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American Idol: Yes, there's life after Pia Toscano

American Idol contestants were eager to prove they earned their rightful spots in the final eight. But on Wednesday's American Idol, the closest proof was Casey Abrams's cover of a Nat King Cole song.

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American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez arrives at the American Idol Finalists Party in Los Angeles on March 3. JLo was recently named People Magazine's, "Most Beautiful Woman in the World."

Chris Pizzello/ AP

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With little more than a passing reference to the fallen Pia Toscano, American Idol barreled forward with its Top 8 performances.

But not before host Ryan Seacrest pointed out that Jennifer Lopez was named “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” by People Magazine. It’s nice to know that JLo has her looks to fall back on if this whole artist, actress, judge thing doesn’t pan out for her.

Paul McDonald started the show with “Old Time Rock and Roll,” by Bob Seger. Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am joked that Paul should slide onto the stage in his underwear like Tom Cruise in the movie "Risky Business." Had they known that Paul would be donning yet another bedazzled rose suit, only this time in black, they probably would have tried to convince him that the underwear were indeed, a better choice. While the performance offered none of the soft power of Paul’s voice, the judges were all pleased and Steven Tyler said he loved Paul’s crazy, wild, abandon. C-

Lauren Alaina chose Miley Cyrus’s, “The Climb,” and looked scandalized when Jimmy Iovine told her she was a much better singer than Miley. The scandal continued when Jimmy said it was time to steal Pia’s fans now that she was gone. Lauren performed the song well but judge Randy Jackson’s assertion that the Lauren they saw in auditions was back, was perhaps too strong of a statement. There are glimmers of that Lauren each week but she hasn’t had a defining moment yet. Guess what? The judges loved it. B

In what we can only hope was foreshadowing, Stefano Langone sang “End of the Road,” by Boyz to Men. Randy said he slayed the song, giving his best vocal ever and Steven gave the most backhanded compliment all season saying that Stefano “knows how to milk a song.” Maybe Steven is getting tired of Stefano’s overeager singing and eyebrow Olympics too? C-

Scotty McCreary was the first, but certainly not the last contestant, to dismiss Jimmy Iovine’s advice this week when he switched his song to, “I Cross my Heart,” by George Strait. Everyone knows that Scotty can sing country by now, but he’s going to have to do more than hold his microphone sideways and grin if he wants to win. The judges ooh-ed and ahh-ed yet again but it seems that JLo has at least been reading the criticism of the judges when she referred to everyone wanting them to be tough. But don’t get too excited; Jennifer claims she can’t be tough because the contestants are just all so good. B-

Casey Abrams followed Scotty’s lead and dismissed Jimmy Iovine’s advice to ditch Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy,” for Phil Collins. Casey’s decision to embrace a lesser-known song paid off with the judges who gave him a standing ovation. JLo said that Casey brings that type of “special thing to Idol” and Randy struck fear into the heart of Justin Bieber fans everywhere when he applauded Casey and said that the world can’t live on Pop Stars alone. A- *

Haley Reinhart, seeing how the girls are being picked off one by one, decided to get literal with her choice of Blondie’s, “Call Me.” The judges, in an shocking turn of events bigger than the Pia Toscano Affair, were critical of a performance. Randy said Haley sounded a bit karaoke in the beginning and Steven agreed. JLo reluctantly agreed, but she didn’t want to see another girl get voted off and urged people to vote for the girls. Interesting, since Haley’s was the only performance Jennifer had anything negative to say about. B

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Jacob Lusk found himself being chided by Jimmy Iovine for trying to preach to 25 million people last week; then Jimmy and will.i.am had a good laugh over Jacob’s “corny” song selections before they suggested “Bridge over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon. Steven requested that God Bless Jacob and his voice while JLo and Randy fawned over his performance. Nevertheless, something about Jacob’s performance sounded sharp and it didn’t inspire the goose bumps that overcame JLo. B-

James Durbin displayed the greatest dismissal of Jimmy Iovine’s opinion when he told him flat out that he was singing, “Heavy Metal” by Sammy Hagar. Steven applauded James for the “lip” he gave to Jimmy, JLo gushed about James sounding “really real” and Randy felt like he was at a James Durbin concert. In reality, the performance was no better than something you would see in a thousand suburban garages across the country - except for the cameo by metal guitarist Zakk Wylde, of course. B-

This week delivered such middle-of-the-road performances, its tough to predict how the votes will go. But here are the predictions by yours truly:

  1. Stefano Langone
  2. Paul McDonald
  3. Haley Reinhart

Expect Paul McDonald to leave us tomorrow; no thanks to another cursed rose suit.

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(*Note: After listening to NKC's version of "Nature Boy," below, Casey's grade was adjusted from a "B" to an "A-".)

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