‘American Idol’: Elton John Night’s Alright For James Durbin

Robbie Daw / March 31, 2011

Now, don’t get us wrong—from “Rocket Man” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” to “Blue Eyes” and “Circle Of Life,” we love us some Captain Fantastic. But Elton John night on American Idol didn’t exactly give any “wow” moments with regards to the Top 11, the way Motown night did last week. Maybe there were simply too many switched-up arrangements of Sir Elt’s classics? At least Ryan Seacrest’s new hair style (bangs pushed down!) kept us captivated.

At the beginning of the show, Seacrest reminds us that the three judges used their one and only save of the season on Casey Abrams last week. “Now that the save is gone, the drama’s about to double, because we lose not one, but two people tomorrow,” he warns about tonight’s elimination round.

But before all that, the Top 11 are off to a glam Entertainment Weekly photo shoot, where they are to soak up a bit of Elton’s style panache.

THE STANDOUT

Yes, there’s really only one standout this week, and that’s simply by comparison to the other snoozy performances. James Durbin comes out and does his rocker thing with what is probably Elton John’s most rockin’ single from the ’70s: “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” (If only he had done Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s opening jam, “Love Lies Bleeding,” it might have actually kicked things up a notch.) There are flames. There are screams. And there is James on top of a piano.

THE SO-SO

We’re throwing pretty much everyone in the So-So category this week: Scotty McCreery for his obvious take on “Country Comfort”; Naima Adedapo for her just-okay reggae reworking of “I’m Still Standing”; Pia Toscano for playing it safe with “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (which we thought she struggled with, but the judges loved); Lauren Alaina for her low-watt attempt at “Candle In The Wind” (her dress was more memorable than the singing, we’re afraid); and Thia Megia for a just-passable stab at “Daniel.”

Two contestants who are slightly more memorable than the rest are Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart. Jacob goes with John’s somber ballad “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” because he’s familiar with Mary J. Blige’s cover version. The gospel crooner employs his usual flare for drama and soaring vocals, but it’s nowhere near as electrifying as his take on “You’re All I Need To Get By” was last week.

As for Haley, like Randy points out, she delivers her best performance so far with her smoky, sexy version of “Bennie And The Jets.” But while we have to give her props, we also can’t help thinking that, since two unlucky folks are going home after tonight, she might be in danger.

Meanwhile, Casey Abrams now has a new lease on AI life. On the advice of producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, he decides to trim his beard. Though, really, Rodney kind of tells Casey to lose the beard altogether, but instead the Idol hopeful just gets it trimmed. Anyway, when he sings Elton’s “Your Song” on stage and his “new look” is revealed, it doesn’t really seem like he had much taken off in the end (other than maybe getting a haircut).

THE UH-OH

Look, maybe if David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze hadn’t won Idol over the past three seasons, respectively, we’d have more tolerance at this point for a happy-go-lucky dude with a bright smile, a guitar pick in his teeth and a dream. Alas, Paul McDonald has yet to do anything remotely interesting in this competition to stand out from the rest of the herd—well, besides wear that white suit embroidered with red flowers twice now. And that whisper thing he does at the end of “Rocket Man” is just irritating.

That brings us to Stefano Langone, who seems to be a permanent resident in the Bottom Three. No need to be alarmed, though—you can rest assured he’ll wind up there again, since his performance of “Tiny Dancer” is absolute dullsville.

THOUGHTS ON THE NIGHT: Two people definitely deserve to go home this week after these lackluster turns from the group. (And, by the way, it feels like there have been 11 contestants for ages now.) Our money is on this evening being the last stand for Stefano and Thia.