The final four contestants each performed two songs this week. The first theme: “Songs That Inspire” smartly offered a wide array of choices. The theme for the second song, however, did not. No disrespect to Lieber & Stoller intended, but having the final four contestants choose from their catalog was an uninspired decision by the American Idol producers.
Was there truly any purpose to offer such a narrow song selection when the supposed best singers are still left standing? When you take into account that this season’s votes have shown that the American Idol audience is dominated by young girls, and most of them won’t know any songs by Lieber & Stoller (who both turned 78 years old recently), the choice was even more puzzling.
The producers of American Idol seem too smug to make smart decisions about the direction of the show, which may ultimately lead to them losing their stranglehold on ratings dominance. But then again, these are the same people who think that Ryan Seacrest is worth $15 million per year, so no one will ever accuse them of having impeccable judgment.
This week’s show had its memorable moments, but there were also some very questionable ones as well.
Here is this week’s breakdown (in reverse order):
 Scotty McCreery – In light of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, McCreery’s choice for the “Songs That Inspire” was very timely and appropriate. McCreery’s performance of “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” by Alan Jackson was typical of his usual offerings, but because the lyrics are so poignant and timely, it ended up being one of his best moments on the show.
Unfortunately, his second song, while applauded by the judges and his fans, was not very good. His goofy version of “Youngblood” by The Coasters showed his lighthearted side, and left the judges impressed with his ability to deliver a humorous performance, but if not for the fact that he is one of the favorites, it most likely would have been more heavily critiqued.
Based on his body of work and his performances this week, McCreery should be concerned about being sent packing, but it seems that he is destined to appear in the finale. He is a good performer, but he has yet to deliver a vocal performance that blows you away. To quote Steven Tyler’s lyrics, McCreery’s weekly performances are “the same old story, the same old song and dance,” but it doesn’t seem to matter to the voters or the judges.
 Lauren Alaina – She seemed inspired while performing “Anyway” by Martina McBride, but Alaina took a big step backwards with her second song (“Trouble” by Elvis Presley). During both songs there are moments where you can see the amazing potential that Alaina has to be at least as popular as Carrie Underwood. But there are also moments where you can see why she was in the bottom two last week.
“Anyway” was a good song choice for Alaina, and she made the most of it by showing off her sweet tone and her pure power. If this were the only song that she performed tonight, she would undoubtedly make it into the Top Three next week. However, her performance of “Trouble” may be the very reason that she is in “trouble” this week.
After appearing in the bottom two last week, Alaina cannot feel safe when this week’s voting results are announced. Her concern is certainly warranted.
 Haley Reinhart – Last week, Reinhart received some harsh criticism for choosing a Lady Gaga song that wasn’t known by the masses. Even though the judges didn’t like the song, the truth of the matter is that she did a good job with it. However, her decision to choose “The Earth Song” by Michael Jackson as an inspirational song was ill-conceived. Out of all of the songs that she could have chosen in the category, this was not the one that will inspire voters to pick up the phone to support her.
However, Reinhart stepped up once again when it was time to perform her second song of the night. Her rendition of “I Who Have Nothing” by Tom Jones (or Jordin Sparks) was very good, perhaps the best of the evening overall. But it did not compare to the incredible version that Sparks delivered when she performed it on Idol. It may very well have been the song that helped launch Sparks to victory.
Reinhart certainly earned her place in the Top Three with her performances this week, but she still may be the one on the outside looking in based on her popularity.
 James Durbin – The one thing that Durbin has going for him is that he consistently picks songs that will resonate with the audience. Tonight’s first song was definitely one that inspires but it has lost some of its magic quality due to its overuse. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey is a song that defines a generation, but it has become too closely associated with the TV show “Glee.”
Durbin is a very good singer, but he is not Steve Perry good. He did some nice things with “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but it sounded more like something out of the Broadway show “Rock of Ages” than a Journey performance, but it doesn’t matter. Durbin’s stage presence is so good, that the crowd can’t help but love him.
His second song choice seemed truly bizarre, but he actually pulled it off nicely. It’s safe to say that this is probably the first time that “Love Potion Number 9” by The Searchers was performed like an 80’s metal song. And though it seemed a bit odd, in the end, it turned out to be one of the better moments on the show tonight.
Unless there is a very shocking vote, it looks like Durbin should cruise into the finale.
WHO GOES HOME?
If it were up to me, this would be the time for Scotty McCreery to leave. He will most likely be a successful country singer, but if people really take the time to evaluate him in this competition, it is painfully obvious that he has yet to blow anyone away with his vocals. In the real world, he may have the most success out of any of the contestants, but that doesn’t mean that he should beat them in a singing competition.
Scotty McCreery’s career will be defined by what he does once American Idol is over. He doesn’t deserve to beat out any of the others purely based on his vocals, but his popularity may push him over the edge.
At first blush, it would seem that Lauren Alaina is more popular than Haley Reinhart, but she did end up in the bottom two last week. Even though Alaina may have been the best singer with her first song, her second song was average at best.
On the other hand, Haley Reinhart saved her best for last, and that may help sway votes in her favor.
It would only be truly shocking if James Durbin was eliminated this week, but it’s doubtful that he’s at any risk of that happening.
Even though it would not be my pick, I predict that Lauren Alaina will go home this week because her strongest performance was at the beginning of the show, and Haley Reinhart’s was at the end.