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American Idol: "3 Finalists Compete"

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Being a Bulls fan, I was pretty pissed to find out tonight’s episode would span two hours. I don’t know why I was surprised, to be honest. I keep wishing American Idol would conform to my active lifestyle, yet it refuses to comply. Tonight, the contestants each took on three songs: one chosen by them (advised by Beyonce, who always seems much nicer and more down-to-earth than her image), one chosen by Jimmy Iovine, and then one picked by the judges.

While I’m not actively rooting for Scotty, I don’t hate him, either. I am confident he will have a healthy career, regardless of whether or not he wins Idol, and every now and then, I find him semi-pleasant and charming. Beyonce, who was surprisingly into Scotty (“Scotty boy! That’s my boy!”), was optimistic about his performance of “Amazed” by Lone Star (whom she claims to love). I, however, was a little let down. Scotty sounded okay in his higher register at the end of the song, but I got a sense he was playing it safe throughout the performance—he even held his microphone normally, as if he had full use of all of his fingers. We’ve seen him push more and give more before; maybe he was saving his energy for the later songs.  Randy came close to almost critiquing a few parts of the song but ultimately, like the other judges, praised him and also reminded us of the time he produced a song with Boyz II Men.

As an A.V. Club writer I feel like I’m not supposed to like Beyonce, but you guys, she just seems really nice and pretty, and I like her, and also I want to put her engagement ring in my mouth, just for a second. Bey advised Lauren on how to let go of your nerves before she took on “Wild One” by Faith Hill. As with Scotty, it wasn’t exactly a transcendent performance, but it was a good song for Lauren to show off what kind of professional performer she’d be: fun and young and spunky and just a teeny tiny bit of a mess. (If she weren’t, she would have nixed either the huge earrings or the white boots.)

Remember how I’ve been bitching the last few weeks about Haley not singing/acting her age on stage? Tonight she finally came back to where I like her: sexy and tough but still youthful. She took on Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Should Never Be.” (Beyonce didn’t have too much advice for her, but it was funny how, superficially, the two looked very similar.) There was a lot to enjoy in the performance, from her sultry intro to her dancing with her Dad onstage (he played guitar and it was very sweet) to her twirling in her fringe dress. She took her time and seemed completely confident. I even liked the part where she fell down (which I could totally see coming—way too much spinning and running around and stairs for such high heels). Haley picked herself back up and acted like she was having a great time onstage, which made her seem like a pro. And? I think she handled the song way better than either James or Casey would have. Haley handily won round one, and I didn’t need the judges to tell me that.

Despite Randy’s second consecutive use of the phrase “In it to win it,” I don’t think Scotty came close to beating Haley on his next song, the Jimmy-Iovine-chosen “Are You Going to Kiss Me Or Not,” although I liked this performance more than his first. Scotty seemed more contemporary, and his voice sounded better (maybe partially because he wasn’t drowned out in backup singers), and he felt comfortable enough to let the ol’ crazy eyes come out. I’m not sure exactly what Jimmy Iovine had in mind when he suggested Scotty channel a touch of Tom Petty in the performance, but those of us who love Tom were spared seeing Scotty try to impersonate him. I think if anybody was going to pull a Petty, it would have been the dearly-departed Paul (who, intriguingly, is apparently evil).  Also, I strongly disagreed with Jennifer when she said she preferred Scotty with the super-short hair.

I was a little bummed by Lauren’s second song. Jimmy chose “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry for her, and I was getting ready for something great and slightly different from Lauren. The song’s country twang saved her from being a little boring, which she sometimes slips into with typical ballads, and there was something intriguing about her innocence mixed with the song’s dark content. But Lauren held back when the music swelled and missed the song’s big key change, hence her “moment,” which I think could have been really special, was nonexistent. Jennifer praised Lauren for getting “caught up in the honesty” of the song, but I think Lauren just lacked confidence. I think she knew she lost an opportunity.


I liked Haley’s next tune, the Jimmy-picked “Rhiannon,” but I thought it lacked a little something compared to her first song, perhaps because it’s hard to take the Stevie Nicks out of that song. (The fan was a nice touch, but I don’t think forcing Haley to stand in one spot did her that many favors.) Haley sounded good, but I couldn’t hear her that clearly over the backup singers, although I did enjoy the little variations she put in when actually singing the word “Rhiannon.” The judges liked it (as they’d praised everything they’d heard thus far), although Jennifer said she had expected a little bit more from Haley at the end.

Round Two went either to Haley or Scotty, although in general I thought Jimmy did a great job picking songs for the contestants. The celebrity judges turned flaccid pretty early in the competition part of the season, but Jimmy turned out to be a good addition to the show overall.


Before we got to the third round, we watched a clip of Beyonce’s latest song,“Run the World (Girls).” What I liked most about the song/video was Beyonce’s thighs and the horse. That was about it.

I didn’t much care for the judges’ pick for Scotty, “She Believes in Me” by Kenny Rogers. Nothing about the performance, from the cheesy violins to Scotty’s outfit, seemed contemporary or interesting. Scotty sang fine, but you’d think the judges would want Scotty to end on a more triumphant note, not something that feels dated. At least his dad, busting with pride and reprising Scotty’s audition song, was fun to watch.


The judges also gave Lauren a more low-key song, Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” Despite being stuck in a big sparkly gown and also weighed down by a big backing section, Lauren threw more personality and soul into the song than I expected. She could have just sung the song simply and done it well, but it seemed like she was pushing herself further than she could have, and it worked for her. Jennifer, goose-pimpled, declared Lauren the winner of the round already. I wasn’t sure I agreed with her, but I was glad Lauren bounced back from her second performance.

“You Oughta Know” was mostly a good pick for Haley. Naturally, like there was any doubt, she tore through the song’s chorus. I think she’s great when she rocks. If I’m going to be nitpicky, though. The song has a wild range, and the verses were a little low for Haley, and some of the words got mumbled out. It’s too bad that the judges couldn’t pick a song where she kicked ass throughout the entire performance, but—are you happy now?—I decided I’m okay if Haley wins this. I even decided tonight that I like her onstage, non-performing personality the most out of the three of them. I think she's just too tired not to be herself when she's chatting with the judges and Ryan.


The judges declared Lauren the winner of the last round. While Haley was great when she was great in “You Oughta Know,” I think Lauren delivered a stronger performance throughout.

You see?! I am a person capable of changing her mind, of being open to all opinions. I don’t think anybody stunk up the joint tonight, but I think Lauren and Haley both are more capable of reaching out and generally working harder as performers than Scotty. Since we run the world (girls), I’d love to see the two ladies make it to the finale.


Stray observations:

  • Between the falling-down and the lipstick-on-the-teeth, Haley deserves some sort of award for handling the most on-stage travails.
  • I missed the phrase “Short hair don’t care” entering the vernacular. It doesn’t apply to me, but I find it a very appealing philosophy in general.
  • Which celebrity audience member wowed you the most: Neil Sedaka, Priscilla Presley, or the guy dressed as a dog?
  • It was funny to see that Lauren was such a kid in her Idol audition that she decided to include Silly Bandz as part of her outfit.
  • You oughta know: the line was changed to “Would she go out with you to the theater?”