Idol is weird for me right now. The last two eliminations have touched to the quick, I'm a little pissed off that only two ladies remain, and three contestants that I think are just horrible still remain in this competition. Three! (In case you're wondering, it's the remaining men not named Casey or Stefano.) I loved Paul, but I'm okay admitting that he was never a viable contender for the crown this year. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think we might be looking at some combination of Scotty-James-Lauren in the finale. Therefore, I'm going to root for the Idolestants in the following order until they are eliminated:
1. Haley Reinhart: Crazy, right?! Just four weeks ago, I ranked her at the very bottom of my favorites list, and proclaimed her growl annoying and her attitude stank. It just goes to show what a couple of undeniably good performances can do.** I couldn't get her fantastic "Bennie and the Jets" performance out of my head, and she followed it up with a kind of brill Janis Joplin homage during Rock & Roll Hall of Fame week. Then this week, as I was starting to slip back into pre-"Bennie" Haley sentiments, she whips out my new favorite finals vocal of the season in her duet with Casey on "Moanin'". Seriously, I've watched that junk like seven times today! I've come to embrace her comical awkwardness and lack of bodily self-awareness as endearing traits, and the attitude that I once believed to be stank I now think is actually just silliness. I'm okay admitting I was wrong. I like Haley now.
2. Casey Abrams: I LOVED his "Nature Boy" performance on Wednesday. It was classic, musical, bassified (my word, but you may use it), and refreshing. It infused Wednesday's show with a different kind of vibe, stripping away its occasionally drab karaoke feel for a couple minutes. It's exactly the kind of performance I was hoping Casey would give us all season, in fact, hearkening back to his Hollywood Week performances. It's also a testament to the arrangement that it felt so complete and contained in only two minutes. I think Casey's big flaw is that his vocals aren't always spot on, or even particularly beautiful. Haley out-sung him note for note in their gorgeous duet on Thursday, even though he sounded fantastic on the harmonies. The raw talent with Casey is there, though, and when he has weeks like this, I'm sold.
3. Lauren Alaina: I'm really almost a bona fide Lauren fan. "Candle in the Wind" during Elton John week was the closest we've seen to heartfelt emotion from her, but it wasn't totally there yet. Her choice (or a producer's choice?) of "The Climb" this week was a perfect move, and I think she nailed the song. While it may not be a Herculean feat to sing it better than Miley Cyrus, it really did sound like the kind of song that could have been written for her. It was age-appropriate, with the right amount of emotional build for the teen. There were a couple of foul notes in there, but I think this performance was the first glimpse of Lauren as a real star. I also have to give her credit for tackling "American Honey" on Thursday's results show with such flair. She destroyed Scotty vocally in that song (who, to be fair, was shooting for some pretty tough harmonies), sounding like a real country star. Lauren Alaina in the season finale would not be a bad thing.
4. Stefano Langone: "90s cute" Stefano was, as you probably know, an early favorite of mine. He has a lovely range, a charming personality, and he absolutely nailed his wild card performance way back in the semifinals. I really wish he'd get off the ballad train, though. For crying out loud, he sang Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" this week (further confirming my theory that Stefano was born two decades too late to achieve his true purpose as a member of a 90s-era boy band, vis-a-vis New Kids on the Block). I was very surprised that Paul got eliminated instead of him this week, even though Stefano sang the song beautifully. I'll be interested to hear him do a more contemporary song next week when "Songs from the 21st Century" debuts as a potentially awesome or disastrous Idol theme night.
I can't root for the other three. Just can't do it. But if I had to choose, I think Scotty may be the lesser of the evils. James' "Heavy Metal" was just awful, like the sound of paint being stripped off a metal pipe, and Jacob's puke-inducing comment last week about America being "afraid to look itself in the mirror" was all I needed to permanently turn on him. All I need from Scotty is a post-Idol single worthy of a download. His Idol persona makes me crazy, but in five years, I could see myself liking his music.
**Side note: the same thing happened to me during season 7, when it became clear that my real favorite Carly Smithson was never going to win. David Cook had been on my annoyance list until his completely genius reinvention of Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby"*** (the download of which is still on my iTunes 50 most played songs). From that point on, resistance was futile. I'd now follow Cookie anywhere!
***One of the greatest pop songs ever written. I'm in earnest.