LOS ANGELES – "American Idol" finalist Casey Abrams ended his song with a smooch.
The eccentric 20-year-old film camp counselor of Idyllwild, Calif., planted a peck on "Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez after delivering a rockin' rendition of Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe" during the Fox talent competition's evening of 21st century songs Wednesday. Lopez proclaimed that she loved Abrams' performance — and his "soft lips" weren't bad either.
"You did what I've been trying to do for four months," exclaimed Steven Tyler, who later added some expletives.
Scotty McCreery, the 17-year-old high school student of Garner, N.C., kicked off the show with an eyebrow-raising take on LeAnn Rimes' version of "Swingin'." Tyler wished that the deep-voiced crooner "boot-scooted" more during his routine, while Randy Jackson dubbed his song choice as "safe." Lopez warned McCreery that it's time "to pull out the big guns."
"We were expecting more from Scotty," scolded J.Lo.
Lauren Alania, the 16-year-old country songstress of Rossville, Ga., and Jacob Lusk, the 23-year-old power vocalist of Compton, Calif., were also prodded to push themselves further after taking on Sara Evans' "Born to Fly" and Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father." Lusk pulled out his in-ear monitor while singing, and later complained of technical difficulties.
"Vocally, it was good, but it didn't make me jump up and down," Jackson told Lusk.
Haley Reinhart, the growling 20-year-old singer of Wheeling, Ill., received a lukewarm reception for diving into Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Jackson said it was "a perfect direction" for Reinhart, but Tyler noted it was a "little slow at the start." Stefano Langone, the 21-year-old crooner from Kent, Wash., had better luck with Ne-Yo's "Closer."
"Speaking for the girls in the audience, I thought it was very, very good," Lopez told a smiling Langone.
James Durbin once again marched onto the "Idol" stage with the night's most the theatrical performance. The 22-year-old rocker from Santa Cruz, Calif., donned an outlandish military-inspired ensemble and was accompanied by four marching drummers for Muse's "Uprising." Jackson and Lopez announced it would be the best performance of the evening.
"We just love that you're out of your mind beautifully so," affirmed Tyler.
Seemingly, as reminder of why they were voted off the show, the past six eliminated contestants — Karen Rodriguez, 21, New York; Ashthon Jones, 24, Nashville, Tenn.; Naima Adedapo, 26, Milwaukee; Thia Megia, 16, Mountain House, Calif.; Pia Toscano, 22, Howard Beach, N.Y.; and Paul McDonald, 26, Nashville, Tenn. — also returned for a performance of Pink's "So What."
"We miss this group," screamed Jackson. "Come back!"
One of the top seven finalists will join them Thursday.
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