The top 6 take on the Carole King songbook; Randy declares an early winner
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox/PictureGroup
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It was “the Carole King songbook” night on American Idol, and the utter inanity of Randy Jackson has nearly struck me dead. Ah, the Rananity! Clearly, this sad excuse for an introductory paragraph is not “in it to win it, nor is it “trying to win it,” “here because it’s a great singer,” or — least of all — “a hot one.” So what good is it? Let’s gets to this week’s solos!

Randy had advised Jacob Lusk to soar and riff and just go off, but guest mentor Babyface (well helloooooo there, Mr. face) quickly put the kibosh on that idea with a resounding yet soft-spoken “Noooooo…..” as soon as Jacob started singing during rehearsal. “Whoa, that ain’t it,” he continued, and it was at this point that I decided I liked Babyface. After Jacob writhed around in agony on the floor and Jimmy foreshadowed his doom by saying Jacob was probably “the most in trouble,” the Lusky Stank and his terrible blue plaid jacket trotted onto the stage with the upbeat “Oh No Not My Baby.”

To be fair, I loved everything about Jacob’s outfit except the jacket (especially the yellow sneakers), but that’s like saying I loved everything about Jacob’s performance except for the long stretches where it just didn’t sound like he knew how to sing. The scatting, dancing with himself, and powerful high note were fun, but like an overwhelming plaid jacket, the rest of the song did unfortunately have to count.

My favorite part was when Jacob finished with a dramatic “waiter hand” (imagine it supporting a large tray). Huzzah! Dinner is served. “It’s about time you shook your tail feathers. That character, the dancing is what we’re looking for,” said Steven, totally missing the point.

Ryan fixed Jacob’s bowtie, because he felt left out.

NEXT: Does Lauren Alaina even know that dude?

Under strict orders to push her high notes even harder, Lauren Alaina‘s “Where You Lead” solo came out a bit more aggressive than I’d have liked — and from how uncomfortable she seemed onstage, more than she’d have liked, too. The “impromptu” dance and stair-sitting session with an audience member named Brett was more awkward than romantic.

I can’t figure out whose fault this was, not that it matters. Like, what if it were her dad up there instead? I feel like she’d at least seem less nervous and maybe tone down the yelling. Bad, bad example of another male who could have filled in on this role, I know. But the casting and use of this prop teen Brett was just as confounding.

In fact, this was the only time Lauren’s stupid end-of-song giggle made any sense, that’s how nervous she seemed. Time to be nice: I loved Lauren’s flattering diagonal paint-splatter sleeveless dress and the breathless lilt she threw on the “York” in “New York City.” I think she overdoes the lilt thing in general, though — it was especially distracting during her duet with Scotty this week. Anyway, Randy wasn’t keen on the song choice, but did admire the way Lauren took direction from her new guidance counselor Miley Cyrus.

But overall the judges appreciated Lauren’s extra swagger and — get this — the way her voice broke! “I heard your voice crack a little bit, and I felt proud,” said J. Lo. Hey, mission accomplished. Lauren’s work here is done.

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(Get ready for a bunch. is in it to win it tonight. We got a hot entertainment website tonight!)

Estrogen, man. Just kidding, I have no idea. This is new.

NEXT: Scotty reminds us we are not completely alone in this mean old world “He could possibly get overshadowed tonight,” warned Jimmy Iovine, and then boom: shadows, shadows, shadows, all over Scotty ‘The Body’ McCreery face. (Don’t call him that, Ryan.) I’m a sucker for a live orchestra, so I definitely dug “You’ve Got a Friend” this week. I’m also a miserable, washed-up Idol recapper with no friends, so just let me enjoy my fantasy, okay?

Scotty did show unexpected range and a different tone than usual, but I think the reason I got really into the second half of the song was because it sounded so…non-country. Is that offensive? I can appreciate Scotty’s talent either way, but I really liked the arrangement the coaches and producers went with here. I forgot I was listening to the boy who’s never bothered to stray from his specialty, is what I’m saying. The whole performance just made him seem less stubborn and more mature, and this was a big relief for me. The kid’s obviously a front runner, and I’d been disappointed in myself for being so darn bored by him lately.

Steven, who seemed refreshingly alert and involved in his critiques this week, defended the briefness of Scotty’s high notes against Randy, and said he’d never sung better. “You took it somewhere else and I loved that,” said the man who, let’s be honest, might rather be anywhere else.

Oh, and here’s Randy. “Yo. What was really cool is you turned the other cheek from last week, slowed it down, tender moment.”

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NEXT: The Durbs has an ‘Idol’ Moment — no pyro involved

No marching band? No flaming piano? I’m freaking out, man! Luckily, James Durbin was there to talk me down: “I believe I can put on just as big of a show just being myself.” Talk about taking a risk in the competition. James is in it to win it! James wants to win it! James is trying to win it! Ugh, Randy. Babyface was blown away by James’ talent during rehearsal, and everyone was confident in his wise song choice of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” Carole King’s first big hit with Gerry Goffin (performed by the Shirelles; I’ve been listening to this for three hours). “Carole King and James Durbin were made to come together,” said your creepy sex education teacher Jimmy Iovine.

James started out a cappella for the entire first verse, which I really loved, especially the way he pulled back and dared to go soft on the last word, “tomorrow.” I ended up disappointed that the song pretty quickly swelled into one of the Durbs’ trademark “hard rock” finishes and would have preferred if he’d at least pulled back again on the final “tomorrow” to sort of come full circle here.

Steven kept his story straight from Motown Night, mentioning that this song in particular was “the first song I ever made out to a girl with.” I love that for Steven, making out is more of a one-way street, with him in the role of…performer? Of course. J. Lo preemptively declared James the star of the night (ugh, get a new fake plot, you guys), and Randy, as usual, put into eloquent words the climax of his ongoing attempt to discover just who is in it to win it this season. “THIS GUY MIGHT WIN THE WHOLE THING!” he bellowed, then rushed onstage for a hug. Ryan joined in, calling James a “superstar.” Jeez, people. Pipe down, Laverne, I could almost hear Penny Marshall thinking in the audience. Just let it freaking happen.

Awww, the Idol babyface got to jam with Babyface. Nice! Casey Abrams‘ rendition of “Hi-De-Ho That Old Sweet Roll” (performed by Blood, Sweat & Tears) was…fun to watch, I suppose. He was definitely in his element, working the room, greeting the 20 or so of his loyal subjects in the band. And he looked the part, too — I even liked the fedora and let out a sad (pathetic, really) “Ohhhhh!” when he tossed it into the ether. But man, I was not a fan of the growling.

NEXT: Steven Tyler hears God in Haley Reinhart’s voiceI think the most telling part of Casey’s performance was when the camera zoomed in on a little girl right up near the stage, and after he came around to snarl at her section, she whirled around in terror as if to ask her mom if it was okay that she was so close to the scary man. (Or maybe she just liked the camera, who knows? They start them out so young these days.)

I did like Casey’s little “half moon” of a continuous high five with his merry band of pranksters. But again, all of this is visual. Even the judges’ overwhelming praise focused on the variety and spectacle Casey brings to the show. “You made my scalp itch, it was so good,” marveled Steven, which is a different issue entirely, and one he should probably get checked out. It was only after the duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh theme song drowned out the judges’ chatter that Randy finally threw in some good advice: “LESS GROWL. LESS GROWL.” Too late, De Snoozio.

I was looking forward to Haley Reinhart in the final solo spot, but her entire segment ended up feeling rushed and erratic, due to technical issues at the beginning, time issues during judgespeak, and the ever-changing pace of “Beautiful.” None of which were her fault, of course. Aside from a few tiny spots, I thought Haley sounded great in this difficult song — I just wish the arrangement wasn’t so dominant. Even on the slower, “nighttime” sections, I just wanted to hear more of her voice and less background noise. She’s one who could do a mean a cappella verse, too. I loved her emphatic “Oh!” at the end. That’s So Haley, right, Raven?

J. Lo finally acknowledged that Haley has “one of the best voices in the competition,” but Randy had to crap all over the beginning of the song, which he found “a little boring.” He knew the get was good, but the end was where he got it. Okay. In other news, He is risen. “I just saw God,” claimed Steven. “I heard God in your voice.” OMG! Happy Easter, everyone.

I wasn’t a big fan of any of this week’s duets, all of which seemed thrown together last-minute and had a clear “dominant” or even “winning” (though that’s a very strong word, RANDY) voice. Haley outshone Casey on “I Feel the Earth Move,” Lauren (intentionally) overpowered Scotty on “Up on the Roof,” and…well, I’m not even sure what was going on during Jacob and James’ “I’m Into Something Good,” which was like the acid-reflux extended remix of J. Lo’s Gillette Venus campaign. “Man, where were you going with all that?” Steven wondered in his most spot-on critique of the night.

Ryan’s triumphant finish: “If you’d like to vote for Jennifer’s legs….THE NUMBERS.”

See you tomorrow morning. Who goes home tonight? Are you in it to win it tonight?

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