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‘American Idols’ swing into Rat Pack night

Simon Cowell made it clear: He was hunting for swagger and confidence among the final five finalists. Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey showed they had swagger to spare.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

The theme of the week on “American Idol” was Rat Pack standards, with the singers trying to croon their way to the final four. Sadly for the show’s entertainment value, this did not come with the typical Vegas two-drink minimums for the judges and host Ryan Seacrest.

In an effort to try and keep things moderately relevant, actor-turned-recording-star Jamie Foxx served as guest mentor. Say this for Foxx — he took his duties seriously, to the point of setting a new record for the violation of personal space during the rehearsals.

But since it’s been a long time since Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin graced the pop charts and since most wedding singers can come out with a passable version of the era’s classics, Simon Cowell was looking for swagger. The judge made it clear that it’s not enough to be a good singer, he wants someone who really wants to win and who shows the confidence that they deserve to do so.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the two singers with the most reason to be confident closed the show. Not surprisingly, they’re the only two locks to be safe for another week.

Adam Lambert may be the most swagger-riffic singer in “Idol” history, as he showed again from the moment he strutted down the stage to perform “Feeling Good.”

The judges still don’t seem to know quite what to make of Adam, but they all seem to like him. As Randy Jackson noted, the performance was very theatrical. But as Simon retorted, complaining about that for any Adam effort is like complaining that cows moo.

“You’re shocking in a good way,” Kara DioGuardi said. “Confusing and shocking and sleazy and superb and way over-the-top but I don’t know. I like you. Craziness!”

“You make me feel better than good,” Paula Abdul added. “It’s like I’m watching the Olympics and you’re our Michael Phelps.”

Also stepping up in a major way was Danny Gokey. Mostly clean-shaven this week, Danny sang “Come Rain or Come Shine” and survived Jamie Foxx’s nose-to-nose motivational tactics with a performance that wasn’t just technically proficient, but also showed a new burst of confidence.

“What I’ve been missing from you is that Rat Pack swagger, and you have swagger tonight,” Kara said.

Simon agreed. “What Kara said is a hundred percent right — what you have today is a swagger and a confidence. I felt you came out to prove a point. That was outstanding.”

With Randy declaring that Danny could have a hit selling an album of standards, and Paula’s usual round of platitudes, it was another night where he continued his likely run to the finale.

Who's in trouble?The question of the week is which of the other three singers is in the worst shape.

Kris Allen hasn’t been in the bottom three yet this season, which means he’s probably OK even after starting the show with a performance of “The Way You Look Tonight” that impressed the judges, but ultimately didn’t stand out.

Randy called it Kris’s best performance yet, and Paula lusted that “You’ve made this amazing transition from being the adorable boy next door to the amazingly handsome gentleman.”

However, it looked as if some of the spark and confidence that Kris has displayed in recent weeks was left offstage with his guitar. Simon compared it to taking a well-trained spaniel for a walk, and noted “I don’t get the feeling from you tonight that you can win this competition.” If nothing else, it knocked Kris another notch behind the two favorites, and though he’s still a dark horse he did nothing to help his chances here.

Allison Iraheta celebrated her birthday on Monday, but since the Stray Cats don’t count as Rat Pack singers she couldn’t honor that milestone by singing “Sexy and 17.” Instead, she did a very nice job with “Someone to Watch Over Me”

“I was starting to think you did need someone to watch over you, after being in the bottom three these last few weeks, but I ain’t nervous about you any more,” Kara said.

She probably should be. Simon flat-out asked Allison if she thought she could win the competition, and though Allison answered in the affirmative, she wasn’t convincing enough.

“I have a horrible feeling you could be in trouble tonight,” Simon concluded. By all rights the teen should be back, since it was one of her best performances of the competition, but considering she’s constantly among the lowest vote-getters she was guaranteed to be in trouble regardless.

That leaves Matt Giraud, who was in his element with “My Funny Valentine.” But after a performance filled with a lot of runs and vocal tricks that met with mixed success, he has to hope that the viewers value Simon’s opinion.

“For me, this was the only believable, authentic song I heard tonight,” Simon said, though this was before Danny and Adam closed the show. “I thought you were absolutely brilliant.”

But Randy thought it was pitchy, and Kara didn’t get any emotional connection. Matt’s already been saved once this season, but this might have been enough to knock him out for the final time.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.