By Marcus Leshock
SolidLine Writer

“What a freak!”

And no….Steven Tyler wasn’t talking about Lauren Alaina’s Gwen Stefani makeover. Or Seacrest’s weird dance moves that ensued when the show finished about three minutes under (best part of the hour, ironically!).

Last night the “American Idol”  Top 9 sang classics from members of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Who better to mentor the contestants about rock ‘n’ roll classics than…..Will.I.Am? Of the Black Eyed Peas? Are we sure they didn’t confuse things with the Auto Tune Hall of Fame? I kid, I kid.

Before we get to the judges, it’s time to state that I’m really missing the judges – this Positive Reinforcement Panel doesn’t make for very good television. Can we get one critical comment? I mean….I’m not asking them to go all Simon and actually start critiquing the contestants. Just one, “Hey, you could have done a little bit better.” The live shows have felt like such a love fest, I’m not sure these contestants are improving or challenging themselves much, and that’s the best part of watching “American Idol” as the season progresses.

Let’s get right to the breakdown, ranking the contestants from worst to first!

9. Scotty McCreery – That’s Alright Momma by Elvis Presley

Wow. Just wow. It’s hard not to listen to this song and think about Elvis Presley moving his hips all over the stage. But watching somebody like Scotty McCreery try to replicate that? The sound was OK, but it was ridiculously awkward and cartoon character-ish. And what’s with the weird way he holds the microphone? This guy is going to make a country record and be ridiculously successful, but he won’t be doing much dancing on tour, I’ll book that. He’s safe tonight, no need to worry.

(NOTE: For the record, SolidLine Media Executive Producer Greg Vass texted me after the show to say “Scotty McCreery! Dude is awesome and I love country!” Maybe I was watching something else tonight!)

8. Jacob Lusk – Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually kind of dig this guy. His range is all over the place and he has a distinct sound. It hurts him a bit that he picked one of Michael Jackson’s signature hits – hard to compare the two singers, and Jacob’s lows didn’t really work all that well. I can’t really put a finger on it, but it just didn’t seem to work for me.

7. Lauren Alaina – Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin

Lauren has a chance to win the competition, but certain songs like this one just never translate to “American Idol.” She did her best to put some “Wow, look at my amazing voice!” moments into it, but it all just felt kinda forced. Steven Tyler called her a “natural born woman.” Noticed he didn’t say much about her singing. Or the song. Or anything really at all, for that matter.

6. Haley Reinhart – Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin

At least she acknowledged the broken record that is the judges telling her she’s Janis Joplin. Just so hard to compare anybody to Joplin, but she did a fine job. I just find her a bit too growl-ly – “Come on! Take another little piece of my hear-rarrrrrrrrrrrrrr!-t now baby!” After awhile, it just sounds a bit grating.

5. Pia Toscacno – River Deep Mountain High by Tina Turner

Will.I.Am had it right by bringing up personality right away. Pia’s got a great voice, but so far she’s shown no personality. Tina Turner is all personality. The most excitement in this performance came from the guy playing the bongos. But again, she’s got a great voice and ended on a big note, almost enough to make us forget how forgettable the rest of the performance was. If she can figure out how to become a commanding performer, she can have a huge career.

4. Paul McDonald – Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash

This guy moves like somebody sped him up to 300% in post. At this point, you either dig Paul’s sound or you don’t. I’m a fan. Not sure Johnny Cash’s deep rasp was something he could ever compare to, but you could tell he was having a great time. He might be in danger, though.

3. Stefano Langone – When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge

Surprised he didn’t go for the Michael Bolton version? Randy brought up Stefano’s robotic style, but J.Lo got “goose pimples.” Dirty. I thought it was great.

2. James Durbin – While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison

So Durbin was going for the Adam Lambert “Tracks of my Tears” moment….and it worked. The guy can sing, and he was able to show off his range, but the performance was so melodramatic. I know the song means a lot to him and his family, but there was just so much emotion dripping over every note. Tone it down a little more and it would have been great. Still really dug it, though.

1. Casey Abrams – Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Before “American Idol,” I wonder what it would take for Will.I.Am to hang out with a guy like Casey Abrams. Will and Jimmy Iovine may have talked Casey out of singing “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and into CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” He busted out the stand up bass and cheesy set design. I liked it, but he still reminds me of Ron Burgundy playing jazz flute for Veronica Corningstone in “Anchorman.” And that’s one of my favorite movies, so there you go.

As for my predictions?

Bottom three: Paul McDonald, Haley Reinhart, Jacob Lusk

Eliminated: Paul McDonald

I don’t agree with it, but I think the audience is growing tired of Paul. Maybe the good folks over at Vote For The Worst will help keep him in. See you next week!

Copyright 2011 Solidline Media, a division of KV Media Group, Inc.

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