‘American Idol’ Recap: Lady Gaga Coaches the Top 4

James DurbinS10E34: We’ve come to that point on Idol where we know all the contestants so well that we’re looking for something that really surprises us – or we’re just waiting around until our votes are counted because we already know who we want to win. It’s really tough this year because each of these singers occupy such different genres of music. We’ve got the 80s rock resurrection in James, the bluesy stylings of Haley, the country pop segment from Lauren, and the strong, old fashioned country western style from Scotty. They’re all over the place. When you try to pick out who’s the “best,” it’s a bit like playing the desert island game, except instead of three books or three albums, it’s one person.

This week our top four performed two songs each, one by song-writing duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and one from the incredibly ambiguous category of “Inspirational Songs.” As we mentioned earlier, Lady Gaga served as the top fours’ mentor this week, and while she didn’t actually offer terrible advice she did do it while looking like a crazy person. Whether you know you’re talking to Lady Gaga or not, when someone stares deeply into your eyes while wearing a leotard, giant heels, dinosaur bones on her face and some seriously strange face makeup, it’s going to be a little unsettling. Even so, she gives some fairly sound advice and that leads us to the important part: the performances.

Here are your top four and I’ve ranked them as usual, which was a pretty trying task this time.

Haley Reinhart

“I (Who Have Nothing)” by Ben E. King

I’m going to start with the best part, because it happened second and therefore is probably the only part most of us will remember past today anyway, both because it was later in the show and because it was fantastic. Haley did her usual amazing vocals and turned a typically sleepy song into something amazing. This is why she’s still here and this is why she should stay.

“The Earth Song” by Michael Jackson

And this is the performance she was recovering from – but that’s not to say it was terrible. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this song because it’s a little too dated and it’s hard to separate it from Michael Jackson. I do agree with Jennifer and Randy that her voice was a little strained, and hence that growl came on just a little too strong, but it certainly wasn’t awful. Even with this performance I still stand by her and think that she deserves a spot in the top three. Well, she deserves to win, but I doubt she can take down Scotty and James with the rabid fan-bases they’ve both acquired. One last thing I’d like to note is that Jennifer is losing it; she compares Haley’s performance to James’ performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” saying that Haley didn’t have energy like James. Um, yes she did. She wasn’t singing an up tempo song that everyone drunkenly sings all the time, but she had energy. Thank God for Steven Tyler, man. At least he gets it.

Lauren Alaina

“Anyway” by Martina McBride

This is a girl who knows she needs to fight like all hell to stay on this show, and boy is she ever fighting. With that rabid fan base I mentioned before, it’s really down to the two ladies and Lauren clearly isn’t ready to leave. She’s really taken every criticism (all three of them) and put it to good use. This was an absolutely beautiful rendition of the song and I think it may make what seemed like Haley’s surefire advancement a little rockier.

“Trouble” by Elvis Presley

And here we have more of the same, but this time with that upbeat country pop flair. Any other year, this girl would have been the Carrie Underwood shoe-in for the winner, but it seems that folks are going for other styles. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if these performances kick her votes up a notch.

Scotty McCreery

“Young Blood” by The Coasters

This is Scotty’s victory lap. It’s almost like he knows he’s got this round in the bag and he’s waltzing on through. Granted, it lends an air of ease to his performances that I’m really starting to get on board with right up until he does that weird wide-eyed look. Then again, that can always be fixed with a little coaching.

“Where Were You” by Alan Jackson

I’ve really got the same thing to say with this second song. He knows what works and he knows he doesn’t have to push himself to achieve the best results and that’s what we’ve got here. It’s great, but it’s just a little strange to see someone sitting back so comfortably while the others are fighting tooth and nail.

James Durbin

“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey

Really? Really James? You pick the number one karaoke song in the country in a competition that is constantly ridiculed as nothing more than a giant karaoke contest? This is a move from a guy who knows he’s a frontrunner. Yes, everyone knows this song and by most accounts, everyone loves it, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: this song is the best song ever even when some drunken, tone-deaf weirdo with a lisp sings it in a dingy bar at 3 a.m. It just confirms my belief that James is all show. I know he’s incredibly popular and that folks seems to love his voice, but I’ve got to be honest, and honestly, I still don’t get it.

“Love Potion #9” by The Clovers

I actually didn’t hate this performance from James, but as usual, I didn’t love it either. It seems that he may have read some of the criticisms around the internet because after his almost tone-deaf performance last week, he seems to be giving a lot more attention to the actual vocals. It’s just too bad that it’s his voice that I’m not down with, not just a particularly bad set of performances.

Who’s going home? It’s a toss-up between Lauren and Haley. As much as I love Lauren, I hope that voters give Haley a chance, though she’ll probably eventually get the boot too with Scotty and James in her way.