Tonight on “American Idol,” the herd of Idolettes will be culled to three. It’s an awesome judge fashion night: Jennifer Lopez has grown green scales, Steven Tyler is the victim of wild-posting, and Randy’s shirt looks to have big bubbles silk-screened on the front – let’s just say it’s not a slimming look for a guy with middle-aged spread.
Nearly 72 million votes were cast since Wednesday’s performances, which is a record for the competition at the Top-4 point, show host Ryan Seacrest says, as if surprised that having added online voting this season really did increase voting.
In group-sing segment, the guys, James Durbin and Scotty McCreery, duet on country song “Start a Band.” The girls, Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart, duet on country song “Gunpowder and Lead.” The girls are there to sing, the boys to parade themselves around the audience and receive the adulation of the crowd. The girls are there to entertain us; the boys are there to entertain themselves. Points to the girls.
Thank you, Windows 7. Without Windows 7, the four Idolettes would be completely cut off from their families. Now, thanks to Windows 7, we get to witness, the Idolettes have a means of communicating with their loved ones while they’re in Los Angeles, competing on “Amerian Idol.” Or, they could just say hello to them in the studio audience.
Seacrest calls for the lights to be dimmed. The first person who has made it to the Final 3 is: Lauren. Given that Haley has been a frequent member of the “Idol” Bottom 3, this is not good news for our Haley. James and Scotty have long been considered the frontrunners.
Well, show host Ryan Seacrest has promised us a Lady Gaga performance – she was Wednesday night’s celebrity mentor (Lady Gaga mentors) . And we are eagerly anticipating it; in fact, we’ve put on our best two-toned wig for the occasion. But, what’s this? The Idolettes are seated on a couch and they’re going to watch a tape of a Lady Gaga performance for educational performances? Then we’re watching the same Gaga tape and – THAT’s our much anticipated Lady Gaga performance on “Idol”? Did the “Idol” producers only buy the Basic Gaga Appearance Package, with four taped coaching sessions and one taped song, instead of the Gaga Premium Package with an actual live appearance?
Gaga performs “You and I” the song that Haley sang on “Idol,” and got skewered for it by the judges. So that’s Haley squirming on the couch; Scotty’s also squirming on the couch after his narrow escape from Gaga in his coaching session. Anyway, Gaga gives an engaging performance in leather lingerie and boots .
Next, Enrique Iglesias performs his hit “Dirty Dancer” with a lot of laser light accompaniment. Enrique is on stage, but dueting with Usher, who’s projected on tape behind him. Because “Idol” only bought the Basic Usher Package, no doubt. Enrique segues into a high energy tune “I Like It” which he performs surrounded by hot girls from the audience. And really big balloons!
They cut to commercial and Enrique’s gone when they come back, but a big balloon floats toward Seacrest who tries awkwardly to bat it and ends up pitching himself into the audience. Well, the man has Live TV Luck, because he’s back up and unhurt, muttering. “Show’s dangerous. It’s dangerous.”
The Idolettes perform in a Ford “music video” commercial though Ford’s budget may be running out, as mostly they swing light pens around. No more dressing up as zombies in Ford cars on location for the Idolettes.
“Who gets the insane rock star treatment back at home? Two others will get seats on that sweet corporate jet!” Seacrest says by way of giving a been-there, done-that intro to Jordin Sparks, season six winner, who is here to sing her new single “I Am Woman.” A very slimmed down Jordin makes and entrance in a silver coat which she later removes during a Rihanna-lite performance that includes a smooch at the judges table with Tyler.
Then, just to make sure we’re good and sick of pop stars selling us stuff, we see Steven Tyler’s new music video, “ I Feel So Good.” It’s vintage stuff: See Tyler singing with hot girls, circus animals – and Ford cars. Yes, product placement! Because, lord knows, at his age, he needs something to fall back on if the record doesn’t sell.
Back to results.
“Remember, there has been a lot of buzz about how strong the guys have been this season,” Seacrest says – our first indication something unexpected is about to happen.
“After the nationwide vote, I can tell you two – girls will be in the Top 3 this year. Haley, you are safe!” Seacrest says.
Spunkiness gets rewarded. That, and her willingness to not listen to the judges and to keep trying new and different material instead of microwaving old hits, like JLo urged her to do as recently as Wednesday night.
And that leaves: James looking sick, and Scotty looking, well, confident.
“Sit tight, don’t miss this huge live Idol moment,” says Seacrest. But first: one little itty bitty Ford car commercial.
We’re back. And Scotty goes through to the Top 3. James Durbin – darling of the judges and the one they said weeks ago had already won this seasons’ competition -- is out. James fought Country and Country won.
Big hug by the two guys.
A taped bit reprises James’ medical conditions, diagnosed when he was a little boy: Tourette’s and “high functioning autism,” and his loving family life. “I’m out here to make a better life for my family,” says James on tape.
JLo is crying. You can always go to one of the summer concerts and see him again, Lo!
Seacrest asks the “What goes through your mind?” question.
“I worked so damn hard to get here” and he wishes he could have gone on but “I did so much stuff that’s never been done on this show before,” James exults, through tears. “In my eyes, in my mind, what I believe is I did what I came here to do and that is: Give metal a chance!” Across the country, metal fans are kissing the little silver skulls that hang around their necks.
But for his finale, James doesn’t do metal, he reprises the sweet McCartney song “Maybe I’m Amazed” -- a performance that actually was one of the high points of his season and showed James’s versatility.
And as James sings in the judges’ faces, and hugs ousted Idolette Casey Abrams in the audience, we’re left to contemplate our first “Idol” Final 3 in a long while that doesn’t include The Scruffy Guy and that does include two country singers and, we hope though don’t expect, three contrite judges.
Last week’s results: Jacob Lusk goes home
Live chat: Got an “Idol” question? Lisa de Moraes chats about all things TV on Friday at 1 p.m.