'American Idol' Recap: Lady Gaga Mentors/Scares the Top 4

by Hilary Rothing, posted May 12th 2011 12:00AM
What do avant garde pop princess Lady Gaga and '60s doo-woppers The Coasters have in common? Nothing. But both were a part of tonight's Top 4 performances on 'American Idol.' So I guess there's that.

The final four took to the stage for another two-for-one special, this time choosing one personally inspiring song followed by a selection from mega-hit songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller's songbook.

James Durbin opened the show with Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin',' an '80s classic that's gotten a bit of a second wind thanks to 'Glee' and serial killer Aileen Wuornos, or rather the award-winning biopic about her, 'Monster.'
It was just the kind of big, crowd-pleasing number James likes to go nuts on and he did. At this point in the competition, you either find James' vocals "screamy" or get goosebumps every time he takes it to the top.

For the judges, however, there was no question of whether or not James nailed it. Steven said he couldn't have picked a more popular song and J.Lo loved hearing his upper register and trademark vibrato. And Randy used the performance as another opportunity to remind us that he was once a member of Journey, pointing out how Durbin gave props to Steve Perry with his wardrobe. He also remarked on James choosing a song of "the highest difficulty" and compared 'American Idol' to the Olympics. I think the judges are a wee bit tougher in that competition ...

Next up, Haley Reinhart took to the stage to perform Michael Jackson's 'Earth Song.' The performance started out somber, but by the end, Haley was belting/screaming out the lyrics. It may not have been her best, but it was certainly as good as -- if not better than -- James' screamy, pitchy turn just before. However, the judges, in particular Randy, laid into Haley. He found the performance confusing, as far as determining what kind of artist Haley is, and felt that the higher notes in the song were well out of her range. J.Lo also questioned Haley's song choice and made a point of comparing her to James, who she felt "set the bar" and "got people excited" with 'Don't Stop Believin'.'

It's not the first time Haley's been shot down by the judges, but tonight she fought back. The feisty former bottom three-er told Randy she can go much higher and questioned his comments about adding vocal runs and trills to the Michael Jackson original. Things got a bit tense but that's what Steven Tyler is for, right? The perpetual "good cop" to Randy, and even J.Lo at times, broke up the cross talk and said "they're both wrong, you nailed it." Whether or not Haley's performance was up to snuff, it's most likely the 'tude she slang at the judges that America will remember when voting.

Scotty McCreery surfaced next with perhaps the smartest song choice of the night, Alan Jackson's 'Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning?).' It's a song we've heard a million times from Scotty, but the subject matter, the attacks on America on 9/11, couldn't have been more timely in light of recent events.

"The perfect song choice for where we are as a country," said Randy. Steven called it "beautiful" and J.Lo admitted that she's "in love" with Scotty. So yea, Scotty's not going home this week (ever).

Last week's nearly eliminated finalist Lauren Alaina followed up with another country tune, Martina McBride's 'Anyway.' The performance from the 16-year-old felt very adult and not just because Steven Tyler dug her ensemble.

It was easy to tell Lauren was comfortable with the song, unlike last week's 'Unchained Melody' misfire. Steven said "the one" delivers a song "like a blue plate special" and J.Lo applauded her for listening to the judges' feedback. Was that a little dig at Haley? Hmm?

As round one came to a close, Ryan asked the panel who won the first half of the evening. Of course, no one would commit to a pick, but Randy said Haley needed to up her game coming back.

Heading into the second set of songs, Lady Gaga came on the scene to mentor the Top 4 with the Leiber and Stoller catalog. Haley stepped up first, this time with 'I, Who Have Nothing.' Gaga was taken with Haley's vocal ability, but encouraged her to up the drama. The performance was definitely worthy of a Broadway stage and this time the judges came around to Haley's side with a standing ovation.

"That was amazing. This is why we will never take it easy on you," J.Lo said, calling it "one of the best performances of the year." Randy agreed it was one of Haley's best vocals and suggested her anger over their previous comments fueled her performance. And Steven topped them all with "you just Reinharted yourself into next week." After the love-in, Haley walked up to the judges' table and hugged it out with the trio.

Up next, it was time for the most epic combination of 'Idol' forces ever, Scotty McCreery and Lady Gaga. As he prepared to take on The Coasters' 'Young Blood,' Gaga suggested Scotty keep his mouth on the microphone as if it were his girlfriend. We all know the kid's got issues holding a mic, but I'm not sure that's the best solution. It seemed Gaga was more concerned about hearing all off Scotty's vocal power through the mic. However, Scotty's mind seemed to be on keeping the Good Lord by his side while the "Judas" singer had her way with him.

However, on stage Scotty was as relaxed and carefree as ever, making eyes at the camera and interacting with the audience. It wasn't "a moment" for him, as the judges are fond of saying, but it was a more than passable performance from "the finalist voted most likely to win 'American Idol.'"

Randy felt that his two performances showed "both sides of a Scotty McCreery" concert. Where have we heard this before ...? Steven said something about "Gaga's lala go yaya" and collected another seven-figure paycheck and J.Lo said "its a sprint to the finish," encouraging Scotty to show another side of himself next week.

After last week's scare, it was time for Lauren to make another run at America's vote with Elvis' 'Trouble,' a song Carrie Underwood performed back in season 4's Top 5 round.

This time, Lauren really aged up her act and stepped out of her comfort zone, singing about being "evil" at the urging of Lady Gaga, who insisted Lauren is "not a kid."

Steven loved how her character came out and J.Lo applauded her "mature performance quality" and "total attack" of the song. And Randy liked seeing Lauren do "the rocker thing" and show some attitude.

Finally, James Durbin took it home in the pimp spot with 'Love Potion Number Nine.' Lady Gaga helped James put his hips into the performance and he did not disappoint on that front, jumping on anything that didn't move. J.Lo expressed doubts early on about the song choice, but said James has proved he can sing anything. Randy praised James for "peaking at the right time" on the show and Steven called it, "incredible." "What you can't do with your voice, you did tonight" said the Aerosmith frontman.

A few more random observations from tonight:

-- Did you know Randy was once a member of Journey? Well, in case you missed it ...

-- Haley was once again singled out by the judges. Her second performance owned the night, but talking back to Randy and J.Lo could cost her, sadly.

-- Steven Tyler is a best-selling author. But what about J.Lo's new record?!! Need constant reminders!

-- Casey Abrams in the house with ex(?)girlfriend and Top 24er Julie Zorrilla. Plus Paul McDonald all over Nikki Reed in the front row.

-- Lauren doesn't want her 'Idol' journey to ever end. But if it does ... watch out!

Who's going home tomorrow night? Most likely Haley, though Lauren has an outside chance if Haley's second performance carries her through. No matter what goes down, we've got Jordin Sparks, Enrique Iglesias and Steven Tyler's new video to look forward to. Let us know your thoughts on tonight's Top 4 performances in the comments below, vote in our poll and stay tuned for an all new 'Something Pitchy' and Blake Lewis' take on the Top 4!

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



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Kelsey

You guys are all angrier than James was about his elimination. Understand that this isn't the end for him. It's really the beginning. James will go far. I really hope Haley wins, she's got a great voice and gives great performances. If Scotty or Lauren wins IDOL then America has lost it's sense in talent.

May 18 2011 at 10:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
banderweir

Boo f-ing hoo. So don't watch Idol again, nobody cares. I'm personally glad James got cut, all he did was scream. He was my favorite back during the top 24, but after the producers tried to turn him into Adam Lambert, I was done. I think he even wore a couple of the same outfits that Glambert wore... The voting isn't rigged, the way it's set up causes this to happen all the time (forget about Pia already?). The voting should be for the WORST, for who you want to go home. That would end most of these "upsets". But you must also remember that by the time they get to the top 4, someone damn good is going to get cut anyway. I said I would never watch after Daughtry got cut, then I said it again after Simon left, and you see how that worked out.
Haley 2011!!!!

May 13 2011 at 8:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bkltd6

I am in total agreement with not ever watching Idol again. I think the voting is rigged. James clearly had this won. I don't know what people "heard" but they clearly did not hear him. I hope Haliey goes next, what a little brat!

May 13 2011 at 6:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
disney1320

I THINK THE VOTING WAS RIGGED. I TRIED TO VOTE FOR JAMES NUMEROUS TIMES. ON BOTH NUMBERS. THE CALLS WOULDN'T GO THROUGH OR NO ANSWER. I DIDN'T HAVE ANY TROUBLE WITH THE OTHER CONTESTANTS NUMBERS. I THINK WE WERE ALL SCAMMED. DON'T THINK THIS IS A TEENY BOPPER TALKING. I AM 63 YEARS OLD. I JUST THINK IDOL WANTED HIM OFF THE SHOW. ALL THE JUDGES COULDN'T BE WRONG ALL THESE WEEKS. SHAME ON YOU AMERICAN IDOL. MY HUSBAND AND I DON'T WANT TO WATCH IT ANYMORE. THE JUDGES WERE GOOD THIS YEAR. I THINK THEY MESSED UP THE PHONE LINES. JUST NOT FAIR.

May 13 2011 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wandawmccormick

I HAVE WATCHED AMERICAN IDOL FROM DAY ONE. BUT I WILL NEVER WATCH IT AGAIN.

May 12 2011 at 9:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wandawmccormick's comment
LINDA & MICHAEL

wandawmccormick, You've said it all. Just like I was going too. It took me this long to get to my computer because I couldn't stop crying. This is unbelievable , James was the greatest! In his music and in his love for his family. I am so sad over this. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch American idol again. Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

May 12 2011 at 10:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wandawmccormick

JAMES, THIS IS ONLY A SPEEDBUMP IN YOUR CAREER, ITS NOT THE END. YOU WILL LOOK BACK ON THIS IN A YEAR AND LAUGH. ITS A POPULARITY CONTEST FOR TEENYBOPPERS, THATS ALL. LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN IDOL. AND LOOK AT WHO THE BIG STARS ARE. DOESN'T JIVE, DOES IT? ONLY FOR A FEW. AMERICAN IDOL IS NOT CREDIBLE. I WILL NEVER WATCH IT AGAIN. GOD BLESS YOU, YOUR WIFE, AND THAT LITTLE BABY THAT LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU! YOU'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 12 2011 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wandawmccormick

James, EVEN MY 58 YEAR OLD MOTHER LOVED YOU! KEEP IT UP! DON'T GIVE UP! YOU DESERVED TO WIN THIS! YOU ARE A SUPERSTAR ALREADY!

May 12 2011 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wandawmccormick's comment
LINDA & MICHAEL

This 53 year old mother also loved James and his music!

May 12 2011 at 10:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wandawmccormick

IT IS THURSDAY, AND JAMES IS OUT. SO AM I. I WILL NEVER WATCH AMERICAN IDOL AGAIN. JAmes, you deserved to win this. in my heart you did. please DON'T GIVE UP. YOU WILL BE A SUPERSTAR, AND i WILL BUY EVERY cd YOU MAKE!

May 12 2011 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
swr599

Haley is clearly the best singer they have here. The top 2 should have been her and Pia. But now that I've said that, she's probably going home tonight. Think about it, Jordan Sparks was the last female to win. Its probably going to be screamy mctwitchy that wins the whole thing, even though he screams his "note" in every song, even when its not needed.

May 12 2011 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alknows

Remember, everybody's going home tonight. But three of them will get parades and stuff!

May 12 2011 at 2:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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