'American Idol': Lauren Alaina Flies, Casey Abrams Kisses J.Lo

'American Idol': Lauren Alaina Flies, Casey Abrams Kisses J.Lo

There's a common complaint lobbied by "American Idol" junkies over the years, and it goes something like this: why, oh why, must the contestants often perform songs that were hits when our grandparents were in high school? Or in other words, not exactly what's hot on Top 40 radio today, dog? While things have skewed decidedly younger this season -- has anyone counted how many times the word "swag" has been uttered by the judges and Ryan Seacrest? -- tonight "Idol" went the extra mile, devoting an entire show to proving that it knows what the kids are listening to these days.

And so, "Music from the 21st Century" night brought us a little Ne-Yo, Adele, Sara Evans, and even Muse. How'd the top seven fare as they conquered songs they're actually familiar with (one can only hope)? Let's go to the videotape.


1) Lauren Alaina
Song: Sara Evans, "Born to Fly"

Steven said: "Anybody who doesn't know that they can fail is bound to win, and you're that person. You're so good naturally."

Jennifer said: "You do have such a special voice -- it's not everybody who has so much color in their voice when they sing."

Randy said: "You can sing anything. You think you can't sing those big notes…Dude, you can do it. You must believe."

We say: I've been fretting all season long about Lauren Alaina's lack of confidence, and this subplot was finally addressed tonight when 17-year-old was granted a long overdue, yet expecation-filled closing "pimp" spot on the show. The good news is, all the encouragement (coercion, really) from Jimmy Iovine behind the scenes paid off! Lauren got one step closer to embracing her inner Top 40 diva, and as she shimmied onstage and even worked up the nerve to make eyes at the camera a bit, I realized that she could, potentially, work up the confidence she needs just in time to win this whole shebang. Watch your back, perennial frontrunner Scotty McCreery -- Lauren's hot on your trail.

5) Casey Abrams
Song: Maroon 5, "Harder to Breathe"

Steven said: "You already are a cult hero. There's people in America that are really angry because you pissed 'em off." [Editor's note: This was followed by many censored expletives, and we couldn't possibly imagine what they were.]

Jennifer said: "See now, Casey's not playing fair. Casey got soft lips. I loved it -- the performance! Was great. Was really, really great."

Randy said: "What I love about Casey is, always it's about surprise, surprise surprise. Dude i gotta tell you something, I enjoyed it. It's almost like you're a jazz, indie kind of rock guy."

We say: Bearded, angry jazz-indie-rock-guy meets Maroon 5! I kid, I kid -- and you know, I actually didn't mind how this performance started out. Casey was hitting all of his notes, and his intensity schtick, oddly enough, worked on this tension-filled pop song. But then the chorus kicked in, and it all kind of fell apart. It wasn't completely Casey's fault -- the band was just as haphazard and not-rocking -- but it still lost me. Also, every time the judges and audience give Casey a standing ovation, I wonder, 'What could this possibly sound like live to warrant such a response?' Can someone who was there please explain? Because I am flummoxed.


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6) Scotty McCreery
Song: LeAnn Rimes, "Swingin'"

Steven said: "I would love it if you just boot-scooted a little more and sashayed a little and ran around a little more, like you did for your last girlfriend."

Jennifer said: "I think there's something to what Jimmy's saying about pushing past your comfort music. You had a decade of music to choose from…and I just felt like maybe we were expecting more from Scotty."

Randy said: "To me that was so safe -- it was actually kind of boring for me from you, and I mean, I love you."

We say: The judges love Scotty McCreery, as they've told him many times, so for them to start out the night by going negative on him…well, that was shocking to say the least. But truth be told, Scotty deserved it. I was disappointed in his safe song choice last week, and this one was even safer. What's worse, his onstage swagger is starting to veer dangerously close to corny. Hasn't anyone told him to just hold the mic in one hand and quit raising his eyebrows, like some Prohibition-era vaudeville entertainer? Someone get this kid some choreographed moves, stat.

7) Stefano Langone
Song: Ne-Yo, "Closer"

Steven said: "Stefano, nobody can say you weren't all up in it. I was hoping you'd dance, and you did." [Editor's note: Why, Steven, why??]

Jennifer said: "Speaking for the girls in the audience, I thought it was very, very good. You really had your swag going on."

Randy said: "I thought, look…it's gonna be a little kind of jerky, a little kind of bad karaoke, but you know what? Dude, you turned me around."

We say
: Too bad Stefano Langone didn't think of kissing Jennifer Lopez first, because at least that would have distracted from all that was so very wrong with this performance. The dancing was a fail, the suspenders were a bigger fail, and his notes and phrasing were all over the place. Steven once chided Stefano's vocals as being too "Broadway," and it's stuck with me ever since. (Imagine that - a critique by Steven, resonating!) The sad part is that Stefano clearly went the extra mile to entertain with this number and fight for his survival, but as Naima Adedapo can attest, trying too hard will only get you so far.

Final verdict: Stefano Langone, you are the weakest link. Arrivederci!

What do you think, "Idol" fans? Will Stefano get the boot this week? Has Scotty lost his step? Does Lauren have what it takes to win? Share your "Idol" musings in the comments.