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'American Idol' recap: Top 4 perform

Janell reports on last night's American Idol:

Welcome back to American Idol Season 10 the Remix! I was writing an intro in my head, and I couldn’t remember who got eliminated last week. Casey? No. Pia? No. Oh yeah, Jacob. Sorry, guess I stopped thinking about him long ago. Did you know this show is almost over? Two more weeks! Which, 1) I’ll be in some hotel room again and I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to recap it (I know that makes you all totally bummed) and, 2) did we get away without an “Inspirational Songs” theme night? I sure hope so.

The show opens with shots of past contestants going home and being greeted by screaming mobs. Are they going home this week? Never mind, what are the judges wearing? Randy Jackson is not wearing a cardigan per se, but he is wearing a light sport blazer with the sleeves rolled up. Jennifer Lopez is wearing a denim one-shouldered mini dress that says “Hey! Look at this hourglass figure here!” And Steven Tyler and his feathers are wearing some random pale patterns on his tight pants and scarf, plus a purple shirt. As the contestants come out, James kind of trips on the giant train of Lauren’s dress.

Oh, shoot, you guys. They are sneaking in inspirational songs tonight. At least Pia and Jacob aren’t here to emote all over them. Round 1 will be songs that inspire the contestants, and Round 2 will be songs from the Leiber & Stoller songbook, with mentoring by Lady Gaga. Maybe that will make sense when we get there.

James Durbin starts out. He is inspired by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” because he’s really into show choirs. Or not. He does a lot of shout outs to the crowd during the opening music, which sounds exactly like the original, since I guess any change would probably make it worse and have people crying out blasphemy. Oh, flames during the chorus! James isn’t doing crazy jumps, just some walking around the stage. He’s just a happy guy. I appreciate someone that enthusiastic, someone who doesn’t have to be coaxed and prodded into having a good time. Steven Tyler says he did it right. Jennifer Lopez says he did a great job. Randy points out James’s Journey T-shirt and Steve Perry-homage jacket, proclaiming Journey and Steve Perry one of the greatest rock bands and singers, equaled only by some band called Aerosmith and some guy named Steven Tyler.

Haley Reinhart is inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.” Call me a cynical old bat, but sometimes songs that so specifically point out troubles in the world aren’t my cup of tea. Perhaps I have a cold black heart because I don’t think that listening to a song about earth falling apart is going to fix it. Yes, that’s it, I have a cold black heart. So what can I say? Haley sang it nicely, with some ahhs and oohs, and she sang most of the end in a growl. Jennifer felt that Haley was inspired by her song, but she basically says that it wasn’t a good song choice, especially following James. A good message is one thing, but a song that will get the audience moving is quite another. Jennifer gets some minor boos for that. Randy agrees, plus he’s confused about her as an artist, and she needed more runs, and she was screaming. He was not a fan. Steven Tyler says Randy and J.Lo are wrong, so there.

Scotty McCreery is on stool chat, and Ryan addresses him as Scotty the Body. Turns out that next week is the Visit Home week, so whoever leaves this week will miss out on the big homecoming crowd. Scotty will be singing “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” by Alan Jackson. It’s a song about 9/11, with lyrics about CNN and Jesus and God and love, and it’s country. If you don’t like this song, then the terrorists win. (SKK: Tread lightly! That one time I admitted that I thought the song "God Bless the USA" was cheesy, a remarkable amount of vitriol rained down. But at least we were spared that one last night!) Scotty doesn’t have any big notes or fancy runs, and he wipes a tear away at the end. Randy says it was an amazing song and perfect song choice, it shows Scotty is ready for superstardom. Steven says it was beautiful. J.Lo is in love with him and likes “what you stand for, what you bring to your music.”

Lauren Alaina is singing “Anyway” by Martina McBride. I like this more abstract message better, “just do it anyway.” Lauren is wearing quite the ball gown, shorter in front so we can see its leopard-print lining. She’s standing at a microphone, I think she’s feeling it. I think the judges will say she’s reaching her potential. Steven says she did it again, she delivers a song like a blue plate special and he’s in love with the buckles on her shoes and with her dress. Jennifer: “Very good, baby, I’m so proud!” Randy says yo, Lauren is back in it to win it, you know what was wrong with it? Nothin’.

Ryan makes the judges declare a winner of Round 1. J.Lo skirts around, but Randy kind of says that everyone won except Haley.

Now it’s the songbook with Lady Gaga mentoring. Do I have to describe what she looks like for this? Because she looks like scary death, is what she looks like, with no eyebrows and skin-colored pyramids poking out near her eyeballs. Detour: my 5-year-old son is very much into the animated series Clone Wars right now, it’s about Anakin Skywalker’s adventures before he got all whiny and evil. Before bed, I read him a couple pages from an illustrated encyclopedia of Clone Wars, and tonight we covered Cassie Cryar, a “Terrellian jango jumper” and light saber thief. I could easily see Gaga trying to look like Cassie at some point. Hmm, the whole unfortunate prequel trilogy came out before Gaga was around, I bet she stole a lot of looks from the Lucasverse. Detour over.

It’s Haley’s turn again, they’re going out of order now. She’s singing “I Who Have Nothing,” which I remember Jordin Sparks singing in her season. Haley thinks she has a connection with Lady Gaga, and is happy to up the drama as much as she can. She’s backed by a string section sometimes playing in a scary minor key. She sings it well, growls, and shows her angry face. The judges give her a standing ovation, so it’s exactly a repeat from last week: failed first song, praise and standing ovation second song. Jennifer says, “Look what you’re capable of, this is why we can’t take it easy on you!” Randy says she just had a moment. Steven: “You just Reinharted yourself into next week.”

Scotty will be singing “Young Blood.” He didn’t tell us that, I had to do some Googling for you, you’re welcome. His video package with Lady Gaga is very short, something about him being afraid of her. Anyway, it’s one of his songs where he has fun, he struts around the stage, makes his silly faces and crazy eyes. Randy notes that Scotty had a good time, “we just saw both sides of a Scotty concert!” Steven says, “You make Gaga’s yaya go lala.” He also loved the humor. Jennifer says he hit his stride, and advises him to keep sprinting towards the finish line.

Lauren is singing “Trouble,” and the lyrics are “I’m evil” over and over. She’s very worried about telling America that she’s evil, because she thinks America will believe her and not vote for her. Lady Gaga tells her to chill and get into character. Lauren is wearing lots of gold sequins, and really acting (for her). She has some shoulder swivels, struts around and has fun, and even tries a little rock star jump at the end. Steven loves her. Jennifer saw a new performance quality to her, and a maturity, too. Randy enjoyed her fun side and rocker attitude.

Finally, James will be singing “Love Potion No. 9.” Oh, hey, I like this song! It’s one of those, “why does this song even exist?” songs. In rehearsal, Lady Gaga tries to get him to swivel his hips. It doesn’t seem to stick for the performance, his dance moves are more skip, jump, bend the knees. But the song has been turned into very big-hair rock, James gets in a wail and a guitar solo. He really draws out the last few words, with big silences in between and maybe a Guns ‘N Roses flair? You know what I think? Where’s his standing ovation? He took a silly song and made it head-banging and played the big rock star, so good for him. Jennifer: “You know what that showed me? You can sing anything.” Randy says he’s peaking at the right time, and having a moment every week. Steven says it was incredible.

So that’s it. At the end, Ryan reminds us that this is the week that Daughtry went home, so, you know, vote for James. What do you think? Is it time for Haley to go home, since she’s been a little inconsistent? Did Lauren peak enough to move forward? Will America remember to vote for James? Is Scotty America’s sweetheart? Barring anything shocking, I think maybe Haley is out.

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