American Idol is down to its version of the Final Four and, last night, James, Lauren, Hayley and Scotty took the stage twice to battle for a spot in the Final Three.  In Round One, the contestants took on songs that have inspired them.  In Round Two, they got an assist from Lady GaGa with the songs of Leiber and Stoller.  So, who was "in it to win it" as Randy Jackson says?  And whose dreams of making the American Idol finale will end?  Let's check in with our Idol expert Steve Thompson for his take on last night's show.

From Steve Thompson . . .

What in the world was going on with this show tonight?  Two categories that couldn't be less alike.  Frankly, I'm at a loss about what has happened to this program.  There was a weird subtext during the judging and a strange silence during round one.  The most consistent thing about this competition anymore is that the competition is no longer consistent.

Did Nigel Lythgoe (the executive producer) try to limit Jimmy Iovine tonight?  There seemed to be a real odd feel to the way the first four songs were presented.  Suddenly, Jimmy shows up in round two with Lady Gaga.  Jimmy couldn't help with the first category?  Lord knows the singers could've used his help.

Inspire This!

 4) Scotty McCreery sang Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.  This came off to me as a calculated turn on the part of Scotty to use patriotism as his platform to launch into the final three.  Frankly, Alan Jackson won't lose any sleep over this one at all.  His severely truncated version lost much of the heart of the original recording.  Some songs just don't need to be cut down to 1:30.

3) Janes Durbin sang Don't Stop Believin'.  I'm not sure singing a Journey song for a judge who once played bass guitar for the band is a good enough reason to sing this one.  After Glee did its part to resurrect the Journey catalogue, I didn't really hear anything new or special that James brought to the proceedings.  It was okay.  That's all I can say.

2) Haley Reinhart sang Earth Song.  I didn't like this song the last time I heard it sung and my mind didn't change with tonight's show.  Haley sang the song about as well as she could-- it's just a propaganda piece of garbage song that has no memorable hook or identifiable melody.  I can't believe they let her sing this-- they must really be trying to make sure she stays in fourth place.

1)  Lauren Alaina sang Anyway.  I can't stand Lauren desecrating Martina McBride for fun and potential profit.  I know Martina's music, I have listened to Martina's music...  Lauren Alaina is no Martina McBride.  Better yet, Martina doesn't even have to worry about her at this stage of the game.  Lauren was okay-- but everybody just seemed out of kilter tonight.

By the way, of our first four singers, there was no afterthought from Haley after the judges asked the mob to crucify her.  You'd think as smarmy as Seacrest has been for the past ten years he would've tried to get a comment...

Old Songs by Young Singers

4) Scotty McCreery sang Youngblood.  Suddenly it's novelty song night and Dr. Demento is nowhere to be found.  I thought Scotty actually sounded better during his practice-- once he started the live performance, he regressed back to his usual bag of tricks.  I'd like to go on record as saying Scotty shouldn't be trying to coast to the finals.

3) James Durbin sang Love Potion #9.  Why do I get the feeling the mother of Durbin's young son wasn't too crazy about Lady Gaga standing behind her man and trying to move his hips in a suggestive fashion?  I understood her point-- James needed to have a more assured take on this song.  But seriously, James-- this was the best song of their entire catalogue?

2) Lauren Alaina sang Trouble.  I actually thought this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but the believability factor was in the negative numbers.  Maybe we should give her credit for trying something out of her depth.  Then again, maybe we should let Elvis rest in peace.

1)  Haley Reinhart sang I, Who Have Nothing.  Those of you with a decent television memory will recall when Jordin Sparks sang this song on her way to winning Idol-- those of you with my memory will recall either the Shirley Bassey original or the outstanding version Tom Jones had on his show back in the 70s.  This was great-- nearly in the same league as Haley's rendition of Rising Sun last week. 

Yet...  No one asked the judges who won round two.  Hmm...  The conspiracy theory continues.

So who's going home?  Well I guess everybody is since the top 3 go home this weekend...  I think Scotty is probably safe at this point.  The race may be between Lauren and Haley.  If people are swayed by the judges, Haley has been sacrificed to the gods of Soundscan.  If, however, the fans see through this smoke-- well, like that would happen.

We'll see tonight!

Click below to hear Moon and Chad discuss last night's episode with Steve!

@May 11, 2011  Stephen W Thompson