'American Idol:' Top 5 Sing Songs From 'Now and Then' Recap

by Hilary Rothing, posted May 4th 2011 11:46PM

The big question tonight? "Who's in it to win it?" Yup, we've got a competition on our hands and somebody is going to win this thing. What would we do without Randy Jackson and his invaluable insights?

Tonight, the Top 5 took on songs from "Now and Then," which, according to the official 'Idol' press release, means one "current" song and one from "the '60s." More on that later.

This week, Jimmy Iovine enlisted nine-time Grammy award winner Sheryl Crow to mentor the kids. First at bat in tonight's musical double-header was James Durbin, sporting a "Give Metal a Chance" denim vest, a faux hawk and scarf tale. Not surprisingly, Durbin went with 30 Seconds to Mars' 'Closer to the Edge.'

Jimmy remarked that the song was a much better fit for James than the '80s rock he favors. The performance, which didn't feature any of Durbin's trademark visual stunts, started out a bit quiet, but James quickly kicked into overdrive, with typical glass-shattering vocals.

All three judges put their stamp of approval on the evening opener. Steven commented that James "kicked the song's ass" and is "ready for Freddy," whoever that is. J.Lo could tell that James wants it and Randy liked the contemporary fit for the rocker, who he, of course, noted is "in it to win it."

Next up, Jacob Lusk decided to clear up any doubts about "who he is as an artist" by singing a Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, with songwriter Harvey Mason's approval. Mason was in the studio, along with Iovine and Crow, when Jacob made this very unwise song choice. The performance was disjointed and no where near on-key. However, J.Lo took up Jacob's cause, complimenting his "showmanship" and remarking that his voice is one of the best on the 'Idol' stage. However, she's still struggling to figure out what kind of songs Jacob should do.

Meanwhile, Randy said the song was "the wrong direction" for the gospel singer. "It felt corny," said the veteran judge, who also noted that the vocals were sharp throughout the song. "You're not Chris Brown or Jordin Sparks" said Randy, "you're the Luther kid." Indeed, the performance was schizophrenic, to say the least. Jacob is definitely in trouble tomorrow night.

Lauren Alaina followed-up with 'Flat on the Floor' by Carrie Underwood. It's a bit hard to see Lauren as more than an Underwood-wannabe when she's already so heavily compared to the 'Idol' winner. But there's no doubt about it, Lauren can keep up with Carrie. She seemed to have fun with the performance while not looking like she was trying too hard, which is probably thanks to Sheryl Crow's sage advice to let the audience come to her, instead of prancing around on stage.

Randy observed that Lauren is "in it"; by "it," we're left to assume he means 'American Idol.' He also said that he likes the "fun direction" she went in with the tune and how she connected with the audience. J.Lo said she "ate the song up" and Steven said Lauren "is it." So mysterious, these judges.

Scotty McCreery took to the stage next for Montgomery Gentry's 'Gone.' Scotty let loose again, working the stage ala his Elvis performance and connecting with the audience and the cameras. Though his vocals did get lost in the mix with the background singers, from time to time, it was vintage Scotty. "You've been a Puritan up 'till now," said Steven, urging the good Christian boy to "dance with the devil." J.Lo said he "owned the stage" and even heard some growling. Or perhaps that was the ghost of Casey Abrams?

Closing out the first round, Haley Reinhart made "a superbold choice" according to Sheryl Crow, in performing an unreleased Lady Gaga tune, with her majesty's blessing. The song, 'You and I,' felt like a good fit for Haley and the performance was spot on, but the judges had a hard time appreciating a song they never heard before.

J.Lo questioned Jimmy Iovine for suggesting the song to Haley, who she felt should be doing a song everyone knows at this stage in the competition. Randy wants Haley to go "the Joss Stone way" and felt like the song "didn't do (her) any favors."

James Durbin returned to kick off the second round with Harry Nilsson's 'Without You.' James, who I'm assuming wasn't that familiar with the song, got choked up in rehearsal, thinking about his wife Heidi and son Hunter. So much so that he had to call the day short. Lucky for him, the judges ate up his emotional performance, which ended with Durbin in tears and seeming somewhat disconnected from the judges and the audience.

Though there were a number of pitch issues, Randy stated that the performance was "emotionally perfect." And Steven said it's great "when a song gets the best of you," though it was a little pitchy at times "in that strange, James Durbin way."

Jacob Lusk came back around for Nazareth's 'Love Hurts.' James is a big singer and this is a big song, a combination that sometimes cancels itself out. It was a bit too much, especially when Jacob lost his way through part of the song. But the judges returned to the Compton, California singer's corner. "You got lost in the song, but everybody kinda got lost in you," said Steven. J.Lo liked how Jacob "brought out the tricks at the end" and Randy said he redeemed himself, singing possibly the highest note ever on 'Idol.' I'd consult a Guinness official before I start making claims like that, Randy.

'Unchained Melody' was Lauren's choice from "The Way Back Machine" and it was just fine. Wearing a gown straight out of a Deep South debutante's ball, the performance was technically sound, though Lauren did seem to shy away from a high note towards the end. "There is nothing to judge, it was beautiful" said J.Lo, making a solid case for her multi-million dollar salary. Randy said she "sang like a bird" and showed a different side of herself. Not sure I caught that ...

Scotty stepped back into the shoes of his personal idol, Elvis Presley for 'Always on My Mind.' It was a competent but sleepy performance from Scotty. But again, the judges heaped praise on the front-runner. J.Lo felt Scotty showed what a "well-rounded performer" he is and Steven said Scotty is taking us "up and down the trail." They then got a reminder from Seacrest that Scotty is one-quarter Puerto Rican and his grandma was in the audience to back up the claim.

Closing out the night was Haley Reinhart with The Animals' 'House of the Rising Sun.' Taking her time with the song, Haley belted the hell out of it and thankfully, this time around, it wasn't lost on the judges. After a standing ovation, Randy called it the "best performance of the night," and J.Lo noted the anger Haley seemed to bring to the song, after the trashing she took from the panel the first time around. G'on grrrrrrrl!

A few more observations from tonight's affair

-- "Scotty the Body?" Seriously? This kid weighs like 120 pounds, soaking wet

-- Correct me if I'm wrong, but Nilsson's 'Without You' and Elvis Presley's 'Always on My Mind' are not songs from the '60s

-- Jacob Lusk is neither Chris Brown nor Jordin Sparks, discuss!

-- Lauren Alaina says The Righteous Brothers' 'Unchained Melody' is her parents song. Hold on now, kiddo. You told Steven it was 'Don't Wanna Miss a Thing!' What, are The Righteous Brothers judges now?

So who's really "in it to win it" and who's just "in it?" Well, after tonight, I'd say Jacob is definitely "out of it" with Haley and Lauren on his heels. I'm hoping the pimp spot and praise from the judges keeps Haley around but, she's been thrown under the bus so many times, the tire marks are starting to show. However, Lauren looks to be running out of steam fast. What do you say, Idolers? Fire away in the comments and vote for your favorite in our poll! For more on tonight's performances, check out an all new 'Something Pitchy!'

'American Idol' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET on Fox.

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The winner will be metal,soul or country; whatever genre is most popular! Just because you like one ,it doesn't mean you have to bash the others. These young and talented people are the last four of a group that has survived a very difficult schedule. So give them a break and only compliment those that you like and leave the others alone realizing that they all have worked very hard to reach this level.

May 09 2011 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My opinion is the talent is NOTHING special!!!!, dont care!

May 08 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gladys Perry

Well in my opinion the only one that I feel is the most genuine is Scotty. Whether he wins or loses I wish him the best of luck.James plays to the cameras and is not genuine. I know that he has a form of Tourettes Syndrome and the tics can't be controlled but can someone please tell me how it is that he blinks more when the cameras are on him. Just like the fake tears. At this point I could care less who wins because in my opinion and this is just my opinion,they sent home more talented people at the end of Hollywood week.

May 07 2011 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Evidently the fix is in. Lady Gaga has nothing to offer Scotty or Lauren, and is a goofy as Haley

May 07 2011 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Im so glad that jacob went home last night . I think james is the best, and jim the music producer said last night a singer must hold there emotional at the end, and the reason that james cryed the other day it was because he want to win on american idiol so he can get more money to suport hes little boy and with the women he loves , boy what a great father and a great husband. lets go back for a min paul mcdonald is an other great singer i like paul too im so upset that hes gone i know somebody will take him and he will make records.

May 06 2011 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe Jacob will go this week. I agree Lauren is on his heels. That said, I am rooting for Haley. James is going to win. I see Scotty coming in second. It doesn't matter now. They have all made it!

May 05 2011 at 6:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Unchained Melody is an Al Hibbler song from the 1930's, not a Righteous Brothers song. If she had gone back and listened to that version she would have done a much better job. As far as who should win, I do not like Lauren or Jacob, they are just not likeable people, so I hope James, Hailey or Scotty wins, but I don't think Scotty has a chance.

May 05 2011 at 6:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ironman95's comment


May 06 2011 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i think there will be a shocker tonight,, and scotty will be leaving,,,,

May 05 2011 at 6:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pebbsdove's comment

Do not hold yold your breath!!!!!!!!!

May 06 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What Durbin performance also demonstrated, like Randy would say, "if I'm gonna be honest, ya know, keep it real" is that performance clearly showed the weakness in his voice. If he can't scream the uper register, he can't reach it. His lower register is lacking control and any vibrato. Why? Because he sings from his throat where all "screams" originate. After screaming the first song the muscles in his throat could simply not relax enought to allow the softer sounds of the second sound to escape. Just being honest and keeping it real.

May 05 2011 at 6:07 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rwallerfam5's comment

correction: "of the second SONG"

May 05 2011 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

James stated he was crying because he misses his family and wants to win for his family..That's great...All the idols want to win...Do you see the other Idol's break down...If he's this emotional, he shouldn't be in show business...there's a lot of stress.in this business.....I do hope my boy Scotty win's though...Not because I'm Country, but because he has the best voice on Idol.....plus he has stage presents..,..works the audiance, personality appeal..he has it all...It's my guess that Jacob will be voted out tonight.....he didn't do well last night...Lauren and Haley kudos to them... Go Scotty....!!!!!!

May 05 2011 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sunshine's comment

O Lorraine, James is no crybaby. He was a guy who showed us his heart. A beautiful one it is.

May 05 2011 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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