So much for contemporary tuneage! A week after "American Idol" embraced songs from the 21st century, the show is headed back into the familiarity of the previous millennium with the songbook of Carole King.
It's a rather odd choice at this point in the competition, as much fun as it would be to see James Durbin attempt to pull off a heavy-metal take on "It's Too Late." It's not just that King's songs will be an uneasy fit for many of the singers, but that her songbook doesn't contain near the number of recognizable tunes that even Elton John's does (and just you forget about Lennon/McCartney). Considering the top six will also be singing duets of King's work (hey, producers have got to find some way of filling up 90 minutes of air time), it's going to be a challenge for them to find recognizable solo performances that connect with home viewers. Perhaps more so than at any point this season, the arrangements of Jimmy Iovine's producers are going to be of the utmost importance.
Here's what we'll be looking for from the kids headed into Wednesday's show:
What to make of Casey? He's defied the odds for weeks, avoiding the bottom three after being saved by the judges last month. With his quirky performances and his goofy personality, the 20-year-old seems to have solidified a dedicated fanbase who will vote for him on good nights (Elton's "Your Song") and bad (Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe"). King's oeuvre is certainly a better fit for Casey than other "Idol" hopefuls, and we can see him succeeding — along with his bass — with "Wasn't Born to Follow" (made famous by the Byrds in "Easy Rider").
We'd say Haley can choose no other song than "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," but Lauren Alaina already beat her to it (on rock and roll night, strangely enough). It's too bad, since the tune would have provided the perfect, soulful platform on which she can build on last week's rousing rendition of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Whatever song she picks, here's the problem: Haley just doesn't have the fanbase to survive much longer. She killed it last week and still ended up in the bottom three. Her comeback, it seems, will be remembered as too little too late. We just hope she shows off enough bluesy sass to make record execs take notice. Don't let this girl disappear!
America should have its fingers and toes crossed that Jacob ignores Randy Jackson's advice from last week to ditch his recent, restrained performances and let loose like a wild man. An unbound Jacob is a Jacob we simply don't dig. A tune like "It's Too Late" could hit his emotional sweet spot. No matter the song choice, Wednesday's performance could be a make-or-break one for the guy. He's been a regular member of the bottom-three crew, and he'll have to come out strong if he wants to pick up some of Stefano Langone's voters.
While it's putting it mildly to say James didn't bust out his finest vocals of the season last week during his Muse cover, we gave the thumbs-up to the performance because it was metal enough to satisfy James' instincts yet still allowed him room to stretch his vocal cords (even if it didn't sound so great when he did). King's songbook presents James with the biggest challenge of any of the remaining six. He might take a bite out of a King-penned Monkees' tune, but a savvier choice would be the Animals' "Don't Bring Me Down" and its darkly infectious choral refrain.
Was last week a wakeup call for Lauren? Will she be able to shake off the nerves that have plagued her for too long and return to the freewheeling performance style she displayed early on this season? If that happens, and she continues to present country-rock music, Lauren is practically assured of ending up in the final three. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," lyrically, just feels like a country song — all it needs is a little twangy update from Lauren.
As we predicted last week, Scotty's likely in for a back-from-the-brink performance, not because he bombed last week, but because the judges decided to slam him for no apparent reason other than that resurrection narratives make good TV. Truth is, the 17-year-old remains the "Idol" front-runner. Heck, he could sing "Old Smokey Locomotion" and the voters would come on in droves for him. But that'd just be absurd. If he wants to switch things up a bit and bring a rock vibe to his country-strong performance, "Hi-De-Ho" by Blood, Sweat & Tears would be a fine choice.
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