'American Idol' recap: Top 6 take on Carole King

Janell absolutely rocks, recapping last night's Idol from her vacation. Here's the story:

Let me set the scene for you guys. I'm in a hotel room as I type this, my two kids are a barricaded door away supposedly sleeping, but I can hear them conspiring over the baby monitor. My husband is reading a book on the bed next to me, and I am going to recap live, with the volume down, without the benefit of my Tivo. I'm practically camping, this is so primitive. At least I've got wifi. And a touch of sleep deprivation. Let's go!

Ryan Seacrest gets to introduce the show live again, since he's introducing the top 6 slowly. Casey gives the camera twitchy eyes. The judges come out, and Steven Tyler is decked out in shiny silver head to toe. Jennifer Lopez counters by wearing a bronze dress with feathers at the bottom. Randy Jackson? Cardigan, again.

Guess what the songs are tonight? The songs of Carole King. Now, I have nothing against her, I accept that she is an excellent and decorated singer and songwriter. However. Last week we had songs from the past decade. The Carole King package highlights that her first song was recorded in 1961, her big album was in 1971, and her most recent collaboration was with James Taylor, another fine-but-not-recently-fine artist. Okay. In an attempt to contemporize things, Jimmy Iovine is bringing his friend Babyface to sit in on rehearsals.


Jacob starts us out, singing “Oh No Not My Baby.” He rehearses when and how to do some crazy singing. Jacob is wearing a dark blue plaid jacket, yellow shirt, bright blue vest, yellow shoes, and a purple striped bowtie. Enjoy that vision. He moves his hips a bit while singing, and has some neck swivels. Dare I say he is getting funky?! He even does some scatting, it shows life. I like it. Steven Tyler says “It’s about time you shook your tail feathers.” Jennifer Lopez says it was a tricky song, and had little spaces of imperfection, but he killed it. Randy Jackson says yo. Also, it was energetic.

Lauren will be singing “Where You Lead,” aka the theme song to “Gilmore Girls.” Because it’s become a Thing, Jimmy Iovine brings Miley Cyrus into Lauren’s rehearsal. They bond over their similar accents, and Miley tells Lauren that people will always say mean things about her, so she’ll have to find a way to deal with it. Lauren still wears cowboy boots while she sings, and it’s still a fairly country song. She gets a boy from the audience and makes him sit on the steps while she sings to him, then wanders off to sing to the judges, then she comes back and cuddles with him. She does hit some high notes, in more of a falsetto yodeling way. After the song Lauren sends the boy back to his seat without so much as a hug. Jennifer is so proud of her, Lauren’s voice broke which meant she was pushing herself. Randy notes that Lauren came out with extra swagger. He didn’t love the song for her (yeah, me neither) but he loved that she came up with a vengeance. Steven says she shined when her voce broke. I don’t think I noticed that momentous voice crack, sorry. Ryan brings Audience Boy back to the steps and points out the 3-year age difference between him and Lauren before dismissing him.

Tonight we also get duets from folks, so Haley and Casey are singing “I Feel the Earth Move.” It’s not bad, Casey’s scary face works, they dance around the judges’ table, and they personalize it near the end, almost making it modern. It came across that they worked on it a lot together. Steven Tyler calls Casey Weird Beard, “I see how much in love with Haley you are, it showed.” They worked the stage well, had good rhythm, it was nothing but good. And that will be the only comment you get from the judges.

Scotty is up next, singing “You’ve Got A Friend.” Jimmy says it’s the most romantic song Scotty’s tried to sing, which makes me laugh because it has the word friend in the title. Scotty sits on the stairs, looking earnest. He’s holding the microphone at a more downward angle than usual, with the strongest grip I’ve seen. It’s like most of the Scotty mannerisms are gone. The song is a slower arrangement, and he looks at the camera and it is kind of romantic. Huh, how about that? I think he made it his own, as they like to say. Randy says dude. Also, Scotty slowed down, the beginning was flawless, and Scotty has a buttery tenor that we didn’t know he had. Steven says it was the right song to show all of Scotty off. Jennifer says he was reaching for the higher register, but she loves the storytelling element. Ryan sits on the stairs, mimicking Scotty, and asks to whom Scotty was singing. Scotty says no one, but he does oblige Ryan by giving “the look” during the phone numbers.

James Durbin is singing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” He points out that this week he’ll be without marching band and flaming piano. He stands alone with his electric guitar, strums one chord, and sings the intro a capella. Then the backup kicks in, and J.Lo starts dancing in her seat. I’m in the James camp. Have I fully admitted that yet? There you go. Steven liked the beginning, didn’t love the rock part at first but then it grew. He says that that was the first song he ever made out to with a girl to at a bowling alley, and he didn’t strike out. Jennifer says it was magical from the beginning, she was moving for the first time all night, he’s the biggest star of the night. She points out that James has had a strong week every week. Randy says that James isn’t just a great rock singer, he’s a great singer, and it was one of the best performances of the last couple of months. He claims that James could win the whole thing, and so Ryan makes James and Randy hug.

Lauren and Scotty have a stool chat because their duet is next. Ryan asks what’s going on with them, and lets Scotty get away with saying they’re like brother and sister. They sing “Up on the Roof” while sitting on the steps the whole time. They harmonize well and even sound flirty. Jennifer says that Lauren can sing her brains off, and Scotty sang the “second voice” very well.

After the break, Steven Tyler has a little girl sitting on his lap, and Ryan points out Carole King’s daughter in the audience.

Casey Abrams is singing “Hi De Ho.” If you were choosing songs based solely upon their titles, wouldn’t 100% of you have chosen this song for Casey? He’s got various backup people scattered across the stage, and he saunters around singing to each of them. Saxophone girl is back. The performance is, in a word, cool. Randy likes how Casey keeps the show different, and it took him back to New Orleans. Steven says that Casey worked the stage well, and it “made my scalp itch, it was so good.” Jennifer says it was definitely in his element, and now she’d like to see him loosen up physically, especially in the legs. Wasn’t she there last week, witnessing his stiff robot legs? I don’t know if they can loosen up.

Haley is singing “Beautiful,” a song with a faster section and a slower section. I prefer the slower part, myself. I think my cold medicine is kicking in now, because Haley did a great job but I have nothing to say about it. Steven says that she’s beautiful and she nailed it. Jennifer says Haley has one of the best voices in the competition. Randy didn’t love the beginning, but he loved the end.

Finally, it’s the pairing that everyone has been waiting for: Jacob and James. They’ll be singing “I’m Into Something Good,” a song popularized by Herman’s Hermits. I point that out only because I really like Herman’s Hermits. Jacob and James are both wearing white pants and black jackets. I think James shouldn’t wear white pants. They sing fine, then run behind J.Lo and pull her chair out and sing to her on their knees. Her legs are very shiny. They turn the song into a rivalry at the end, finishing with some competitive wailing. Their notes are equally high. Listen, people (and that is an ode to Herman’s Hermits, because I wasn’t joking when I said that I liked them), this was kind of silly but it showed their personalities, and that can’t hurt, right? Steven says they were having fun, and they both sing great, but “where were you going with all that?” “Going to church!” says James. Ryan steps in, asking America if they’d like to vote for Jennifer’s legs.

That’s it. Randy pointed out tonight that there’s less than a month to the finale, so it’s not too early for me to call James and Scotty as the final two. Who’s down with that? That’s also my way of copping out of picking the bottom 3. They all did fine, but eventually most of them will get cut, and I don’t know if the order makes much difference now. Tune in for the results, where we’ll also see Bruno Mars and Crystal Bowersox.