IDOL 411: Lauren Alaina Steps Into Pia's Shoes; 'End of the Road' for Haley?

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

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

It occurred to us on Wednesday night that another female "American Idol" contestant could be stepping into what we thought were Pia Toscano's frontrunner shoes: Lauren Alaina.

Jimmy Iovine encouraged Lauren to snap up Pia's votes, even though Jennifer Lopez (aka the newly crowned most beautiful woman in the world) countered that Lauren didn't need to "steal anybody's votes."

Fan base plundering aside, Lauren performed (ahem) a ballad, and Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" was the perfect vehicle for Lauren to connect with her young fans. Randy Jackson said that the teenager-next-door is "roaring back," and Steven Tyler declared, "You move me beyond tears."

The wholesome, mainstream, feel-good song was exactly what Lauren needed to distinguish herself from the other contestants, many of whom seem to be pushing the envelope in their respective sub-categories a little too far.

Casey Abrams went very jazzy with Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy," and while we're glad he didn't do Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," he seemed to bring back some of the tics and growls that were starting to get annoying. Randy pointed out that the world cannot live on pop stars alone, but J-Lo warned that he's "not gonna win any popularity contests with this song."

James Durbin also went a little off the page with Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal." It was great to see James try something that's really never been done on "Idol," but will America really "give metal a chance" in 2011?
We love Scotty McCreery and he's a total pro, but frankly, we were a little bored by his performance of George Strait's "I Cross My Heart" (we were rooting for "Everybody's Talkin'," especially for movie night.) But as Randy mentioned, Scotty should go on to be a star whether he wins the competition or not.

The judges were tough on Haley Reinhart this week, and while we agreed with Randy that her performance of Blondie's "Call Me" was a little "karaoke," it was still a lot of fun, and the song suited the tone of her voice very well. More importantly, where can we get a pair of those purple boots?

VIDEO: Watch the "Idol" contestants' performances.

Stefano, meanwhile, very likely succeeded in "Boomeranging" himself out of the bottom three with Boys II Men's "End of the Road." Right off the bat we were biased, since that's kind of a nostalgic song for us (memories of 1992!). But Stefano really did give his best performance of the season, and Steven said "this is so not the end of the road" for him. We're inclined to agree … at least for this week.

Jacob Lusk also may have sang his way out of the bottom three with "Bridge Over Troubled Water," though we're wondering if the audience will decide that he's "too gospel" to win the big prize. Iovine warned him not to be "preachy" like he was with "Man in the Mirror" last week, and he didn't really listen, so the jury's out …

Finally, there's Paul, and as much as we love him, if we had to guess, we'd say this is his week to go home. "Old Time Rock and Roll" was kind of a stuffy song for the show's resident hipster, even if the audience liked having "sax" with him. We kind of hope he'll stick around though, if only to see how many more floral suits he can pull out of his closet.

--Jennifer D'Angelo Friedman