Part three of Hollywood Week on "American Idol," which aired last night (Feb. 17), began dramatically enough, with Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson "laying it all out on the table" in the form of a final judgment to this first major hurdle. It would all lead up to the dreaded four rooms -- where the not-as-strong are weeded out, bringing a possible Top 24 into sight.
So who stands the best chance of advancing? The belters, for one, and there were plenty of them during Thursday night's episode, where contestants were allowed to sing with the backing of a full band or a capella. Haley Reinhart, Ashton Jones, Thia Megia, Kendra Chantelle and Clint Jun Gamboa each had power lungs that impressed, especially when taking on challenging songs such as "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (Jones), "God Bless the Child" (Reinhart) and "Georgia on My Mind" (Gamboa, Chantelle).
To offset such weighty performances was lighter fare courtesy of the Bobby Brown hit "My Prerogative," which Anoop Desai christened back in Season 8. Surfer finalist Carson Higgins took on the funk version, while Chris Medina opted for the acoustic guitar treatment. Neither wowed, but both got through to the next round.
There was no lack of talented instrumentalists, as a montage proved early on in the episode. From Julie Zorrila to Colton Dixon to Robbie Rosen, Season 10 showcases several super-talented piano players, while the likes of Brett Loewenstern and Caleb Hawley hold it down on guitar. But no one could have expected a stand-up bass to be rolled up on stage, and channeling his inner Esperanza Spalding, that's exactly what Casey Abrams did. Was the unorthodox performance of "Georgia" enough to impress the judges? Absolutely, and no doubt millions of viewers at home.
Casey Abrams created a bonafide "Idol" moment, much like Lauren Alaina did during her audition where she got Tyler to sing along to his own song. So how did that tune, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," play off the second time around? Convincingly. Lopez found herself in a state of disbelief over Alaina's age and mature sound, and the 15-year-old (now 16) sailed through.
You could say the same for John Wayne Shultz, who delivered a straightforward country-tinged "Landslide" that had Lopez singing along. He's another Season 10 no-brainer that's flown under the radar so far. On the other end of the spectrum is Jacob Lusk, who turned the diva power up to 11 during his "God Bless the Child" solo number and continued into the hallways where he collapsed amid heaving tears, but claimed he's not a big "crier."
One contestant we've gotten to know on a deeper level is Scott McCreery, whose ultra-low voice and cowboy vibe endeared him to the judges instantly. Now made to sing a song other than Josh Turner's "Your Man," the teen known as Scotty struggled a bit, fudging his lyrics and proving Idol is no cake-walk (while others who forgot the words to their song were sent home, Scotty was allowed to stay). But Jacee Badeaux, an audience favorite who'd won sympathy after being ejected by Clint Jun Gamboa's group, was the exact opposite. He showed that if you're a strong singer, you can handle anything that's thrown at you. And isn't that what "American Idol" is all about?
Next week, the contestants head to Las Vegas, where they'll take on Beatles songs. Who do you think has the best chance at making it to the top 24 and which Beatles classic would you like to hear him or her sing?