continued to over-praise the kiddos on Movie Night, departing from protocol just once to tell Haley Reinhart she gave off a karaoke vibe. J. Lo quickly washed away this aberration with the loofah on her dress, and all was forgotten. Meanwhile, she and Randy Jackson showed more disdain for the Idol viewing public than ever before. I’m sick of this show pretending it’s doing us this huge educational favor — as if watching eight people doing cover songs is Randy’s way of personally bestowing upon us, the unwashed masses of America, the precious gift of musical enlightenment. Dude. Yo. Randy. I know how to go to a music store. There’s one on my computer already — I don’t even have to move!

I know, I know, it’s not about the judges. (Except when it is.) Let’s get to this week’s performances.

Paul McDonald, repping “NashVegas,” went with Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” from Risky Business. Jimmy Iovine wanted to see Paul’s underwear, but his BFF did not. It was a real clash of the titans. (Movie night!) Speaking of underwear, are Jimmy and Will a package deal now? I think Jimmy probably realized he needed a cartoonish sidekick to sit next to him and just glare at people and rattle off all of the different foods that he knows. Jimmy is hard to digest on his own, so now that I’m used to this new setup, it’s fine with me. ( If Will wanted to go ahead and replace Randy, I’d also be fine with that. “America, you just witnessed the first number at the Paul McDonald concert,” raved Randy after Paul finished wobbling around the Idoldome — even though Paul had previously said he wanted to treat every song “like it’s my encore to a show.” Good on you, Randy. Good on you! The most notable thing about Paul’s performance was that he dared to walk his imaginary pet turtle right past the judges. What if it had hit Randy? Maybe it did.

NEXT: Lauren Alaina, Stefano Langone, and Stefano Langone’s adorable dadAs soon as Lauren Alaina announced she was doing “The Climb,” Jimmy set America straight: “You are a much stronger singer than Miley Cyrus,” he said, which is kind of like telling everyone who is reading this recap, “You are using a computer or mobile device.” We all know Miley Cyrus is a ridiculous bobble-headed product, but “The Climb” is a decent song and the perfect choice for a 16-year-old looking for a breakout moment on American Idol. It wasn’t about Miley. And it certainly shouldn’t have been about Pia, though I did appreciate that’s response to Jimmy urging Lauren to steal all of Pia’s fans was a stoic, very well-timed “Put ’em in a bag.” Will also recommended that Lauren make these millions of Pia fans “little cupcakes, spaghettis and stuff.” Plural spaghettis? I wish wanted my vote. That sounds sweet. Anyway, “The Climb” really did sound like it’d been written for Lauren instead, so I understood what Steven meant by loving what the song brought to Lauren rather than what Lauren brought to the song. (If I read that sentence two more times, it probably won’t make sense.) Song choice and an ability to relate to what she’s singing are crucial for Lauren. At least our girl had her priorities straight backstage. “The most beautiful woman in the world told me I did a good job,” she said, “so that’s all that matters.”

I have a new favorite character in season 10: Stefano Langone‘s dad! Unless it was just weird lighting or me seeing only what I want to see, we now know that our smiling chocolate chunk cookie’s soul patch is hereditary. Papa Langone was so proud of his baby boy, squatting up on the stage belting out Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” from the excellent film Boomerang. It was the perfect song choice for someone who already looks and sounds like he’s in a ’90s boy band. “This is so not the end of the road for you,” said Steven. “It’s only the beginning.” This was a pretty good save from a Steven comment just seconds earlier that could have evolved into something resembling constructive criticism: “You know how to milk a song.” Ha! Milk and cookies. J. Lo was right: This week, Stefano was definitely performing to win instead of singing to stay. I’m glad he flipped the switch.

Esteemed Colleague Email of the Night:

He really is.

NEXT: Casey turns the Idoldome into World’s Most Beautiful Woman, an intimate new jazz clubI would have loved to hear “Everybody’s Talkin'” from Scotty McCreery, but George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart” was in the phone book (argggggggh) too, so it was just fine. I pretty much can’t tell any of Scotty’s performances apart at this point, but the pony show is working. Scotty does seem to understand and emotionally connect with his lyrics more than most the others — it was most evident here when he bent his knees, closed his eyes, and really felt it on “You’ll never find a love as true as miiiiiiine.” I did notice that at the end of the song, his voice got much weaker as it got higher, and he was struggling to hold that last note. Would the judges finally snap and call Scotty corny? No! “Um, everybody wants us to be tough with you guys, but the truth is you are all SO DAMN GOOD!” protested the world’s most beautiful lady. “I just love your voice, man,” said Steven for probably the seventh time. “You’re good,” he continued. The great Mr. Jackson, “a huge, ginormous fan” of Scotty’s, brought the “critiques” home. “My motto in life is, if it ain’t broke, don’t even consider fixing it.” Oh, Randy. We know.

Well, do-do-deedle-dee-doo, I just flat-out did not think Casey Abrams was in tune. Like Scotty, Casey stuck to his guns and stayed in his comfort zone with Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy.” I was so disappointed when he switched to that from Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” I’m embarrassed about this, don’t worry. Why couldn’t Casey and this supposedly magical production team rearrange “In the Air” and make it more jazzy? Is jimmy.i.o.vine just there to sit in a high chair and wear sunglasses? Casey could have upright-bassed the hell out of Phil Collins, and it wouldn’t even have to be as dirty as that sounded. The many eerie zoom-ins of Casey’s thinning face might have made more sense, too, considering this video. (I never knew I was such a passionate Phil Collins fan until just now. Another day on Idol, maybe. In paradise.) Of course, “Nature Boy” is a great song. Casey knows he can go home at any time, so he’s being himself and I respect that. But this performance was vocally mediocre and visually unnerving. After he finished, the judges started flipping out, guestimating at how many million bajillion jazz records he would eventually sell. Norah Jones did it, Michael Bublé did it, so why can’t this American Idol contestant? I don’t know, dawg. I’m not sure I see that happening, but Steven Tyler compared Casey to freakin’ Sting, so what do I know?

Haley Reinhart brought multiple-language cooing and her unique brand of hairography to Blondie’s “Call Me.” Afraid to say anything because she didn’t want any more female singers to go home, J. Lo started wringing the world’s most beautiful hands, crying “Vote! Vote for the girls!” Nice critique, Jennifer. Just beautiful. This week, it really hit home for me that I much prefer Haley’s voice when she’s relaxed and just standing in the studio, rehearsing. She’s not that well-suited for a very physical performance, so I often just want to pour concrete over her feet, turn down whatever crazy whirling background noise is happening, and force her to sing, damnit! “Call Me” was like one long caterwaul with barely a pause for a breath. Still, there’s perfection in Haley’s non-perfection. I think that more than any of the other contestants this season, she performs as herself — whereas Paul, for example, always seems to be trying someone else out, and he’s not sure it’s the persona he wants. The biggest problem with Haley singing Blondie, for me, was that ’80s Debbie Harry was more of a character onstage than a “singer’s singer.” That’s not Haley. She should try to tone down the performance element next week and just sing. She needs to be confident that this alone would be charming. “I love that thing you’re wearing,” raved Steven re: Haley’s stained glass window shift dress. Surprise: So did I! Here’s to looking up old addresses.

NEXT: Lusky Stank hits three big notes; the Durbs and his tail go “Heavy Metal”Until the last verse of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a song made famous by the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness (LOL), the best elements of Jacob Lusk‘s performance were his disco ball cuff links and lovely turquoise pocket square. I was cringing at how off-key he was. Honestly, it’s like he’s not even aware that songs are supposed to have melodies. He just makes up his own! Why not? He’s made it this far, and Steven loves his “crescendos and innuendos.” Yet somehow, after letting the song “marinate” (as Randy said, forgetting to add “in a hallucinatory puddle of oil”), once Jacob finally powers up to a certain mileage, he can suddenly find the right pitch and really blow it out. “I can’t even hear that note,” said J. Lo of Jacob’s final impressive run, confirming that the most beautiful woman in the world is truly of a different species than the rest of us lowly humans. She then accused Jacob of giving her goosebumps. She didn’t ask for those hideous pimples, you ungrateful preaching wretch!

James Durbin stuck with Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” despite Jimmy Iovine’s vehement warnings. Their contentious exchange ended up producing one of the most unfortunate ego-trip sentences ever uttered: “You think I’m an accident?” asked Iovine. GROSS. Still, I found the Durbs himself very off-putting in that rehearsal segment, so much so that I could barely get excited about his onstage audition for Ozzfest. I don’t need to be convinced that Idol spends a lot of money on lighting; I just want to a) not be bored and b) hear people sing well. I didn’t think this was the best showcase for James’ voice, but I guess he’s proven that he can sing and this week was all about a balancing act on the judges’ table, enthusiasm towards bandmates, armbands across America, and a kid named Cole. EW’s Tanner Stransky tells me that the Durbs’ epic battle against humility was likely much more fun in person than it was on TV. Makes sense. “That felt really, really real,” raved J. Lo, and I couldn’t get behind even one of those most beautiful words. Zakk Wylde’s hair, by the way, gave a very compelling performance.

‘Til tomorrow, friends. I love that thing you’re wearing today. Good on you. Good on you.

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