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Swept out on stage in the middle of a crowd of be-bopping contestants, Ryan tells us that it is a rockin’ party and it’s roll time. Yes, it’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame theme week at Idol and the Top 9 will do their best to entertain us with energy delivered with an edge. So, let’s party on….
The party disappear backstage leaving Ryan all alone in front of a hyped up audience.
Ryan: Welcome to Idol. We are live in the center of Hollywood and tonight we’ve got 90 minutes of show for you.
He goes on to say that they’ve brought in some serious star power including Gwen Stefani who dressed the girls in outfits from her clothing line. Then a shift of pace to a video of Stephen Tyler taking us on a tour and giving us a lesson about what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH is all about. “Long Live Rock and Rollll!”
Joining mentor Jimmy Iovine this week is will.i.am who will help guide the contestants through presentation of their song. Production has put together a stage set that makes it seem as though they are in an intimate corner of a dressing room with tall canvas chairs for sitting and a microphone – huh? At least when you see this set you know what will happen there.
Jacob Lusk “Man in the Mirror” (Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett)
The producers wanted Jacob to sing “Let’s Get It On” but he wasn’t feeling it as honest to himself so he chose “Man in the Mirror” instead. A somber James relates the title to the voters of Idol. “If I’m in the bottom three, it won’t be because I sang the song bad, it will be because everybody isn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.” So much for a rockin’ good time to open the show, but we’ll see what he does with this overused Idol audition song.
Interesting sidenote: the co-writer, Siedah Garrett, is the backup singer.
All in white with subdued lighting, Jacob stands center state and delivers the opening verse with restrained power. At the chorus he moves to stand next to Siedah for a duet then unleashes his power but brings it down for the ending.
Stephen calls Siedah back out on stage for a bow declaring that the song is the finest ever to have been written. He loves that Jacob brings new pieces of himself to the party and that the performance was beautiful.
JLo tells him that he makes everyone know that if you believe in yourself and if you stick to what you know is right, you can do anything in this world; a beautiful performance, perfect.
Randy is so proud of him for sticking with his moral convictions during song choice and he finally found “Jacob” moments; dude, that was hot!
Haley Reinhart “Piece of my Heart” (Janis Joplin)
Since the judges have been saying they can hear Janis in her voice, she decides to grant them their wish. “You want Janis, I’ll give it to you.” The mentors in their canvas chairs advise her to look into the camera as if it is the cause of her pain.
Once again Siedah is one of the backup singers as Haley hits the stage in red lights with a guitarist on the side. Wearing Stefani inspired black leggings and black/white floating top, she takes charge…well…she tries but she sings Joplin as if Janis were sober and blonde. Haley uses her gravel voice to effect and stomps out the beat, but her bright face doesn’t quite sell the agony of a woman losing her man.
JLo is feeling strong about the start of the night; that Haley is showing she is a contender, she’s coming on strong; she has that “stuff.” If she keeps going on like that, she’s going to be around for a minute.
Randy addresses the Janis comments by saying that what Steven and he were referring to was that bluesy, kind of soul thing and that’s what she did with this song. He liked the cool run thing at the end.
Steven couldn’t find anything wrong with that. Janis gave the voice to Rock and Roll back in ’68 and Haley did it again tonight. He loves it, she nailed it.
Casey Abrams “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” (John Fogarty)
His original song choice was “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by Sting, but got called out by will.i.am for being lounging with the finger snapping…too Sammy (Davis, Jr.) He changed the song and brought in the double bass because he could only give the Sting song 80% of his energy.
He sings it Casey style with clinched jaw, a few ahhs and a small growl, but turns this pop song jazzy and interesting as he stands plucking the strings of the double bass.
Randy thinks he made CCR proud, and a great job. Casey is making the upright bass cool and it’s revolutionary to bring it to popular music.
Steven thinks he should put some wheels on it and ride it around town. He’s not just a singer, he’s a true musician and that’s what the show is about – the full package.
JLo tells him he belongs right there with his bass and she’s paying top dollar to be in the front row.
Lauren Alaina “You Make Me Feel like a Natural Woman” (Geffen and King)
Will.i.am makes up the word countroul for what he sees as her combining country with the soul of R&B since she is singing the Aretha Franklin version of the song.
Lauren walks out on a red lit stage wearing one of Stefani’s looks, though for a flattering fit, she should have swapped with Haley as the poufy shorts don’t do anything for her. She puts more sway than stomp in her movements and goes to scream at one point bringing the audience to its feet. (I’ll never understand why an audience awards high screams with screams of their own.)
Steven says she came in four months ago an immature little girl, but now she is a natural born woman. He loves her voice and thinks she’s great.
JLo doesn’t know what to say so takes her cue from audience yells and calls her amazing.
Randy thinks she did a good job on it; she took a difficult song and laid it out – so big props.
James Durbin “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (George Harrison)
After three big rock songs in a row, James is going to slow it down, do the unexpected. He says that you are never going to advance as an artist, as a person if you don’t take these chances; and he thinks that this is the perfect time to showcase that.
Backlit, he sits on a stool accompanied by a sideman playing electric guitar and, after a few bars, strings join in. He pours emotion into the song ending on his trademark James scream (which the crowd loves, of course.) His emotions carry over to tears when he finishes and he tells us that the song was sung for his family; that he has been working on it for five years and it is his accomplishment.
JLo comments that this side makes the rock and roll side work; it’s another dimension and it’s special that he is vulnerable enough to share it with the audience. She loved that. She thought it was a great choice for him.
Randy tells him that he loved seeing the real, true emotional side of James Durbin. You have to take chances to be an artist. For a long career you need to be an artist and James won. Good job, dawg.
Steven thinks that it was good to see that not only did his guitar gently weep, but he did as well. That’s really a proud moment for you. Thank you, man.
Scotty McCreery “That’s All Right Mama” (Arthur Crudup)
Scotty is a happy boy. He gets to sing one of Elvis’ first recordings from 1953. Will.i.am tries to wrap his head around country and rock and comes up with gibberish which Scotty interprets to mean, “give it that edge.”
A red and yellow swirling background takes him off the stairs directly around the judges table to rock it to the audience. Then quickly back on stage where he throws a scat run in the direction of the stand up bass and guitar who share the stage with the back up singers. The audience is on its feet and clapping along with the beat.
The controversy of the night: was the fan girl run up on stage to surround him real or staged? Ryan acts all bodyguard as they quickly go back to where they came from.
Randy declares that Scotty is in it to win it. This is like a new Scotty, we’ve never seen this side, dude. Scotty’s in it to win it! Who’s going to beat him?
Steven used to think he was all hat and no cattle, but he rode Elvis into the house, which makes Steven hope the old nostalgia comes back and that type of music comes into play again. “You did it well.”
JLo sees that he is having fun with it; that he’s funny then wonders where the “flavor” comes from. (Scotty: It’s the Puerto Rican blood.) JLo loved the whole thing.
Pia Toscano “River Deep Mountain High” (Ike and Tina Turner)
Pia is going up tempo as promised. Will.i.am counsels her to turn on the personality and performance.
With the red background and gowned in a Stefani jumpsuit, Pia turns from a rock star pose to delicately stomp her way to the front of the stage. She is in full voice all the time. Taking it off the stage, she sings to the judges then gently moves around the ring back to the stage where she ends on a prolonged upper register note close to a scream. The crowd erupts…including Christian Slater’s little girl who is a sign carrying fan.
Steven shouts out that she killed it!
JLo checks off up tempo singing, but wants her to do her homework about how to perform.
Randy tells her he knew she could deliver on an up tempo and she did that tonight. All she needs to do now is work on the movement. YO! Pia’s in it to win it, boys!
Todd Rundgren, who produced Janis Joplin, is in the audience and pronounced a true legend by Randy.
Stefano Langone “When a Man Loves a Woman (Percy Sledge)
The mentors coach Stefano by giving him a different perspective on the song and try to show him how to sing it; mainly by getting in front of it rather than letting it overtake him.
Under a spotlight on the darkened stage, Stefano starts off soft in falsetto. When he moves out of falsetto, he goes thin screech, though he does express emotion and his phrasing shows the jumps as coached. He ends on a nice note in his mid range.
JLo knew he had it in him and it was beautiful. That had another layer of emotion to it where she really felt he was singing it to somebody, about somebody. Amazing. Magic.
Randy liked it but doesn’t know if he was jumping up and down because the first part felt a little jerky to him. Sometimes he needs to just let it marinate before counter punching.
Steven likes the old timey and where he took it. He tells him to keep playing with his range, that he likes that about his voice.
Paul McDonald “Folsom Prison Blues” (Johnny Cash)
Jimmy gets him off the stool and standing at the mic with his guitar a-strumming. He says that Paul has to find Johnny’s coolness and passion. The big advice is to NOT tone it down. So Paul is going to do the song as crazy as he can.
Center stage, playing acoustic with a lead and bass guitar on either side of him, he begins with his usual patter, “What’s up y’all?” While it’s odd to hear Johnny Cash sung in such a high voice, he makes it work with intensity. Throwing a guitar riff in the middle, he makes a show of it.
Randy has three words for Paul, “I Loved It!”
Steven calls him a perfect imperfect boy. He loved it and says Paul rocked the house.
JLo thinks it is the perfect way to end the show – Paul is amazing.
During the roll back of tape, the contestants gather on stage to dance hoe-down style while the audience continues to have fun with their experience.
After these interesting performances, who will have to leave? MsFroggy will have the low down on the hoe-down.