American Idol Final 6: James Durbin and Scotty McCreery vie for top spot

American Idol recap: Singer-songwriter Carole King brought out the best in American Idol contestants Scotty McCreery and James Durbin this week. Will it be enough now that the odds are 50/50 for landing in the bottom three?

Chris Pizzello / AP Photo
American Idol finalist Scotty McCreery poses at the American Idol Finalists Party in Los Angeles, March 3, 2011.

American Idol’s final six contestants took on the diverse songbook of Carole King Wednesday night for their individual performances as well as a few duets used as filler.

Jacob Lusk started the night with, “Oh No, Not My Baby.” Judges Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez noted that Jacob struggled with some pitch problems (um yeah, the whole song was a pitch problem!) but worked it out (must have missed that part). While it would be easy to blame Jacob for this, viewers should actually blame the judges who wisely told Jacob to tune things down a few weeks ago, only to do a “180” last week, and urge Jacob to never hold back. C

Lauren Alaina followed with, “Where you Lead.” During her rehearsals record producer Jimmy Iovine surprised Lauren with a visit from Miley Cyrus. Viewers may recall that Jimmy commented a couple of weeks ago that Lauren’s voice was much stronger than Miley’s. It was good to see that Miley wouldn’t let that stand in the way of a little self-promotion and some advice for Lauren. Miley explained to Lauren that no matter how big of a star you are there will always be people who put you down and criticize. The pep talk seemed to give Lauren that little extra bit of confidence that has been sorely lacking. While the song choice was a little boring, Lauren infused it with personality and her voice sounded better than it has in some time. JLo was so proud to hear Lauren pushing that it brought tears to her eyes. B+

Haley & Casey, who performed a great jazzy duet a couple of weeks ago, sang “I Feel the Earth Move.” The earth, unfortunately, did not move and the pair failed to live up to their previous performance.

Scotty McCreery's performance of “You Got a Friend,” was not only his personal best but also the best performance of the season. He even held his microphone the normal way! Finally a contestant experiences a real moment on stage and the normally jubilant judges opt to be tepid!? Randy said it was excellent but warned Scotty not to fall off the high notes and Steven Tyler said he doesn’t think Scotty ever sang better. OK that is high praise, but where was the enthusiasm and cheering? A

Oh right, they were saving it for James . . . again

James Durbin took on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and Jimmy Iovine gushed that Carole King and James Durbin were meant to come together. The performance was exceptional, just not quite as exceptional as Scotty’s (Yes, dear readers, I know you will tear my opinions to shreds in the comments – but so be it.) JLo said that James was the star of the night (I respectfully disagree) while Randy theorized that James might win the whole thing (probably right). A-

Lauren and Scotty then paired up to perform “Up on the Roof.” The duet was not as successful as their first; could that have had something to do with host Ryan Seacrest suggesting there was something going on between them? Poor Scotty was practically squirming in his seat with discomfort (and perhaps a touch of annoyance?) when he insisted that they are like brother and sister.

Casey Abrams once again pushed the creative envelope and chose “Hi-De-Ho.” Casey was in his element singing the song with a variety of musicians on the stage, including the female sax player who had a huge impact on judge Steven the first time she took the stage with Idol contestant Paul McDonald. Randy said that the performance took him back to New Orleans. Jennifer told Casey to loosen up his legs and Steven commented, “You made my scalp itch it was so good.” A-

Haley Reinhart chose to perform what should be Steven Tyler’s theme song, “Beautiful.” It was another really good performance by Haley though it probably won’t save her from the bottom three again this week. Steven, perhaps feeling that “beautiful” would be too redundant instead exclaimed, “I just saw God. You nailed it.” JLo told Haley she has one of the best voices of the competition and vehemently defended Haley’s performance when Randy commented that he didn’t like the beginning. B (Despite Steven’s visions of God.)

James and Jacob closed the night with a duet of “I’m into Something Good.” Unfortunately, neither of them was into anything good in that debacle of a performance. Even Steven asked them, “Where were you going with all that?”

Forgetting about last week’s prediction heartbreak, this blogger will once again attempt to predict the bottom three and the contestant who will be singing farewell. Here goes nothing:

  1. Jacob Lusk
  2. Haley Reinhart
  3. Casey Abrams

This week’s performance was definitely Jacob’s swan song.

Check back Friday morning here to see who gets eliminated.

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