Scotty opened with Lonestar’s “Amazed.” And I am…at least a little. This song did seem like a change for him, both in tone and in range. He managed to bring real movement to the stage instead of his trademark corniness. Sadly, I could hear the stretching of his voice as he tried to reach the higher parts of the song—which he didn’t. And during those parts, the backup singers totally outsang him. I couldn’t even hear him. He did nail the lower parts, though. I gotta admit that I really like his low-tone singing, but this performance, which could’ve been a nice moment for him, turned instead into an I-think-it’s-OK one.
Next was Lauren, singing Faith Hill’s “Wild One.” Again, it was just nice. She did seem very comfortable on stage, much more than she’s been for a long time. Lauren fills my screen during the closeups, but she lacks the experience to blow away the audience with her voice. It’s not how loud your voice is, but how you can bring people into your performance (see: Kris Allen’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” cover). This is when I remember Lauren is just a child, and I wish they would’ve let her grow before they threw her into this machine.
Closing the round, Haley sang “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin, and she fell on her face, quite literally. After making a tour around the judges’ table, she tripped and fell. But that aside, the performance was pretty impressive. The song choice was highbrow for me (I don’t quite like it), but the fact that it’s not that familiar gave her the chance to own it. And own it she did. And the fact that she fell, and then stood up and continued singing, gave her applause from J. Lo & the block for being professional. Also, her dad was playing guitar during her performance, which gave her like a thousand how-cool-is-that points.
So round one, the winner was Haley, hands down. For round two, the songs were picked by Jimmy Iovine.
We saw Scotty again, singing “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.” (Hell, no!) The performance was really good vocally, and even McCheesy’s Velveeta felt like it belonged where he put it. It actually felt honest and quite age-appropriate for him, and it sounded like he could record it. What made me quite uncomfortable was that his legs looked like he came from a seventeen-hour horseback ride and he couldn’t pull them straight. But I like when a song allows Scotty to use the twang in his voice and abuse his lower register. This Thompson Square song did that for him.
Iovine chose “If I Die Young” for Lauren. She started out sounding pretty good, but then she blew it. Not “out the box,” as Mr. Dawg likes to say. She missed some words because of the key change at the end of the song. And that blows. It’s sad, because she was having a very tender moment in the performance and then bam! But the judges pampered her like the kid she is. I wish they would start treating her like the professional she wants to become.
If Iovine’s the one to blame for Haley’s “Rhiannon” arrangement, then I’ll say he’s totally trying to screw her up. Haley looked gorgeous on camera and the almost-Marilyn-Monroe situation with the wind machine made the performance shine, but the arrangement was weird. The vocal part was very impressive because there wasn’t a moment where Haley growled, but instead, she sang softly and caressed the words, even though her pronunciation wasn’t top-notch. But I didn’t like the arrangement. I just didn’t.
I’ll call Haley again for round two. For round three, the judges gave their song choices to the contestants.
Trouty Mouth Steven Tyler chose Kenny Rogers’s “She Believes in Me” for Scotty. It was not only a great song for him, but also a very good performance. Scotty even managed to slay the big notes. Though the arrangement was that of a piano-driven ballad, he made the song feel a little country with his voice alone. It was quite nice, for a change.
J.Lo picked Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” for Lauren, who redeemed herself big time. But I have a big issue with ballads. When you sing a ballad, you need to find a way to engage the audience, find something to do, either moving, playing an instrument, or even sitting on a stool or chair (when you sing uptempo you need to move less so you can keep your breath). With that gorgeous dress on, Lauren looked like she was in the talent portion of the Miss Georgia pageant, the teen version. She did show off amazing vocal chops, though.
What Steven & La Lopez did in their picks was choose a song that fit their singers’ voices and asked for some stretch. Randy, however, gave Haley a very tough song to sing: Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” I don’t know what he was thinking. That song has so many changes in pace, it’s insane (I love it, though). Haley belted the choruses like there was no tomorrow, and did a fantastic job with them, but the fact that she botched the staccato bridges made the performance lackluster. It just wasn’t good. And, for the first time, the judges recognized the problem instead of just bashing her.
I’ll say the winner for round three is Steven’s song choice for Scotty.
And that’s how it went. I totally want to see Haley in the finale, and watch her take the trophy home. HALEY FTW!