It was the night to open up the “celebrated songbook of Lieber and Stoller.” From “On Broadway” to “Jailhouse Rock” – these guys know how to write a hit record. Better yet, Mike Stoller was there in the audience, ready to watch the contestants create a moment with the work he penned so many years ago. Who better to sit down and mentor our finalists than…..

Lady Gaga?

On a night when Randy Jackson was praised as a Journey hero, none was worshiped more than Lady Gaga. The Pop Queen was no simple “guest mentor” for the evening, she was introduced as a “modern day legend” of music.

Gaga’s best moment came from her encounter with country crooner Scotty McCreery. Unlike American Idol seasons past, the show wasn’t afraid to bring up McCreery’s conservative worldview. Let’s just say Gaga telling Mr. McCreery to work his microphone like a delicious hot dog, or to approach it like he would sticking his tongue down his girlfriend’s throat, was not an image teen Scotty was ready to embrace. Scotty looked at Gaga like she had just arrived from outer space and threatened to take Newt Gingrich back to her home planet.

Back to the music…..this is a big week. Every contestant is going home. Well…..one is going home a loser. The others will be worshiped like cyborgs on Endor, showered with cheers and trips to local AT&T stores. That’s right, next week is HOMECOMING WEEK! What am I going to wear?!

Let’s find out who’s IN IT TO WIN IT YEAH! from worst to first!

4. Lauren Alaina

This is a difficult weak to pick a loser, because at this point everybody is pretty good. I just feel like Lauren is a bit out of her league and her age shows. She opened up a bit more than in previous weeks, but she was never really able to break through those “I don’t want to go home” nerves. I found myself forgetting what two songs she sang and lacking the desire to go back and find out.

3. James Durbin

Did James pander a bit to Idol judge Randy Jackson by choosing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin?” Maybe – but the song fit him pretty well. I’m still not a big fan of the screaming notes – I thought about starting a “James Durbin Yelling Or Severe Storm Alert Beacon” drinking game. Too bad I lost all of my scotch during that “Randy Jackson In It To Win It” game last week.

James does what he does and he did it well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Durbin/McCreery finale.

2. Scotty McCreery

Did Scotty pander to middle America with his Alan Jackson 9/11 ballad? Maybe – but it felt genuine. Those are the kind of records this kid will probably make and sells millions of, like it or not. He came out in the second round with his goofy, cartoon character side – but he does that well, too. Your mom loves this guy, as does a big chunk of the country. I thought he had a great night.

1. Haley Reinhart

The Wheeling native is really starting to turn it on. I thought she KILLED Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” but the viscous pack of judging wolves known as LoJack tore Haley a new one. And by “tearing her a new one,” I mean “telling her it was just OK.” That’s what goes for serious criticism on this show.

Anyways, Haley didn’t do herself any favors by talking back to Randy. It never looks good, no matter how off base the judges commentary may be. She earned a standing ovation with her second song, which was deserved. I’m not sure Reinhart can make the final, but she did what she needed to do tonight to stick around. At least that’s my guess…….

BOTTOM THREE: Lauren, James, Haley

SHE GONE!: Lauren Alaina….somebody get a wheelbarrow full of Kleenex for this one!

See you next week to break it down!

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