LOS ANGELES, Calif. --“American Idol” returned on Wednesday night with music of the 21st century and with an entire century worth of songs to choose from, there were a lot of surprises.
James Durbin brought one of the biggest – hitting the stage in an impressive military-inspired costume and backed by a marching band drumline – as he performed a metal-esque version of Muse’s “Uprising,” a number peppered with high notes he took even higher.
Randy Jackson revealed that Muse singer Matt Bellamy (Kate Hudson’s boyfriend) actually e-mailed “Idol” over James’ cover earlier in the week and suggested the upper octave dalliance and after watching James’ performance, the judge thought the original singer would be proud.
“He did it,” Randy said to Matt, who was not present at the “Idol” taping. “He slayed it!”
Jennifer Lopez was also won over by James’ dramatic performance, calling it, “the best theatrical performance of the night.”
Later, however, it was crooner Casey Abrams, who made her swoon when he sang “Harder To Breath” by Maroon 5.
Introduced by “Dancing with the Stars” professional Mark Ballas, who was in the audience (likely to support his paramour Pia Toscano who was performing), the redheaded bearded singer ended the rocking number by singing the final notes to J.Lo and planting a kiss on her cheek.
“You did what I’ve been trying to do for two months!” Steven Tyler stated, referring to the kiss.
“Casey’s not playing fair,” the blushing Jennifer said, before commending the singer on doing a “really great, good, job.”
Steven, however, had a different sort of adjective pool to employ when he complimented the singer, cursing at least two — and possibly a third time – all of which had to be censored on the FOX broadcast.
The Aerosmith rocker said Casey may have made a few enemies in America, “because you’re so [expletive] good.”
Later, it was Lauren Alaina’s turn to impress the judges and the audience, which included “Glee’s” Jayma Mays, with a version of Sara Evans’ “Born To Fly” that sounded effortless, but full of steam.
“You have such a special voice,” Jennifer said, asking the singer to go further next week with even higher notes.
Things were tougher on Jacob Lusk, who stumbled on his second line in the Luther Vandross song, “Dance with My Father.”
Jacob had dedicated the song to his own father, who died when the singer was 12, and to the late Luther (whom Jacob has been compared to by the judges during the season), who would have been 60 on Wednesday.
“It’s hard to perform when a song means that much to you,” Jennifer noted.
As for Scotty McCreery, he sang LeAnn Rimes’ “Swingin’” but was told to “pull out the big guns,” at this stage of the competition by Jennifer.
Haley Reinhart opted for Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep,” and Steven called her rendition, “beautiful.”
Stefano Langone performed NeYo’s “Closer” and Jennifer said he had his “swag going on.” In fact, Stefano’s “swag” was present in a package presented before he performed where his fellow contestants all suggested he liked to think of himself as a ladies man.
Additionally, before Haley’s performance, “Idol” seemed to finally address the rumors that Haley and Stefano had a brief romance, with Stefano even saying to camera that they had “a love/ hate relationship.”
Beyond the “Idols” still in the competition, a host of booted Top 12 performers came back to the show for the opening number, including Pia and Paul McDonald, who performed Pink’s “So What.”
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