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'American Idol' recap: The top six take on Carole King

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It's down to the top six on "American Idol," and on Wednesday night, Jacob Lusk, Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, James Durbin, Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart lent their voices to the (remember how amazing?) songs of Carole King.

Woven into the evening's vocal tapestry were also three duets: Casey and Haley shook things up and attractively growled their way through "I Feel the Earth Move." (Judging from their obvious chemistry –- they sure crack one another up, those crazy kids –- they may well be adorably dueting offstage as well. "Hey, weird beard," Steven teased, prompting a frozen look from Casey when he asked, "How much in love with Haley are you? Come on, man, it showed.")

Lauren trailed Scotty behind her as she ascended to new heights on "Up on the Roof." (She took the lead in manners, too, politely saying Scotty was "kind of cute" when asked by Ryan Seacrest about a possible offscreen romance, whereas Scotty said they were "like brothers and sisters" -- ouch!) And James and Jacob, who sang "I'm Into Something Good," at one point to Jennifer Lopez's legs, seemed to endure their pairing as best they could. (Steven gave their effort what may have been his worst review to date: "Where were you going with all that?" he wondered.)

Here's how the individual performances broke down:

Jacob Lusk, "Oh No Not My Baby": Before Jacob stepped onto the stage (in a plaid jacket and bowtie, no less) mentor Jimmy Iovine reminded us that, though Jacob is an "incredible" singer, he's also probably "in the most jeopardy." Jacob turned in an enthusiastic and energetic performance, mercifully less syrupy and preachy than usual, with a fair amount of bouncing.

Steven Tyler hailed Jacob for shaking his "tail feathers," saying Jacob's strut is "the magic." Jennifer was more measured, noting that the song was tricky and not perfectly performed but that, ultimately, Jacob "just killed it." Randy Jackson said Jacob was sharp in a few spots, but that he brought himself back and proved he could sing and deserved to be there. "So, hopefully, America will give you some votes and you'll stick around, baby," Randy said. Ryan observed that it looked like Jacob was "having fun," prompting Jacob to bray that he was in the top six, so "Let's have a party!" We'll see if he's still partying when this week's results roll around.

Lauren Alaina, "Where You Lead": As Lauren prepared to sing, Jimmy (who had brought in singer-songwriter-producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds to help him on the show), had a special surprise for her: a personal meeting/mentor session with Miley Cyrus. Miley gave Lauren a few tips on dealing with the haters. "You will always have mean comments," she said, advising Lauren not to let them get her down. "This week, I'm going to go out on that stage with confidence and sing for my family and sing for myself and just do the best that I can," Lauren pledged.

Lauren silenced the haters (or should have), pushing herself to tackle bigger, higher notes and pulling a cute teenage boy up onstage. After she finished, Jennifer enthused: "I'm so proud of you right now. I'm so proud." She said felt Lauren "pushing" past her boundaries, and was especially gratified to hear a little vocal crack. Randy said he spotted "a little extra swagger" from Lauren, as if she had "something to prove." It may not have been the best song for her, Randy said, but he loved that she came out "with a vengeance" and was going "hard" for the win. Steven warned that Lauren shouldn't let the "dark forces" get to her and said she shined, especially when her voice cracked a bit. "That shows the character in your voice," he said.

The judges' comments brought Lauren to tears, but Ryan had other things on his mind, summoning back the "young man" whom Lauren had brought to the stage to chide him. "I saw the way you were looking at her," he told young Brett, who is 19 to Lauren's 16. "We have rules!" Ryan then turned back to Lauren and said, "I like those tears of joy." Awww.

Scotty McCreery, "You've Got A Friend": Last week the judges were not impressed with Scotty's performance, so now, he said, "It's time to pull out the big guns." Scotty's big gun: the King-penned James Taylor hit "You've Got a Friend," which the mentors said was the most romantic song he's tackled to date. (Cue the teen girl sighs.) Jimmy wanted to see Scotty sing it with "subtlety and poignancy," adding, ominously, that if he didn't, "He could possibly get overshadowed tonight."

Scotty did manage to summon both subtlety and poignancy and kept the pointing and mugging (if not the sideways delivery) to a minimum. Randy praised Scotty for turning the other cheek and turning in a performance that showed his range, revealing a "buttery" tenor that Randy didn't know he had. Calling the beginning "flawless," Randy did say he had "one criticism" about the way Scotty released his higher notes. But then he chanted, "Scotty's in it to win it."

Steven thought the song showed Scotty in his best light. Jennifer liked Scotty's high register and his storytelling, chiding, "When we hear you sing a song like that, that's why we can't let you get away with what you did last week." Ouch, but whatever, Ryan invited Scotty to do his come-hither look into the camera one more time. "It's like you're singing to one person," he said. Scotty looked deep into the camera and said, "Well, who is it? I don't know … I wish I knew." And a million little girls sighed -– and started dialing.

James Durbin, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?": James is a Scotty fan, telling Ryan before taking the stage himself that Scotty, by stepping it up "week after week," pushes everyone around him to do the same. Meanwhile James, who has pledged to put on "just as big of a show" by singing a love song solo without either a marching band or a "flaming piano," has made a huge fan of Jimmy. "Carole King and James Durbin were made to come together," Jimmy said, noting that James is a "100% shot of rock 'n' roll" and adding, "this sound, this feel, is why I got into music." Jimmy said he hoped James would be as "intense" and "exciting" during his performance as he was during rehearsals. He was.

Starting a cappella and then accompanying himself on guitar, James' performance prompted Jennifer to shimmy. Steven told James he's "got it" and then shared that the song was the first he'd "ever made out with a girl to … I was in a bowling alley and no, Randy, I didn't strike out." He'll be here all week, folks.

Jennifer thought it was "totally magical" and predicted that James was "gonna be the star of the night." She also noted that James hadn't had an off week yet, saying that kind of consistency could win the whole deal. Randy –- again, oddly, trotting out his compliment du jour: "You turned the other cheek" -– called it one of the best performances in the last couple of months and added that James "might just win the whole thing."

Ryan made Randy go give James a hug, then weighed in himself, saying that the final weeks of the show were about "becoming a superstar, and that's what you're doing" (guitar feedback notwithstanding). I'll admit, as James was singing Wednesday night, I, too, thought, perhaps for the first time, "Winner?" We'll see …

Casey Abrams, "Hi De Ho": Casey apparently had a "lot of fun" rehearsing King's "Hi De Ho," made popular by Blood, Sweat and Tears, and jamming with legendary musician and producer Don Was and guest mentor Babyface. Jimmy warned that, because the song's melody isn't ambitions, Casey would have to make every note count. He also noted that Casey thrives by "living on the edge of creativity" and "always pushing his boundaries," but that "when you do that, you can fall on your butt or rise" to great heights.

Despite that, Casey turned in a middling performance. Scooting around in a suit, his sneaks and a hat he tossed into the audience part-way through. Randy loved it, crediting Casey with keeping the show sharp by turning in such different performances each week. Randy said he is "excited every time" Casey performs, because he knows "I'm gonna see something different and entertaining." Steven also admired Casey's showmanship, telling him he was so good "you make my scalp itch." Jennifer liked it, but felt Casey could "loosen up a little more physically." "Loosen up your legs a little bit," she advised. I love Casey, but this didn't feel all that different to me from what we've seen from him before. Maybe next week? Here's hoping.

Haley Reinhart, "Beautiful": Babyface gave Haley his approval, saying that, while tackling a trouble spot, she "caught on pretty quickly," which he felt was the sign of a true artist. Jimmy gave Haley a life lesson inspired by the word "get." But then Haley didn't "get" to make a clean start –- due to a technical problem. Ah, live TV.

When Haley did sing, she started off well enough, but then kicked into high gear by the end, culminating in a series of notes that really showed off her talent and vocal control. "Beautiful," indeed.

Steven said she made him see God. "You have one of the best voices in this competition," Jennifer pronounced. But then Randy threatened to kill the mood, saying, "I didn't love the beginning" and barely getting in that "the end was great" before Haley's time was up. Uh-oh. Did Randy just damn Haley –- a la Pia -– with faint praise?

So I'm thinking it's Jacob's time to head home this week, and it's anyone's guess (Haley? Casey?) who will round out the bottom three. Your predictions? Who will go home? Who would you like to see stick around? And who are you picking, at this point, to win it all?

Oh, and also, who was that little girl on Steven Tyler's lap? 

RELATED:

Full Show Tracker coverage of "American Idol"

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart perform Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move." Could they be dueting offstage too? Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

 
Comments () | Archives (18)

i love james he deserves to win he shows it every week and right behind him scotty love this seasons judges they make the show great''

Hey, love the show and have been a fan for many years....I really love the way Scotty sings....I wish he would dress in black....keep his silver cross, add a silver oval buckle and black belt, black shirt, black pants....he's a winner

I agree. I think it's Jacob's time to go. Sadly I think Hayley and Casey will be in the bottom three with him. I just do NOT get Scotty. Quite easily my least-favourite Idol ever. There's no doubting the voice. But the performing is so cringe-inducing. I want Casey to win. He is brilliance. But America won't vote him in. Too quirky. It'll be between James or Scotty for the win. I really like James so rooting for him!

I really like Casey, but he was way too growly last night - something Randy pointed out at the end of the critique when the AI music was already playing. He should have said it sooner! James is the best - always good. And Haley is so underrated - i hope she stays around and doesn't get voted off.
I wasn't sure i liked Jimmy Iovine (or anyone) as an advisor, but now i see that all of these kids have grown a lot more than performers on previous seasons, so Jimmy is doing a lot of good.

Would have been nice for them to mix up the duets a little, Haley with James or even the two ladies together, to at least try to not appear too much showing of favoritism. As it was, James was best to pair up with Jacob, or Scotty with Jacob, but James is the boldest of the two and probably would put more effort into making it work.

Turns out James and Jacob did a fair job on something that had potential to be WAY worse. Just as long as it wasn't Haley, that would have been the death knell for sure for our Jazzy Chanteusse.

I have to admit to feeling a bit down because, likely Haley's time is coming soon and I still am not ready to let go yet. Maybe another week maybe two but....

I noted with her performance, despite her constant upbeat attitude(sometimes mistaken for arrogance by Haley Haters), the technical difficulty and the way she was hastily pushed off after the critiques(maybe first time I've seen that this season), Haley seemed to show in her expression,what looked like dissapointment or resignation right before the Jacob or James duet (giving her the 'pimp' position then taking it away with a much weaker performance).

I harken back to Haley's performance in the early auditions when she said she was turned down last year by the panel that included Randy and the others gave him crap for it. Does Randy still hold something against her? Seems like the entire love fest this season has become, the anomaly is Randy always seems to find something to criticise about Haley. Grudge anyone?

I would like to note, this is the first time, for me, Scotty seemed like he wanted this and didn't just coast. A good perfomance keeping most of the "Scottyisms" to a minimum

James!!...'nuff said.

If your all amazed by that, you should hear James sing some Rascal Flats.
AMAZING, Hello!

James deserves to win. I think Jacob will be going home tonite.

James all the way fantastic rendition of Will you Still love me tomorrow
stellar

I am for James to win !!!

I believe the little girl in Steve's lap was Carole Kings daughter

More likely Carole King's daughter's daughter

Most likely it was Carole King's granddaughter. Carole's 69 and her children are in their 40's.

Casey, used to love ya mang but we're done. Same ol' , same ol' every damn week and growling to cover you lack of nuance with your instrument is getting even older PDQ and the precociousness doesn't help.

Haley, meh. Even though she's grown on me I thought she went with not the best song. Her voice sounds a little blown but I'm just saying that "You Make Me Feel. (Like a Natural Woman) should have been on the table since it was written by Carole King. With a healthy voice, she woulda killed it hard.

James, simply looked and sang like a rock star. If there is a God who cares about game shows, the final is Lauren (not my cup of tea but impossible to ignore) and James. It wouldn't be my finish order but Lauren probably gets the win from the voters.

It's hard to predict who will be out. James and Haley did the best this week.

Jacob was better than last week but still seems to be in trouble. I like Casey but think he's in the bottom this week.

I hope I get my wish. Haley go home

They all stink...judges are awful...the show was boring...just fast fowarded through it after watching more interesting Survivor...The Voice is much better than Idol......much better talent...Idol is for teeney boppers both in talent and watchers...and mediocre talent this season and last...Simon got it right by leaving........

I love Haley, and I think she is way underrated. I do not understand it, it pisses me off. She has the most versatile voice in my opinion. I think she should definitely win. James is second for me and should be in the finale with Haley. HALEY HALEY HALEY!

America LOVES couples and romance. The smartest thing Haley, especially, and Casey could have done is get into a relationship. They both would have been gone by now if the rumors hadn't been flying!

Thought James and Haley were the best this week! James was actually on pitch and didn't scream. Haley by far has the best vocal agility of the bunch. Jacob should go home this week and Scotty next. It will probably be a James and Lauren finale, but that would not be my choice.

James Durbin ! What more can you say. He is one of the best idols ever. I hope america gets this one right ! I love them all, but JAMES DURBIN is going to be a superstar. Listen to what Jimmy said, about him wednesday night. He is rare . Thank God, for James Durbin. I hope he wins the title, he has already proven he is a winner. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow ! I will and will buy every album he makes.


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