Time to pick up the pieces and move on.
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Judges' darling Pia Toscano was eliminated from American Idol last week, a surprising (for some) ouster that had Jennifer Lopez in tears and fans in an uproar--despite the fact that not enough of them rallied in the first place to keep their girl in the competition.
The remaining eight contestants got to tackle music from the movies Wednesday, always an interesting theme. So how did the first Pia-less performance night go?
Bob Seger's "Old Time and Rock and Roll" may soothe Paul McDonald's soul, but it sounded more like he needed cough syrup to soothe his throat. His head-to-toe spangles sparked the judges' frenzy, however, and they praised his "wild abandon."
We would have preferred the Risky Business boxers look, but...to each his own.
Mentors Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am predicted that Lauren Alaina would top the original version of Hannah Montana: The Movie's "The Climb" by a mile, but considering a lot of the 16-year-old's fans probably adore Miley Cyrus, too...maybe they didn't want to come down too hard on the star.
Nevertheless, Lauren did sing a purer, truer version of the ballad, so good for her.
"You sounded like the song was written for you," Randy Jackson told her.
Stefano Langone went with Boyz II Men's "End of the Road"--from Boomerang, duh!--and while it had some nice moments, he's outspokenly in it to win it, and that might rub people the wrong way. We imagine Simon Cowell would have called his performance "frantic," like Stefano was pleading with the audience to keep him around.
J.Lo felt that he was, in fact, "singing to win," but did he turn it on too late?
In a shocking twist, Scotty McCreery plumbed the depths of the 1992 drama Pure Country and pulled out George Strait's "I Cross My Heart." (We're kidding about the shocking twist part.)
A fine choice, but it turns out he originally intended to sing Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin,'" otherwise known as the unofficial theme of Midnight Cowboy (and, incidentally, a crazy good song). But Scotty went the safe route and did...perfectly well. He's not in any trouble, especially since most of the kids voting for him wouldn't know Ratso Rizzo if he walked right in front of their car in traffic.
Casey Abrams, meanwhile, went the exact opposite way of safe.
Despite having a strong backup plan in Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" (also heard in Risky Business), the 20-year-old went with Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy"--perfect for his upright bass, but perhaps not the best choice for America.
But Casey sort of plucked us into submission with his patient performance, which started slow but heated up with an array of runs, high notes and other vocal trickery that made you sorry when it ended. And you better believe the judges absolutely swooned with the romance of it all--especially (for a change) Randy, who actually used the opportunity to toot his own horn.
"You know what it does to me, who's an artist, it makes me proud to sit here and judge artists, as well as pop stars," Randy said after calling Casey's performance no less than "brilliant" and "genius."
"The world cannot live by pop stars alone, let me add," he added. "We need art to have that zen balance."
The first film to use "Nature Boy" was 1948's The Boy WIth Green Hair, but here's a coincidence for you: An instrumental version can be heard during a scene in a jazz club in the 2001 film Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer "Most Beautiful Person in the World" Lopez.
Haley Reinhart lost a little steam as she strutted toward the judges' table midway through Blondie's "Call Me," featured in American Gigolo, but she finished with a thundering flourish once she returned to the stage. She sang the chorus like a lioness roaring to get out of her cage--in a good way!
"If I'm totally honest, I'm going to agree more with Randy [who didn't love it], except I'm so afraid to say anything about the girls because I don't want any other girls to go home!" Jennifer exclaimed. "I feel like all the girls will get voted off and I don't like that...We have strong girl singers and I really feel they deserve to be here."
"Yes, vote for the girls!" she agreed as her outburst was met with a round of applause.
Then came a conundrum: Jimmy Iovine suggested that Jacob Lusk, who never met a flourish he didn't add, cover the famously simple 'n' perfect "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (the Simon &Garfunkle classic showed up in The Pursuit of Happyness).
But you know what? It was big, sure, but also amazing. We were pretty ready for Jacob to go last week, but we're glad he stuck around to give us this.
James Durbin went Scotty's route and dove into his preferred genre, closing the show with Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" from, er, the 1981 animated feature Heavy Metal.
No great hook, as Iovine pointed out, but the performance was entertaining and James made it (whatever "it" was, exactly) work.
And just as Scotty was lavishly praised for always being true to himself, the judges heaped love on James for bringing metal to Idol.
"I can see you onstage at the next Ozzfest!" Randy raved.
It was a strong night for the top eight, but, as always, someone unsuspectingly wrote his or her ticket home and the field will be cut to seven tomorrow night.
Who do you think sang a swan song tonight?
(Originally published April 13, 2011, at 6:32 p.m. PT)
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