'American Idol' Top 7: Haley Reinhart, James Durbin hit hard on 21st Century Songs

james-haley-idol-top-7-recap.jpgThe "American Idol" contestants are taking on 21st Century Songs this week. How do you think they did?

The judges come out and Jennifer appears to be wearing very shiny jammies. Perhaps she and Seacrest are having a slumber party after the show. When the Top 7 Idols enter the stage, Haley looks to have stepped off the set of "Mad Men," which we heartily approve of, though it's a little weird since the theme is current music.

Before the performances, the Top 13 Idols eliminated already are on hand to perform "So What." The girls are dressed like a crazy gang of ninja hookers and Naima is kicking the air so wonderfully that I actually laugh really hard right out loud. She's delightful. Ashthon is unrecognizable with her pincurl hair and Karen looks like Sandy at the end of "Grease." Paul joins them in his black fancy suit - he is their raspy-voiced pimp, I think we are supposed to get from this.

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Here are our Idols, from best to worst:

1. Haley Reinhart, "Rolling in the Deep," Adele

Great song choice. Great. This is at the same time current and throwback, she looks great and the chorus is fantastic. She gets a little out of breath on the verses, but once she hits her sweet spot, it's incredibly interesting. The Haley growl is on fine display, plus she's getting to throw in big glory notes. The end note with the run tacked on? Gorgeous. This is just the kind of song Haley should record. Randy says exactly that. J.Lo says she found her Haley moments where she really shined. Tyler manages not to hit on her.  

2. James Durbin, "Uprising," Muse

James has some marching band drummers! And he sounds very Blue Oyster Cult lead singer Eric Bloom on the low stuff. More cowbell! Seriously, though, this is a great cover and his outfit and cane are wonderful, but I honestly wonder how familiar the voting demo is with this song. That being said - still liked it. The high stuff was crazy. J.Lo says theatrically that it's going to be the best of the night. Randy says this is a great direction for him and name-drops Matthew Bellamy (lead singer of Muse) challenging Durbin to do this song. Tyler says it sounds like he's going in a t-rex direction. Like, a screeching dinosaur? Am I interpreting that right or this some kind of ultra-hip reference I don't understand?

3. Jacob Lusk, "Dance With My Father," Luther Vandross

It's Luther Vandross' birthday and we've kind of been waiting to hear Jacob do some Luther, so we have high expectations. He also picks such a tearjerker song, especially because his father passed away when Jacob was 12.

When he performs, he gets choked up right from the get-go (or did he just lose the background?), it's very emotional and very subdued. Just lovely. The key change into the bridge is very good, there's a big note that is OK, but I don't love it, but he brings the ending home very well. It was good, but not crazy. It seems better because of the emotional attachment, I feel. Tyler calls him Luther Lusk. J.Lo says emotionally it was a beautiful performance. Randy agrees, but says vocally it was good, but not great.

4. Lauren Alaina, "Born to Fly," Sara Evans

Terrific song choice. This is a lovely, young country song. Despite looking like she stepped out of a country bar in 1988, Lauren should do really well on this. However ... the verse leaves is a little off. She's maybe a little out-of-breath? Or the key is wrong? I can't put my finger on it. But the chorus gets oodles better. I'm sad she didn't do it exactly the way Evans does it at the end, where she really tears it up ("you were bor-or-ornnnn, you were born to yeah, yeah, yeah, you were born to fly"), but it was still solid. I'm just really waiting for Lauren to have her Carrie Underwood moment. I feel like she has it in her.

The judges echo my thoughts. Tyler says she is bound to win because she's so good naturally. He does advise her to do some Allison Krauss, Shania, Faith Hill. Interesting. Steven had advice! J.Lo praises the color in her voice, but advises her to see how far and how big she can go, which is true. We really are waiting to hear Lauren let loose. Randy tells her not to be scared of her voice and to believe in herself.

5. Casey Abrams, "Harder to Breathe," Maroon 5

I have to confess - I love this song. That may color my opinion, for better or worse. Anyway, he handles the fast, complicated lyrics with aplomb, so that's nice. He also stays nicely on pitch without much backing on the verse. The chorus gets totally rockin,' but he loses the pitch a bit, actually. On a song like this, the pitch is less important than on, like, a Mariah or Whitney song, but it still bugs. On the final chorus, he goes completely off-the-rails and I'm not a fan, honestly. But he ends the song by getting right up in J.Lo's grill and then kissing her, so that's kind of funny and will surely keep him safe. But still - not my favorite Casey performance. The judges love it, but I respectfully disagree. Also - they love everything, so their opinions mean almost nothing at this point. And Tyler just starts dropping f-bombs. Hee.

6. Stefano Langone, "Closer," Ne-Yo

While Stefano looks like a 5'8 package of sex on stage, with his arm muscles bulging and his suspenders down around his knees like we just interrupted several women trying to strip him down, this is not a great performance. He's not totally on pitch on the verses and the chorus doesn't actually have a lot of vocals going on. One big glory note does not a great song make. However, this is the best stage presence I've seen from him thus far in the competition, so there is that. But this is a singing competition (or it's supposed to be) and Stefano just can't hang with the rest of them. The judges are complimentary.

6. Scotty McCreery, "Swingin,'" LeAnn Rimes (orig. John Anderson)

I figured Scotty would do country (obviously), but LeAnn Rimes? Huh. Maybe could've gone with some Brad Paisley or Zac Brown? I'm surprised at the choice. And honestly, it's kinda boring as a performance. What makes it pop for LeAnn is that she does it really fast and there is lots of dancing. The vocal is OK - Scotty gets to really dig in with his twang and he's on pitch. Still - snoozapalooza.

Steven Tyler wanted to see him "boot scoot" a little more, but says it was good. J.Lo says it's time to pull out the big guns and to push things. Randy says it was incredibly safe.


Honestly, Scotty was probably the weakest tonight, but I don't think he's in any danger of going home, so I'm calling Stefano, but the way the voting has gone, it could be Haley. Which is a shame because she did very well.

Photo/Video credit: FOX
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