'American Idol' Top 8: Casey Abrams, James Durbin go outside the box, but rock it

idol-recap-april-13.jpgAfter the "American Idol" travesty that was Pia Toscano getting sent home last week, the Top 6 men and the two girls America has let tag along are singing songs from the movies. The show starts off with a dramatic re-living of the Pia debacle, complete with People's Most Beautiful Person Jennifer Lopez in tears. Oh, the humanity.

So let's see how the cinema songs treated the "American Idol" contestants. Here are the Top 8 Idols, from best to worst:

1. Casey Abrams, "Nature Boy," Nat King Cole, "The Boy With Green Hair"

Casey's rockin' the upright bass and old-timey microphone. This is a very weird choice for this show - at least do the "Moulin Rouge" version. Casey is really chewing his words and notes, it's atonal and strange. It's like Caesy is jamming on stage at a jazz club. $10 will get you $20 Simon would call this "self-indulgent." The viewers will not know what to make of it. I liked it - but not for this show. He gets a standing O from the judges and yes, it was very cool and degree of difficulty is very high. Buuuuuuuut. Hmm. I hope the viewers appreciate it. All the judges praise his artistry and yes, but as Randy says, "I hope America gets this." Randy also hilariously says the world cannot live by pop stars alone. Ha ha ha, that's not true.

Casey very coolly drops Esperanza Spalding's name during his post-performance blurb. In case you don't know, she's the jazz musician who snatched the Best New Artist Grammy from Justin Bieber's clutches. Bieber fans were less than pleased.

2. James Durbin, "Heavy Metal," Sammy Hagar, "Heavy Metal"

If you aren't familiar with the movie "Heavy Metal," you should check it out, it's good. Anyway, so James is rocking out like he's on his arena tour of the U.S. He's got a long-haired guitarist wailing away and he's screaming and the lights are going cuckoo bananas and he's standing on the judges' table. But ... he's still getting some excellent vocals in there among all the craziness. I'm sure my mom is at home pulling a Huey Lewis, "Hold it, fellas. I'm afraid you're just too darn loud." But I thought that was vintage Durbin and very fun. J.Lo calls it crazy, but whatever. She's very excited. Randy says it's James Durbin's concert and gives props to the guitarist.

3. Jacob Lusk, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon and Garfunkel, "The Pursuit of Happyness"

Interesting choice, considering how it's like Clay Aiken's seminal piece on "Idol." But like most voters even remember that. Haha. It's pretty subdued for Jacob and sounds pretty nice, until he gets to the big "down" note in the middle. That starts off good, but goes to a weird place. The ending is .... wow. Very gospel. Not my cup of tea, per se, but pretty impressive nonetheless.

4. Lauren Alaina, "The Climb," Miley Cyrus, "Hannah Montana Movie"

She starts with her back to the audience, which is a cool choice. Vocally, she sounds very Dixie Chicks. It doesn't really break free 'til the chorus, but this could be a Lauren song, like something she releases. It doesn't blow me away at all, but it's very young, very current, good choice for Lauren. J.Lo weirdly observes she loves the "tear" in Lauren's voice, which I can actually kinda see, now that she mentions it. It should be enough to keep Lauren safe, though.

5. Scotty McCreery, "I Cross My Heart," George Strait, "Pure Country"

Would've been more interesting to hear him do "Everybody's Talkin,'" but this is a better choice for Scotty in terms of comfort and genre. Tonally and pitch-wise, he's spot on. It's a little boring and on the chorus he gets a bit lost in the backup singers, but it's just a very Scotty performance. Nothing knocking my socks off, but not bad either. He makes it a little interesting at the end, but not that interesting and his big note is not perfect. Tyler says he's in love with Scotty's voice, J.Lo says they're all so "damn good" Hmmm. That's debatable. Randy says he's "hot."

6. Haley Reinhart, "Call Me," Blondie, "American Gigolo"

Haley has on a very fun dress and thigh-high purple boots, which are kind of making her walk funny, but it's a great ensemble. Vocally, this is pretty good but ... she's playing it a little more sexpot than Debbie Harry did and she's missing the low notes all over the place. She also makes the actual phone with her fingers, which is not OK. Don't act out the words, sweetie. There are parts that are great, but overall it's not terrific.

7. Stefano Langone, "End of the Road," Boyz II Men, "Boomerang"


This song ... ugh. First off, not a movie song. A song that happens to be in a movie. Secondly, if women should not try Whitney or Mariah, men should not sing Boyz II Men. Are you kidding me with this? This is terrible. He can't hit the falsetto, he's snipping off notes and he's still completely Broadway in his mannerisms and affectations. This is another bad karaoke performance from Stefano, but this week he adds his Marty McFly self-drying sneakers and a scruffy mustache that looks like he just reached puberty. But Stefano throws in a big note, so he's probably safe. Dear lord, let it end. Randy name-drops and says Stefano slayed it, best vocal to date. Um ... what? What?! I just ... speechless. Tyler says it's not the "end of the road" for Stefano. J.Lo then talks about the key. Is she trying to find out if Stefano is the key master? Is she the gatekeeper?

8. Paul McDonald, "Old Time Rock 'n Roll," Bob Seger, "Risky Business"

Um, this is terrifying. Paul has dropped his guitar, so his weird affectations are back as he bops around in his Liberace-meets-Branson suit. Plus, his voice is too thin and high for a song like this. He's being totally carried by the backup singers and Lilly Scott on the saxophone. Yikes. Next. Steven Tyler takes off his granny glasses and immediately hits on the sax player and says nothing. J.Lo says he's "going further," but honestly - this was step back for me. He has done so much better, this was terrible. But now Randy is  piling on with the compliments. What on earth?! It's sad, but I've come to rely on Randy Jackson (he's a Ravenclaw tonight) for my scathing critiques.

Even Ryan piles on, making all the little girls at home think of "sax with Paul." Ugh. Only if they've had their shots.


So who is going home? Well, if history tells us anything, it's Haley's turn. But methinks Paul's time has come. What do you think, "Idol" fans?

Photo/Video credit: FOX
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