Yes, we didn't even mind that it was two hours -- but there was a lot of weirdness going on as well. Before we even talk about the performances, some points have to be made:
1. Who the hell was Crying Girl in the audience (well, we know her name is Ashley), that the camera panned to during the entire show and will somebody give her some medication? Yes, we know 10-year-olds are sensitive little creatures and girls can get emotional over seeing their Idols. And if she was only crying when Sanjaya, for example, performed we would have understood. But blondie cried when anyone sang. Gina, Phil, even if when Ryan Seacrest talked! It became the night's running joke, and was funny ... to a point. By the end of the show, when Ryan called her onstage to get sugar from all the Idols, it was downright annoying. Somebody put a cork in this kid. It just wasn't normal, so we can't help wondering, was it a setup?
UPDATE: Apparently the L.A. Times eked out the answer to the question that has been puzzling us all since last night ...
Wed., Mar. 21
First things first: Who was the crying girl? After the show, I chatted with Idol’s newest superstar, the crying girl, Ashley Ferl, aged 13, from Riverside. For some long minutes after the show, Ashley remained in a state of inconsolable sobbing, unable to choke out a single word. However, through an interpreter (her mother) we were eventually able to learn some facts about the young superstar.
The family, I was told, obtained tickets on a website to attend a taping of “Smarter Than a 5th Grader” a day passage that included not just the taping of the show itself, but also the dress rehearsal of either “Grader” or “Idol.” The fates were kind, and the mother and daughter found their way to the “Idol” rehearsal, where Ashley’s waterworks began. Her prowess was quickly brought to the attention of “Idol” producers who summoned the clan to a ringside seat of honor at the final taping.
Her powers of speech slowly returning, Ashley revealed that while she was on stage she had been thinking that “this was the coolest thing ever.” Asked whom she was supporting in the competition she named “Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin” as her picks, refusing to narrow her vote down to a single choice. All my journalistic powers of persuasion, cajoling, bullying and insistence that on her vote might turn the entire competition, that “Listen to reason, young Ferl, there can’t be four American Idols,” would not convince her to name a single favorite. To my every argument, she would only repeat her mantra, “All Four: Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin.” And so the race begins in earnest, with tears at every step of the way.
2. Don't know how many of you noticed, but our buddy Sligh (whose CD -- Take a Chance on Something Beautiful" by Half Past*Forever -- we just bought") could be in major Idol trouble. Why? Do you remember him giving a shoutout to "Dave" after his performance while he was talking to Ryan? He kept saying "Hi Dave, Fro Patrol, Fro Patrol!" Well, Dave is none other than the webmaster of "Vote For the Worst." The site, apparently, challenged Sligh to give them a shoutout, and he did. The Idol producers can be none to happy about this. In fact, Ryan was slow on the uptake, and while he was trying to figure out what was going on, Simon Cowell told him that they would explain it to him after the show. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who sits in the audience near Simon during each show, ran over to judges' table and told Simon to tell Ryan to drop it. Lythgoe is known to approach the judges' table to deliver messages during shows.
Dave is now saying on VFTW that he loves Chris and is bragging about the shoutout on the site: "Between Sanjaya giving the most VFTW worthy performance in the history of the show and Chris Sligh giving me a shoutout on national TV and pissing off the judges (and probably producers) … I must say I love this show. I’ve got to vote for Sanjaya out of loyalty since he’s the VFTW pick, but I don’t see how Chris Sligh can’t be our backup when Sanjaya leaves if he loves VFTW so much. And we love him! Chris, you are the man. And Sanjaya, you are hysterical. I love them both so much right now, I want to kiss them. You guys are so awesome."
We really like Sligh, but Idol producers don't take lightly to being dissed, even after you're eliminated from the show. You might recall that after he was eliminated, Sundance Head made a statement on Seacrest's radio show about a fellow male contestant thinking he had the competition in the bag. He then retracted the statement in People magazine a few days later. Even Ryan said on his radio interview with Brandon Rogers that Sundance had gotten in trouble for that. And he wasn't even a finalist! So who knows what kind of beating Sligh is going to get?
3. It was bad enough that Simon liked Chris Richardson's rendition of Gerry & The Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," let alone calling it his best performance ever! But Cowell should lose his British citizenship for admitting that he didn't know the song. It was one of the group's biggest hits, second only to "Ferry Cross the Mersey," and Gerry Marsden (pictured) still performs it in concert. Even Americans not around during the period know the song. So for a recording bigwig such as Simon, who has a $100 million contract with Sony/BMG, to not know this British national treasure is heresy!
4. Once again, we thought the mentors did a great job. Lulu (who looks fabulous) showed incredible enthusiasm working with the women, offered solid advice (which we wish more of them had taken) and proved she can still belt it. Peter Noone showed a similar concern for the men and appraised them honestly, though a bit more generously than Lulu. All in all, good show you two! (Though did Simon seem to exhibit a distinct dislike toward Noone, who was in the audience on the show, or was it just our imagination.)
5. We don't know what Rickey Minor has done to his band, but they are hot, hot, hot this season, especially the fabulous drummer. The arrangement "Dressed in Black" was amazing. Whether this is great for the performers depends on how good they are. In the past, the band actually ruined some good vocals, but now when the vocals are weak, the band actually outshines the singer.
Clothes (or lack of same) played a big part in the night's performances, and no more so than with Haley Scarnato. We were a bit worried with her having the opening spot, which is usually a make it or break it position. It broke Brandon Rogers last week, but we think Haley used it to her best advantage. Dressed in incredibly short shorts, showing off her mile-long legs, and a barely there satiny halter top, she sang "Tell Him," made famous first by the American group The Exciters, but allowed because it was covered by Brit Billie Davis in the UK. We wished Haley had followed more of Lulu's very good advice to be more staccato with her phrasing. But whatever she lacked in phrasing, Haley made up for with a fun and flirty performance, especially by shaking her moneymakers north and south of her border, so much so that Simon called her "a naughty little thing," and followed with, "I think people are going to be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight." Randy declared Haley back in the competition, called it her best performance yet and said the song was a perfect choice for her. Paula called here adorable, and told her she performed it tonight." Simon said she was a little shreiky in the middle, but apparently liked watching her shake her booty.
Next up was one of our least favorite performers, Chris Richardson. We don't care if the judges tell him how great his version of Gerry & The Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" was for the next 20 years, we're telling you it stunk. He performed an acoustic version of the song, accompanied on stage by a sole guitarist, but turned this tender and somewhat melancholy ballad into a pitchy country song. Gerry Marsden might be 65, but we heard him sing this only two weeks ago on a PBS British Invasion special (which it would have done some good for the contestants to have also seen) and, as Freddie and The Dreamers night have said, we're telling you now that Gerry kills it and Chris just ... well, sucks. Both Randy and Simon (who shouldn't even be allowed an opinion on this one, see above) thought it was great and that it was his best vocal to date, while Paula thought the acoustic arrangement was charming and sexy and that Chris was playing the game to win it. Yeah, uh, OK.
We had no real hope that Beyonce-addled Stephanie Edwards could do anything right with British Invasion week, until we heard that she was going to sing Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," which calls for strong vocals. Lulu loved the choice (although we're sure all of America laughed -- or cringed -- when Lulu told Stephanie she reminded her of Beyonce). Stephanie's performance was no better than OK. There were some extremely weak areas in the middle of the song, although she did bring it home in the end. But we think that America is just not going to care much. Randy though it was pitchy, while Paula said that she wanted Stephanie to go back to having fun. And although Paula loved what she was wearing, we weren't crazy about the black patent knee boots/corsetted cocktail dress combination. And did the horrendous chain jewelry come out of the latest version of "A Christmas Carol"? (However, her hair and toned-down makeup were an improvement over last weeek.) Simon told her she was losing her edge and her soul and that the performance was a bit clubby. Sorry, Steph, we agree.
Blake Lewis' performance of The Zombies' "Time of the Season" was everything we hoped it would be, including -- despite Peter Noone's admonition about using the beatboxing -- Blake's perfect inclusion of it at the beginning and end of the song. His voice suited the song so perfectly, there were moments that we actually believed we were listening to the original, but without it sounding like karaoke. It was the perfect example of how to do an updated version of a classic without ruining it, and we totally agreed when Paula said he could put it on his CD and have a hit with it. Our only complaint? Those baggy plaid pants, that shouldn't even be seen on a golf course. Did he borrow some of Ryan's clothes from Season 1? Randy, rightly, told Blake, "That was brilliant, baby, brilliant," and said it had that coveted "yo" factor, while Paula added that she felt like she was at a concert. Simon called it Blake's strongest performance so far, complimenting it for being contemporary without messing up the melody.
We've come to expect so much of LaKisha Jones that when her performance is less than great, it's a huge disappointment. Tonight was the first time we believed she might not make it to the final 5. As Jordin gets stronger and Melinda stays strong, LaKisha seems to be waning. She was conflicted over whether to sing "You're My World" or "Diamonds Are Forever." Lulu advised her to sing the former (and we agreed), but LaKisha went with the latter, a big mistake. If she was going to sing a Shirley Bassey song from a James Bond film, the better choice was undoubtedly "Goldfinger." It a showcase song, "Diamonds" isn't. Ryan and Paula made a fuss about the fact that LaKisha was rocking $1 million in diamonds, but frankly, not only is the bling at any awards show a lot more noticeable, the only thing we could focus on was the sagging bustline on her emerald green gown. And although it's hard to see in this photo, the top was not only sagging, she was falling out of it. LaKisha is not a small girl, and neither are her "attributes." Never did a dress scream "I need a bra" more than that one did. We also weren't crazy about the frou-frou hairstyling. Randy said he didn't feel enough LaKisha in the song, but Paula said she thought LaKisha picked the right song (wrong!) and that she's a very, very smart girl. Simon, focusing more on her look, said "This was LaKisha in 50 years time in my opinion." But Kiki told Ryan that if she sounds like this in 50 years, she's good, which brought a smile to Simon's face. Then Ryan and Simon engaged in a bit more of their pseudo(?)-gay banter:
Ryan: "Hey Cowell, what don't you like about this dress?"
Simon: "Your subject."
Next was the train wreck of the night. Sanjaya? No! Phil Stacey. Stacey sang "Tobacco Road" by the Nashville Teens. The vocals weren't bad and it suited his voice well. He even tried to liven up the performance by moving all over the stage. But what can we say. Yawn! We almost fell asleep during his performance. We could be wrong, but we feel as if he's an apparition slowly disappearing in front of our eyes. Doomed to disappear off the show, this week or next. But Randy thought it was a pretty good performance, even if there were a few pitchy spots. Paula agreed with that, adding that Phil was having fun and she liked hearing the various ranges of his voice. "I'm going to be honest, I wasn't crazy about it," offered Simon, who went on to say that Phil didn't have enough grit in his voice to make the song believable and that he was being outsung but many of the other contestants. He then delivered the famous Cowell Kiss of Death, "You may have a problem tomorrow."
We think Jordin Sparks deserved the pimp spot even more this week than last week. Even Lulu was a bit skeptical about whether this raw 17-year-old could deliver on the promise of Tom Jones' "I Who Have Nothing." But deliver she did, feeling all the emotion and perfecting the phrasing so well, that when it came Simon's turn to critique, he said, "You sang it beautifully, but I feel like jumping off a bridge," adding that it was so gloomy he wanted the sun to shine. Exactly so. She not only felt it, she made him, and us, feel it as well. Randy deemed it "One of the best performances that I think we're going to see tonight." Paula praised Jordin as a good singer and a wonderful performer. And although we're not in love with the straightened hair -- it fit the song, but her curls better match Jordin's personality -- this youngster could give the rest of the troupe a lesson in style. She never looks less than impeccably dressed.
After all we've (and everybody else has) said about Sanjaya Malakar, what can we say? Well, that he didn't suck! In fact he was amusingly entertaining and doesn't deserve to get booted for last night's performance (of course, overall he does, but just think about how many tour tickets this kid is going to sell to preteens). Thinking about his lightweight voice and past failures, we laughed when we heard that he was going to attempt The Kinks' "You Really Got Me." But somehow he dug deep inside himself and pulled out this growly voice that actually worked well with the song. Though, he did lose it in one small section, reverting back to his Michael Jackson impression. And speaking of Michael Jackson, wearing an over-sized long-sleeved sweatwhirt that he used to partially cover his hands by cutting thumb holes near the cuffs, was so very MJ of Sanjaya. But like the rest of the performance, it worked. Randy told him that he came of his shell and that it was his best performance to date, though he still couldn't resist laughing. Paula added, "That's what we've been waiting for." Simon, alluding to Crying Girl, who was seated near him in the audience, said, "I think the little girl's face says it all."
Gina Glocksen singing the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" made perfect sense to us -- she is the closest thing that Idol has to a rocker this season -- until she sang it. This was definitely one of those cases where the band outshone the performer. The arrangement was just amazing, and we couldn't help thinking throughout Gina's entire performance how good it would have been if a real rocker chick had sung it. Someone like Dilana on last summer's "Rock Star Super Nova." Gina just didn't bring the force or energy that was needed to land this one. Although she was dressed in her best rocker chic and rocked a cute new haircut. But that wasn't nearly enough. Randy called it pitchy in spots and said it was just alright for him, though Paula, seeing Gina's lip begin to quiver, tried to buoy her by telling her it was miles better than last week (Was it? Don't think so). Simon, feeling no need to soften the blow, said "Gina, there were moments of complete torture in that vocal, to be honest with you," adding that it was style over content and that she'll have to sing better. Poor kid was on the edge of tears -- but that could have gotten her some sorely needed votes.
We've made it clear that Chris Sligh is a favorite of ours, and we thought his version of The Zombies' "She's Not There"was one of his better performances. He started in the audience, trying to work the crowd, eventually picking up a microphone stand that he tapped Simon with, after Cowell visibly pulled back thinking that he was going to get hit by it. The song suited his vocals skills, but perhaps would have played better with more stanzas and a bit less chorus. He should certainly make it to the Top 10, so if he gets cut tonight, blame it on his "Hi Dave" shoutout (see above) and a new Idol conspiracy theory. Randy said it started a bit rough and that Sligh have gotten ahead of the beat, but that he ended it really strong. Paula liked the fact that he worked the audience. Simon Cowell said, "I thought it was fun. You know, it wasn't the best vocal we've heard tonight (true), but it was a good choice of song for you." But Chris still needs the advice of a good stylist. That pin-stripe suit jacket combined with a wild print casual shirt and jeans were just not helping him at all.
Ending the night was Melinda Doolittle with if not the best performance, then one of the top three of the evening (we still vote for Jordin as No. 1). Looking comfortable in her clothes for a change, Melinda sang "As Long as He Needs Me," from the musical Oliver (there was a lot of British Invasion song fudging going on last night; "Diamonds Are Forever" was recorded in 1971, "Tell Him" is really an American song, and "As Long as He Needs Me" should be for Broadway night, not B.I. night). Her phrasing and singing were near-perfection. So much so, that Simon said she turned what started as a boring song into something absolutely sensational. Well, we don't agree with the boring part, but we'll take the rest. Randy told Melinda, "I guess we could say tonight, we've probably saved the best vocal for last." Paula added, "You are in your own league, my dear, you really are." And Simon, aside from his kudos, wanted to know if Melinda could possibly be as nice as she appears to be. Her answer: "I hope so."
Our Top 3 in descending order: Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis (tie for 2 & 3)
Our Bottom 3 in descending order: Chris Richardson, Stephanie Edwards, Phil Stacey
Our Middle, in no particular order: Chris Sligh, Gina Glocksen, Haley Scarnato, Sanjaya Malakar, LaKisha Jones
Bottom 3: Stephanie Edwards, Phil Stacey, Gina Glocksen
Voted off: Stephanie Edwards
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