S10E36: If things go my way in the elimination round tonight, we’ll have an all-girl finale — and that’s after we spent most of the season saying American Idol has a “woman problem” because the contestant set was predominately male for most of the competition. Now we’ve got two girls duking it out with one lone country boy and it doesn’t seem all that unlikely that he could fall into that third place slot.
Now, I’ve said it time and again, I like Scotty McCreery. It’s not that I wish him ill, but if you look at last night’s performances, it’s pretty clear that Lauren and Haley have got just a little something extra onstage. Really, I’d be okay with any of these three at the top because my Idol hopes were dashed when Casey Abrams was sent home weeks ago, so at this point whoever wins is almost a consolation prize. That’s not to say these folks aren’t talented, because they are. With that in mind, here are the top three and their performances in order of best to not-as-good-but-still-pretty-great. And this week, since the contestants each did a song chosen by the judges, a song chosen by Jimmy Iovine and a song of their own choosing and we’ve got so much material to sort out, I’ll include the video of my favorite performance out of the three from each contestant.
“Wild One” by Faith Hill
“I Hope You Dance” by Martina McBride
“If I Die Young” by The Band Perry
This was a hard decision; do I put Lauren or Haley first? In Lauren’s case, she’s already pretty on point as the artist she would become if she wins. She’s ready to hit the studio, the stage and her own tour, and that’s why she’s first on this list. The performances we saw last night were beautiful, and she hit every note perfectly. She excels at the upbeat songs like “Wild One” no matter how dated the song is, she brings her own presence to “I Hope You Dance” despite how well-known the song is, and her rendition of “If I Die Young” was surprisingly deep for a 15 year-old. That last bit is what pushes her that tiny bit ahead of Haley. She makes us forget how young she is. When Lauren is onstage, she could be a Carrie Underwood or a Faith Hill. She already knows how.
That being said, that comparison — which proved to be unavoidable — is exactly why I’m not sure I want to see her win the whole thing. I really, really like her and want her to succeed — and let’s be real here, it’s likely the top two will both get contracts — but Haley is just so refreshingly different from past winners and Lauren is so firmly situated in the same slots as past winners that it’s a little boring to me. I think we tend to forget that Idol serves two purposes; one is to find another pop star and the other to produce entertaining television. Picking the one who’s most easily the winner is predictable, boring even. Yes, Lauren was the “underdog” for a while, but I think it’s because she’s what we expect to see on Idol and voters were distracted by all the span of interesting peopel. She’s damn good at what she does, but it’s certainly not something new.
“What Is and Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin
“Rihannon” by Fleetwood Mac
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette
I love this girl and I’m so happy to see she’s made it this far, but last night she proved a friend of mine right. Said friend argued that she’s not ready beyond performing on the Idol stage; she needs more practice. Well, that friend was right. Last night’s performances proved that Haley’s got tons of raw talent, but that she’s still very much in the learning process. On the flip side of that, I will say that when she fell during the Zeppelin song — which was excellent and refreshingly different — she got right back up and kept on going. It did seem to shake her a wee bit for the rest of the song, but for the most part she held on.
As for the other performances, I’ve got quite a few bones to pick. First off, I’m not sure “Rihannon” was the right choice, Mr. Iovine. He chose this song for Haley, and while she sang it well, it didn’t allow her to show off her voice very significantly and whoever staged it really loves 1992. The staging was dated, the fan and soft glow was distracting and the vocals weren’t that engrossing. It just didn’t work. As for “You Oughta Know,” I see why the judges picked it for her. Like they all reiterated, the choruses were fantastic, amazing even. But when it came to the rest of the song, which is, you know, kind of important, she couldn’t hold her own. To her credit, Morissette’s song is incredibly difficult, especially if Haley only had a tiny bit of time to learn it and especially since she didn’t choose it, so at least she grabbed onto the parts she could really do something great with and made them work. I still love her, but I’m just not sure these performances helped her.
“Amazed” by Lonestar
“Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” by Thompson Square
“She Believes In Me” by Kenny Rogers
Scotty, Scotty, Scotty. I just can’t imagine picking his slow, twangy stilings over Lauren or Haley’s powerful voices. I just can’t. I think I’ve reached the end of the line with Scotty. This competition is a mainstream music competition, a pop music competition. And while pop music has certainly widened its definition and its reach, I still think Scotty is specifically a country singer. He’s not mainstream and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that means he’s not exactly cut out to be a pop idol.
That aside, his performances this week were a little thin and a little sleepy. Yes, he tried to stretch his range and that was a bold move, but when you’ve got vocals that are as intense as Haley’s and Lauren’s there’s just not much competition. I will say, however, that his rendition of “Amazed” was sweet, tender and very enjoyable. I like Scotty, I’m just not sure he belongs in the finale.