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Janell reports on the penultimate performance episode of this season of Idol:

It's the week before the finale, everyone. We lost a scarf tail, and didn't even get our lives back. It's triumphant home visit night, and James Durbin got a conciliatory visit home, too, just so he could show off his giant wrestling belt. Don't cry for Durbin, people, (even though I might have, a little).

Please welcome your judges. Randy Jackson has returned to wearing a cardigan, a nice blue one over a white shirt and technicolor tie. Jennifer Lopez is wearing a curve-hugging dress (as if she ever wears any other kind) made of silver flames. Steven Tyler is wearing a dark blazer over a shirt that might be leopard-printed, plus leather pants. He looks chic and rock star-ish. I haven't gone out of my way to appreciate him in a while because he doesn't say exciting things, but he still looks nice. Some guy in the audience is wearing a dog costume, and I hope they don't explain why.

Tonight's show will be an epic 2 hours, and each contestant will sing 3 songs. The first song will be their choice, and they'll be mentored by Beyonce. The second song will be Jimmy Iovine's choice, and the third song will be chosen by the judges. Let's kick this thing down the hill, shall we?

Scotty McCreery starts off singing "Amazed" by Lone Star. Beyonce thinks he's a cutie pie. Scotty leans on a piano wearing a checked shirt and a denim jacket. It screams, "I'm just a country boy!" I think Scotty's really been working on his microphone grip, trying to keep it more vertical and using only one hand so the other hand is free to wave about and make dramatic gestures. He hits a high note (for him) and holds the ending just right. Out in the audience, 6 people hold up letters to spell out SCOTYT. Steven: "Did I hear you get angry during that modulation when you went upstairs and kicked that song into the middle of next week?" Raise your hand if you were thinking that exact same thing. Jennifer likes that he's using his vibrato now. Randy informs us that he produced the Boyz II Men version of that song. He loved how Scotty ended the song, and he exclaims, "That's money! Scotty's got money!" Hey Randy, it's a little late in the game to be pushing a new catchphrase on us. Maybe you should save that for next year.

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Lauren Alaina will be singing “Wild One” by Faith Hill, a song that she’s been singing with her friend for her whole life. Beyonce tells her to get a Sasha Fierce persona to get over the nerves onstage. So, she sings fine, although to me it sounds like she swallows the low notes and runs out of breath at the end of her phrases. I imagine it’s because she’s been singing the song her whole life and hasn’t changed how she sings it. Or am I getting all critique-y? Basically, to borrow one of Randy’s phrases, I’m not jumping up and down. The judges disagree. Jennifer calls her “our little baby,” and says she attacked it. Randy says it’s a nice song choice. Steven says she shined in the B section, whenever that was.

Haley Reinhart is up next. Get ready, folks. She’s singing “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin. Beyonce accurately points out that Haley is a risk taker. Haley chose the song because she grew up around classic rock, and her parents are in a band, and -- wait for it -- her dad will be playing guitar onstage with her. She starts out singing at the top of a purple staircase, kind of like a lounge singer. She dances with her dad, who is rocking out. During a faster part she runs around the judges, then trips as she climbs up to the stairs again. The end of the song is all “baby baby” and “do do do” and she wails and dances, and I’m thinking there are so many wins about this performance. Zeppelin? Win. Dad? Win. Falling down? Win. You can’t forget that. Randy Jackson jumps up. He says that now is when she needs to be great and fearless, and that song is not for the weak of heart. Steven asks, “Haley, did you fall for me?” He calls it superb. Jennifer says everyone’s fallen onstage, and even when she was performing last week the sound went out. She says it was a tough song and Haley sang it really great.

(SKK: Maybe it's just because I, too, was raised surrounded by classic rock, but I *adored* this. I literally watched it back 10 times last night. I hardly ever do that with Idol, and I certainly haven't done it this season until now

.)

Randy says that Haley won round 1.

After the commercials, Scotty is on stool chat. Ryan shows Scotty’s entire first audition again, he had some short hair! And he was only 16, I did not remember that. Jimmy Iovine chooses the song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” by Thompson Square. I don’t know the song or the band, and for a brief moment I hoped that I misheard Jimmy and it was some unknown song by the Thompson Twins. Wouldn’t that be cool? Please travel back with me for a moment to 1984 (go back to my recap of the Year You Were Born episode and remember how much I loved the music from 1984), and sing those opening lines to “Hold Me Now” with me: “[growl] I have a picture [pause] [pause] [angst] Pinned! To my wall!” I need some shoulder pads, stat. Okay, it turns out that Scotty is singing a country song. He’s playing guitar at the microphone and wearing tight dark jeans. Did I notice that? He’s got a strong stance. He’s getting into the character of the song, is what I’m saying. It sounds good. Then he does his flirty eyes at the end, with the eyebrows, and the crowd jumps up and screams. The audience sign now correctly spells his name. Steven says “I’ve never heard you deliver a chorus like that before, you were living that one!” Yep. Jennifer says there were so many moments that she loved, she could tell he was in the zone. Then she asks him to shave his hair down like it was at the audition. Randy points out his own short hair, and Scotty says, “SHDC,” which Randy translates as “Short Hair Don’t Care,” and, what? Is this a thing? Is this something I should know about? Do I need to delete Thompson Twins lyrics from my brain so that I have room to add this new slang? Randy says that Scotty is approaching a Garth Brooks level of performance (go back and read all of my recaps to find the one where I discuss my unnatural hatred of Garth Brooks, because I don’t know when I brought it up). Ryan Seacrest comes onstage and mentions that there are hair trimmers backstage, so let’s wait and see.

Backstage, Lauren’s pantyhose ripped, so a makeup artist is shimmering her legs. Stars, they’re just like us! Jimmy Iovine chose the song “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry. Not the band, Perry, but The Band Perry. Jimmy and Lauren talk about how the lyrics are sad but optimistic. I had to Google the band, so I double-checked the lyrics. It really is about “if I die young,” and turn me into a rainbow, I’ve had just enough time, and the sharp knife of a short life. Really? Sorry for not knowing anything about this song before, but, really? Romanticizing early death? I guess I can understand it from Anne Shirley’s (yes, Anne of Green Gables) obsession with “The Lady of Shalott,” a poem by Tennyson; Anne practiced floating dead down a river looking pretty. Oh, guess what? Wikipedia tells me that The Band Perry’s video of the song mimics the poem, so maybe they were inspired by it? This is digging me into a college vortex, where I was an English major, and I don’t think I want to go there. I’ll just make a quick public service announcement: dying young isn’t romantic! I keep thinking of Blink-182’s “Adam’s Song,” that’s more realistic (and depressing). So, Lauren sings the song. Jennifer likes her beautiful tone, and says there was an honest moment when she missed a key change. Randy noticed a couple stumbles, but she stayed in it. Steven loved it.

Haley will be singing “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac. Interesting. Jimmy tells her to build towards the end. The stage is foggy, and when the song picks up, Haley stands front and center while a discreetly placed fan makes her all flowy. She does some good swaying moves and looks very pretty, she keeps it soft. Randy laughs at the end, because she looks so relieved that it’s over. Haley is glad she remembered the words. He says it was pitch perfect and somber. Randy also asks Steven if guys get wind machines too, because it might be worth growing his hair out. Hey, SHDC! Steven thinks it was beautiful. Jennifer says it was a nice contrast and an ethereal moment.

(SKK: I couldn't help but wonder whether a fan like that would end up drying out the throat of a singer. It didn't seem to happen to Haley, but it sure seems like it could.)

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At the end of Round 2, Steven thinks Lauren won, but J.Lo and Randy vote Scotty.

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Oh, here’s the latest video from Beyonce. It’s set in a dystopian future where women wear unsensible stilettos in a desert landscape and have dance battles while occasionally setting cars on fire.

Finally, round 3. In a clip from the home visit, Scotty is at the grocery store where he used to work when he gets a text from “the judges” that his song will be “She Believes in Me” by Kenny Rogers. I guess all the judges are taking credit for the song choices, so there won’t be any bickering like there used to be. I like that. So, Scotty is sitting by the piano. I can only describe it as Melancholy Scotty is singing melancholically. Jennifer sings along. I’m reminded that I like Kenny Rogers, but maybe only because he sang “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton and 1) that song is kitschy and awesome on so many levels; and 2) so is Dolly Parton. Steven points out that this was Scotty’s first big chorus, and he put it over the top. Jennifer says the judges wanted to see if he could hit the chorus, and he sure showed them. Randy says it’s about stretching and believing, nicely done. Oh, Scotty’s hair is not shaved, darn it.

Lauren is at some outdoor Lauren Alaina festival when she gets a text saying her song is “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Doesn’t it seem like she already sang this? Aren’t all of her songs full of optimism and hope for the future? Except the one song about dying young? What I’m saying is, the judges did not select a genre-busting song. Lauren looks very pretty and sings it mostly clean, with a few growls and a falsetto. Jennifer got goose bumps, and claims that Lauren won the round already. Randy says it’s one of his favorite songs, and his close personal friend Lee Ann Womack must be watching and thinking that Lauren slayed it. Steven also claims to be friends with Lee Ann. She must run in some crazy circles, right?

Haley is being chauffeured in a car when she gets a text from the judges. That’s strange and lonely. She’ll be singing “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. I both know and like this song, hurray! Except that just means that Haley doesn’t sing it as well as I’d like her to. She can’t keep up with the “’cause the love that you gave that we made” part, I guess she had too many lyrics to learn this week. I kind of feel like she skipped over it as best she could to get to the chorus, which she could scream. And scream she does. But because I like this song, she doesn’t do it quite right. I think it’s because she’s too smiley. She needed to get some angry face lessons from Casey, it didn’t have enough hate in it. Randy says the choruses were good, and he points out her rhythm problems during the fast sections. Steven says it was so perfect and she nailed the chorus. Jennifer agrees that the chorus was good, but they all heard the same thing in the middle. Sigh. That should have been awesome. (

SKK: And I will bring this up, too. I figured they would just skip this verse, but changing it to: "Is she perverted like me, would she go out with you to the theater?" ... that killed me dead with the laughter. Going to plays = perverted behavior? High comedy.)

Steven thinks Haley won round 3, but J.Lo and Randy vote for Lauren. If you’re keeping score at home, Haley won round 1, Scotty won round 2, Lauren won round 3, and Steven Tyler doesn’t agree with anyone.

That’s it! I can’t even decide anymore. I’d like to see Haley make it to the finale because I like her song choices better, so she’s more interesting for me to watch. But they’re all good. I’d be surprised if Scotty went home, but I probably said that last week about James. What do you think?

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