Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No Doubt About the Top 10

So we learned more than ever that we should have cautioned our readers that spoilers change. After all, it is leaked inside information. Sometimes accurate and reputable, other times no so. The info on this week was partially right, but so much was wrong -- especially the part about bringing back one of the past 6 eliminated contestants for the tour. What a mess! We'll try to be more circumspect about jumping on spoilers we hear about in the coming weeks.

Gwen Stefani week, to use an obsolete Randyism was "aight." Nowhere as good as British Invasion week, but a bit better than Diana Ross Week. Stefani's advice to the contestants, as with the past mentors, was for the most part spot on. It's been a pleasant surprise to see how the mentoring idea has improved from year to year. Except for some of the girls, Stefani didn't seemed overwhelmed by the vocals and was honest about it, at least to the camera. Plus, we were shocked to see Stefani almost without makeup in the mentoring sessions -- certainly she wasn't rocking her usual bright red lips. She has a natural prettiness and it made us realize how hard her usual painted face looks.

Clothes have become a bit more interesting from week to week as the Idol stylists impose their suggestions on the contestants. This seemed to be boot week for the ladies -- three of the five sported them up to the knee, while all of the men except Phil rocked sneakers and all but Blake wore jeans. For us, there was no killer performance, although we'll call Melinda's the best of the evening. The pimp spot was wasted on Chris Richardson, but you can't put Melinda there every week, we guess. Actually Phil deserved it way more than Richardson did. And so it goes.

First up was LaKisha Jones, whose busy, multi-patterned dress and knee boots shouted "I am short." The simpler styles she wore earlier in the season flattered her stature (she's even shorter than Melinda) and weight more. Plus, the kimono-like V-neck top of the dress once again overexposed her well-endowed chest and, frankly, we're tired of looking at those puppies every week -- sorry, but they're hard to miss in the clothes she picks.

That LaKisha could sing Donna Summer's "Last Dance" was a no-brainer, but somehow it lacked excitement and fell flat for us, though it ended much better than its tentative beginning. But the judges thought it was great (we didn't agree much with the judges this week). Randy Jackson, who had a thing for the ladies' boots last night -- starting with LaKisha's -- was glad she picked an uptempo song and said "It's good to see you make a change and rock it," while Paula Abdul told her she did Donna Summer proud. Simon Cowell told LaKisha she was again 30 years younger (than how she looked and sounded last week) and that she was putting her mark back on the competition with a great vocal. Frankly, we think LaKisha is losing some of the magic she originally brought to the competition and hasn't grown one bit.

Chris Sligh proved to be a big disappointment and we're not only predicting that he'll land in the Bottom 3 this week, we'd guess he might even be eliminated. We expected so much more of his version of Sting's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." We expected, well, magic. Sligh was just going through the paces last night. As Stefani warned him, and the judges have attested to week after week, he was once more ahead of the music, or as they put it, he wasn't "staying in the pocket." And although he hasn't lost his sense of humor completely (he was kinda funny in his pre-performance viewer Q&A with Ryan Seacrest), he really seemed beaten down and apologetic when the judges criticized the performance. And criticize him they did, with Randy calling the performance a train wreck rhythm-wise and Simon telling him it was a mess (and getting justifiably peeved when his review was cut off by the Idol commercial music, saying "I'm not done yet" and "Not the Oscars." Ryan tried to be conciliatory telling Simon that he doesn't push the buttons [to which Simon mumbled, "yet"] and asked Simon if he had anything else to add). Paula tried to temper her critique with the mangled (English?) sentence "Vocally, it sat really nice in the tonal part of your voice so that was a good choice," adding "but man you've got to hear that beat." If Sligh's performance were a color this week, it would be a dull muddy brown. Even his choice of wardrobe looked haphazard and boring. As if he had thrown on whatever was lying around his room. And his promises to do better next week if given the chance are beginning to wear thin. We'd give him another shot, but we don't know if America will.

Gina Glocksen, who we thought might fall apart even more than last week, turned out to be the evening's very pleasant surprise with a beautifully sung rendition of The Pretenders "I'll Stand by You." We thought it was her best vocal performance to date -- a great song choice that sounded strong and confident throughout, without being pitchy. Appearance-wise, we didn't love the punked-out look, with its artfully ripped net stockings and tousled hair that looked merely uncombed. The boots might have looked better if they hadn'tbeen combined with the, well, ugly, snugly fit half slip-half dress, whose bizarre color combinations were thankfully muted. And punk though it was, we've never loved the double strap -- dress and bra -- look. But it was a great performance. Randy agreed, saying that he thought it was one of her best performances ever, while Paula told Gina that she loved that she was improving each week and coming into her own as an artist. Simon, cagily, told her "Gina, it wasn’t one of your best performances," and when the boos started rising throughout the audience, he added, "It was your best performance," adding that her transformation over the past few weeks was literally chalk and cheese (an old proverbial phrase suggesting that two things, though superficially alike, are totally different in their qualities).

OK, it's time for everyone to quit saying "Stop picking on Sanjaya Malakar." If the 17-year-old makes a joke out of himself, what are we left to do? Should we not say that the beyond ludicrous-looking seven ponytail Mohawk (ponyhawk?) made him look like a tall, scrawny rooster that escaped from "Chicken Run"? That his version of Gwen Stefani's "Bathwater" was even more laughable? If he's treating the show as if he's the comic relief, then why can't we treat him as the joke he's morphed into? Even Stefani in the filmed segment said he was forgetting the words of the song, that it's going to be hard for him because it's a tough song, "But he chose it, so good luck!" Randy, again laughing before talking, told Sanjaya that he can sing, but he needs to put it out there. Paula agreed, saying the silliness of the look wasn't matched by the performance. In her frustration, she almost seemed to want to say (but didn't) stop screwing around and start taking this seriously. Simon dryly opened with, "I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room tonight?" Channeling his inner 7-year-old, Sanjaya sassed back with, "You're just jealous that you couldn’t pull it off." (with the nah-nah-nah-nah-nah implied). Simon simply smiled and said "I agree, I couldn't." Then, throwing up his hands, Simon closed with that it doesn't really matter what they [the judges] say anymore, Sanjaya's in his own little universe and if people like him then good luck.

We worried when we heard that Haley Scarnato was going to sing Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Although we love the song, Cyndi Lauper numbers have proven troublesome for former Idol contestants. (Remember Nadia Turner's version of "Time After Time" -- coincidentally with Mohawk -- in Season 4?). So we didn't know what to expect. All we can say was we loved Haley's version as much as the judges hated it. We loved the vocal variations -- we thought it showed creativity -- as well as the arrangement. We thought it was a strong, on-pitch rendition, perhaps her strongest showing to date. And she looked particularly beautiful. So we were stunned by the critiques. Randy thought it was pitchy and started rough (huh?), and was just kinda aight for him, while Paula babbled something about it being more of an adult contemporary performance and that the song required nothing other than singing the melody and being vulnerable. Simon just felt it was sweet and forgettable. Guess we were listening to a different channel than them.

If Melinda couldn't have the pimp spot this week then it definitely belonged to Phil Stacey, who not only gave his best performance to date with The Police's "Every Breath You Take," but also worked on his appearance. They used some blush to give his pale complexion color and he used a knit cap to cover his pointy head and protruding ears. We also liked the corduroy jacket teamed with the hooded sweatshirt and red T-shirt, jeans and shoes. And it all worked like a charm. His vocals, which usually suffer at some point during his songs -- usually weak beginnings -- were spot on, perfect from beginning to end, echoing the Sting version almost to perfection. Our only worry, would the judges call it too karaoke? Thankfully, they didn't. Randy said, "I actually kind of liked that, dawg" (though why he seemed so surprised that he liked it puzzled us). Paula said Phil should work on building a little more character in the verses (verses sounded fine to us, Paula) but that it was an otherwise real good performance. Simon purred, "This may surprise you, Phil, but I actually thought that was very good." He also thought it was a great song choice and said he felt it was the first time Phil was taking the show seriously. After his trashing at Simon's hands last week, Phil's grin just lit up the room.

Melinda Doolittle dopes out the phrasing of a song like nobody else. Her version of Donna Summer's "Heaven Knows" was everything that LaKisha's Donna Summer song wasn't -- full of life. Melinda just embraces whatever she's singing and makes you feel it, whereas LaKisha just throws her big old voice at it. Melinda's segment was the most uptempo and rocking of the evening and we loved it. Echoing our sentiments, Randy told Melinda, "You actually are living the words, that's what a real singer does," with Paula adding "I love when people tell stories when they're singing, and you do it, in spades." Simon Cowell said that vocally she was outstanding as usual, but added, "hate the outfit," as we did. Don't know if it was the belt that made her look short-waisted, or the pattern of the blue dress, but it didn't work for us at all.

Blake Lewis' choice of The Cure's "Love Song" left us flat. The vocals were fine, but we found the song itself dull and uninspired. Not using the beatboxing for the number was the right decision, but somehow after last week's great performance of The Zombies' "Time of the Season," it was just a letdown. But we loved his Sting-like less spiky hair (we've always thought that Blake bore a slight resemblance to Sting) and wardrobe this week. Gone were those horrible plaid pants that the rest of the world embraced, replaced by a nice pair of charcoal slacks. Randy said he wasn't jumping up and down, but liked it, while Paula told him that she thinks he's the dark horse and that she would love to see him in the finale. Simon Cowell called him the strongest guy in the competition, but warned him to be careful of entering the "Chris Daughtry Zone," by being too indulgent and doing his own thing all the time, because it gets boring.

Cute as a button as always, Jordin Sparks didn't shine as much this week when she chose to go young and hip with No Doubt's "Hey Baby." Stefani said that Jordin made the song sound more musical than she thought it was. Unfortunately her words became unintelligible when she sang the low notes and it wasn't her best performance. But it was full of fun and personality, so a lot can be forgiven. We thought her funky outfit kinda worked, but not totally. We loved the gray seude boots and even the oversized gray skirt, but the red plaid zip-up hoodie looked like a redesigned tablecloth from the "Bella Notte" scene in "Lady and the Tramp." Randy thought she was brilliant, telling her that she could literally sing anything and will be a great recording artist. Paula loved seeing her celebrate that she was young, hip and adorable, while Simon reiterated that she was the most improved contestant that they'd seen in the past few weeks, but that the performance was a bit copycat-ish.

Last up, undeservedly in the pimp spot, was Chris Richardson. We got a lot of noise for trashing his performance of "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" last week (although America agreed with us), and we'll probably get the same for trashing this week's R&B vibed "Don't Speak" by No Doubt. It was as bad as Phil Stacey's version of LeAnn Rimes' "I Need You." It was pitchy from the start and faltered midway through. And forgive us, but he always has this pained look on his face when he sings, as if he's having a bad bathroom experience. However, he did dress cool. The judges, for the most part, continue to champion Richardson as they have from the start. Randy said it was interesting, that he liked the R&B ska and that Chris could "actually can sing the runs, so I enjoy when you do that man," with Paula adding "You're good, Chris, you're good." Simon oddly told Chris that song choice had gotten him in trouble last week. Odd because Simon, who should be ashamed of himself, didn't even know the song Chris sang last week, while Randy and Paula loved his acoustic arrangement of "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," so what the hell was Simon talking about? Simon agreed with Randy that he liked the arrangement, but he wasn't crazy about the vocal (amen on that, Simon).

Our Top 3 in descending order: Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey, Gina Glocksen

Our Bottom 3 in descending order: Sanjaya Malakar, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh

Our Middle, in no particular order: Haley Scarnato, LaKisha Jones, Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks

America's Bottom 3: Haley Scarnato, Chris Sligh, Phil Stacey
Voted off: Haley Scarnato

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