It was lights, camera, action on Wednesday’s American Idol, with the Top 8 finalsts all singing songs from movies.
Most of the contestants once again earned high praises from the judges, but perhaps Randy Jackson summed up this season’s mixed bag of talents the best, saying, “It makes me proud to sit here and judge artists as well as pop stars — the world cannot live by pop stars alone.”
Other interesting plot twists on Wednesday’s episode included a pair of contestants going with their artistic gut, against the advice of their show-appointed mentors; and Jennifer Lopez, still reeling from last week’s shocking elimination of Pia Toscano, taking a stand for the remaining female finalists, saying, “I don’t want any of the girls to go home.”
Nashville’s Paul McDonald, clad in a mariachi band suit, took on Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll from the 80s hit Risky Business to the delight of the judges.
“I love your crazy, wild abandon,” judge Steven Tyler told him.
Young Georgia native Lauren Alaina, performing The Climb from Miley Cyrus’s Hannah Montana: the Movie, got high words of praise from Lopez, who told her, “I love the tear you have in your voice… it’s a cry… it’s something that really transmits… you don’t need to steal anybody’s votes. You’re getting your own.”
Stefano Langone, who amazingly outlasted Toscano in the bottom two last week, took on the Boyz II Men early-90s ballad End of the Road from Eddie Murphy’s forgettable comedy Boomerang, getting a warm reception from the judges.
“This is so not the end of the road for you,” the Aerosmith star told the singer. “This is the beginning.”
North Carolina native Scotty McCreery provided some country flair, delivering a solid rendition of George Strait’s I Cross My Heart from the film Pure Country.
“Look at this guy right here,” Jackson said. “A star is born on this stage.”
Next up was Casey Abrams, the doughy, bearded curiosity from Idyllwild, California, who defied sage advice from the mentors to perform Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight, to do the much-riskier Nat King Cole song Nature Boy instead.
“There’s a place for this and there’s a place for you,” Jackson said. “I thought it was genius.” In fact, the judges loved it so much, they gave him a standing ovation.
Wheeling, Illinois resident Haley Reinhart’s version of Blondie’s Call Me from American Gigolo didn’t strike a chord with Lopez, who told her “it wasn’t the best.
“After two killer performances, baby, you got to just keep taking it higher and higher,” Lopez said. “Let’s keep it at that level.”
Lopez added she was “so afraid to say anything about the girls because I don’t want any of the girls to go home.”
Gospel prodigy Jacob Lusk crossed the Bridge Over Troubled Water from Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happiness, again receiving rave reviews from the judges for his strong vocals.
“God bless you,” Lopez told Lusk, “and god bless your voice.”
Santa Cruz singer James Durbin proved he was born 25 years too late, delivering a rocking rendition of Sammy Hagar’s Heavy Metal that had Jackson chanting “Durbin rocks!”
We’ll see who’s going home when American Idol returns Thursday on Fox at 8/7c.