Wednesday's "American Idol" show marked the first coed competition of the season, and the stakes were high. Universal Records toughie Jimmy Iovine was in the house to "keep an eye on the contestants" (according to a melodramatic Ryan Seacrest); superstar producers like Don Was, Rodney Jerkins, Jim Jonsin, Rock Mafia, and Ron Fair mentored during rehearsals; gospel choirs appeared out of nowhere to heighten the drama; and, just to add to the pressure, the contestants were required to sing songs by their own personal idols (i.e., their favorite artists of all time). That was a lot to live up to, but hey, that's what separates the true Idols from the boys. And girls.
For the most part, the contestants fared well. Only a couple singers seriously stumbled--notably (and surprisingly) Karen Rodriguez, who tried way too hard to impress her beloved J.Lo. Sadly, Karen's efforts backfired, and I therefore predict she'll be the one to go Thursday night.
Here's how everyone did....
Lauren Alaina - After all the pimping Lauren has received since her first audition, when Steven Tyler perhaps prematurely called her "The One," I was a little surprised that the producers had her sing first, in what is usually the kiss-of-death spot. (By an episode's end, short-attention-spanned viewers often struggle to remember a performance that happened two whole hours earlier.) But really, Lauren's cover of her idol Shania Twain's "Any Man Of Mine" wasn't all that memorable. Yes, she riled up the crowd with her high-energy performance, but it still felt like she was the opening act, not a headliner. And the fact that her biggest asset, her GREAT VOICE, was drowned out by the show's two Kendra Chantelle/Haley Reinhart-lookalike backup singers didn't help matters. As a result, Lauren got some of her first negative critiques of the season. "I love that song, but I wish it'd been just a little bit more kickass," said Steven, who's normally Lauren's biggest fan. Jennifer Lopez told Lauren that she needed to "kick it into high gear--like, really really go there." And Randy Jackson curmudgeonly griped, "You sang it well, but we're looking for that girl we first saw--something that lets you shine beyond belief." Wow, is it possible that Lauren isn't The One after all? Hopefully she can take this constructive criticism to heart and step up her game. She can only coast on cuteness and early hype for so long.