We’re down to five, and the race that is American Idol is rapidly drawing to its finish. The finale is only three weeks away, and soon, we will get to be a part of the show’s normal extravaganza. This week, the kids performed two songs each and got two phone lines (though I don’t think that was necessary). Interesting that Sheryl Crow, who last season publicly disliked the show, agreed to be the mentor this week, showing, once again, that celebrities should sometimes just keep their thoughts to themselves. (Are you listening, John Mayer?) “Let’s face it, it undermines art in every way and promotes commercialism. I am sad people love it so,” Crow earlier told MSNBC. Her appearance on a show that makes her so sad renders her last name apropos, no? But, foot in mouth aside, how did the kids do this week?

Kicking off the show last night was James Durbin. His first song choice was “Closer to the Edge.” James was a bit off-key at the beginning of the song. I suspect he started out in a lower than normal register, to build up to his power section. He was also back into a bit of the cheese, running along the front row, giving high fives, with pyrotechnics blazing in the background. Personally, he didn’t impress me with this one. Had he focused more on his singing and not the cheese, the vocals might have been better. On his second song, “Without You,” James showed us his “tender” side. This had the potential to be a good performance. He actually started out well, but as he moved into the upper octaves, he seemed to break down a bit. Though the first song was off-key and cheesy, it was better than this one vocally. Then, Randy once again told James he’s going to win the competition. They make me want him not to win when they push like that. The judges need to let the proverbial chips fall where they may and keep those types of comments to themselves.

In opposition to Randy’s declarations for James, Jimmy kept reminding us that Jacob will be eliminated tonight. I’m sure that made Jacob want to attack his songs with gusto. For his first performance, Jacob chose “No Air,” by AI alum Jordin Sparks and girl beater Chris Brown. I have to agree with Randy that this song is not Jacob’s style. He did a decent job with the song vocally, but it felt like he was trying too hard. Almost immediately, you could feel the judges trying to downplay Jacob. While I think Randy misunderstood what Jacob was hoping to accomplish by saying he was trying to sing both parts of the duet, his critiques were right on. Jacob was trying to make himself relevant (I was right—Jacob said it after I typed it) because he has such a strong gospel flavor, which is not going to bode well for him in popular music. In the end, however, Randy is right. Jacob will never be a Chris Brown (thank God), and really, why would he want to be? Likely, because Jacob is young, and he wants to appeal to his peers. That’s not going to work for Jacob. As I’ve often told artists I’ve worked with, be grateful for the fans you have and stop wishing for the ones you can’t get. He returned to himself with his second choice, “Love Hurts.” I could feel his pain—literally. It was a very emotional performance, and the ONLY one to give me Goosebumps last night. This man can BLOW. Jacob, whether you make it this week or not, no one in this group can touch you from a vocal standpoint, no one.

Channeling another AI alum, Lauren Alaina chose “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood. This was a good choice for Lauren. She sang and performed it well, though I wonder: Do we need a second Carrie Underwood? She sounded an awful lot like her on this one, and to me, that’s not good. She needs to be her own artist. Please don’t get me wrong: Lauren is very talented, but she needs to make sure that she doesn’t sound too much like another contemporary artist. Otherwise, people won’t know whether it’s Lauren or Carrie on the radio. She must be very, very careful with that, especially as a new artist. Changing things up on her second choice, Lauren sang “Unchained Melody” for her parents. (I told you she’s sweet.) Good thing Simon is gone; he hated that song! She did a decent job with it. I wasn’t blown away, but it was a solid performance. Randy is correct that she has two sides. I didn’t hear any hint of country in her second performance. Though she can sing other things, I think Lauren’s “money” is in her country sound.

The second pure country artist on the show Scott McCreery followed Lauren with “Gone,” by Montgomery Gentry (whoever the hell he is—my bad, “they”). I was happy to see Scotty pick up the pace, and I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone who reads me that Scotty is my favorite of this group. He has so much to offer, and last night, he kicked it up a notch. When these kids get up there, have fun, and don’t try so hard, that’s when they’re at their best. That’s what Scotty did last night. He figuratively “let his hair down” and just did his thing, and that resulted in a great performance for him. For his second selection, Scotty reminded us that he is, after all, a pure vocalist. Scotty sang “Always On My Mind.” Scotty’s tender side is something to behold. Unlike James, he is never off-key or unsure of himself. He does both sides quite well, and it’s fun to watch a new country star in the making.

Finally, Haley Reinhart finished out the show. Wait—Haley got the “pimp spot” again? What is up with that? That’s three weeks in a row now isn’t it? I’m trying to figure out why the producers are trying so hard to help her. She’s really not all that. Haley chose an unreleased Lady Gaga song (more help for Haley, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why) “You and I.” If Jimmy wants to sign her, he should just do that and not give her an unfair advantage over the other four. I still am not impressed with Haley. She’s like a song chameleon, changing it up for whoever she’s covering. What kind of artist is she going to be? And she’s got a nasty attitude. If looks could kill, Jennifer would have died during her critique. I guess Haley didn’t know the camera had panned to her face in time to see her “shoot daggers” at Jennifer. Haley thought she had done something the others couldn’t achieve, and it blew up in her face. Good. None of these kids should be given any type of advantage over the others. Otherwise, it’s not a fair competition. “I got to talk to Lady Gaga”—is she a singer or a fame whore? Haley’s second choice was “The House of the Rising Sun.” I can’t take the growling. That’s not singing. Sorry, but I’m not impressed with Haley and I don’t get anyone who is. I’ve heard better in bars across the nation.

Tonight brings the inevitable elimination of one more contestant. Last week, the Idol producers tried to fool us by not having a bottom three or bottom two. They called contestants up “at random” and declared who was going home at the end. I firmly believe that Scotty was left with Casey for effect. How will they handle the elimination tonight? God only knows, but I think both Jacob and Haley are in danger. Even though Jacob will never be a pop music artist, I hope he outlasts Haley. I’m tired of her growling, the preferential treatment, and the lack of artistry. Dial Idol finally got it right last week by showing Casey at the bottom. Here’s to hoping they get it right again: They show Haley at the bottom. Please….