With only five contestants remaining, each one was given the opportunity to perform two songs. The theme for this week was “Now and Then” (a current song and a song from the 60’s). With such a young cast, you would think that the current songs would be much better than the songs from the past, but that was not the case this week for any of the contestants.
Before the show started, Ryan Seacrest turned to Randy Jackson for their usual useless banter. Seacrest asked Jackson what the contestants needed to do now that they’re in the top five, and Jackson gave his stock answer about wanting to see “who’s in it to win it” (as if some of them were there trying to lose at this point).
As the weeks go by, this judging panel which seemed to breathe new life into the show early on is becoming a drag. Their comments, for the most part, do nothing to add to the show. This is a stark contrast to The Voice, where all of the judges are entertaining and more informative.
Thankfully, this season is coming to an end in the next couple of weeks. At which point, I guess we will all get to see who was “in it to win it.”
Here is this week’s breakdown (in reverse order):
 Jacob Lusk – In a baffling move, Lusk chose to sing both parts of a duet for his current song (“No Air” by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown). Clearly, he has no problem tapping into his feminine side, but trying to sing the male and the female parts was awkward and he didn’t do a very good job with either part. As usual, Lusk was overly dramatic with this performance, which was one of his worst of the season. The only good part of the song was the back-up singers.
Lusk reluctantly took Jimmy Iovine’s advice and took a chance by doing a song that most wouldn’t expect from him (“Love Hurts” by Nazareth). He did a much better job with this song than his first song of the night. He was on key, less dramatic and stayed true to the song while making it his own.
 Scotty McCreery – To his credit, McCreery stepped out of his comfort zone and moved beyond his usual safe, deep voice country sound. His performance of “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry was lively and energetic, and he has clearly gotten much more comfortable being on stage.
McCreery stepped back into his comfort zone with his second song as he performed “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley. While it was a safe choice, he did a nice job with the song and did as much as he could to make it his own.
Overall, McCreery did a good job (as he usually does), but still has yet to deliver a performance that will be remembered by the time he takes the stage again the following week.
 James Durbin – For many weeks, Durbin has simply dominated this competition. Because of that, he seems to have built up such goodwill that he is almost immune from being critiqued by the judges. Based on his body of work, Durbin is still the one to beat, but this was far from his best week. His first song “Closer to the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars was decent, but certainly nothing close to what we’ve come to expect from him. As usual, his stage presence was spot-on, and you got the feeling that you were watching a James Durbin concert. However, this song was not a great choice for him (despite what the judges and Iovine said about this being his niche).
His second song of the night was much better, even though it wasn’t on par with his usual vocal performance. Singing “Without You” by Harry Nilsson was a good choice, but because of the lyrics and the vibe of the song, it was very emotional. Durbin deserves a lot of credit for getting through the song (albeit with tears filling in his eyes). Even though it wasn’t his best performance vocally, it will be one that will be remembered for a long time because of the emotional value.
 Lauren Alaina – Before the top 24 were ever chosen, Alaina seemed to be one of the favorites to win it all. She lost her way for a while, but she has come back so strongly that you have to think that she might be the only one who can defeat Durbin in the finale. Her first song, “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood proved that she has the makings of a star. She is much better than Underwood was at this point in her career. And at only 16 years of age, the sky seems to be the limit for Alaina. She has clearly found her niche, and if she has the right songwriters, she should be selling millions of albums whether she wins this competition or not.
For her second song, Alaina chose to perform her parents’ song “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. Because this song has been done so many times on Idol already, it is challenging to make it resonate with the audience. Fortunately for Alaina, she was up to the challenge. Her version of the song was sweet and powerful and she showed off the beautiful tone to her voice. If she keeps delivering performances like this, she has a good chance of winning it all.
 Haley Reinhart – When the competition first began, I have to admit that I didn’t see much in Reinhart, but the judges did. Now that she has come into her own, it seems that the judges have started to abandon her at times with unfair criticism. Her first song of the night was suggested by Jimmy Iovine. It is a Lady Gaga song called “You and I” that is unreleased, and has only been performed live to date. Reinhart has not only grown as a singer throughout the competition, her stage presence and choice of wardrobe has also improved greatly. She now looks the part, and her confidence seems to be growing by the week.
Despite what the judges said, this was a good song choice for her. Panning her for choosing a song that is not well known by the public was laughable. How many times has almost every contestant been guilty of that through the years? The fact of the matter is that choosing a song that everyone knows is helpful, but only if it is performed well. A good, unknown song that is performed well can be just as impressive, and sometimes more so. This was the case this week. Even though I never heard the song before, I thought that Reinhart did a great job with it, as it was a natural fit for her voice. Randy Jackson saying that he didn’t love the song is irrelevant because she didn’t write it. Even though it wasn’t a favorite of the judges, the song showcased Reinhart’s raspy, edgy voice.
Her second song of the night was also chosen by Iovine. I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect when Reinhart started performing “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. She started off singing it acapella, and then transitioned into singing it with the accompaniment of the band and back-up singers. The suggestion to start of acapella by Sheryl Crow was an inspired one because it really made Reinhart stand out from the crowd. When she finished her very unique and cool version of the song, she deservedly received a standing ovation, and was told by the judges that it was the best performance of the night. This time, the judges got it right.
Reinhart is still a long shot to make it into the finale, or even the top 3 for that matter, but she has certainly earned her right to compete next week with the fan favorites.
WHO GOES HOME?
Unless the voting audience totally ignores how good Haley Reinhart was this week, it would be a shock to see anyone aside from Jacob Lusk going home this week. He has been a mainstay in the bottom three, has received the harshest criticism by the judges and quite frankly, he is just not as good as the others.