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"American Idol" Top 8: Movie Night

Jenny Chen |
April 14, 2011 | 1:10 a.m. PDT

Associate News Editor


Top 8 (Michael Becker/FOX)
Top 8 (Michael Becker/FOX)
In the aftermath of Pia Toscano’s shocking elimination last week, “American Idol’s” Top Eight took to the stage Wednesday night channeling their inner Hollywood in order to keep them safe from elimination for another week.

The contestants were instructed to take on some iconic songs from the big screen, but not before judge Jennifer Lopez was honored and thoroughly embarrassed by her co-judges and host Ryan Seacrest for being named People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman.”

Once again, most contestants performed adequately and yet won lots of the judges’ praise, who have failed to critique the contestants enough. Most surprising were the two contestants who refused to take advice from mentor Jimmy Iovine, much to the detriment of their own performances.  

Paul McDonald – “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger

In his intro, McDonald said he treated every performance as if it were his encore – seemingly a healthy attitude to take in a high-pressure competition. His song choice was made famous in the film “Risky Business” in Tom Cruise’s famous underwear dancing scene and McDonald was just as fearless. Dressed in a red and green embellished (albeit sort of hideous) suit, McDonald took complete control of the stage. While not vocally impressive, McDonald was clearly in his comfort zone, interacting with the female saxophonist player in the middle. “I loved your crazy, wild abandon,” Steven Tyler said.  

Lauren Alaina – “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus

Iovine took a dig at songstress Cyrus when he said Alaina was vocally stronger than the Disney Star. While the mentor said this was Alaina’s chance to snatch up Toscano’s fans, Black Eyed Pea’s will.i.am said her performance had to be inviting. Her strapless dress with a zebra bustier top was a bit aging, but Alaina’s vocals shone. While Cyrus’ voice adds a youthfulness and immaturity to the song, Alaina’s simplistic take made the song simply sound more uplifting. J.Lo commended the “tear” or cry in Alaina’s voice, adding that she would get plenty of votes with or without Toscano’s leftover ones.

Stefano Langone- “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men

Unfortunately for Langone, his voice lacks the smooth R&B tone that makes “End of the Road” so pleasing to the ear. Yet, he finally showcased more of his vocals and one could tell he was yearning for some redemption after narrowly escaping elimination last week. Randy Jackson called Langone’s performance his best vocal to date. “This is so not the end of the road for you. It’s just the beginning,” Tyler added.

Scotty McCreery – “I Cross My Heart” by George Strait

McCreery has never strayed too far from his country path and he selected yet again another country hit from his childhood. Hoping to do the “King of Country” justice, McCreery delivered just the right emotion for the song. The song did seem a little stilted and slow at times, but McCreery’s fans are unlikely to ever hate his performances.  J.Lo said it was hard to be tough on the contestants when they are all “so damn good.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t even consider fixin’ it,” Jackson said. “A star is born on this stage.”

Casey Abrams – “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole

The mentors suggested Abrams sing “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, but Abrams decided he would continue on with his initial choice. Iovine seemed displeased and said Abrams better be right in his decision. Although Abrams brought out his bass again, it proved far less successful than last year. Instead, the number was just uncomfortable to watch and Abrams could not perform with the same type of character as exemplified with the “Moulin Rouge” version.  For whatever reason, the judges loved the jazzy number and gave him a standing ovation.

Haley Reinhart“Call Me” by Blondie

Iovine said Reinhart had to transform herself into a character heightened enough as Debbie Harry but her vocals really brought the performance down. Reinhart’s outfit consisted of a multi-colored short dress with knee-high purple boots which wasn’t really appropriate for the “Idol’ stage. The judges finally gave a long-overdue critique and Jackson said the beginning was very “karaoke.” J.Lo agreed with Jackson but refused to critique too much because she didn’t want any more girls getting voted off.

Jacob Lusk ­– “Bride over Trouble Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

Iovine suggested the song for Lusk, saying it was made for the contestant.  Although a big song, Lusk has a gospel voice that does shine when he gets on stage. For some reason, Lusk’s performances aren’t resonating with the public (landed in the bottom three last week), but he has struck a chord with the judges. “What happens to me when you sing is that I believe you,” Jackson said.

James Durbin – “Heavy Metal” by Sammy Hagar

Durbin bumped heads with Iovine, who urged the contestant to pick a different song. Durbin urged America to give “metal a chance,” and he forced them to during his performance. By refusing to take his mentor’s advice, Durbin’s performance ended up looking a bit self-indulgent and lacked anything refreshing or new than what was already expected from him. The judges seemed to have been listening to a completely different performance - “That felt really real,” J.Lo screamed. “It’s crazy in here tonight! Who would have ever thought on ‘American Idol’, we would have metal?”

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.

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