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"American Idol" Top 9: Rockin' and Rollin'

Jenny Chen |
April 7, 2011 | 12:11 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

(Michael Becker/FOX)
(Michael Becker/FOX)
"American Idol's" Top Nine took on their favorite tunes by inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Wednesday night, aiming to infuse the attitude and richness in sound the rock and roll genre has to offer.

And after an emotional double elimination last week, the pressure was on for the contestants to stand out.

Judge Steven Tyler’s scratchy voice introduced the theme while reminiscing about Aerosmith’s success and 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other inductees include greats like The Mamas and the Papas, Elvis Presley and Elton John.

This week, the contestants were mentored by Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am. and “No Doubt” singer Gwen Stefani styled the girls with her L.A.M.B. fashion line.

More than a few appropriated the confidence and stage presence both musical artists display on stage and did reasonably well. The only issue now is that the judges seem too focused on applauding contestants and refrain from offering more than basic critique.

Jacob Lusk - “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Although Lusk was originally slated to sing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” he felt a closer connection to the Michael Jackson hit. The performance started off stripped down and it was apparent, as usual, that Lusk was very emotionally linked to his song choice. Most awkward moment of the performance was Lusk’s strange humping and hip-thrusting between him and a backup singer as the song hit its climax. Yet, the judges loved the performance and Randy Jackson said he was proud of Lusk for sticking to his moral convictions.

Haley Reinhart – “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin

Reinhart has repeatedly been compared to Joplin and this week, tried to use that likeness to her advantage. While she certainly looked the part with her red-stained lips, her repeated growling was a little distracting. Jackson said the judges had been referring to Joplin’s bluesy sound and they all loved Reinhart’s runs at the end of her performance. “I couldn’t find nothing wrong with that,” Tyler said.  

Casey Abrams – “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Abrams switched it up by strumming an upright bass in one of the most toned down performances of the night. While not vocally perfect, it was refreshing to see Abrams prove he wasn’t only capable of the up-tempo and run-around-the-stage performances. It’s unclear whether his fans will like his attempt to slow it down, but Tyler called him a true musician. Abrams said he wanted to make the judges proud after saving him from elimination two weeks ago.

Lauren Alaina - “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

Also styled with Stefani’s signature red lipstick, Alain took on the “No Doubt” vocalist’s ease and maturity on stage. Alaina displayed confidence and appropriated sensuality, but she lacked some gusto in her bigger notes and is still shying away from them. She could have picked a more youthful song, even as Tyler said she had progressed from an “immature little girl” into a “natural-born woman.”

James Durbin – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison

After doing three “big rock songs in a row,” Durbin decided to take a risk and slow it down. While not pitch perfect, Jennifer Lopez said it was pleasant to see a second side to him – “that other dimension that lives so deep inside of you.” She applauded him for allowing the audience see his vulnerability.

Scotty McCreery – “That’s Alright Mama” by Elvis Presley

Decked out in cowboy boots, a jean button-down, and dark wash jeans, McCreery looked as if he would never ever leave his country background. The overall performance was nothing spectaculr but it was nice to see McCreery bobbing around on stage. He even had J.Lo shaking around in her seat to the beat and a pack of girls came on stage screaming in delight when he finished. “Scotty is in it to win it,” Jackson said.

Pia Toscano – “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner

The up-tempo song was the perfect change from the typical ballad-crooner. Styled in a patterned jumpsuit and hair slicked back, Toscano hit the bit notes as she’s done for most of the season. She still needs to learn to work the stage more and prove her ability as a performer, but the judges are still sold on her vocals.

Stefano Langone – “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

The romantic, albeit cheesy, song led to mixed feelings between the judges. Langone has a tendency to look a little awkward when staring directly into the camera and unfortunately, has done little to really stand out. Although his falsetto at the onset was really nice to listen to, the rest of the performance never hit its stride. J.Lo was blown away by his emotion but Jackson wasn’t as impressed.

Paul McDonald – “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

The quirky and skinny singer kept the song light and easy as he smiled and danced in place. The tune was folksy and airy, while McDonald’s light voice layered on top quite pleasantly. Although McDonald doesn’t have a big voice, his smile, rapid stomping and enjoyment on stage are infectious. J.Lo said it was the right way to end the show. 


Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.

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