Thursday, March 1, 2007

Doolittle? No, Do a Lot!

This season Idol may well turn out to be the War of Amazon Voices. Melinda Doolittle came back last night (not that she was any slouch last week) to prove that she's not ready to let LaKisha Jones walk off with this competition in Week 1. And how glorious for the viewers, to have each woman raise her game each week. We can only benefit. What a season this could turn out to be!

Melinda chose to dedicate "My Funny Valentine" to her two best friends. We love standards, but this is not one of our favorite songs, perhaps because it can ruined so easily. It can also be deadly dull with the wrong arrangement and singer. So we must admit that when we heard the opening strains of the music, we winced a bit, remembering (not particularly fondly) Constantine Maroulis pouting his way through an overorchestrated jazzy version during Season 4.

But this wasn't Constantine, this was Melinda Doolittle, who proved what a pro she was. All I could write on my pad was "Perfect Phrasing!" Melinda honed every word like a finely crafted piece of wood, gently twisting, turning and manipulating each syllable to perfection. I've never heard the song sung that well, and doubt I will again. As a colleague of ours, who shares our love of the standards, wrote in an e-mail: "If this woman does not win, the show is fixed. Her My Funny Valentine may well be the best performance I've ever seen on that show! As far as I'm concerned, the others should all start packing." And you know, he could be right. But I think Melinda and LaKisha will be battling it down to the end.

Randy told Melinda she had come out to win it and that she was incredible. Paula said, "Just astounding, out of this world. I applaud you." Simon added, "That was incredible. Without question, the best vocal we've had throughout the competition. You're a breath of fresh air. It was a fantastic performance."

The evening started out with Gina Glocksen dedicating Heart's "Alone" to her boyfriend. We thought the song suited Glocksen well, but her performance was not going to make anyone forget Carrie Underwood's from Season 4, which was far more powerful. Also we really think Gina needs a stylist's help with both her hair and her clothing. Her hair just hangs there and Simon thought her clothing could look a little edgier and we agree. Randy thought the song choice was good but that it started out a little pitchy, but Paula said she did an excellent job. Simon said he liked the song choice, but thought the vocal felt forced at the end. He also said he felt confused as to who Gina is, and that when they put her through she was a little more edgy.

You know what? We really get tired of Alaina Alexander getting up there every week, screwing up and then sucking up to the judges with her whiny "Just tell me what I can do to improve" routine. As Simon has said before and repeated last night (but not to her directly): Just sing well. Alexander has been playing the "Just Tell Me" game since the Hollywood rounds and needs to can it. Actually, she needs to be canned, but according to DialIdol's predictions, that won't be this week. Alaina dedicated The Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" to her mother, who weepily watched the film tribute in the audience. Alexander's rendition was universally panned by the judges. Randy said "It was a mess for me. It was all over the place," but Paula tried to placate Alaina with "The pitch was a little bit off but not nearly as bad as this guy [Randy] says." Simon, who loves analogies, added "It was like Randy running a 100-meter sprint, i.e. three quarters of the way through the race he would run out of steam and that’s exactly what happened, you ran out of steam three quarters of the way."

LaKisha Jones came back with Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia," dedicated to her grandmother, and even if it was not a show-stopper like last week's "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going," it was still a stunner. I could listen to this lady sing all day. She not only has a big voice, but a rich one to boot. Randy thought her performance was hot, while Paula told her "I loved it and I loved you." Simon said, "You are a phenomenally good singer. I don't think it was as good as last week because I don't think you came out with that 'I'm going to prove a point' attitude, which I liked last week." He also critiqued her clothes, which received catcalls from Randy and Paula, because he found her orange (or "salmon," as Ryan described it) blouse too colorful and distracting.

Next up was joke-of-the-evening Antonella Barba (though according to DialIdol, she, too, won't be going home any time soon). OK, you're a singer who got creamed trying to sing Aerosmith. You reached way beyond your voice skills. So who do you come back and try to emulate the next week? Celine Dion?!!! The girl must be crazy! She dedicated "Because You Loved Me" to her brother, then set out to destroy it. She started out sounding nervous and shaky, then, with a quavering voice, hit every note exactly wrong except, ironically, the hardest note in the whole song.

Time for the critiques. Uh-oh. When Randy starts off telling you how beautiful you are to soften the blow, normally Paula's domain, you know bad things are going to follow. And they did. Jackson said it was completely the wrong song, way too big for her, the pitch was all over the place and it didn't work. Paula the apologist told Antonella she had made leaps and bounds from last week (liar, liar pants on fire, Paula). Simon simply said, "I thought you were worse than last week." Antonella screwed up her face than shot back to him, "I think I'll listen to Paula. After all, you were wrong about Jennifer Hudson." Huh? Did we just hear you say your name in the same sentence with Jennifer Hudson's? All we can say is this, Antonella. Last night you proved one thing: If you are going to make a living by opening your mouth, it's not going to be by singing.

And to you America, we have only one thing to say: Get off your asses and vote for anyone other than this off-key tart or she's going to wind up in the finals next Thursday night!

Perky and lovely Jordin Sparks followed Outtatunella Barba. This 17-year-old is always a pleasure to watch. She emotionally dedicated Christina Aguilera's "Reflection" to her brother, and remained caught up in the emotion during and after the song. It wasn't her best effort, but it was still far superior to ones such as Barba's or Alexander's. Randy told her she picked a really good song and had a few pitchy moments, but that he was so impressed with where she is and what she's done. Paula called her infectious and a brilliant, talented girl. And Simon said although it wasn't her best, compared to a lot of other people, it was excellent, and that at 17 years old she has massive potential.

Stephanie Edwards, if DialIdol is too believed, is in grave danger of being eliminated tonight, and it makes us mad! Edwards has consistently given solid performances (if not with songs we particularly loved) and the thought of Barba or Alexander remaining at her expense is infuriating. Last night she dedicated Beyoncé's "Dangerouly in Love" to her parents. Personally, we preferred her selection and performance last week, mostly because we find this song annoying and rhythmless (although we do applaud her trying to select age-appropriate songs). Randy thought she was so much better than last week (not), while Paula said she was fantastic and brilliant. Simon thought it was a terrific performance and said that he liked that she was coming out and putting her mark down (hmm, marking her territory like a dog?).

We're not quite sure how we feel about Leslie Hunt, and we think that's part of her problem. She has a nice voice, but not much else distinguishes her, and that could hurt her in the end. She dedicated Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" to her late grandfather. AJ Tabaldo sang the same song the night before, and even though we didn't rave about it, we actually liked his version better, even though Hunt tried to add her own twist to it by opening a capella and scatting near the end. Trouble is, very few people scat well, and she wasn't one of them. Hers sounded forced. Anyway, it was no better than just OK for us. Randy thought it was a little bit on the pitchy side and was just "aight" for him, though Paula told Leslie she was back in her element. Simon said Leslie's problem was that she'd just been whacked by three or four big, big voices, and so he thought she was getting a little bit lost in the competition, adding "I think you're doing as best as you can."

Haley Scarnato, for us at least, is a white-bread singer: There's just nothing interesting about her, except for the fact that she's pretty. She needs to add something to the dough to seem less bland. Like Barba, she dared to take on an icon's song, choosing Whitney Houston's "Queen of the Night," and dedicating it to her fiancé. Although nowhere as bad as Barba, and better than we expected, it still sounded forced. Unfortunately her fiancé watched as she got pummeled by the judges. Randy said it wasn't great for him and that vocally it wasn't on point. Of course, Paula jumped in to say she was leaps and bounds better than last week. And although Simon gave it an "A" for effort, he said if you're going to take on a Whitney song you do it at your own peril, because you're always going to be compared, so "vocally, you came out badly on that." She almost started crying when he added that he thought she was one of the vulnerable girls last night.

Last up, in the pimp spot, was Sabrina Sloan. And although she didn't outdo last week's pimp spot singer (LaKisha), or even last night's performance by Melinda, she nonetheless delivered a wonderful rendition of Whitney Houston's "All the Man That I Need," dedicating it to her grandmother. Randy thought it was very nice overall and Paula told her she was fantastic, adding "Bravo." Simon called it very good, but cautioned her not to confuse power with shouting. He also said he preferred her last week.

Top 5 in descending order: Melinda Doolittle, LaKisha Jones, Sabrina Sloan, Stephanie Edwards, Jordin Sparks

Bottom 5 in descending order: Antonella Barba, Alaina Alexander, Leslie Hunt, Haley Scarnato, Gina Glocksen

Should go: Antonella Barba, Alaina Alexander
Will go: Gina Glocksen, Leslie Hunt

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