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'Idol' Top Three Performance Recap

Posted by Sarah Rodman  May 18, 2011 10:23 PM

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Tonight the final three sang three songs apiece. The first was chosen by the contestants themselves, the second by Jimmy Iovine, and the third by the judges. Beyonce was on hand to mentor them through their own choices... and premiere her new video.

For me Haley's take on Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" -- her choice--was the best performance of the night. It may have been a risk in terms of alienating the audience, but it paid off in showing off the scope of her range, how good her energy can be when she's happy and confident, and she sang well. That she recovered from a stumble up the stairs like a champion can only help, not hurt. And it was sweet to see her dad backing her up.

I was less enamored of her other two songs. Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" -- Jimmy's choice-- felt strange, oddly pitched in her range, and the wind machine was hokey. The judges' choice of "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette started off sort of sluggish and too far at the bottom of her range, but by the time she hit the chorus she injected some spark into it. But it seemed like she'd expended most of her energy on the first song and the rest was diminishing returns.

Of Lauren's three performances I liked "If I Die Young," Jimmy's choice, by the Band Perry, the best. Even though she clearly goofed, it was a spirited performance and she also recovered well. All the notes weren't perfect but her engagement was the strongest. She didn't seem to have enough breath for the speedy rhythms of Faith Hill's "Wild One"-- her choice-- and "I Hope You Dance," by LeAnn Womack came off like a boring, safe, pageant performance even if it was probably her best vocal technically. 

I didn't love any of Scotty's songs-- they were all sort of middle of the road, vanilla country pop-- but his first performance, of Lonestar's "Amazed," his choice, was the best, simple and clean with some good stretches into his higher register. He got a lot of praise for "Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not?" by Thompson Square-- Jimmy's choice-- but it felt oddly somber to me, although it was stronger vocally than his other two songs. My favorite thing about "She Believes in Me," the Kenny Rogers song the judges chose for him, was the fact that Scotty clearly had never heard of it when he got the news he was singing it.  It probably locked up the older demo for him... even though he's probably already got that, and a spot in the finale, locked up.

So what did you guys think? Did you think the finalists, Jimmy, and the judges made good choices? Who will be sent home? Who should be sent home? What did you think of Beyonce as a "mentor"? And of her new song/video? Did you like that they showed us the original auditions? If you were playing a drinking game are you cursing Randy for your terrible hangover based on how many times the phrase "in it to win it" was uttered?

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Katie McLeod is's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at

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Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.

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Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.