Somewhere along the line, this promising “American Idol” season lost its way.
Was it when they saved Casey Abrams after a bad night? Perhaps. Was it when Pia Toscano was eliminated after the judges refused to criticize any of her competition? Could be. Was it after judge Jennifer Lopez declared that she didn't want to criticize Haley Reinhart because she didn't want all the girls to go home? Hmm.
Whenever it was, it has brought us to this point – a trio of finalists who are competent, but bland. Their performances Wednesday night were serviceable, but showed none of the inventiveness of recent seasons. None – unless you count Haley's use of a Beyonce-styled wind machine during “Rhiannon.” (Please. Don't.)
Haley really was the only interesting one Wednesday night. She fell down during a remarkable version of Led Zeppelin's “What Is and What Should Never Be,” that included her father on lead guitar. Her vocals were good, though her smiles made you wonder whether she understood the song. She was confused again, not just when she tripped over a few lyrics, but with a bit of a shimmying during her version of Alanis Morissette's “You Oughta Know,” seeing as that song has to do with rage, not sexy come-ons. And, um, she had a wind machine during “Rhiannon.”
Scotty McCreery is destined for country stardom. He really is. It's unfortunate that his natural ability has been cultivated into something bordering on schticky right now, but the right advisers will change that. He is a good singer, though very limited at this point, partly because he's still a teenager and partly because he lacks an emotional range. When he tries to step out of his comfort zone, he falters. In “Amazed,” he stretched for notes and didn't make it, then he held a note long for no reason. He basically served up Thompson Square's hit “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” without changing a thing. And the judges' ridiculous choice of Kenny Rogers' schmaltzy “She Believes in Me” for the teenager seemed like a way to trip him up, a lose-lose situation where he either succeeds in being more old-fashioned or fails at singing the song. “Ooh, you hit that chorus,” the judges said. Um, OK.
That leaves Lauren Alaina. Oddly, her biggest struggle came with the song she picked for herself – the cutesy Faith Hill number “Wild One.” She knocked both Lee Ann Womack's “I Hope You Dance” and The Band Perry's “If I Die Young” out of the park. She's the one who's sure to move on to the finale and has been my pick to win the whole thing for weeks.
As much as I think “Idol” producers want an all-girl final – the struggling Haley has once again closed the show and the executive producer has been praising her on Twitter – the show's fans seem uninterested in bowing to what the show wants (as James Durbin's exit showed). I think it'll be an all-country final with Lauren and Scotty. I think it'll also be incredibly bland.
Lauren Alaina, “I Hope You Dance”
Haley Reinhart, “What Is and What Should Never Be”
Lauren Alaina, “If I Die Young”
Scotty McCreery, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?”
Scotty McCreery, “Amazed”
Haley Reinhart, “Rhiannon”
Lauren Alaina, “Wild One”
Scotty McCreery, “She Believes in Me”
Haley Reinhart, “You Oughta Know”
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Haley
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Haley
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Haley
Pictured: From left, Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina (May 12, 2011)