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IDOL 411: Scotty McCreery, Pia Toscano Rock on One of Show's Best Performance Nights Ever

March 30: In this photo released by Fox, Pia Toscano performs in front of the judges on the singing competition series, 'American Idol,' in Los Angeles.AP

The theme of Wednesday night's "American Idol" was songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- but a country boy rocked the house the hardest.

Young Scotty McCreery paid tribute to his own idol, Elvis Presley, with a funny, slickly packaged version of "That's All Right" -- and as Randy put it: "Dude, this is like a new Scotty!"

Not only was Scotty's singing pitch-perfect as always, he really seemed to be having a great time, even busting out a few (sexy?) Elvis-y moves. In fact, we read that McCreery was the top searched "Idol"
contestant this week on Yahoo! by females 17 and under -- and we all know who's casting those 50 million votes.


James Durbin was our second favorite of the night, showing his softer side on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." James looked and sounded like a star (especially on that amazing last note), and he even ended the song by … gently weeping. Simply awesome.

Resident "balladeer" Pia Toscano swapped places with James, trying to prove that she can sing up-tempo. Personally, we thought she brought the house down with Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High," and looked gorgeous doing it. Other than maybe Jacob Lusk, none of the contestants can really belt out a song like Pia -- but Randy and Jennifer think she still needs to work on performance skills. Maybe so, but the girl can sing . . . and Christian Slater's daughter likes her.

Haley Reinhart also had another great week with Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," a song perfectly suited to her strengths. Confidently rocking a pair of leather pants, Haley gave it her all on the song -- and won our vote for most improved contestant. As Randy said, "Welcome back back back."

Jacob Lusk decided to go with Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" rather than Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," and we'd say it was a shrewd decision. The emotional song suited him better than the sexy-time anthem, and he managed to guilt us into thinking that if we didn't vote for him, it means we don't want to change the world.

Paul McDonald tried to hoedown his way out of the bottom three with Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," and got the whole "Idol" cast dancing. We love hearing Paul's voice no matter what he's singing, and we have a feeling he's one of those contestants who could go on to be a star whether he wins or not.

Lauren Alaina tackled the Queen of Soul with Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," and the judges (and Christian Slater) thought she did a great job. Steven said she went from a little girl to a "natural born woman" in four months, Jennifer thought she was "amazing" and Randy thought it was "good," but not as good as past performances of that song on the show. 

Backstage photos: Go behind-the-scenes with the "American Idol" contestants.

Casey Abrams sang Credence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and we're going to dare to say we found it (gasp) a little boring. Sure, it was great to see Casey get back to his musician roots with the upright bass, but we wouldn't be shocked to see him in the bottom three again on Thursday night.

But if we had to guess who's going home, we'd cast our vote for Stefano Langone. Stefano sang Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman," and to us, it felt and sounded too much like all of his other performances. Jennifer's goosepimples were going wild, but Randy thought he should have "Let it marinate" . . .
Overall, this week's bottom three is very tough to call, which means Thursday night is going to be painful. Bring on the drama!

--Jennifer D'Angelo Friedman

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