It was “Music from the Movies” night on “American Idol” and the evening ended with the stiffest competition so far this season.
There were two major standouts of the night – at least according to the judges’ comments and the standing ovations in the “American Idol” studio audience – one for Jacob Lusk and the other, for James Durbin.
Last week, Jacob, “Idol’s” resident soul and gospel singer, landed in the bottom three, but this time around, he rocketed to the top, taking on the classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” from the Will Smith film, “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
His lofty vocals had the crowd on their feet and the judges clamoring for adjectives.
“It’s astounding how angelic you sing,” a floored Steven Tyler remarked.
“You’re such a gifted vocalist,” Jennifer Lopez chimed in.
“It was like, perfect, perfect, perfect harmony,” Randy Jackson said. “Dude! You did an amazing job on that song. Congrats.”
Not to be out done, James, who closed the show, opted for the lesser-known “Heavy Metal” from the 1981 film of the same name.
Show mentor Jimmy Iovine had actually urged James not to perform the number as they rehearsed earlier in the week, suggesting it had no hook.
James, however, persisted, something Black Eyed Peas main man will.i.am, who returned again to help mentor the contestants, complimented him on.
While the song wasn’t familiar to much of the “Idol” crowd, it didn’t stop many of them from screaming, throwing devil horn rocker hand gestures up and closing the night with another big standing ovation for James’ performance – which saw him accompanied by sometime Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde.
“That felt really, really real,” Jennifer yelled over the top of the still-screaming “Idol” crowd. “I really loved that.”
Randy called it “unbelievable,” and Steven complimented James on having faith in his song choice, despite the push back from Jimmy.
As for Zakk, he offered the young man sincere praise.
“He sang his a** off, man, without a doubt,” the heavy metal legend raved.
While it was good news for James and Jacob, one contestant stood out for all the wrong reasons – Haley Reinhart.
The 20-year-old curly haired singer from Wheeling, Ill., opted to use her powerful pipes on “Call Me,” the Blondie song from “American Gigolo,” and while her rendition was adequate, it didn’t pack the wow power.
“I didn’t love the beginning of it,” Randy said. “I felt when it started, [it was] very kind of karaoke for me.”
Jennifer said she agreed with Randy, but was reluctant to say more because she didn’t want the viewers to vote any more of the women in the competition – which number just two (alongside Lauren Alaina) — home.
Here’s how the rest of the pack did:
Paul McDonald opened the show with Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And’ Roll” from “Risky Business” and Jennifer said it was another example he was “going a little bit further” every week.
Lauren Alaina tried out Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” from “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and Randy said it reminded him of her memorable Nashville audition, adding, “you sang it like it was written for you.”
Stefano Langone opted for “End of the Road,” the Boyz II Men song from “Boomerang,” and Randy suggested his pal in the band — Boyz II Men member Wanya Morris — was going to call him during the show and say, “Stefano just slayed the song.” The judges were so impressed, Jennifer (who earlier in the day was revealed as People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman”) had to be bleeped, telling Stefano, “That was the [expletive]!”
Country crooner Scotty McCreery returned to familiar pastures after his Elvis song last week with “I Cross My Heart” from the movie “Pure Country.” Steven said he “did it again,” while Jennifer added a simple, “Wow!”
Jazz-friendly Casey Abrams opted for “Nature Boy” from “Moulin Rouge” and Steven asked for an “Encore!” while Randy said he gave a “Grammy kind of performance.”