Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but a few of last night’s second performances on “American Idol” were far better than the first ones. For those who missed it, the contestants each sang two songs–a current one and one “from the past.” Originally it was supposed to be a song from the ’60’s, but they probably realized that with five very young finalists (Jacob is the elder Idol at 23!), it was best to just make it a “song from the past.” Good move. Also, Sheryl Crow helped Jimmy Iovine mentor the contestants this week. Anyway, here is how it went down in order of performance:

Take 1: James did 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Closer to the Edge” and while it was very good vocally, it wasn’t his best. James also spent a lot of time high-fiving his fans which took his eye off the ball at times. I thought this was just pretty good. But Steven said James kicked the song’s ass; J-Lo said America is feeling James and it’s his competition to take; and Randy said James has shown what type of artist he can be. Okay.

Take 2: James did Badfinger’s “Without You,” which was made huge by Harry Nilsson and later by Mariah Carey, made the lyrics very real when he talked about missing his wife and kid. But I think he also was singing to his late dad, and he both held it together and wavered at times, but it was very solid. Randy said he could feel the emotion, and that it’s now James’ competition to lose; Steven said that was as beautiful as it gets; and J-Lo said James is a true artist.

Take 1: Jacob started out with Jordin Sparks’ “No Air,” parts of which were horribly off-key and the performance off-kilter. I really can’t imagine James making it one more week on the show. J-Lo said it was a good choice and good direction; Randy differed greatly, saying Jacob is not “contemporary,” and should bill himself as more of a young Luther Vandross; and Steven said there were some pitch issues but that he’s been waiting for Jacob to find himself that that he thinks Jacob did that. Huh?

Take 2: Jacob rebounded nicely with Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” one of my personal favorite songs of all-time (oh, and I forgot to mention so is “Without You!”). It was good but at times a bit too theatrical. Steven said he’s a sucker for passion and that was a great delivery; J-Lo said Jacob brought it home; and Randy said he redeemed himself with the second song.

Take 1: Lauren also took on a formal Idol champ, Carrie Underwood, with a positively rocking version of “Flat on the Floor.” I wanted to take a cue from Steven by saying Lauren kicked the song’s ass, because that’s exactly what she did. You could see her wanting to belt out the high notes with conviction and she did. This was maybe Lauren’s best performance yet. Randy said that Lauren was in it to win it; Steven said it was as good as it gets; and J-Lo said this is what they like to see from Lauren and what they have been waiting for. Hellz yeah.

Take 2: Lauren did a song that I seriously wish I never had to hear again–“Unchained Melody.” Can you say played out to the max? Ugh. Lauren, Simon is not a judge on the show anymore. But this is her parents’ “song,” so I can respect that, and she did a nice job with it. J-Lo said it was beautiful; Randy said Lauren can sing tenderly like a bird; and Steven said it was “perfect.” Not quite, but not bad.

Take 1: Scotty also just slayed it on his first song, Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone.” Like Lauren, I think this may have been Scotty’s best showing yet. Steven said Scotty danced with the devil or something like that; J-Lo said she was so excited that Scotty just owned the song; and Randy said it felt like a concert and that Scotty is (wait for it) in it to win it.

Take 2: Scotty did the Willie Nelson classic, “You Are Always on My Mind,” and to be honest, I was bored to tears. But Scotty’s pitch was dead on and the judges loved it. J-Lo said Scotty is so well-rounded; Randy said Scotty is an old soul; and Steven said it was a great rendition. Steven, stop being Ellen DeGeneres!

Take 1: Haley began, at Jimmy Iovine’s insistence, with an unreleased Lady GaGa song that GaGa only does at her live shows, “You and I.” She belted it but something was missing with the song. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t been released yet. J-Lo said she didn’t think it was good advice from Jimmy; Randy agreed and wasn’t crazy about the song; and Steven said it was risky but cool, and that Haley is one great performance away from being the American Idol. Really?

Take 2: Haley really redeemed herself with The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” and she just slayed it. Sheryl wanted her to start out a capella and that was the best part of the song; but even when she belted it later, it wasn’t overdone, just really good. Still, if she had done it all a capella, that would have been the great performance Steven was talking about. Randy said it was the best of the night; Steven said Haley sold the song; and J-Lo said the song had never been sung like that before. Well, okay then.