Top three night. Can you believe it? Casey, Pia and James – this might be the strongest top three ever. Oh wait. Who? Haley, Scotty and Lauren? Don't be ridiculous. Excuse me? You're not joking. OK. Yeah, that's *exactly* how I thought it would end up. Seriously. Anyone that says this is the top three they predicted at the beginning is either lying or they were on really good drugs when they were making their picks.
Here's what I thought. I figured Haley would go home right around the top 10. But then right at that moment (top 11 actually), she came out with Bennie and the Jets. After that night it seemed like every week she sounded better, got more confident and, most importantly, left everything out on the stage for every performance.
I expected Scotty to last a little bit longer because he had that voice and that aw shucks personality, but certainly he'd be sent packing by top 7 at the latest. I did have Lauren pegged as top 5 when the live shows started, but if I'm being completely honest that by top 10 week I thought she had blown any chance of still getting that far.
But here we are. And while it's not the dream team, there's no Nikki McKibbin (season 1), Jasmine Trias (season 3) or Casey James (season 9) in the trio either. And as for the ability to sell records after the season ends, this group (with two country singers) probably has as much juice as David Cook, David Archuleta and Syesha Mercado (season 7). So, lets see how it went down.
Round One – Contestant's Choice
Scotty McCreery (Amazed) – This was peculiar on a couple levels for me. First off, he picked a song that was probably a very good choice for him. But then he used an arrangement and singing style that was more boy band than country boy. Then, he made the smart choice to not start with his standard (and becoming boring) super deep voice. But again, he strangely chose to stay in that higher range the whole time. Theoretically, I liked that he wanted to show a different side of him. Practically, it didn't work. When you go first for top three week, you need to leave a mark. This was not a top-three caliber performance. 83
Lauren Alaina (Wild One) – Here again, good song choice. Faith Hill is a good thing for Lauren to be striving for at this point in the season. But she sang it like she was trying to get out of work on time and someone handed her a report to review. She was singing way too fast and with way too little emotion. Regardless of what Randy says, for me for her, this was not her best. Not in it to win it at all. 80
Haley Reinhart (What Is and What Should Never Be) – This girl has some weird ideas about who she is and what she should be doing. You have to wonder if James had picked this Zeppelin song to do this week and she just took it when he got eliminated. I was not holding out a lot of hope here. But she is ballsy, isn't she? Almost from the first note I knew she was right and I was wrong. And she loves tramping down those steps every week too. I don't care who your favorite is. I don't think anyone can make the argument that either of the other two come close to exhibiting the sustained passion during their performances as she does week after week. And if she wasn't already impressing the hell out of me (and everyone), she fell and barely even missed a beat. So, let's add unflappable to the list of things she has going for her. And PS, can we get her to give Lauren a little fashion advice. That little black number she was wearing was perfect. 93
I loved that Randy and Steven gave her a standing O and J-Lo sat there looking like she smelled something bad. It appeared as though she might literally choke on the praise that she was forced to dish out.
Round One goes to Haley Reinhart.
Round Two – Jimmy Iovene's Choice
Scotty McCreery (Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not) – Just about everything I wrote about his first song (except the boy band vs. country boy part) pretty much applies here as well. He told Ryan that he understands how big this is, but his performances aren't backing that up. Two years ago I came down on Kris Allen (a little unjustly) for his performance of Apologize because I didn't believe it was worthy of the top three night. But that was exponentially better than either of Scotty's songs so far. 81
When Randy compared him to “Garth” I really wondered if he was talking about Garth from Wayne's World, because there was nothing about that performance that said superstar.
Lauren Alaina (If I Die Young) – So I won't do what Simon Cowell did to Kat McPhee in season 5 and spend the entire time talking about how bad the song (that she didn't pick and had no choice but to sing) was terrible and how the lyrics were so creepy that they distracted and detracted throughout. I'll say that she did the very best she could with what she was given, except that she once again was singing like the cab was outside with the meter running. Definitely better than her first song. And the dress was marginally better also, if you like the playboy bunny / cocktail waitress / sexy maid look. 85
Haley Reinhart (Rhiannon) – Another winning outfit. I really loved the dress. And the wind machine was aweSOME. If it was a wind machine. She had her arm action cranked all the way up to windmill for this performance so she might have just been creating her own breeze. She was like one of those cartoon characters getting ready to throw a fastball. Leaving that aside, she started out beautifully. It's a difficult song (and not lost on me that Jimmy gave her the song with the highest degree of difficulty of the three) so I'll give her a little bit of break, but she couldn't sustain her usual high level throughout.85
Round Two is a tie for Lauren and Haley.
Round Three – Judges' Choice
Scotty McCreery (She Believes in Me) – GREAT song choice. I was really looking forward to hearing him go back down low for this song. It might have been the first time all season I was excited to hear him. Sadly, he didn't deliver. It was an odd – and silly – strategy to abandon that baritone for the entire show on the night he was singing to get to the final. And while this wasn't technically a terrible performance, the fact that it absolutely should have been his moment of the night (and maybe the season) makes the mediocrity of it atrocious. 75
Lauren Alaina (I Hope You Dance) – Well, the good news is she can wear that dress to her senior prom. Here was another softball from the judges. This song is all big notes and drama. All she had to do was swing for the fence. Instead she tried to leg out an infield single. For the third time tonight, she sang like her dress was on fire. (No, really, the dress looks much better on. On what? On fire?) This was worse than if she had choked trying to hit the notes because she didn't even go for them. She just left the song lying there begging for CPR. 79
Haley Reinhart (You Oughta Know) – This is like the pageant interview in Drop Dead Gorgeous, where the judges ask all the other girls what kind of tree they would be and they tell Kirsten Dunst to name and spell all 50 states in alphabetical order. And just like Kirsten, she only flinched momentarily. In fact, when she screamed “Can you feel it” in J-Lo's face, I was able to almost completely let go of 12 weeks of resentment. It wasn't perfect, but as always, she didn't back down from it. The last time someone won the top three night so convincingly was when Fantasia made Jasmine Trias and Diana DeGarmo sound like the Mousekateers. 88
Round three to Haley Reinhart.
got the impression for the performance order and the arrangements of the songs that the producers would probably rather have Haley in the finale than have it be country vs. country. And as long as America doesn't do anything stupid, that's probably what will happen. Based on just tonight's performances, Scotty should be the one to get eliminated. But taking the whole season into account, it should be Lauren Alaina that heads home to get ready for the summer tour. Keeping my fingers crossed (but also teamed up for another 500 Haley votes between us tonight).