Thoughts On American Idol Top 3: Homecoming

May 18, 2011

We’re almost done! Counting tonight we have only 4 more episodes to go! This is not an optimistic way to start things off!

Tonight is the “homecoming” episode, which means we get to see a lot of clips of the three remaining contestants in their small hometowns. They have to find some way to stretch this show out to two hours (the very thought of which makes me tired.) The other way they’re stretching this out is by doing 9 songs in 3 rounds. Who will have the worst taste in music?

Round 1: Contestants’ Picks (Mentor: Beyonce)

Round 2: Jimmy Iovine’s Picks

Round 3: Judges’ Picks

Scotty McCreery – “Amazed”

Here’s a slow song you may have heard at a lot of weddings and school dances back in the early 2000s. This song sounds perfect for Scotty on the verses, and he doesn’t have to stretch too much on the belty chorus, but he could have gone so much bigger and it would have worked. There wasn’t much emotion in the song: from the “heh heh aren’t I folksy” facial expressions to the lazy belting, this was singing by numbers. “Amazed” is a sweet song and the Lonestar original earns its big sound. If Scotty tried harder, he could have delivered a knockout. I’m not impressed. Bad call, Scotty.

Lauren Alaina – “Wild One”

Well, at least she didn’t pick “Breathe.” Lauren goes for more of a fun angle and at tries to sing for the cheap seats (though she gets buried in the mix at times.) Otherwise I appreciated her hints of stage presence, her bombastic attitude, and her shiny disposition. She sang pretty well, albeit a bit harried. With some post-Idol experience she could actually make a really good country singer. Good call, Lauren.

Haley Reinhart – “What Is And What Should Never Be”

Once again Haley picks a song that’s probably really familiar to a certain musical demographic, in this case classic rock aficionados, and totally new to everyone else. Also, her dad is playing guitar onstage. To a casual Zep fan like me, he does a decent Jimmy Paige impression on the blues guitar. This is the most fun I’ve seen Haley have with a song in a long time, and that’s probably because she rocked out to this song with her dad when she was younger. Way to use the platform to seize the moment. I have to ding Haley a few points for floundering on the blues wailing (I bet she has a lower range than Robert Plant), but I give her mad props for taking advantage of an opportunity. Good call, Haley.

Scotty McCreery – “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?”

You know they weren’t gonna let us go without one more clip of the “Your Man,” audition. Hell, they’ll probably bring out Josh Turner for an awkward duet next week. When it comes to the performance, the way Scotty is kind of awkward in the way he holds his guitar and how he almost yodels on the end of every syllable. Scotty did a better job with this song than with his first song, but he still needs to be a little more engaging. He should also follow J.Lo’s advice and cut his hair so he looks less like you-know-who. Bad call, Iovine.

Lauren Alaina – “If I Die Young”

Her intro clip is the reminder of why I thought she was the producers’ Chosen One. She makes a huge improvement from her previous song. Her pipes in are in much more of a working order (even with a few flubs she really is the best singer of the Top 3) and I really felt her connection to the song. She looked like she belonged on the stage, which is not something I can say about one of her competitors (see previous paragraph.) While I’m not rooting for her (still too young and green) I won’t be completely pissed off if she wins the whole thing. Good call, Iovine.

Haley Reinhart – “Rhiannon”

Wow! I really don’t remember Haley’s audition. Did they even show it? Given the soft focus filming, pink lighting, Haley’s flowing locks, and the wind machine, the whole thing feels a little cheap 1980s. “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” anyone? Haley shows a lot of vocal restraint here, which works for parts of the song, though sometimes it felt like she was chickening out from the big parts and letting the backup singers do the really hard work. Yet if she really went for it, I feel like she would have crashed and burned so I suppose it could have been worse. Haley also carried herself well and mimicked the somber, spacey style of Stevie Nicks, but this wasn’t a game she could win. Bad call, Iovine.

Video Break! Beyonce – “Run The World (Girls)”

Diplo produced this song and it shows. It sounds like an early M.I.A. track and not one of the catchier ones. The video had an interesting apocalyptic savannah vibe to it, and Kathy caught one McQueen dress, but between the cold, monotonous beat and the awkward dancing, I was not a fan. Eh, Beyonce sang pretty well.

Scotty McCreery – “She Believes In Me”
We see a rare moment for Scotty: he cuts the crap. No Bush, no pied piper, no flubbing, just good emotional singing. He held the mic like a person is supposed to, he took the material seriously, and he delivered a good performance, maybe because he felt relaxed and less manic. Maybe these pop ballads aren’t so bad. Good call, judges.

Lauren Alaina – “I Hope You Dance”

I don’t like this song. Lauren is dressed in a cheesy pageant princess dress and it looks like the Tammy Faye eyelashes strike again. I don’t like this song. Her outfit is a good complement to what’s probably the soundtrack to loads of shitty saccharine inspirational graduation montages. I don’t like this song. Lauren tries her best with the material she has to work with, but there’s only so much one can do with the musical equivalent of Splenda. I don’t like this song. Bad call, judges.

Haley Reinhart – “You Oughta Know”

I’m surprised Haley didn’t have the band out on stage with her. It felt kind of empty with just her onstage. Haley does the Mush Mouth thing when the song starts to get going (though in fairness that first verse is really hard to learn), but by the chorus she uses her growl to the best of her ability. Her natural attitude is great for the vitriol and rage in the song. When the song goes to the bridge and Haley is just humming, it’s just the eye of the storm. Good call, judges.

I liked some performances (and performers) more than others. It would be cool if the two women faced off in the finale. Nonetheless, I still wouldn’t buy (or otherwise procure) music from any of these contestants. They fail in the most consistent ways. It’s gotten so that anything I have to ding them on is the same old claptrap. After more than ten weeks of recapping this competition, I am driven to the watch the end only for closure. I kinda feel bad for Kathy who repeats her mantra “I don’t give a shit about any of these people” and busies herself doing other things, relegating the show to boring background noise. Is it done yet?


  1. Haley Reinhart (She had the most interesting performances and I just like her the most)
  2. Lauren Alaina (She did her best with the material she had to work with, but she’s still too young)
  3. Scotty McCreery (His songs were basically the same with marginal improvements)
  4. Jimmy Iovine (He had the worst picks of the night)

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