Talking Shit

American Idol Recap: In Which Nice Young Americans Learn Who the Hell Carole King Is

Last night was a sad one on American Idol, not least of all because the Sun-Sentinel's television critic, Tom Jicha, was for once justified in his moony adoration of metalhead James Durbin.

It was Carole King night on Idol, which, perhaps counterintuitively, is an ideal night for a metalhead to show what he can do. Carole King songs can be effectively metalized, of course -- so can anything -- but probably not with just a few days' rehearsal time. So Durbin lent his outsized pipes to a pretty standard, subtly rocking version of King's very first hit, harking way the hell back to the days when the Brill Building dealt in angelic three-minute palliatives for flesh-rending teenybopper horniness. And he slew it. The dude is almost certain to be the next American Idol.

Others didn't do so well, and it's now very apparent that an early favorite will be sent home tonight. Here's a breakdown:

Jacob Lusk sings "Oh No, Not My Baby":

The arrangement was hookless, and the melody sat awkwardly atop the

accompaniment, as though Jacob and the pianist couldn't agree on a key.

(The harmonies in the original are a little weird but far more accessible than those proffered on Idol.)

Jacob seemed profoundly uncomfortable, retreating ungracefully from

some notes and seeming to test out others before committing to them with

the full power of his throat. The judges dug the performance, but

that's because they're deaf.

Lauren Alaina sings "Where You Lead, I Will Follow":

Lauren came into her own last night, giving an honest-to-goodness

performance instead of a mere recital. But that's not worth much.

"Performance" on Idol is usually a matter of cruise-ship-level

schtickiness, and Lauren's is no exception. Her singing, however, is

lovely. (She should endeavor to put a little less "personality" into it

-- she's no Bob Dylan, and she comes off as nervous when she tries to

make a line sound conversational.)

Scotty McCreery sings "You've Got a Friend in Me": Scotty McCreery is far from the best singer, performer, or song stylist on the Idol stage,

but only a jaw-droppingly shitty performance could convince his vast,

Nashville-loving constituency of repeat voters to put him in the bottom

three. Unfortunately, this wasn't it. I've always been annoyed by James

Taylor's version of "You've Got a Friend," but I was

genuinely moved by Scotty's. The arrangement was expansive, and never

has Scotty sung so feelingfully -- he seemed to be singing about something, and the grownup singer that will one day replace this teenybopper's corpus on the world's stages made his first appearance.  

James Durbin sings "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow":

Holy shit! James' a cappella beginning was ragged and weary, as the

lyrics demand, but shortly after the band kicked in with a midtempo '60s

beat and a crunchy undercarpet of guitar, the performance morphed

into a full-throated, battle-crazy demand for love. There are a

lot of great versions of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" out there,

and this was as good as any of them. Unbuckingfelievable.

Casey Abrams sings "Hi De Ho":

Casey's performance was strange, even for him. "Hi De Ho" is a slow,

jazzy shindig built around a torpid shuffle up and down a blues scale.

Abrams' growls and stage prowls seemed right out of some avant garde

neo-noir nightclub revue. America will probably hate it. I liked it.

Haley Reinhart sings "Beautiful":

Haley gets hippie-dippier by the day, and it's cool -- she's starting to

seem like a less corny, more soulful Maria Muldaur. Though her stage

demeanor is ever-more languid, Haley's extraordinary voice seemed a

little arid this episode. Too much yelling, maybe. Still, despite that

minor tonal deficiency, her performance was note-perfect and rang

emotionally true. Especially at the finale. Over the past several

rounds, Haley has learned to use her looks to her advantage -- to smolder. If she sticks around, she'll get harder to beat every week.

Since we're down to six contestants, the Idol overlords

have begun stuffing the competition shows with duets. One of these

sucked. One of them sucked even more. One of them was pretty awesome,

even though it started out sucking -- that was Haley and Casey's take on

"I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet." Man, those kids can harmonize!

Who should be in the bottom three: Jacob

(because he's not living up to his promise), Lauren (because she's

merely passable), and Casey (because he's emerged as such a niche taste.

He's more an artist than an Idol.)

Who will be in the bottom three: Jacob

(because he pissed people off with some arrogant mouthing-off three

weeks ago, and he then failed to sing well enough to make people forget

about it), Casey (because people don't like difference), and Haley

(because people suck).

Who should go home: Lauren. (Because she's never had a brilliant performance.)

Who will go home: Jacob. (Because he hasn't had a brilliant performance in weeks.)

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Brandon K. Thorp