LOS ANGELES (AP) - Lady Gaga turned up the heat on "American Idol."
The eccentric pop superstar pushed the Fox singing competition's top four finalists to add theatrics to their Wednesday performances of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller songs. Her advice that Scotty McCreery should pretend that the microphone is his girlfriend prompted the deep-voiced 17-year-old country crooner to kiss the cross around his neck.
"You've got to get right in the center of that hot dog," she advised the conservative singer.
Lady Gaga's steamy direction didn't seem to deter McCreery, who impressed the judges with both his rollicking take on The Coasters' "Young Blood" and heartfelt rendition of Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" during the beginning of Wednesday's episode when the finalists were tasked with performing inspirational tunes.
"You're ready for superstardom, and I hope you make it," Randy Jackson told McCreery afterward.
Lauren Alaina also seemed poised for greatness with her inspirational ballad of Martina McBride's "Anyway," but she wasn't ready to proclaim that she was "evil," as noted in the lyrics to Elvis Presley's "Trouble," until she received some motivation from Lady Gaga, who directed the 16-year-old singer from Rossville, Ga., to sing the ditty in character.
"When I was 16, I was way too weird to be on `American Idol,'" Lady Gaga admitted.
The result was apparently delicious, with Steven Tyler noting that Alaina "delivers a song like a blue plate special." Haley Reinhart, the 20-year-old vocalist from Wheeling, Ill., wasn't quite as yummy. The judges bickered about her interpretation of Michael Jackson's "Earth Song." Tyler was a fan, but Jackson and Jennifer Lopez didn't eat it up.
"I felt like you were just screaming," Jackson said over a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Reinhart returned with a vengeance _ and a string orchestra _ with Ben E. King's "I (Who Have Nothing)." Lady Gaga directed her to let out a dramatic exhale in the middle of the song. The judges were floored. Jackson dubbed it "her moment" of the night, and Tyler informed her that she "just Reinharted yourself into the middle of next week."
"That was amazing," said Lopez. "One of the best performances of the year."
James Durbin, the wailing 22-year-old rocker from Santa Cruz, Calif., opened the show clad in tails with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and closed it down with a metal-tinged take on The Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9." Jackson, who formerly played bass with Journey, said Durbin was "paying homage to my friends," and Tyler attested that he "did it right."
"You can sing anything," Lopez told Durbin after "Love Potion No. 9."
One of the four finalists will be eliminated Thursday. The 10th season "Idol" scheduled to be selected on the May 26 finale.
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