It’s Carole King Night on “American Idol.” Judge Randy Jackson is dressed for the occasion in his letter sweater – it has big R on the chest. Randy’s a letterman from the University of Randy! He’s the big man on campus at Randy State! He’s the sweetheart of Sigma Randy Chi!
JLo has broken out her Transformers dress. Little boys in the audience – do not try to disassemble her.
Steven Tyler has come as Tin Man 2011.
While the producers roll the Who The Heck is Carole King tape for the benefit of the millions who do not know, the producers subject us to the sight of Constantine Maroulis in the audience. Not him again! He was foisted on us already this week on “Dancing with the Stars,” and we’ve already been subjected to a Maroulis performance on “Idol” this season. Maroulis is the Zelig of competition shows.
“Idol” record mogul/in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine has brought along Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds to co-mentor this week.
Jacob Lusk’s confidence has been shaken by landing in the Bottom 3 last week. “He’s in the most jeopardy,” Iovine says. Jacob mistakenly believes the judges’ advice last week to go all out was a reference to his wardrobe. So he sings “Oh No, Not My Baby” while dressed to audition for the part of Cee Lo Green’s butler, in a huge blue plaid jacket, yellow shirt, blue bow tie, blue sweater vest, blue jeans and yellow sneakers. And who came up with the over-loud arrangement for the band that has him singing at the top of his voice, no relief? It’s an exercise in overcaffeinated upbeat, with dancing. “It’s just about time you shook your tail feathers,” Tyler exclaims.
Lauren Alaina needs a shot of confidence boosting -- we’ve been hearing that storyline for weeks now. Babyface and Iovine tell her to go for higher notes than she’s attempted because she has it in her. But to really buck her up, they bring in Miley Cyrus. Frankly, Miley scares the hell out of us – that grating voice, those teeth – but the two producers seem to think she’ll have a calming effect on Lauren. Miley advises her on performance night to “just do it for yourself” and Lauren affirms that “I’m going out on stage with confidence” after this visitation though frankly, if we were in her shoes we’d say anything to make Miley Cyrus go away. Anyway, something sort of sunk in with Lauren, because she seems to be trying to sing a little louder and hit some bigger notes than in past weeks. She even engages in some unusual showmanship, pulling a boy-prop up on the stage from a front-row seat.
“Clap! Clap!” JLo instructs the audience. “You know why? Because I’m so proud of you right now. It brings tears to my eyes because I felt you pushing.”
To kill time, the Idolettes will also sing duets tonight. First at bat: Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart will sing “I Feel the Earth Move.”
In taped bit, they make a cute couple and we’ve already seen from previous, results night duets that they’re well matched in musical styles. But when the number starts we feel the earth move under our seats, the arrangement is so loud. We think they’re singing well, though its like trying to hear shouting in a gale.
“Hey weird beard, how much in love with Haley are you?” Tyler asks Casey. “I don’t want to speak for everybody here, so I will: there wasn’t anything about that I didn’t like.”
“After the break, our country crooner goes outside his comfort zone!” show host Ryan Seacrest says before Scotty McCreery performs. We’ve been sold this line of hooey about Scotty every single week this season and we are no longer buying. Scotty always stays obsessively/compulsively in his comfort zone. But tonight there’s an intervention. Iovine and Babyface are hammering on him to stop with the Scotty Shtick – you know, starting every phrase down low like a truck in first gear heading toward second. And, for reasons we cannot explain, Scotty this week finally makes an effort to follow someone’s advice, with “You’ve Got a Friend” – he even gives up the piccolo-playing pose he’s used all season when holding a microphone.
“Yo. So, Scotty, dude, you know what was really cool about this? You turned the other cheek,” Randy says biblically.
James Durbin is going to sing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
“I got some requests on American Idol forums for this song,” James tells Seacrest. One thing we’ve noticed about James, he’s the only Idolette who consistently brings up his fans, which we think is so shrewd -- like he’s a star already. The camera opens up on James with his guitar slung low, rocker style, but he starts out singing a cappella and it’s the best part of the performance. Then he rocks it up as the band joins him and it gets a little old, but that’s not his fault – Carole King writes ‘em repetitive. Tyler, for his part, says he liked the opening of the song but the rocker part not so much. JLo and Randy U. open up with a torrent of judge love. “You are going to be the star of the night,” she raves, apparently ready to go home already. Randy calls it “not only the performance of the night…this guy might just win the whole thing!” Seacrest catches the fever, shouting to Randy to “go give him a hug!” and when Randy hesitates, tells him again, so Randy does just that. “It’s about becoming a superstar and that’s what you’re doing,” Seacrest tells James, adding, “Randy makes a big call tonight – possibly a winner!” Do they know something we don’t? Did Iovine already sign James to the winner’s deal? Anyway, there it is folks, your next American Idol. Take the rest of the season off.
But, before you go: Scotty and Lauren are going to sing the night’s second duet, to “Up On the Roof.” and Seacrest seems determined to make them as uncomfortable as possible before they begin. “What’s going on between you two guys?” Seacrest wants to know. Scotty keeps saying “brother and sister” and Lauren says ‘it’s all for the stage,” but Seacrest won’t stop pushing them on the non-starter that they’re sweet on each other. By the time they hit the stage, Seacrest has shamed them out of their chemistry and the performance is pretty awful. “Oh. My. God. You sang your brains off. It was beautiful!” JLo enthuses anyway.
Casey Abrams has rummaged around in Carole King’s trunk and come up with “Hi-De-Ho,” a musical oddity in her catalogue for sure, but then that’s Casey. Iovine sets it up as “a difficult song that takes 100% personality” but Casey rises to the occasion. He’s on stage with a whole lot of singers and musicians, dressed, a la Blues Brothers, in black suit and fedora. Casey’s everywhere, playing the piano, singing to the backup singers and to the musicians. It’s a fun, high-energy performance with, yes, the growling that always gets Casey into trouble. But Tyler seems enthusiastic: “Nestled in all this ‘American Idol’ stuff, you really work the stage as the best mother lovin’ show I’ve seen. It was beautiful. You made my scalp itch it was so good.”
The other two judges, however, don’t know what to make of it and wind up praising with faint damns. “The whole thing really, really worked,” JLo says, utterly unconvincingly. Then, just so she can sound like she has any idea what she just saw, she adds that she’d “like to see you loosen it up a bit…just loosen up your legs a little bit.” This is plenty odd, given how much Casey was dashing around the stage. “I’d just like to say, I’m excited everyt ime you are up here and I applaud you for that,” Randy State says without any real vim.
Haley Reinhart wants to perform “Beautiful.” But the “Idol” techs will not let her. Her performance is delayed due to technical problems, but then she tells Seacrest they’ve been fixed. She is wrong. Her microphone seems to fade in and out. In fact, she sounds like one of her own backup singers. You really have to strain to pick out her voice. The thing is a mess, but nobody seems inclined to mention that the emperor has no clothes. “I heard God in your voice,” Tyler raves. “You have one of the best voices in this competition,” JLo tells the perennial Bottom 3 dweller. The U of R, meanwhile, has no love for the beginning of the number but says he got more excited toward the end.
And, wrapping things up: the most unlikely duet yet: Jacob and James. James and Jacob look about as happy to be paired up as two people stuck in an elevator. They’re going to sing “I’m Into Something Good” because, well the rules are the rules and no matter whether the performers or the audience want it, there must be three duets if there are six performers. Couldn’t James and Jacob have opted instead to make a Ford music video based on “Trading Places” or “The Defiant Ones” or something?
Well, they get it over with, but we’re pretty indignant that, with that kind of time to kill, the producers didn’t scrub the James and Jacob train wreck and give Haley a do-over. We think Tyler feels the same way too, when he tells J and J, speaking for us all, “You guys were both having fun and God knows you can both sing great – but, man, where were you going with all that?!”
(Photo Gallery: “American Idol”)