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From Scotty McCreery's meaningful 9/11 tribute to Lady Gaga inspiring the contestants to be "evil" to the brawl between Haley Reinhart and Randy Jackson, "American Idol" certainly packed a lot into 90 minutes on Wednesday night.
Let's start with Scotty's pivotal moment when he performed Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." A week and a half after Usama bin Laden's death, the song couldn't have been more perfectly timed, and it may have been one of the shrewdest moves of the season. He not only played to the hearts of the judges and Americans watching at home, but to his core audience of die-hard country music fans as well.
Jennifer Lopez was left in awe of the performance, telling him, "I am just in love with you, I can't help it. I can tell how much you think about it and you know who you are and you know what touches other people. It's the mark of someone who is meant to do this."
Steven Tyler also praised the rendition, calling it "beautiful."
The dramatic moment set the stage for comic relief in round two, when Lady Gaga attempted to talk to Scotty about sex. One thing is now perfectly clear: Lady Gaga and Scotty McCreery just don't mix. Gaga urged Scotty to move closer to the microphone during "Young Blood," explaining, "That's your girlfriend and if you don't stick your tongue down throat she's gonna leave you. Make love to that mic!" With a wink and a nudge, poor Scotty said he felt the need to kiss his cross and apologize to the Lord.
Then there was Haley Reinhart, who was so PO'd at Randy she could barely give him a kiss-and-make-up hug. Haley sang Michael Jackson's "Earth Song," right away making the potentially deadly mistake of picking a little-known song. The theme of the evening's first round was inspirational songs, but with this week determining who will be in the top three, song choice was crucial. We totally agreed with Randy's critique that the song wasn't Haley's "vibe," and her makeup and updo all but eradicated the cool factor she's been building for the last few weeks.
However, Haley wasn't about to politely stand onstage and take the criticism. She denied that she was screaming the notes, and insisted the song was "beautiful the way it was." Jennifer Lopez also questioned Haley's song choice, but Steven Tyler jumped to Haley's defense, telling her not to listen to the other judges (cut to loverboy Casey Abrams applauding wildly in the audience). We like a girl who knows how to stand up for herself, but defensive behavior never seems to bode well on "Idol."
Haley got her groove on for round two with the help of Gaga, delivering what Jennifer called one of the best performances of the year. But before we continue, let's take a moment to discuss Gaga's outfit, shall we? From the lack of pants to the war-paint eye makeup to the hair dyed to resemble some kind of wild animal, Gaga was as weird if not weirder than ever. So it should come as no surprise that Gaga encouraged Haley to "get a little psycho" during her performance of "I (Who Have Nothing)."
"Give them 'I'm a little crazy' and 'I'm just a laugh away from a tear,'" she advised.
Strange as it sounds, the advice worked, and Haley really did have a moment, even getting a standing ovation from the judges. But given her first performance and its aftermath, we're not totally convinced that Haley "Reinharted" herself into the middle of next week, as Steven put it.
Gaga also offered some advice to wholesome Lauren Alaina, who was having doubts about singing the word "evil" during "Trouble" by Elvis Presley. "You're 16, you're not a kid," Gaga said. Well actually, she is. But Lauren wound up giving one of her sexiest performances to date, so the advice paid off.
We actually preferred Lauren's first performance of Martina McBride's "Anyway," which she dedicated to the people in her hometown and elsewhere in the South who have been devastated by tornadoes. It was certainly inspirational, and despite criticism in recent weeks, she definitely nailed those notes.
And then there was James, who kicked off the show with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." The judges loved it — especially the obviously biased Randy — but it wasn't one of our favorite James moments.
He made up for it with "Love Potion No. 9," giving the James Durbin rock concert we've come to know and love. Lady Gaga actually got behind him and moved his hips to make him look "sexy," but he really didn't need the help. The dramatic pause at the end was perfect, too.
So who's in and who's out? We'd say Scotty is 100 percent safe. James isn't going anywhere barring a Pia Toscano-level scandal. So that leaves Lauren and Haley, and we're going to guess that the person going home — and not in the fun way, as in the hometown visits — will be Haley. Randy had better keep an eye out for a horse's head in his bed.
--Jennifer D'Angelo Friedman, PopNews Wire