‘American Idol’ Preview: Can Jacob Lusk Keep It Up?

Casey Abrams will surely pull out all the stops after his near-elimination.

Last week on “American Idol,” Jacob Lusk soared, while Casey Abrams collapsed , literally, falling into Ryan Seacrest’s arms as the judges exercised their only save of the season to prevent the bearded fellow from going home.

Where does the show go from here? Will Lusk, who bounced back from a few dreadful performances to wow the crowd with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By,” be able to keep it up during Wednesday’s (March 30) Elton John-themed evening? Can Abrams buck up after almost chucking up his dinner, following his sing-for-survival take on Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor”?

Those are just two of the questions we’re kicking around as we head into the show. Here’s what we’re hoping to see from each singer when “Idol” goes live.

Casey Abrams
At this point, there can hardly be any disputing that Abrams is this year’s Andrew Garcia, a guy whose musical stylings were revelatory at first but quickly revealed themselves as one-note. The problem right now for Casey is that he’s been all over the place in recent weeks — wannabe grunge kid here, slicked-back showman there. We don’t expect him to last much longer, but while he’s still there, Abrams should simply embrace who he truly is: a singer who over-relies on his growl and has a ton of fun up on the stage. A slowed-down take on “The Bitch Is Back” could be a nice fit.

Haley Reinhart
If you believe the tabloid press, Haley and Casey have coupled up behind the scenes. They might be able to spend a whole lot more time together soon. Her best bet to avoid a trip home is to cover a highly recognizable Elton tune and hope the public, merrily singing along, transfers some good will to Haley in the form of votes. Perhaps a husky, bluesy version of “Tiny Dancer” is in order.

Jacob Lusk
When Jacob sings, you feel it. Sometimes that makes it a terrifying experience, and sometimes it’s a moving one. With a new emphasis on restraining his impulse to over-sing and under-deliver, Lusk would be savvy to cover “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and wait until the final notes to truly sing the hell out of the tune.

James Durbin
We continue to argue that Durbin is at his best when showing off his sensitive, genuine side, rather than pretending he’s some sort of rock star you’d best keep your sisters and daughters away from. We want the 22-year-old to keep his performance slow this week, which is why we’ll point him in the direction of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”

Lauren Alaina
We fear Lauren will go uptempo once again — she seems to enjoy strutting around the stage like a go-go dancer plopped into a country salon. But she’s at her best while belting over a spare arrangement. So we hope she avoids something like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and instead reaches for something special with a ballad like “Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”

Naima Adedapo
The 26-year-old has hung around an admirably long time, but Elton John week should present her a serious challenge. We think. Honestly, we’re never sure what Naima is going to give us week to week. While we’re unchanged in our view that she’d be best served by carving out an Adele-like niche for herself, Naima doesn’t seem intent on defining herself in any one way. So we won’t pick a specific song for her, just cross our fingers that she shows us something like she did during her audition take on Donny Hathaway, when we first tagged her as a contestant to watch.

Paul McDonald
Paul likes to boogie. There’s no way he’ll play guitar two weeks in a row and avoid those gyrations he calls dancing. But we can hope, right? How about we split the difference and have him hold onto the mic stand for dear life as he delivers a convulsive cover of “Bennie and the Jets”?

Pia Toscano
Wait, wait, wait — she’s totally going to do a ballad again, right? Even though the judges are nearly down on their knees begging Pia to bust out something with a pulse? Come on, you don’t think she’d actually do something like “Crocodile Rock”? Ha! The gal with the season’s biggest pipes isn’t going to stray from her comfort zone, if only because we’re not sure she’d be able to at this point. So it’s “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” for her.

Scotty McCreery
Speaking of comfort zones, Scotty ain’t going anywhere that’s not within spitting distance of a Travis Tritt song. We’re done expecting anything else. Listen to the lyrics of “Your Song” and it just feels like a country song. We have a feeling that’s where Scotty is headed on Wednesday (March 30).

Stefano Langone
Aside from Casey, who probably sustained some bruises (and possibly a heart attack), Stefano is the contestant who suffered most last week: He closed his eyes and butchered Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” This week, he’s got to sing an Elton song that drips with so much emotion even Stefano couldn’t fail to connect with some lyrics. As strange and potentially cheesy as it may be, “Candle in the Wind” — arranged in a vaguely contemporary manner — might be in order.

Thia Megia
Let’s agree to this: If Thia sings the “Circle of Life,” “American Idol” closes up shop forever. After the brutal reception of her “Pocahontas” tune earlier this month, she wouldn’t actually take on “The Lion King,” would she? Hey, the kid seems so mixed up these days, anything is possible. An uptempo number didn’t work for her last week. Nothing, to be frank, might prevent her from getting a trip home. In that sense, then, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” could be the perfect choice.

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