Idol Beat: Not So Fantastic Four

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That wonderful sound you heard last night - that distinct lack of atonal screeching that used to climb up your spine like a mongoose wearing stiletto heels - was the sound of a Jacob-free American Idol. What a beautiful thing.

I'm not sure which was more surprising: that after having six dudes and only two girls a little over a month ago that the sexes are evened out at two and two (not suspicious at all, that) or that James would so easily separate himself from the flock, Scotty included, this close to the end.

It was almost, dare I say, exciting.

Last night's theme was "songs that inspire them most." Maybe it's a generation gap thing, or I'm just a jackass, but I can't believe nobody picked some S.O.D.

"Don't Stop Believin'?" After Glee, "Rock of Ages" and The Sopranos, I can't imagine many people still being "inspired" by this song, James Durbin. Especially since the only Journey version you're ever going to here is with that YouTube singer.

Whatever, James is like a mutt who won't stop sniffing around your house, and he howls appropriately. The judges loved it, and hey, at least poor Steve Perry should get some money out of this. He's earned it.

Haley Reinhart's choice of Michael Jackson's "Earth Song" was a bit dicey. Her barroom voice isn't really made for falsetto numbers, and J Lo and Randy aren't keen on it. Steven, doubtless mesmerized by her leather pants, dares to dissent. She's probably in trouble this week.

You know what would be awesome? If Scotty McCreery sang a country song. And what do you know, his inspirational choice is Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" It's because it means so much to him, you know, because he was already a world-weary seven years old when the World Trade Center came down.

Give the smarmy twerp credit, he knows how to manipulate his audience (J Lo says he knows "how to touch other people," entertainmentspeak for "how to yank their chains"). But christ, what a dumb fucking song: "Not sure I can tell you the difference between Iraq and Iran?" Can you read a globe?

Lauren Alaina goes the country route as well (Martina McBride's "Anyway"). It's typically querulous. She seems like she has the potential to belt it out, but backs off at the last minute.

Oh never mind, she's "in it to win it." I just don't know anymore.

And then on to Round 2. And shit got weird.

The songs of Lieber and Stoller? Really? Was there no artist less recognizable to Idol's audience? Producers couldn't get the rights to the Franz Liszt catalog?

They even out that obscurity by bringing in Lady Gaga to mentor. Thanks to whatever will.i.am-style deal she cut to keep her a presence on the show for three straight weeks, she plays nice with everybody. Though it's...odd seeing her with her Siouxsee eye makepup and skunk hair offering constructive criticism. I kept waiting for her to try and "peg" Jimmy Iovine.

Haley - "I (Who Have Nothing)" (Ben E. King) - Pretty solid. Randy: "In it to win it." J Lo: "You had your moment." Steven: "Whargarblarbl."

Scotty - "Young Blood" (The Coaster) - Nice shirt. He looks like Forrest Gump onstage. Randy: "We just saw both sides of a Scotty concert" (please check your Randy Jackson bingo cards, all we need is three more "yo"s). J Lo: "I love you." Steven: "Hey, my book is #1 on the NY Times bestseller list."

Lauren - "Trouble" - Has problems singing about being evil, which bodes ill for Slayer week. Steven: "I just love you." J Lo: "I loved it." Randy: "Big ups to you."

James - "Love Potion No. 9" - He's the only one who has even a shred of stage presence. I'll go on record as saying he's the only performer I've enjoyed watching since Naima got voted off. Who cares what the judges think? James should win this.

Tonight: Haley gets voted off. Just a hunch.

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