"This guy just might win the whole thing."
Randy was inspired by James' performance of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which opened with a stunning a cappella that was among the highlights of Wednesday night's Carole King-themed show.
"No marching band, no flaming piano, I believe I can put in just as good of a show by myself," James predicted.
He pulled it off . . . and Jennifer Lopez correctly noted that James has had a strong week every week since the Top 13 were announced (notwithstanding his duet with Jacob Lusk, "I'm Into Something Good").
Scotty McCreery also gave a moving performance, expanding beyond his usual country shtick with "You've Got a Friend." The opening was soft and lovely, and as Ryan Seacrest pointed out, when Scotty sings, it's like he's singing to one person. "Scotty's in it to win it!" an impressed Randy declared.
Lauren Alaina also stepped it up a notch with "Where You Lead," challenging herself to hit the high notes as per the judges' advice. Her voice cracked a little, but the judges' loved seeing her "pushing" and "going hard for it" … and it helps to have Miley Cyrus rooting for you.
Back to Jacob Lusk, it seems like he had a much better night than anyone expected him. Jacob admitted that being in the bottom three is getting him down, but he then gave one of his best performances to date with "Oh No Not My Baby." It was fun and upbeat and Jacob seemed comfortable and relaxed -- and like Steven, we enjoyed seeing him "shake his tail-feather." Jimmy Iovine predicted that he'd be in the most trouble this week, but we're not 100 percent sure.
That honor could also go to Haley Reinhart, who sang "Beautiful." Steven "heard God" in Haley's voice, and we agree with Jennifer that she has one of the best voices in the competition, but the performance was a little boring. She made up for it with her duet of "I Feel the Earth Move" with her not-even-bothering-to-deny-it boyfriend Casey Abrams, who admitted that he "likes growling with her … onstage." Among other places.
Speaking of "weird beard," as he will now be known thanks to Steven, Casey made his unique mark on "Hi-De-Ho," giving a confident, stylish performance that kept us wanting more. He's not as good of a singer as his leggy gal pal, but as Randy put it, "He keeps this show different."
Our prediction: We'll say goodbye to Jacob or Haley on Thursday, barring the unexpected Pia Toscano-esque surprise.
--Jennifer D'Angelo Friedman