Last Night’s American Idol: Best “Candle In The Wind” Ever?

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Eleven American Idol contestants tackled the songs of Elton John last night, and tonight, two of them will be voted off the show. Who deserves to go?

Not 16-year-old Lauren Alaina. Her rendition of the usually schlocky “Candle In The Wind” was the first time I’ve enjoyed that song in probably ever. Clearly, it’s a beautiful and moving lyric and melody, but hearing Elton John’s mush-mouthed original played ad nauseum on the radio really killed the buzz. But the Georgia native inflected it with a slight country lilt and a dash of Regina Spektor, and the melody soared in it’s new context. “Amazing, beautiful,” gushed J. Lo, and I found myself agreeing. “A lot of Elton John songs lend themselves to country singers,” noted producer Jimmy Iovine, and if his advice at times seems a little pitchy, this time he was spot on.

What about Casey Abrams, who got his hair cut in an effort to stop scaring everyone, after his “Smells Like Teen Spirit” performance bombed across America. Actually, it was a note from producer Rodney Jerkins that convinced him to get the trim — you could say Jerkins was acting more like a swagger coach there. The judges, who saved Abrams’ ass last week from certain elimination (a feat which had them disproportionately proud of themselves), raved about the last two notes of Abrams’ “Your Song.” The rest of them weren’t bad either. “So tender, dude,” cooed Randy.

If Abrams and Alaina gave John’s ballads a much-needed shot of adrenaline, John’s rockers were perfectly suited for contestants liker James Durbin, a cheesy metal lover whose got spandex in his soul, and Haley Reinhart, whose growling and stuttering on “Benny and The Jets” was sexier than an R rated movie. But how come Durbin got to sing along to a perfectly Elton-like backing vocal doubling his voice? Isn’t that cheating?

None of the judges gave Naima Adedapo’s reggaed-up “I’m Still Standing” the credit it deserved, but if Bob Marley was on the panel, I don’t think he would have minded it. But give props to Adedapo for not giving a damn whether they liked it or not. I and I approved.

What’d you think of last night’s show? Who deserves to stay and deserves to go? Let us know in the comments.

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