Post-Idol review elements in red
The 3 Idol finalists, Scotty, Lauren and Haley returned to their hometowns for celebrations and to learn what songs the judges picked for them to sing in the semifinals Wednesday.
Haley Reinhart hit Chicago and found out the judges want to hear her sing Alanis Morissette's sure-to-be censored You Oughta Know. Can't imagine young Haley delivering the song's signature line about theater frolics on Fox's family-friendly Idol but it's a safe bet she'll growl at some point during the song
Producer Jimmy Iovine chose the iconic 1975 Fleetwood Mac hit Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win) for Haley. Given that Iovine produced two of Stevie Nicks' best solo albums, Bella Donna, The Wild Heart and her worst, some of Rock a Little, in the 1980s it's no surprise he's given Haley a Nicks song to do. But Iovine also was Nicks' boyfriend at the time. Maybe he's exacting revenge by setting the inconsistent Haley loose on one of Nicks' signature tunes.
Photo: FOX Round one was contestant's choice and Haley earns points for most daring choice: Led Zeppelin's What Is and What Should Never Be. And what is and what should never be is Haley Reinhart trying to sing Led Zeppelin. With an inappropriate smile plastered to her face, it was like watching a toddler hopped up on sugary juice after finding her parents' CD stash.And yet, the judges swallowed this callow rendition of the Led Zeppelin II (1969) album track. One would think Tyler should know better. But all those drugs and all...
Haley was somewhat better on Rhiannon though she lacks Stevie Nicks' mystique, originality and drama. But she's not the only one in that regard. Those are hard boots to fill. She flubbed the very first line, too. "Rhiannon RINGS like a bell through the night," NOT "Rhiannon IS a bell through the night." But Haley's main problem is she never listens to the lyrics of the songs she chooses. She sings words but she doesn't give them any importance. They are meaningless to her so what's a "rings" or an "is" in her dippy universe? But unlike her Led Zep, which went down like a lead zeppelin, her take on Fleetwood Mac didn't give me a heart attack. The lighting, staging lent the hypnotic song some mood. She gets a C+ passing grade. Will she ever win? I sure hope not.
Haley stumbles again with the judges' pick. Alanis' song is all anger and attitude, less heavy on melody or vocal runs and Haley once again plastered a smile on her face and sang about how she was going to get her lousy boyfriend back by "going to the theater" with him and raking her nails down his back. I wish all the exes I've pist off got mad at me with such a happy, smiley face. Haley just doesn't understand the music or what it is trying to say. She could win this show but it's hard to imagine what kind of album she'd make. She's not convincing in any genre. She finished much higher than she deserves and should go home tomorrow night.
Scotty McCreery, my pick to win the show's 10th season, met his music hero and vocal doppelganger Josh Turner (pictured above) as the country star surprised him in North Carolina by singing his hit, Your Man, with the 17-year-old. Scotty had turned Your Man into his theme song during auditions and had long championed Turner's Long Black Train so this was a nice gesture. But the judges want to hear something less current from the country frontrunner. JLo, Randy and Steven selected Kenny Rogers' 1979 Top 40 ballad, She Believes in Me.
Scotty went three for three tonight, flawless on his performances and all but guaranteeing a place in the finals. His choice was Lonestar's sappy Amazed and we learn from guest mentor Beyonce's lips that she likes Lonestar. Who knew? (Meantime, Beyonce has little to contribute in her mentorship beyond a sweet, uplifting demeanor. She is mainly here to shill her new video, an atonal, harsh, machine-driven "song" that made Haley's Led Zep take more tolerable by comparison.) Sappy song, aside, Scotty does a beautiful job with it. His voice has range, an artful break, or catch, in his delivery and believability that belies his 17 years.
Iovine's choice, Are You Going to Kiss Me Or Not, was a song I'm not overly familiar with, a country-rock number, and he chose it for Scotty because it reminded him of some of the material he produced for Tom Petty on the classic 1979 album, Damn the Torpedos. I don't know that I heard Petty in Scotty's performance, but I heard another winner and an instant download. I won't kiss you, Scotty, but I voted for you.
The judges' pick, the Kenny Rogers ballad, showcased Scotty in a more lush, pop vein. I was concerned that the 12-year-old vote might not respond to a song that was a hit when I was in high school with their parents but Scotty's performance was flawless again. He nailed the big chorus, went tender on the opening verse, and at this point seems unstoppable for the finals. His dad also sang a line from Josh Turner's Your Man from his seat in the hall and we see where Scotty gets his talent and looks from. Dad should try out for Simon Cowell's X-Factor. He's got a heck of a voice.
Idol's youngest contestant, Lauren Alaina, 16, my pick for runner-up, will sing Lee Ann Womack's inspirational, and oft-heard, I Hope You Dance since that's what the judges want to hear she learned in Tennessee. I hope she goes for the power note at the end since those are the kind of notes viewers and judges respond to. She needs an Idol Moment to wrest the finals from the undeserving Haley's grasp.
Lauren has needed an Idol Moment all season and by my count she gets 1.5 of them tonight. She has her moment with the judges' pick, Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance. She might have to return Loretta Lynn's dress after singing the song but she owned Womack's inspirational tune. Everything worked for Lauren on this ballad and she used it to win Round 3. I'd give her a half-moment for Iovine's pick, If I Die Young. The song's rather boring but Lauren sang it well and, unlike Haley, has an innate understanding of how to deliver a song properly. She's not showy like Haley and might not make the finals like Haley (viewers tend to go for showy) but she's not just singing words. She's conveying them. Her first performance, Faith Hill's Wild One, was the kind of spunky country number radio plays and the kind of entrance she needed to make at this stage.
The contestants will reportedly sing two additional songs, one that will be producer Jimmy Iovine's pick and the other will be their choice. My bet is Iovine picks better than the judges. My hope is that no one picks a song they already sang during the competition. That's boring.
Round One goes to Scotty, Lauren and Haley, in that order.
Round Two still goes to Scotty, Lauren and Haley, in that order.
Round Three goes to Lauren, Scotty and Haley, in that order.
Scotty is the only certainty for the finals, though. As the only male, and the youngest male, he would seem to have the young girls' vote in the bag. Scotty and Lauren also have the country vote. But if they split some of that vote Haley could benefit. Though country IS American music and belongs on a show titled American Idol as much as any, and though Idol's greatest success so far has come from its country-rooted Idols Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, some people don't like country and Haley is their only choice.
Thus, it's conceivable the finals could be Scotty and Haley, and maybe it's wishful thinking but it's also possible Haley's quirkiness and inconsistent run during the entire season could also turn enough people off to allow Lauren a narrow victory into runnerup. So despite Haley's momentum and fan support in the Twitter universe, I'm going to predict Scotty-Lauren as Season 10 finalists. They will be, for sure, the most successful post-Idol finalists. Win or lose, they are the most signable and radio ready. But, for once, I'd like to see the best contestant win on this show after so many years in a row of Idol duds (Taylor, David, Kris, Lee ...)
All this said, and all the Haley bashing aside, even with her in the semifinals, this has been the strongest round of finalists in years and the strongest Top 3 in many years. Many miss Simon but I don't. Remember, the judges pick the initial finalists and when Simon was in charge we had years and years of uninspiring contestants to choose from. He didn't seem to care. Randy, JLo and Tyler have to get some props for setting Idol up in a much better place this year.
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