‘American Idol’ Recap: Scotty McCreery Or Bust!

The home visits are in the can! The judges have their strategies set! The contestants have their hideous flower earrings picked out!

Wednesday was Top Three night on “American Idol X: Scotty McCreery or Bust!”

Sorry, females of the world. The two representative specimens left in this high pressure ultra-important competition had a night full of stumbles, bumbles, and crumbles. And while fans debate which is worse — tripping on a step, or tripping on a key change? — some of us are busy asking the important questions. Such as, do we prefer Scotty with a buzz-cut or Scotty with an inch of hair? Have we ever heard Scotty “sing a chorus like that” before? What about one song later? And are you going to kiss him or not?!

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Before I start pointing out how … energetic … Jimmy Iovine looked in the audience Wednesday night, here’s a quick reminder to tune into my weekly Web show, “Idol Party Live,” today at noon EDT, right here in this blog. This week’s guest is acclaimed singer, performer, all around hilarious force of nature Bridget Everett. Plus, you won’t want to miss my confrontation interview with “judge” Randy Jackson, nor James Durbin’s Sophie’s Choice between Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block.

Scotty McCreery
Contestant’s Pick: Lonestar’s “Amazed”
Jimmy Iovine’s Pick: Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”
Judges’ Pick: Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes In Me”

If Scotty’s ode to 9/11 was a message to the hard-core country crowd last week, Lonestar’s “Amazed” was catnip for the rest of us. He’s no dummy, despite the Internet comparing his looks to Howdy Doody. Scotty sounded just as good hitting glory notes on a pop-country crossover song as he does dropping a signature bass bomb on a twangy throwback tune. During their time together, guest mentor Beyoncé cooed, “Scotty Boy! That’s my boy!” After this brilliant Lonestar pick, my mom is saying the same thing.

The judges made their raves all about them, naturally. Randy patted himself on the back for producing a Boyz II Men cover version that nobody bought (and then, ironically, said something about “money”), while J.Lo took credit for Scotty’s vibrato. I hope “Annoy Jim Cantiello” is part of their job description; otherwise, they ain’t earning their paychecks.

Round two was Jimmy Iovine’s pick, and he gave Scotty Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.” Iovine hoped Scotty would inject a touch of Tom Petty rock, but Scotty’s country take was as straightforward as it gets. The second verse had to be dropped for time, which affected the song’s story big time. In the “Idol” edit, Scotty was on a rooftop with a girl who pretends to be shy until she reveals herself to be a sexually aggressive minx. And then two seconds later they’re getting married. I get that some people want to wait to have sex until they’re married, but this seemed a little extreme. He barely knows this girl.

Even with an awkward edit, Jimmy’s pick was infinitely better than the judges’ old-fashioned Kenny Rogers ballad, which found the likable 17-year-old singing about returning home after being a rock star and trying not to wake up a woman in his bed. Who is she, his mom? Stop it. Obviously, this was some weird fantasy of J.Lo’s. She sang along at the judges’ table like she was Oprah and Scotty was Aretha. Stop it. (Yes, I know I just said “stop it” two times in a row, but if Steven Tyler is allowed to repeat “I haven’t heard you sing a chorus like that” for two different Scotty performances, why can’t I recycle, too?)

Papa McCreery
Song: “Babylockthemdoors”
Verdict: Like son, like father, like Josh Turner

While we’re on the subject of “Idol” parents, here’s a “silently adorable” cage match for the ages: Allison Iraheta’s mom vs. Scotty McCreery’s mom. GO! (But listen closely. They won’t make much noise.)

Lauren Alaina
Contestant’s Pick: Faith Hill’s “Wild One”
Jimmy Iovine’s Pick: The Band Perry “If I Die Young”
Judges’ Pick: Lea Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”

Beyoncé urged Lauren to create a “diva persona” onstage to help her get over her nerves. Great advice, but Lauren’s execution was less Sasha Fierce and more Tragique. Oh, those flower earrings. Oh, those swallowed words. Oh, that pitch, which was as reliable as a meth-head stylist. (I’m still not over her flower earrings, you guys. The stylist has to be on meth, right?) This was a song that Lauren grew up singing, but familiarity led to laziness. You could see how much pain J.Lo was in when she delivered a “very good” to Chosen Child Lauren Alaina.

Jimmy Iovine handpicked the Band Perry’s morbid number one hit about dying at a young age. It was a metaphor for her confidence on “Idol.” In fact, looking back at her Nashville audition — which was replayed, along with the other contestants’ — may have hurt her. The spunky, sassy girl who used to own a room and demand a private Steven Tyler concert was now an easily-distracted living doll. Own your very own Sally Skittish! Pull the string and she’ll ignore key changes! Squeeze her earlobe and she’ll fall behind the music! Poke her stomach and she’ll sit on the edge of the stage for no reason! (She also comes with backup pantyhose and a matching mom doll. Batteries not included.)

Moms across America had a real Sophie’s Choice thanks to Lauren singing “I Hope You Dance.” Between Scott’s Lonestar tune and this Lee Ann Womack anthem, how will moms pick between two of their favorite soft rock songs? It’s a good think Pia didn’t make it to top three, because then she’d be singing Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” and all moms would short circuit from overstimulation.

All joshing aside, “I Hope You Dance,” (or as Scotty incorrectly sang it in Hollywood Week, “Nuts of Wonder”) was a perfect pick for Lauren. The seven notes in the entire tune all played to Lauren’s sweet spot. Plus, she could put on a bright-blue pageant dress and it wouldn’t be inappropriate. I’m not sure what fog has to do with it, but she was going to have a moment whether she wanted to or not, damnit!

The performance gave J.Lo “goosies” from head to toe, and caused Randy and Steven to have a passive aggressive “I’m a Better Friend to Lee Ann Womack Than You” exchange. Was this all part of a plan to make the super-young Lauren Alaina look more mature comparatively? It worked!

My Girl Haley Reinhart
Contestant’s Pick: Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” (featuring Papa Reinhart!)
Jimmy Iovine’s Pick: Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”
Judges’ Pick: Alanis Morrissette’s “You Oughta Know”

In a brief rehearsal video package, Beyoncé said more complimentary things about Haley Reinhart than Randy and J.Lo have the entire season. That’s not to say B didn’t express some concern over Haley’s psychedelic song choice. But see that, judges? You are able to applaud fearlessness, conviction and vocal power while also criticizing song choice. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom because someone didn’t stick to a specific “lane” you’ve arbitrarily placed her (or him but really her) in.

Haley’s risk paid off handsomely. The season 10 underdog who started the season being lambasted for her mannered stage presence was now prancing and twirling around the “Idol” studio in a fringe-tastic little number, looking like a hippie flapper doing a Tina Turner impression. (Fun fact! Her dress was made up of all the shredded videotape of her backstory, since all we know about Haley is that her parents are in a band and she sometimes wears ridiculous headbands.)

Speaking of her parents, Papa Reinhart a.k.a Shredder broke the “Idol” Family Members Are Allowed to Perform seal, which is a dangerous precedent to set. Should Lauren Alaina make it to the finale, you just know her mom is going to show up to the Nokia with a beat up clarinet and a reed in her mouth.

All of Haley’s running around eventually got the best of her. She took a nasty spill on her way back up to the stage, and watching it felt like getting kicked in the nuts (of wonder). To her credit, she jumped right up, slipped in the words she’d missed and shrugged it off. Unlike some other people I know, who fell on live TV and demand that they re-edit it for a West Coast broadcast.

J.Lo praised her professionalism, then talked about her own recent performance hell at Wango Tango when her audio cut out. I don’t feel so bad for J.Lo so much as the 20,000 spectators who may have had to endure a live Jennifer Lopez vocal without a backing track. They’re the one’s who suffered!

The problem with starting the show on such a high note is that there’s only one way to go, and that’s down. First, Jimmy Iovine saddled her with Stevie Nicks’ new-agey classic “Rhiannon.” (He also left her hanging when she went for a high five. He must have been daydreaming about all the money he’s going to make off of Scotty.) During her Fleetwood Mac cover, Haley had to fend off a shrieking backup singer and a wind machine dead set on blowing her over, but the unwieldy, esoteric lyrics proved to be her biggest foe. Haley seemed more concerned about getting the words out than truly connecting to the song.

The judges’ pick for Haley was a total head scratcher. Early on, Haley got blasted for picking “Call Me,” a straight-up rock song. Last week, Randy accused her of shouting a song. SO, why don’t we give her a rock song that will necessitate her having to scream the chorus? Done! Perfect!

Not to mention that “You Oughta Know” is a hard song to sing! Leave it to the judges to give Lauren and Scotty underhand tosses and Haley a fast corkscrew pitch. Haley desperately tried to keep up with the rat-a-tat rapid-fire lyrics in a key that was too low for her and failed miserably. Then, when it couldn’t get any worse, she pandered to the judges with cutesy hand gestures. Haley Reinhart, you do NOT want to think about Randy Jackson when you’re scratching your nails down Casey Abrams’ a dude’s back. You’re better than this!

The judges — no doubt scared to criticize any of the contestants this week — focused on the chorus, the one good thing about Haley’s “You Oughta Know.” But unless Haley plans on singing hooks in hip-hop songs, she’ll never be able to just sing choruses. I wish my girl had stripped down Alanis’ hit and re-imagined it to fit her style. But judging from the fact that she had zero production value in her final performance of the night, I doubt she had the time or the resources.

We’ll always have her time with Papa Reinhart.

What do you think “Idol” fans? Did Haley’s reverse momentum kill her chances? Or will her first round knockout be enough to squeeze her past the Country Kids? It’s a tight race!

Between Rob Reiner’s recent results-show bit and Elijah Wood’s audience sighting, is there a “North” Blu-Ray release they’re promoting? Did you believe Beyoncé when she flatly declared, “I love Lonestar?” What do you think Priscilla Presley said to Scotty McCreery as they sat next to each other? And how did the universe not implode when J.Lo showed up to the set dressed as Karen Rodriguez dressed as J.Lo? Paging Charlie Kaufman! Leave a comment below, and for more “Idol” insanity, follow me on Twitter @jambajim.