Pop Culture

Smooch! 'Idol' Casey plants a wet one on J.Lo

Seven singers performed on “American Idol” on Wednesday, and the audience got to see the finalists make fun of each other. But Casey Abrams stole the show by doing what pretty much every male dreams of — kissing the most beautiful woman in the world.

Abrams capped off his rendition of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” by kissing Jennifer Lopez on the cheek. For a singer who’s been in and out of danger over the past month and had some uneven vocals at times during the performance, it was a perfect way to ensure that everyone would be entertained enough to keep him around.

You also have to give him credit for the courage to hit on People magazine’s icon of feminine beauty, and considering she didn’t pull away or slap him, that has to be considered a win. (Especially since she commented on how soft his lips are.) And for those less concerned with the superficial aspects, he also continued to prove that he’s the most versatile musician among the finalists as he broke out the electric guitar.

The only loser here was the Fox censor because Steven Tyler reacted to the smooch by saying that it was something he himself had been trying to do for months. He followed that by praising Abrams with a string of muted profanities. (But here’s a tip for Fox: Bleeping out the F-bombs doesn’t do much good when the camera lingers on Tyler anyway. He enunciates clearly enough that it doesn’t take an expert lip-reader to figure out what he’s saying.)

Breaking away
The other singers who helped themselves the most this week did so by showing the audience the type of songs they could release that would have a chance of hitting the pop charts.

James Durbin broke away from the metal and went with Muse’s “Uprising” — still something that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but definitely more of a contemporary sound. His was the most memorable performance of the night, though he looked and sounded more like Adam Lambert with less eye makeup than something truly original.

Meanwhile, Haley Reinhart went with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a daring choice given Adele’s current place atop the pop charts. Reinhart has zero room for error, and as mentor Jimmy Iovine noted, the voters tend to desert her when she is anything less than magical. She might not have hit that bar Wednesday, but did well in illustrating the type of song that best matches her vocal talent and modern radio airplay trends. If she goes, at least she’ll know that she went out with a solid performance.

Wait … was that negativity?
This was a rare week where the “Idol” finalists faced criticism. Of course, most of that was from their fellow competitors, but the judges actually came strong with some not-100-percent-positive feedback of their own for a change.

The pre-performance videos this week featured everyone making fun of various quirks and personality traits that can be either endearing or irritating, depending on whether you like that particular singer or not. We learned valuable insider information: Scotty McCreery holds his microphone like a flute, Jacob Lusk has diva-esque tendencies, Lauren Alaina talks too much and Durbin’s weird way of using scarves continues to amuse and horrify his fellow competitors.

But the judges also finally seemed to grasp that not everyone can be perfect every week. They dinged McCreery for his song choice, with good reason. (LeAnn Rimes’ “Swingin’ ”? Really? A choice of any song released by anyone in the 21st century, and that’s the best option you can come up with?) Moreover, Tyler would have liked it if the crooner had boot-scooted a little more, his first critical comment in a month. If McCreery’s not in the bottom three this week, look for him in the finale. But given his track record thus far, he’s probably safe regardless.

Alaina is also probably safe, but man, would it be great if she would put her foot on the gas one of these weeks. Both Iovine and the judges think that Alaina’s biggest enemy is herself, that she holds back because she isn’t sure how good she can really be. That’s a big part of what’s keeping her out of the Carrie Underwood zone at present. While her version of Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly” was very good and she won’t be going home this week, the judges still told her they were hoping for better performances down the road.

Lusk had a hard time getting started on Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father,” whether it was because of a problem with his earpiece or the emotional connotations of the song. Lusk’s father passed away when the singer was 12, a fact brought out in the pre-performance video with Iovine. But Lusk didn’t always look like he was able to channel his emotions into the song instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Stefano Langone’s rendition of Ne-Yo’s “Closer” received tepid praise from Randy for not being as bad as it could have been, but the hopeful will be in the bottom three as he is every week. Just assume he’ll be among that group until he finally goes home.

Paul’s not in the Pink
With a little extra time to kill this week thanks to the 90 minutes allotted for the seven finalists, “Idol” went outside the box and brought back the six eliminated contestants to cover Pink’s “So What.”

Hard to fault the song choice, since all six had to be thinking, “So what — I’ll still be a star, even if America decided that I’m not one now.” But let’s just say that nobody should expect Paul McDonald to be performing a Pink medley at his next concert. His solos were bad enough that if he hadn’t already been booted off the show, voters would have kicked him off on general principles.

We can only hope that if another male is voted off Thursday, his voice will blend better with the eliminated women the next time “Idol” breaks out the also-rans.

Craig Berman is a frequent contributor to TODAY.com. Follow him on Twitter as he live tweets each episode.

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