There are only 5 Idol contestants left, and Randy Jackson is really looking for who is “in it to win it.”  I think he has used that phrase at least 8,000 times this season, 1,000 of which were during the opening minutes of tonight’s show.  The guest judge was Cheryl Crow, Jennifer Lopez dressed like she was the bride in a sci-fi wedding, and the contestants sang two songs – how did they do?

James Durbin – James’ first track was a “contemporary song” apparently by the rock group 30 Seconds to Mars.  I would have mistaken it for any number of modern praise and worship songs, though.  Maybe it was just the poor source material, but Durbin sounded really off during the first performance.  He was dressed to sing metal then he sang pop and as a result the whole thing just felt off.

His second song choice was the ballad “Without You,” which James really connected to on a personal level due to being away from his family for the show.  The song stayed mostly in James’ lower register where he tends to have problems staying on key, and when the song finally kicked in he still struggled.  It was an emotional performance, but someone should tell the judges that a performance isn’t good just because there is real emotion behind it.  Performing should always be emotional, and on American Idol it should also be on pitch.

Jacob Lusk – Jacob’s opener was the Jordin Spark’s track “No Air.”  I was really hoping that we would get to hear him rock some “Battlefield,” but I guess I am behind on what is considered contemporary.  The song is a duet and Jacob decided to sing both parts, which wasn’t a great decision.  The song was super high and Jacob struggled with landing the pitch throughout.  Not one of the best, Jacob is better than that performance.

For his second track Jacob chose “Love Hurts,” which was a bit of a departure for him.  The arrangement was beautiful from the harps to the falsetto, and he gave one of the top performances of the night.  There was a hiccup in the middle, but the performance was so on that I had forgotten about it by the end.  The mentors really had to push Jacob into this one, but he needs to keep listening to them.  He has ridiculous singing talent but will need creative people around him to maximize his potential.

Lauren Alaina – Lauren kept Jacob’s American Idol self-promotion going  by performing Carrie Underwood.  She was the first contestant of the night to actually sing her song well, and it was one of the best vocals that she has done during the season.  Lauren will certainly do well in country music, but unless she works to separate herself from the artist she covered tonight she will be forgotten quickly.  Right now she is too much Carrie Underwood part 2 and not enough Lauren.

“Unchained Melody” is a hot jam of a ballad, and it was also Lauren’s second performance.  Her singing was certainly on, but the arrangement was severely lacking both in form and fullness.   It just didn’t support her vocals like it should have, but it was nice that she didn’t come out and become Lauren Underwood again.  I wonder if she was singing to Scotty??  OMG!!!

Scotty Mcreery – Scotty reminded us that Montgomery Gentry is still a band by performing their current single “Gone.”  Scotty strutted all of his country might for this one, taking it to the bottom of his range and all the way to the top.  He had a lot of fun tonight and it showed, he even got a little aggressive!  I imagine his country music career will be much longer than that of his love interest Lauren.  So sad!

Scotty rocked his favorite artist Elvis ballad-style.  There sure were a lot of ballads in the second round, apparently all the songs of yesteryear were slow jams?  Anyway, Scotty really played it safe this time.  We all know he is in the next round, but this wasn’t a performance that was “in it to win it.”  I fell asleep.

Haley Reinhardt – Apparently Haley managed to land a Lady Gaga song that hasn’t been released yet.  While the performance was good, performing a song that no one has heard before won’t be great for Haley’s voting.  It was a decent enough track, but if she wanted to do Gaga it would have really paid off to do a current hit like “Born This Way.” Kudos to her for taking a risk though!

For her second act Haley took on “House of the Rising Sun.”  It began as a sultry a capella track and morphed into the full on rock of the original.  While Haley is no Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, this was a great vocal and one of Haley’s best by far.  Haley and rock music are just meant to go together and she nailed it from the beginning to the end.

Overall the show was pretty dull this week without Casey Abrams mixing it up.  Scotty, Haley, and Jacob gave the best performances of the night, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them head home.  That’s just the way Idol works these days!

What did you think?

Related – American Idol Top 6 Recap

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