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'American Idol' 10: Top 5 power rankings (Now & Then Week)

James Durbin got emotional while rehearsing, and performing,

James Durbin got emotional while rehearsing, and performing, "Without You” on "American Idol." (May 4, 2011) Credit: Fox

It was “Now & Then Week” on “American Idol,” but it really should've been called "Manipulation Week."

There were mentors and producers manipulating contestants. There were contestants manipulating judges. There were judges manipulating the audience. It was all kinds of gross.

Let's start with Haley Reinhart. It's no secret that I can't stand her as a singer. She's far too showy without anything to back it up. It's growling for the sake of growling and I'm never really sure she understands what she's singing about.

That said, she has a good voice and delivered a good “House of the Rising Sun.” It wasn't standing ovation great – a sign of the judges' predisposition to help keep the females around. It was good.

Her take on Lady Gaga's “You and I” was not good. Where Ga's original is filled with passion and, in concert, special effects, Haley's was all overacting and off-key growls. She shouldn't have done that song – because, as Jennifer Lopez points out, people like to be familiar with the songs. Jimmy Iovine manipulated her into doing the song and it's not really clear that he has her best interest at heart. (Um, couldn't Casey Abrams have filled her in on this?)

Iovine also did his best to do in Jacob Lusk, encouraging him to sing Nazareth's “Love Hurts.” Um, seriously? Jacob should've gone running and screaming back to a soul classic instead of this ill-fitting rock number. This mistake may be the end of him in the competition, since his take on “No Air” was also ill-conceived and poorly executed.

It's telling that Iovine says that Scotty McCreery should keep doing what he's doing, while saying that if Jacob keeps doing what he's doing the judges will complain about it.
Scotty is a powerhouse and he keeps getting stronger, as he threw in some country-styled excitement into his version of Montgomery Gentry's “Gone.” That showed a great deal of growth – sure it was kind of corny, as was his well-controlled “Always on My Mind,” but that doesn't really matter at this point. He should start to worry about Lauren Alaina, though.

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Lauren's take on Carrie Underwood's “Flat on the Floor” creamed him. And if she starts to take some of his country audience, while picking up Haley's girl-power audience if/when she goes, Scotty may find himself out of the finals in a "very shocking elimination" from the Top 3.

Lauren may actually be the second-coming of Kelly Clarkson, laying in the cut in the early rounds, before figuring out how to handle the game. Steven Tyler still thinks she may be “the one” and he may be right.

Color me manipulated, but a final showdown between her and James Durbin would be far more entertaining.

Yes, I'm on Team Randy for this one. James Durbin is going to be in the finals. The cynic in me thinks his tearful, emotional “Without You” may have been manipulation on his part, but, man, I bought it hook, line and sinker.

“Realness” is almost as important as his multi-octave wail in his quest to derail Scotty and he brought it in both songs. His pick of 30 Seconds to Mars' “Closer to the Edge” was a terrible one (did Iovine suggest that one, too?) but it did energize his base. “Without You” energized everyone else.

Is he in it to win it? Yeah.

Now, can someone please manipulate Randy into giving up that catchphrase?


James Durbin, “Without You”
Lauren Alaina, “Flat on the Floor”
Scotty McCreery, “Gone”
Haley Reinhart, “House of the Rising Sun”
Lauren Alaina, “Unchained Melody”
Scotty McCreery, “Always on My Mind”
Jacob Lusk, “Love Hurts”
James Durbin, “Closer to the Edge”
Jacob Lusk, “No Air”
Haley Reinhart, “You and I”

BOTTOM THREE: Jacob, Haley, Lauren

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