LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- “American Idol” inched closer to its Season 10 finale, and according to Randy Jackson, the competition is over, something Steven Tyler agrees with — they just don’t think the same contestant has it in the bag.
After two rounds of performances on Wednesday night, Randy said it was James Durbin’s competition “to lose,” while Steven told Lauren Alaina she’s “it.”
Under Sheryl Crow’s mentorship, the evening began with Randy’s choice – James — who kickstarted the show performing “Closer to the Edge,” a song by Jared Leto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars, and the emotive rock number won over the panel.
“I know America’s feeling it,” Jennifer Lopez said. “It’s yours to take!”
Randy, who has been championing James for weeks now, added that the rocker’s rendition really demonstrated the type of direction he could go in when the show is over, adding, “James is in it to win it!”
Teenager Lauren quickly matched James point for point as she took on a Carrie Underwood hit – “Flat On The Floor” – and brought out her sassy country side.
“Lauren is in it!” Randy enthused.
“The way you found your niche is simply as good as it gets,” Steven said. “The sky’s the limit. I think you’re it.”
During Round 2, though, James again gave another powerful performance, this time singing Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.”
Inspired by his family, James was nearly brought to tears as he drew the crowd in close with his impassioned – and a little pitch-imperfect vocals.
“This is the mark of a truly great performer,” Randy claimed. “I could feel your emotion… For you to give a vocal like you gave? No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was emotionally perfect… This competition… it’s yours to lose.”
But Lauren wouldn’t be outdone, hitting the stage again in a flowing gown to sing a beautiful version of “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers.
“Nothing to judge there really,” Jennifer said, awed by the young woman’s powerful pipes.
“It was a beautiful song, sang beautifully by you.” Steven added, “It was perfect.”
While James and Lauren may have an edge, the competition is a long way from over and Scotty McCreery continued to give strong performances, the kind that have kept him returning week after week.
The teen opened with “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry, hitting octaves he had not previously revealed, and even — as Jennifer pointed out — showing off a little growling in his voice.
“I swear to God, I saw you dance with the devil tonight,” Steven said. “That’s a good thing for you… That showed a whole other side to you.”
“I lost it there for a second,” an enthusiastic Jennifer commented. “I was so excited… You just owned that stage.”
Later, Scotty came back with Elvis Presley’s “Always On My Mind,” which Jennifer said “showed us what a well-rounded artist you are,” while Steven called it “Beautiful.”
While three performers stood out for all the right reasons, it was a mixed bag of critiques for Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart.
Jacob took a knock for his first number – singing both the Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown parts of “No Air,” which the judges weren’t convinced by.
He later redeemed himself with “Love Hurts” by Nazareth, but is still likely to be in jeopardy on Thursday if the voters stay with the judges.
As for Haley, she lost favor for taking mentor Jimmy Iovine’s advice to perform an unreleased Lady Gaga song, “You and I.”
While Gaga gave the young singer her blessing, Jennifer said she should have picked a more well-known song for the audience to connect to.
Luckily for Haley, she had a second chance with “House of the Rising Sun,” a song made famous by The Animals, which she opened without any accompaniment.
“Best performance of the night goes to Haley,” Randy said. “You’ve grown by leaps and bounds on this show… You’ve blossomed. That was amazing.”
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