'American Idol:' Top 3 Perform for a Shot at the Finale Recap
On the heels of an inspiring hometown visit, yet with two-thirds of the night out of their hands, how did Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart handle the pressure?
Before the Idols took to the stage, a proper introduction to this week's first round mentor and "bona fide international megastar" Beyoncé was necessary. She's sold a gazillion records, is more iconic than the Mona Lisa and Statue of Liberty combined and can walk on water. Okay, now that's out of the way, on with the show.
The first round featured each Idol's personal (and arguably best) picks of the night. Scotty McCreery met with Beyoncé to work on his choice of Lonestar's 'Amazed.' Beyoncé seemed genuinely excited to meet with Scotty, who she called "incredible." After hearing his rendition of the already classic country ballad, she did express some concern about his confidence when reaching into his higher register. Beyoncé inferred that Scotty chose to save those high notes for later in the competition, which she called "clever."
As for the live performance, it wasn't Scotty's strongest and at times his vocals seemed to get swallowed up by the back-up singers. Saving his upper register until the end may just look like a weakness, as Scotty still needs to work on that aspect of his voice.
However, Steven said Scotty gets "better and better" each week and also took note of the "anger" he exhibited when the song modulated. J.Lo remarked on how much Scotty has grown as a performer and also appreciated his vibrato, which has been coming out more and more in recent performances. Randy, who reminded us that he recorded a version of the song with Boyz II Men, commended Scotty's song choice, even though it was pitchy at times.
Scotty remarked on the "angry" moment Steven mentioned, during the break, blaming his emotions for getting for the best of him.
Next up, Lauren met with Beyoncé for her choice of 'Wild One' by Faith Hill. The former Destiny's Child singer said she liked Lauren best when she "has fun and loosens up," which this song allowed her to do. Though still a bit stiff, Lauren seemed very comfortable in this familiar favorite of hers.
J.Lo said Lauren "attacked" the song, creating "a moment." Randy liked Beyoncé's advice about psyching herself up for a performance and applauded Lauren's song choice, commenting that she's at her best when she let's herself go. And Steven said Lauren was singing it like she "owned the song." "You are so ready for this," said Steven and "Ready for America to be all over you," he added. I'm not going to extrapolate anything from that ...
Haley closed out the first round with Led Zeppelin's 'What Is and What Should Never Be.' Beyoncé admired Haley's "fearlessness," "conviction" and "risk taking," not going with a pop song everyone knows. For what it's worth, I'm more familiar with Led Zeppelin's catalog than that of Bruno Mars or Katy Perry ... but that's just me.
Joined by her father on guitar, Haley rocked out to the Led Zep classic, though fans will probably remember her stumble back to the stage as clearly as her great vocals. It was probably the busiest performance of the night, but also the best.
Like Beyoncé, Randy applauded Haley's fearlessness. "That's not a song for the weak of heart" said the veteran judge, labeling it one of her "best performances ever." And Steven had a bit of fun with Haley's misstep. "It's not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up," said the Aerosmith frontman.
As round one came to a close, Ryan queried the judges on who took the first part of the evening, with all three giving it to Haley.
Scotty returned to kick off round two with Jimmy Iovine's pick of 'Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?' by Thompson Square. Iovine felt the lyrics were great for Scotty and said the song reminded him of the Tom Petty album's he worked on.
It was vintage Scotty, complete with guitar, though he held back on the funny faces and mingling with female members of the audience. Though not a breakout performance, the judges approved.
"I never heard you deliver a chorus like that before, " remarked Steven. J.Lo loved it when Scotty grabbed his guitar and noted that he was "in the zone" and so comfortable in his skin. J.Lo also requested that Scotty go back to his 'Idol' audition look by shaving his head. But will the little girls at home approve? And Randy loved Scotty's range on the song and compared him to country great Garth Brooks.
Next up, Lauren Alaina took on the Jimmy Iovine-assigned 'If I Die Young' by The Band Perry. The first half of the song was strong, but Lauren seemed to lose her way in the middle, stumbling when the song modulated to a higher key.
J.Lo remarked that Lauren has "a beautiful tone" and said that her fumble in the middle was a "very honest moment." Randy and Steven both applauded Lauren for pulling it together and taking the song home.
Haley followed Lauren with Fleetwood Mac's 'Rhiannon' at Jimmy's request, who felt she should sing a Stevie Nicks song from day one. A tough song for sure and Haley seemed a bit intimidated by the task at hand. Though she got through it unscathed, it wasn't Haley's strongest performance.
Randy was amused by Haley's visible sense of relief at the end of the song and said her pitch was perfect, though it was a bit of a "somber" performance. Steven said it was a nice contrast to the earlier Zeppelin performance, though he thought she might take it a little further.
At the end of the second round, Steven called it Lauren's while J.Lo and Randy said the second song of the night went to Scotty.
After an obligatory screening of Beyoncé's post-apocalyptic girl power anthem, 'Run the Word, (Girls),' Scotty McCreery took to the stage for the judges pick, 'She Believes in Me,' by Kenny Rogers. The judges likely wanted to push Scotty into his upper register with this pick. It wasn't quite the right fit, but he mostly pulled it off.
Steven said it was his "first big chorus" and "put it over the top." "We all wanted to see if you could hit that big chorus, for the first time. I guess you showed us" said J.Lo. Randy said Scotty was "sweet and tender in the front" and hit the chorus.
Lauren followed Scotty with Lee Ann Womack's 'I Hope You Dance,' a song Lauren obviously felt comfortable with. It was a good performance from the sometimes shaky Georgia teen. J.Lo got "goosies" and "dared" to say Lauren won the round, already. Randy admitted that 'I Hope You Dance' is one of his "favorite songs in life" and added an "in it to win it," which has become completely meaningless at this point.
Closing out the night was Haley with Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know.' Although I was excited about this pick, earlier today, I did have some concerns about the "adult themes" of Alanis' first big hit on 'Idol.'
Haley did the song justice, but changing the lyrics in addition to the tricky subject matter made it a less than stellar choice. Haley definitely struggled with the lower notes in the song, which the judges noticed. Though Randy and Steven said Haley nailed the chorus and J.Lo said no one can match Haley's power. Still, a rough song to end such an important night with.
Steven gave round three to Haley, while J.Lo and Randy both said it was all Lauren, for whatever that's worth.
A few additional random observations:
-- Beyonce as mentor? Is her star power just too staggering for the Idols to handle? Mrs. Jay-Z is right! Lauren needs a serious dose of 'Diva.'
-- Lauren's mom, however, has all the 'Diva' she needs!
-- Scotty's Dad can also "lock them doors and turn the lights down." Who knew?
-- Haley's Dad sure can shred!
-- Nice recovery from that fall, Haley. Otherwise, a flawless performance
-- "Got caught up in the honesty of what you were creating," -- J.Lo, to Lauren. In other words, you $%*ed up.
-- Haley gets the wind machine! Now we know the fix is totally in!
-- Haley got the worst song picks from the judges, but still owned the night thanks to Led Zep.
So who's in the finale? I suspect it's Scotty vs. Haley with Lauren going home tomorrow, but at this stage, anything's possible. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments, vote in our poll and check out an all new 'Something Pitchy!'
'American Idol' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET on Fox.