Talk about a curveball! Last night was Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame night on American Idol, and while everybody else was rocking out all over the stage to Elvis, Aretha, and Tina Turner, resident rocker James Durbin made the gutsy move to sit on a stool and croon "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with power and restraint. It's an emotional song for James, his signature solo at many local gigs with the White Album Ensemble, and even though he had to sing a shortened version in competition, he still built it to a thrilling conclusion. The judges loved it. "That's the side (of you) that makes the rock 'n' roll side work," said Jennifer Lopez. Randy Jackson said, "That's how to be an artist," while Steven Tyler told James, "That's really a proud moment for you." Country boy Scotty McCreery had fun with "That's Allright, Mama." Diva Pia Toscano (in an unfortunate capri-length jumpsuit) hit every note right-on in "River Deep, Mountain High," but still looked a bit stiff attempting to move around the stage. Nice guy Casey Abrams delivered a respectable, if unexciting "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" accompanying himself on upright bass. (Although Randy exclaimed that he was "making the upright bass cool!," it would have been cooler had Casey stuck to his original plan and sung "Every Little Thing.")
Haley Reinhart gave a showbizzy rendition of "Piece of my Heart," that totally lacked the necessary grit. Lauren Alaina's attempted Aretha cover, "Natural Woman," was also sung more than felt, a performance not improved by her Dog the Bounty Hunter 'do (high on top, upswept on the sides, long in back) and hideous short shorts. (This is why no woman with any meat on her bones should ever wear extreme shorts; even over leggings, they ride up and create a ghastly line across the hips.) (Although, to be fair, all the ladies were styled this week by Gwen Stefani, who deserves some of the blame for their wardrobe malfunctions.)
Weirdest moment of the night was peppy Paul McDonald—who last week couldn't even hit the high notes in "Rocket Man" with his wispy falsetto—singing (I'm not kidding) Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Sure, he had plenty of energy, pickin' and grinnin' across the stage, but seriously, is this a guy you believe would shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die?
So far, James and Scotty have the most unerring sense of picking material that's right for them. Tune in tomorrow to find out how America voted.
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