American Idol is in a weird place. It's the tenth season, Simon Cowell is gone, and I'll give Mariah Carey's new twins to the first person who can name me last year's winner. Surprisingly, however, the past couple of months have proven to expose some of the most impressive talent that Fox's golden child of network television has ever seen, painfully corny Ford commercials aside. Last night, the final four were announced, as America voted off the heart and soul of the competition, gospel talent Jacob Lusk. Although, to be honest, the show's biggest lost may have actually come last week with the elimination of Casey Abrams, but it is a testament to how much talent is on American Idol this year for Casey-who-plays-the-bassy to come in sixth place. Despite all of the gimmick time-fillers that cause the show to gain money but deplete in credibility, it seems that the tenth season of American Idol may in fact produce enough talent to infiltrate the waves of pop culture for years to come with the same impact as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Adam Lambert. Or perhaps even more.
On last night's elimination episode, Idol featured a performance from Lady Antebellum and reviewed Wednesday's show with some tough critiques from the contestants' mentor, Jimmy Iovine. While the addition of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the judging table may have seemed an odd combination, the dynamic has been entertaining as well as informative for the participants, even if the only thing Steven Tyler ever seems able to say to 20-year-old Haley Reinhart is "You sing sexy". And on Thursday night, Jennifer Lopez shocked viewers by performing her recent single "On The Floor" with as much agility and undeniable sexual appeal as her beach frolicking "Love Don't Cost A Thing" days, pre-twins and pre-being-41. It had been difficult to take her completely seriously, believing that most of the contestants were more talented than her, but last night she proved that assumption wrong with her performance, hitting every mark and every note. As for the final four American Idol season ten hopefuls, however, their fate still remains undetermined.
It has quickly become evident that Haley has the most unique voice of the season (perhaps besides Casey Abrams), and fails to expose any difficulty in the soaring octave range of her deep purrs and explosive high notes. While she spent week after week in the bottom three during the beginning of the live episodes, last night she found herself saved within the top three instead. Although she plays it cool most of the time when the stress mounts, she displayed a bit of surprise as Ryan Seacrest pushed Scotty Mccreery (who had been declared safe) over to her group and she asked Scotty, "What are you doing over here?" as his presence also solidified her spot in the competition. It is unfortunate that she had been overlooked early on in the season, so hopefully voters continue to appreciate the absolute power of her voice and secure her spot in the competition at least until the finale.
Haley Reinhart with "Bennie And The Jets" by Elton John:
The reason why Haley only needs to make it to the finale is because, while she possesses incredible charisma and talent, Lauren Alaina, without a doubt, absolutely deserves to win. The only thing standing in the way of her becoming season ten's American Idol is the fact that she is such an obvious choice. She has been constantly compared to Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, but she has also gained Kelly as a personal fan. Her audition included a duet with Steven Tyler. She's got an adorable Southern accent, a pretty face, beauty-queen style blonde hair, and the endearing quality of crying every single time her fellow contestants have been eliminated. And on top of how well she looks the part, her voice is so flawless that you actually have to concentrate to watch her try. Admittedly, she has had a couple of shakey moments, which in fact landed her in the bottom two last night. Even so, it has seemed as if this competition was hers from the start, so it would be a surprise to see her go anytime soon. But as Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson have taught us, whether or not she wins, this girl definitely has a future ahead of her in the recording industry for years to come. Not to mention that she's only sixteen.
Lauren Alaina with "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus:
Ah, Scotty Mccreery. If you haven't been watching the show, take a look at a picture of him right now and try to imagine his voice, then brace yourself for the shock of what you're actually about to hear. Though only a junior in high school, he expertly displays an unwaveringly deep and steady vocal croon week after week on the show, hardly ever falling flat. There is a quiet sense of humor and undoubtedly grounded character within him, which most likely plays a large role in the incredible amount of fans he has gained, and remains the only contestant on this season to have never been in bottom two. However, even with all of these promising features, the competition is too strong for him to excel at the same notch as Lauren or Haley. While he might indeed have a shot at winning due to his growing fan base, he threatens to suffer the same fate as eighth season winner Kris Allen, who won thanks to his homegrown likeability, but couldn't exceed the blatant talent of runner-up Adam Lambert once the season was over.
Scotty Mccreery with "You've Got A Friend" by Carole King:
James Durbin remains the only contestant on this season right now who won over America with a sentimental story. Early on, viewers were melted with the trials faced by Naima Adedapo, and the truly heart-wrenching struggles that Chris Medina had overcome. But only James Durbin, the young father and devoted husband, now remains as the beacon of strength in the competition. As for his talent, his best feature and worst asset would have to come from the same quality: his astounding similarity to Adam Lambert. He loves to wail at high register and take advantage of every glam-rock opportunity the show offers him, and though it is highly entertaining, he still stands in Lambert's shadow. As for this season, however, he definitely packs an explosive punch, as was demonstrated a few weeks ago when his very presence standing on a piano caused it to catch aflame with his bounding electricity. His future in the competition is difficult to place. While it would be unsurprising to see him go next, it would be even less shocking to see him win the entire competition, something that Randy Jackson recently told him he had proven capable of doing.
Whether you can't stand to watch the overly-produced flashes and bangs that characterize American Idol, or if you're a shameless fan, none of us will be able to escape the longevity that is sure to come to at least one, if not multiple, contestants from season ten. If Casey Abrams had to go, here's to hoping that the win goes to Lauren Alaina or at least Haley Reinhart. And just for kicks...
He lives on! Casey Abrams on Ellen: