Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not as Sligh as he thought he was

After last night's lackluster performance, no one could really be surprised at Chris Sligh's elimination tonight on Idol. Yes, Sanjaya survived--and wasn't even in the bottom three--which may mean this Vote for the Worst thing may be having a little more success than I thought it really did--but only a little. But let's not talk any more about Sanjaya--he and his hair have had enough publicity over the past 24 hours.

Let's instead talk briefly about Chris Sligh, whose name makes it sounds like he stars in karate movies. While he was certainly better than Sanjaya, it became clear in the last three weeks that he wasn't going to win the competition, so it's not that big a deal that he goes now. The fact is, his voice was nice but nothing special. People liked him because of his personality. Unfortunately, he wasn't nearly as funny as he thought he was (Fro Patro? Really? That's the best you got?) Even more problematic was that he told America when he made it to the final 24 that he would do well because he knew the secret to song choice. And yet he picked a song this week that he couldn't do a good job on. Arrogance, or just not really understanding as much about song choice as he thought he did? Who knows, but I guess it became his tragic flaw.

A couple more notes from tonight: Was Gwen Stefani lip syncing tonight? I'm not sure, but it didn't look, at the very least, like that performance was completely live. Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this important matter.

Also, why exactly is Akon needed on this song? He does the same thing on the record as he did tonight, which is very little except some "whoo-hoos." I also read a lengthy article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago about how great and fresh-sounding and unique Akon's voice is, but I really couldn't tell what the big deal was tonight. (And the one song I've heard of his, "I Wanna Love You"--which before its radio edit actually has the quite direct title of "I Wanna F--- You" doesn't impress me all that much either.)

And are major corporations really e-mailing American Idol to say they want to join in with this charity event they're doing? It seems awfully small-time, but hey, it's American Idol--they often do things on the cheap.

Oh, and I think it's fair to say that Haley Scarnato, with another great outfit tonight, is rapidly taking her place as the best-dressed female Idol contestant in history.

Fingerhut out.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I was trying to think of a good "No Doubt" pun for this headline, but I gave up and went to bed

Before we get to each week's American Idol show, I usually like to take a little time to discuss the Idol "Issue of the Week." But since this week's issue, as it has been for the past few weeks, is Sanjaya continuing to stay in the competition, I'm not sure I really want to expend more energy discussing this whole situation. I will reiterate, as others have, though, that this is not unusual for Idol. Remember Kevin Covais last year, the cute teenager who couldn't sing? He made it to the top 11 in a season with much more talent than this one. Remember John Stevens, the cute teen in season three who couldn't sing all that well? He made it to the top five or six that year. If Sanjaya makes it another three or four weeks, then maybe it could be time to get a little concerned, but there's nothing that's out of the ordinary here. Teen girls, like the one crying last week, are voting for him. Are Vote for the Worst and Howard Stern having an effect? Probably, but not nearly as much as Howard thinks he is. And that's all I want to say about the issue, except to note that the girl on the hunger strike until Sanjaya is eliminated was on day 10 last night and says she is feeling weak but has lost 10 pounds. And people think I care too much about American Idol.... On to the show.

So Gwen Stefani is our "coach" tonight and brings with her an odd theme. Since there weren't enough No Doubt and Gwen Stefani songs to do that as a theme, she apparently gave Idol a list of the artists that most influenced her. I did start to get nervous, though, that this theme would still give Melinda a chance to sing a show tune. After all, I suppose two of Gwen Stefani's influences would have to be whoever wrote "Fiddler On the Roof" and Julie Andrews, considering some of her most recent songs. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, and it led to one of the more interesting collections of songs in an Idol show that I can remember--the Police, the Cure and the Pretenders in one episode? Not bad. To balance that out, there were also a bunch of songs from No Doubt, a band I never really liked all that much. I have liked the Gwen Stefani solo stuff, but either that wasn't available or chosen. Too bad, because the 80s-sounding songs, like her current single and the song "Cool" from a couple years ago, are pretty good.

LaKisha Jones ("Last Dance")--I, like the judges, was really glad to see LaKisha sing an up-tempo song after the slow tunes of recent weeks. And she sang it very well. But I wasn't crazy about the choice of songs--doesn't someone do this song on Idol at least once a year? Sure, LaKisha's might have been the best of all those renditions, but it just didn't feel all that fresh to me.

Chris Sligh ("Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic")--Like Simon, I don't really know what Randy and Paula and Chris were talking about with "the kick is on the backbeat" and something not in the box or whatever. Just like Simon, I thought this just didn't work. Chris sounded out of breath on parts of the song--I guess because he was trying so hard to catch up with the beat--and just couldn't sing it. As I've said before, it's very hard to do a song by a vocalist like Sting, who has a very distinctive, stylized voice. And he didn't come anywhere close to pulling it off. For someone who prided himself earlier in the season on his song choice capabilities, I'm not impressed.

Gina Glocksen ("I'll Stand by You")--I thought Gina was pretty good with this tonight, but after the judges slobbered all over her, I went back and listened to it again. And it was very good, but I'm still not quite sure it deserved quite the praise it got. Then again, the sound mixing seemed to be off on this song tonight, and applause seemed to drown out a portion of the song. Paula said that tonight was a sign that Gina is "coming into your own as an artist," and I'm not sure what she's talking about--wasn't she terrible just last week? I will say this with confidence--it was without a doubt the best performance of a Pretenders song this season on American Idol and hopefully made Chrissie Hynde forget about that Alaina Alexander disaster from a few weeks ago. And one other question: Couldn't Gina sing better without that tongue ring?

Sanjaya Malakar ("Bathwater")--I had never heard this No Doubt song before, and I kind of liked it. And that's the best thing I can say about Sanjaya tonight, because his singing was once again pretty lackluster. Randy and Paula are actually correct in telling him to let it loose--while the choruses were decent tonight, in the verses it seemed Sanjaya wasn't even putting much effort in to even project his voice above a whisper. But Simon's correct--what more is there to say? And I don't want to talk about the hair. But if, as Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post believes, that his power is in his hair, I would think that making a mohawk like that might lessen its hold over America--because it was kind of disturbing.

Haley Scarnato ("True Colors")--The first of Gwen Stefani's two hilarious backhanded compliments/kind putdowns came here, when she said that Haley started off "really great," but then started to sing "this other kind of melody which is so unnecessary for the song." It was very good advice, since Haley had enough difficulty singing the actual melody of the song. She did OK, but nothing special. A big thumbs up once again, though, for her outfit.

Phil Stacey ("Every Breath You Take")--First of all, was it really cold in the studio tonight. Phil had on a t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt and a jacket, along with a hat. Also, Phil was asked what it's like being a household name. Is Phil Stacey really a household name yet? Melinda, LaKisha, Sanjaya, yes. But don't most people refer to Phil as "the bald, freaky looking guy"? Anyway, Gwen's second great putdown/compliment was when she told Phil "I didn't know it was going to be that good" after he sang this song for her. And it was really good--certainly the best performance Phil's ever given on this show. And it came just a half hour after Chris Sligh's performance, after which I wrote about how tough it was to sing a Sting song. Well, Phil pulled it off, although to be fair, this is a much easier song to sing that "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." A few more performances like that, and maybe Phil will be a household name.

Melinda Doolittle ("Heaven Knows")--I may have my problems with Melinda's song selection and personality, but I can't deny she's got a great voice. And it was in fine form tonight. She was pretty great And it was great to at least see her sing a song from a decade as recent as the 1970s. But there's still something other than the "you think I'm good" personality that bothers me about her, something related to the "she hasn't given me a reason to buy her record" complaint I made last week, and I can't yet quite put my finger on it. Maybe I will be able to by next week.

Blake Lewis ("Love Song")--My excitement at seeing someone sing a Cure song on American Idol was tempered somewhat by the fact that it's one of the Cure's most boring songs. And Blake didn't do much to liven it up--singing it probably more slowly than the original, at the same languid pace that he'd sung his song the previous two weeks. Paula, how is that "taking risks"? Once again, he really didn't show off much vocally. I thought Simon's comment that he was in the "Chris Daughtry Zone" was quite appropriate--he's doing the same thing every week, and while it's not bad, it's getting tiring. (Oh, and while I'm not a huge fan of Chris Daughtry's style of music, he is a far better singer than Blake.) A couple other stray comments: Gwen Stefani wondered how Blake would beat-box on this song, and it made me wonder, was he actually thinking about beat-boxing on this song? Because that would not have worked. I did realize after that, though, how many Cure songs he could have beat-boxed too? Can you imagine him doing "Why Can't I Be You?" or "Let's Go To Bed?" As for Paula saying she'd be happy to see Blake in the finale, unless they're requiring the finale to have a guy in it, that's such a dumb statement for so many reasons (from timing to the fact that there are at least three women better than him) than I'm not going to dignify it with a response.

Jordin Sparks ("Hey Baby") For someon who seemed to have a lot of momentum and was improving every week, I thought tonight was a disaster. First of all, that was a horrible song choice. Why would you want to do a song that has no melody and seems to be more talking than singing? (And for someone who so rightfully told the Idols repeatedly tonight to concentrate on the melody, it does seem kind of strange that Gwen Stefani does have a number of songs without much of one.) And second, although she got better as the song went along, I thought she started off kind of tentative and looked like she wasn't sure what she was doing. And her outfit wasn't all that hot either--a friend said she was dressed like Ugly Betty. So I have no idea what the judges were watching tonight.

Chris Richardson ("Don't Speak")--Gwen wanted Chris to eschew the "vocal Olympics" and stick to the melody--another on point analysis--and I guess he mostly tried to and did have some good moments during the song. But I thought Chris's performance tonight mostly showed off how reed-thin his voice is most of the time. I wasn't impressed.

So who's in our bottom three? I think--maybe hope is the better word--that Sanjaya is one of them, and I think Haley makes it there again too. I think the third will be Chris Sligh, but I think he'll survive. Haley won't. Fingerhut out.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Too early, but not a surprise

Considering they set aside a half hour for something that could be accomplished in thirty seconds, it is strange how often they run out of time on the American Idol results show. Not only did we not get to hear Stephanie Edwards sing us out (and considering that it didn't even appear they handed her a microphone for it, are they phasing that part of the show or were just so behind on time they didn't even bother), but Ryan never even asked the judges what they thought of her ouster.

That might have been interesting, because, well, just for selfish reasons I would have liked to have seen if any of them would have agreed with what I've been saying for the last couple weeks about Stephanie. (But who am I kidding--Randy would have said something unintelligible, Paula would have held back tears, and Ryan would have cut off Simon before he got to his point.) While it is clear that Stephanie was a better singer than probably at least half the remaining contestants, the initial promise she displayed that first week singing "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?" was never really fulfilled because her subsequent song choices were all slow to mid-tempo songs (despite whatever Randy was listening to in calling her a great up tempo singer) and often complicated melodies that were hard to sing along or warm up to as a viewer. Then, last night, she just sung poorly, and she couldn't crawl out of the hole she had started to dig the last couple of weeks. In a competition where three other singers--Melinda, LaKisha and Jordin--were all better than her in singing slower songs, combined with the fact that she didn't show any versatility, she was bound to be the odd woman out sooner rather than later.

My other assorted observations: So Ryan is asking for corporate donations for the Idol charity event next month? That's nice, but as I said a couple weeks ago, could we hear about donations from Fox and 19 Entertainment before we go soliciting random companies on TV? Lulu sounded pretty good singing a song she made a hit, what, 40 years ago? Peter Noone wasn't bad either, and I was able to add a third song to my "Oh, I know that song but I didn't know Herman's Hermits'" collection.

So why only a bottom two tonight? I suppose it could have been a time issue, but since this is Idol, there's got to be some kind of conspiracy theory reason as well. I just can't figure it out. Was the third from the bottom singer someone we'd be surprised to see there or not? And if it was someone we'd be surprised to see there, then one would think Idol would have revealed him or her--to encourage people to vote for that person to save him. So maybe they don't want him saved--could it have been Sanjaya? Just a theory....


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The British are coming on Idol

Kind of an odd show tonight on American Idol. It was a pretty entertaining show, and yet I didn't find any of the performances particularly stand-out or memorable (at least for the singing.) I feel like the favorites, after improving for a couple weeks, seem to have stagnated at a good but not great level. Meanwhile, some of the members of the lower tiers have raised their games slightly--so a lot of people are blending together and no one is really standing out in my mind. But we've still got ten weeks to go.

Hopefully, most of them won't include Sanjaya, and the Sanjaya talk this week reached incredibly epic proportions. A Website called has been getting a lot of publicity for keeping Sanjaya in the competition, but Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post did a brilliant debunking of their alleged power last week on her blog. First of all, she noted that the Vote for the Worst guys--who encourage people to vote for the worst singer, of course--weren't even promoting Sanjaya until last week. They were actually encouraging people to vote for Sundance and Antonella, except they were both eliminated--making you wonder how much power Vote for the Wors really has. In fact, no one they've actually promoted over the past few years, de Moraes pointed out, has ever come close to winning the show. But they claim that if someone bad sticks around for an extra week or two longer than they should, Vote for the Worst has succeeded. Yeah, whatever. What does this mean? Probably that Sanjaya will stay around for a couple more weeks but be eliminated before we get down to the final six or seven. And for the sake of the young woman who has started a hunger strike until Sanjaya is eliminated, I certainly hope so. "Starvation for Sanjaya" is a Website ( in which you can watch a video and read the blog of someone who isn't eating until Sanjaya is off the show. She's on day three, and she says she's already having trouble, so she's really hoping he goes this week. Apparently, she's serious. I wish I had a joke here, but the Website is funnier than anything I could come up with. On to the show.

So our theme was "British Invasion," which turned out to be kind of odd. Both Peter Noone, and especially Lulu, were pretty solid guest coaches, or whatever you call them, with occasional good insights for the contestants, but when you think of "British Invasion" do you think of Shirley Bassey? I don't, and yet we got two of her songs. Yes, we did get a Stones song and something from the Kinks, but some of the other choices mystified me. Why didn't anyone sing the Lulu classic "To Sir With Love"? Were they saving that for Lulu to sing on the results show or something? Because it would have been a pretty good song choice for someone--nice melody, can show off the strength of your voice some...oh, well.

So we start off the night with Paula talking about how the singers should envision Simon naked and Simon asking if that's what she thinks about--himself not dressed. A little disturbing, but a step up from the bordering on homophobic banter of last week, I suppose. Then Peter Noone said that if the singers show the enthusiasm of the Beatles at Shea Stadium, "no matter what happens, people will remember them. I'm sorry, but there's no way Phil Stacey will ever remind me of the Beatles in 1965. (Side note: My aunt actually attended the famous Beatles concert at Shea Stadium. She said that in the 45 minutes the Beatles were on stage, she didn't hear a single note--everyone was screaming too loud.)

Haley Scarnato ("Tell Him")--I had no idea this was a "British Invasion" song--I'm most familiar with it from Ally McBeal, when Ally would often hear a slowed-down version of this song in her head (Where have you gone, Vonda Shepherd? David Kelley couldn't get you a job on Boston Legal or something?) Anyway, it seems Haley has decided that she should use what she's got if she wants to stick around, and she executed her strategy to perfection tonight. Short shorts, high heels, a lot of shaking of her bottom--honestly, I barely looked at her face during her performance. I'm reminded of a comment Jon Stewart made while hosting an awards show after Shania Twain danced around for a few minutes while performing--"Did she sing?" But of course, Simon was able to sum it up best with the comment "I think people will be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight." By the way, the singing was OK, if a little bland, but it certainly was her best and most spirited outing of the competition. And even though she went first, I still remember it almost four hours later (OK, I did run the DVR back and watch it again when the show was over, but still...)

Chris Richardson ("Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying")--Now here's a performance I barely remember. Luckily, I did take a couple notes. First of all, why did Chris get applause after he sung the first line of the song? Has he recorded this song before? Usually, that occurs in concerts when someone sings the first line of a well-known song, but none of that qualifies here. Was there some audio problem? This was really strange. But anyway, the judges liked this, but I thought it was kind of boring and nasally. I think Chris is starting to bring boring back.

Stephanie Edwards ("You Don't Have to Say You Love Me")--Wow, these questions from the Website they're asking the singers this week are just fascinating. What's the toughest thing about getting ready each week was the question and "picking the song" was the answer. That gives me so much insight into American Idol. So Stephanie picks a song that Nadia Turner knocked out of the park two seasons ago, and spent Stephanie's entire performance thinking about how Nadia's version was so much better. It seemed like Stephanie was kind of timid--I wanted to hear her open it up and really sing the heck out of it, but it never happened. It was just kind of blah. The most interesting thing about her segment, though, was Randy telling her that we know she's a "brilliant up tempo singer." Huh? Was there a private show she put on for Randy? Did I miss something? Hasn't Stephanie sung nothing but slow to mid-tempo songs? She hasn't sung anything even remotely up tempo. In fact, that's her problem. She's stuck in a rut of similar songs that don't show anything new, and her performance tonight continued that. Ryan also asked Stephanie if this was a "tough genre" for her to learn. Is "British Invasion" a genre? I thought country was a genre. Aren't most of the "British Invasion" songs just pop and rock songs?

Blake Lewis ("Time of the Season")--It seemed like Blake had exactly the same tempo and feel for his song this week as he did last week, but it fit the song a lot better. It wasn't great, but it was very good, and as I've said before, when Blake actually sings, he's got a pretty good voice. When he used it tonight on the chorus, he was enjoyable.

LaKisha Jones ("Diamonds Are Forever")--Come on LaKisha, Lulu actually runs out to catch you before you can leave and tells you should sing a different song and you don't take her advice? That's not smart, especially when the song you ended up singing wasn't all that great. She did OK, but probably her least impressive performance of the competition. I've prasied her before for her restained vocals, but this was too restrained. But I did like her amusing comeback to Simon.

Phil Stacey ("Tobacco Road")--So is this a "British Invasion" song about North Carolina, or is there a Tobacco Road in London? Phil was kind of boring, and the only thing I remember about his performance is the weird shirt he had on. It seemed to have a pattern that looked like sweat stains on the chest, but since the two sides seemed to match, it must have been just an ugly pattern on top of the stripes. Did anyone else notice this?

Jordin Sparks ("I Who Have Nothing")--Jordin is slowly making the Big Two a Big Three. She's young, very attractive, and has a really good voice, and she showed it off tonight on what seemed to be a very tough song to sing. I'd still like to see Fun Jordin back once in a while, but if she's going to sing ballads this well, I guess I can sit through a few more of them.

Sanjaya Malakar ("You Really Got Me")--Wow, I'm not even sure where to start. So let's begin when Sanjaya told Peter Noone he was thinking about singing "You Really Got Me" and I burst out laughing. And I laughed throughout most of his performance, thanks to his rock stylings combined with that crying girl. And yet, this had to be, as Randy said, Sanjaya's best appearance of the season. I'm not saying he should front a Kinks cover band or anything, but it wasn't horrible, just kind of fun and ridiculous. It was better than when Ryan Starr performed this in season one, and no one ever thought Ryan Starr was disgracing the show as they think about Sanjaya. (By the way, I recently saw Ryan Starr's performance of "You Really Got Me" on American Idol Rewind, the syndicated reruns of season one, and it was one of the most dreadful performances in Idol history, so maybe I'm not complimenting Sanjaya that much.) Maybe Sanjaya should be doing rock songs instead of syrupy ballads. I'd love to hear him do "Lola" next. And of course, we must talk about the crying girl, who apparently thought she was at Shea Stadium watching the Beatles in 1965. Can we get an interview with her? Can we find out why Sanjaya could possibly bring her to tears? Or, since we saw her cry during someone else's performance, did she actually cry for everybody? Are her parents getting her counseling in case Sanjaya is eliminated this week? So many questions....

Oh, and I can't forget about Sanjaya's family tonight. His mother was wearing a shirt that said "Momjaya" and his beautiful sister was wearing a extremely low-cut shirt that said something which I couldn't read because I was too busy staring at something else. Yikes, I think she's taking some lessons from Haley on using what she's got to help her brother.

Gina Glocksen ("Paint It Black")--This really didn't do much for me, although Simon's remark that there were "moments of complete torture" might have been a little rough. Randy yelled out something about the bridge of the song, and he was right--that part of the song seemed really tuneless and flat. But overall, if you're going to sing a song by one of the most famous rock singers ever, it's got to be really good, and this wasn't.

Chris Sligh ("She's Not There")--I'm not really into the whole go-into-the-audience thing, but this wasn't bad--another solid but not spectacular Chris performance. My favorite part was the sign "Bringing Chubby Back." I'm not sure about the "Fro Patro" though.

Melinda Doolittle ("As Long As He Needs Me")--So a song from the musical "Oliver!" is part of the British Invasion. Why? Was it written in Britain before the show came to the U.S.? And why is Melinda singing a second straight song from a Broadway show? Could she be more boring in her song selection? She still is a great singer, though, with remarkable phrasing, etc. She showed it again tonight. But she hasn't sung anytyhing that made me say, "You know, I want to buy her record."

Who's going home? This one's tough. I think Phil Stacey will make the bottom three again, I think Stephanie might make it because she went early and was unimpressive, and despite her display, Haley will too. (With all the Vote for the Worst publicity, I have a feeling Sanjaya may not even get a bottom three spot this week, but will return next week.) And let's say Phil will go home. Fingerhut out.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No surprise

He went first, he forgot his words--as bad as Sanjaya was, it really shouldn't have been shocking to anyone to see Brandon voted off. The most surprising thing of the night was probably right after he was told he was going home--he smiled, gave the crowd a thumbs up, and looked remarkably like the Eddie Murphy "Buckwheat" character. Kind of weird.

Other highlights tonight on what was thankfully just a half-hour (it seems like I have so much more time this week): Diana Ross with the big diva entrance, but yet she was willing actually go over to the Idols and try to get them to sing along (even if Chris Richardson was turned around and looking at something else while he was singing along); her speech about the show being an inspriation to young people probably preventing us from hearing any of Brandon's sing-off (not that I'm upset we missed that, I'm just pointing it out); and, of course, Sanjaya walking back to the group after being told he was staying and looking like he was heading to a firing squad. Poor guy. America, please put him out of his misery...


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I guess there is crying in American Idol

So we've finally come to the final 12 on American Idol, and as they walked across the stage tonight at the beginning of the show as Ryan introduced them, I got kind of depresssed. There were way too many singers in that final 12 whom I really wasn't all that excited to see sing. But there's nothing we can really do about that now, so I guess we have to make the best of it. And even with only a handful of good singers, American Idol is still an incredibly entertaining show. And we were probably spoiled by last year, if you think about it. In year one, there were only really two good singers, and in year two, three. So I'll stop complaining...

Our theme tonight is Diana Ross songs, which is a pretty good choice. Diana Ross is not known for having a big, powerful, rangy voice, which means her songs aren't generally real difficult to sing and the contestants have some freedom to put their own spin on things. Interestingly, some people were criticizing Chris Sligh this week because he made a comment about how many of Diana Ross' songs only have a range of 7-8 notes. He kind of has a point, but he probably shouldn't be going around saying it. Then again, his gimmick is being the funny, truth-telling guy, so maybe it works for him. The much dumber comment, though, was by Chris Richardson, who complained that it was going to be tough for him since he'd have to sing a song written for a woman. Chris, you've seen the show, right? I haven't seen guys have problems singing women's songs before. And there will probably be a male guest next week, so it all evens out in the end. (Oh, and one more thing about Chris Sligh--I saw an interview in which he was asked what song he'd really like to sing on the show and he said one that he had written. Chris, I thought you said you knew a lot about strategy and song choice--and you want to sing an original song? I guess you're overestimating your knowledge, because that's the dumbest thing you could do. People want to hear you sing somewhat familiar songs--no one would watch this show if the singers did original songs. But I digress...)

So Miss Ross said she really wants to mentor the singers. That's great, but how much time is she spending with them? I'm figuring from those clips, she maybe spent 15 minutes to a half hour with each of them. Is that really mentoring somebody? Isn't it more like a brief advice session? Is she giving them her cell phone number so they can call her when they need her? Is she showing up every week to check out how they're doing? That's what I would call mentoring.

Brandon Rogers ("You Can't Hurry Love")--Other than the major problem of forgotten words--and you know, considering this guy has sung backup for people like Christina Aguilera, he shouldn't be that nervous performing before a big crowd--I didn't think this was that bad. It was probably Brandon's best performance, although he didn't have a real high bar to clear. But Simon was right, he really doesn't have much charisma or "star quality."

Melinda Doolittle ("Home")--Melinda's segment started off with the announcement that you could send in questions for the Idols, and I am so disappointed this just started this week--because I still have so many questions for Antonella. Oh, well... And I'm still not sure how Melinda was able to sing right after watching that Simon-Ryan gay-off or whatever was going on there with the discussion about the closets and high heels. I do think that the two of them should be getting their letters from GLAAD any day now. As for Melinda's singing, it certainly didn't bring me to tears, like it did Paula and Melinda. Yes, her vocals were strong, but the song itself was very boring, and it just didn't do much for me. Would it be so hard for Melinda to pick a song to sing that was written sometime in the last 30 years? I don't think she has yet. As for the crying, watching Paula in tears (and this is week one of the finals--it didn't happen with Elliott last year until about week six--how does she top this?) always makes me laugh, but even funnier is watching Simon try to hold in his laughter watching Paula cry. It's one of the funniest things ever broadcast on television. As for Melinda, hold yourself together. As I said last week, the "oh, you really love me, really" routine is way past its sell-by date.

Chris Sligh ("Endless Love")--Even though Diana Ross's advice to the singers often reminded me of Paula Abdul's judging--talking about heart and center and spirit and whatever--after hearing Chris sing I actually knew what she meant here when she said something about not losing the heart of the melody. Chris's arrangement--which sounded like Coldplay's song "Clocks"--did kind of lose the melody of the song somewhat. Having said that, I thought his vocals were pretty solid, and I was kind of disappointed in the massive slamming he got from the judges. We've heard Simon in particular say somebody is giving a copycat or karoake performance, isn't original, etc. So at least Chris tried to be original. Sure, it didn't quite work, and there's nothing wrong with saying that, but doesn't he get any credit for at least trying to do something different?

Gina Glocksen ("Love Child")--One of my co-workers has a good way to describe Gina--"she's not as good as she think she is." And it's true, there's something about the way Gina carries herself that gives off an arrogance that isn't deserved. That doesn't really have anything to do with tonight's performance--I just thought it was an interesting aside, because I actually thought she wasn't bad tonight. Gina wasn't memorable, as Simone said, but she was fine and picked the song closest to her rock genre. Oh, and did Diana Ross actually say the word "pronunciate" twice?

Sanjaya Malakar ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough")--I'm not sure what I can say about the singing here that is anything different from what I've said in past weeks and what the judges said tonight. My favorite part was near the end of the song, when he seemed to give up or run out of breath and just kind of talked a couple lines. What has really got me interested, though, was Sanjaya's look. With the curly, long hair, and the earrings in both ears, was he trying to look like Diana Ross? He really did look almost female and it was just weird.

Haley Scarnato ("Missing You")--Did anyone else find it a little strange that Haley said she was thinking about her fiance when she sang this song, which is about missing a man who is dead. Haley will be able to spend time with her fiance in a couple weeks when she's eliminated. Is this really some kind of disturbing hint to the fiance? By the way, did it seem like Simon was actually the nicest judge tonight? Randy acted like somebody had died when Haley finished, and Paula seemed to echo him a lot, but Simon, was often more accurate when he would say something like "Well, it wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible." That was probably the case tonight--it was better than the montrosity she sang last week, but I'm not sure anyone will be downloading it for a ringtone or anything. Other notes on Haley: That dress was awfully short, not that I'm complaining. And it was strangely enjoyable to see someone moved to tears by a "it wasn't that bad" critique from Simon. I hope she got all the crying out of her system, though, in case she survives until next week.

Phil Stacey ("I'm Gonna Make You Love Me")--Wow, he started a song and the first few notes were actually listenable. I think this was pretty good, probably the best performance he's had, but I can barely remember anything about it and I finished watching the show an hour ago.

LaKisha Jones ("God Bless The Child")--Once again, LaKisha, like last week, showed she didn't need to go crazy and belt out a song, but could show off her voice and yet be restrained and in control. This was very good, and if I may make an early comparison, the battle between LaKisha and Melinds is reminding me a little of Kelly Clarkson vs. Tamyra Gray in season one. Melinda is like Tamyra, in making it look so easy and effortless, while LaKisha is more like Kelly, rawer and a little more exciting. But I may be jumping the gun--there's a long way to go in this season.

Blake Lewis ("You Keep Me Hanging On")--I thought Blake's voice sounded good--and I was glad that he went another whole song without beat-boxing. And I thought the arrangement was OK. But all through the song, I kept wanting him, at least for a verse, to kick it up a notch in tempo and show off that voice more. It was OK, but I thought it could have been better, I guess.

Stephanie Edwards ("Love Hangover")--I was glad that the theme weeks were starting for Stephanie, because it would force her to sing something different from the mid-tempo, R&B ballads that she's sung every week. But of course, the theme was Diana Ross, so she managed to find another mid-tempo R&B ballad to sing. And while it may have been sung solidly, it was boring. I did like her trying to explain why she didn't sing the fast portion of the song by saying that she didn't have enough time. Stephanie, you don't have to lie to us. We know it's because you dont' seem to want to sing fast songs, you want to sing midtempo, R&B ballads. But if you don't learn to sing something else, you're probably not going to be around too long.

Chris Richardson ("The Boss")--What was Randy listening to? Simon was right on in calling this bad. It seemed like he was swallowed up by the stage, hif voice sounded like it cracked at one point, and he was in danger of being drowned out by the music near the end. And he became the first singer to get up on the table behind the judges, which as many of you remember, I kind of hate. So it was pretty much a washout for me as far as Chris is concerned.

Jordin Sparks ("If We Hold On Together")--I'm still kind of shocked at the great Diana Ross songs that were left on the table tonight and not performed, in favor of a song like this that I'd never heard. Sure "Stop in the Name of Love" is so well-known you probably can't do much new with it, but why didn't anyone do classic Supremes songs like "Reflection" and "Come See About Me"? And it seems like a singer could take "I'm Coming Out" and do something special with that. That's why I was a little puzzled by Jordin picking the song she did. Her youth and personality is her advantage against a number of the other top contenders, and any one of those songs would have allowed her to show that off. Instead, I guess she wanted to show off her vocal chops by picking a big ballad, but it certainly worked out for her. She was very good, but I hope she goes back to being a little more fun next week. Actually, I'm starting to sound like Randy now, so it's probably time to go to bed.

Who's in the bottom three? Brandon wasn't that great, and he went first. No one remembered him by 9:00, let alone 10:00. As for the other members of that trio, I'll say Sanjaya and Haley, and while we can all hope it will be Sanjaya, I'll think he'll survive another week and Brandon will go home. Fingerhut out!


Friday, March 09, 2007

Disappointing, but not surprising

Before I get to the final 12, was I the only one who saw that tape of Ryan and Simon in Africa and thought, "Oh my gosh, this opens up a whole new group of Simon insults?" Can it be that long until we hear "That reminded me of sitting in an African village and having to listen to some ghastly performance by the hungry kids after lunch." Or maybe, "you know, I think some of those kids in the Congo could have done a better job than you, and they've never even heard a Whitney Houston record..." But there's something wrong with me.

As for our final 12, should Sundance or Jared be in the final 12 instead of Sanjaya? Of course. In fact, Sanjaya actually looked scared when he walked over to the final 12 seats, and that's not a good omen that he might improve. But I can't really work up that much upset or outrage that either Jared or Sundance aren't in the final 12, because neither showed they really deserved it or would have come anywhere close to winning this competition. Jared had a nice voice, but didn't really do anything exciting with it, and Sundance, despite what Paula said, really wasn't that good when it came down to it. Sure, "Mustang Sally" last week was good, but it wasn't anything people will be looking up on Youtube next week. And I think that weak version of "Jeremy" Tuesday night just angered people who felt he was desecrating a classic rock song. Hopefully, Sanjaya doesn't stick around too long, though.

As for the women, at least we got rid of Antonella. I guess her arrogance and bizarre response to Simon last night really did hurt her. If someone else was going to take Sabrina Sloan's rightful place in the top 12, at least it was Haley--an unexciting but competent singer--as opposed to just a flat out bad singer like Antonella. As for Sabrina, I can't say I'm all that surprised by her getting eliminated--it's just a little earlier than I expected. She fell victim to something I identified two weeks ago, and hearkens back to the "three divas" week that led to Jennifer Hudson's elimination in season three. Sabrina was one of a number of belters who sang R&B, and with LaKisha, Stephanie and (although she's branched out a little from R&B) Melinda all having similar styles and better voices--as well as shown their personalities more--she was the odd woman out. If Sabrina had perhaps done a differnt style of song this week--rock or country, let's say--she might have stood out more from the crowd, but she didn't. It's too bad, because I don't think we saw what she could do and could have conceivably been a top 5 finisher, but it still was a longshot she could have won.

Finally on the final 12, while it does seem like it's going to be somewhat of a down year for Idol, particularly compared to last year's fabulous one, you could do a lot worse than a top 6 of LaKisha, Melinda, Jordin, Stephanie, Blake and Chris Sligh. Whether we get that is another story.

As for "Idol Gives Back," I will give them credit for surpising me--I really didn't expect that was the big surprise announcement. But while I hesitate to pull out this phrase because it is so overused, did anyone else feel a little "jump the shark" moment? Hey, it's great that American Idol wants to use its insane power for good, but does it make me a horrible person for saying that I kind of like it being just a TV show? I have a really long day at work every Tuesday, and I enjoy coming home and watching people sing and laughing when Simon insults them, etc. The show is a great diversion from everyday life. I'm not sure I need a lesson about poverty at the same time--I can and do get that elsewhere. If you think that makes me shallow or heartless, please leave a comment and tell me. But I'll give them a chance and see how this is going to work before criticizing it any more.

A couple questions, though. First, should a show that keeps its voting totals shrouded in mystery really be running a charity? Is American Idol actually going to show some transparency, at least for this activity? That would be historic. Second, Ryan said Coke and AT&T and other sponsors would be contributing to this, and that the viewers could donate as well. Um, how about the Fox network and the brand of American Idol itself? Will they being making some contributions as well? They seemed to be strangely missing from that announcement.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"I just wish you could sing better"

Although there was plenty of good singing tonight on American Idol, the Simon quote above about Antonella Barba still stood out as the most memorable moment of the evening tonight. Sometimes Mr. Cowell can really get to the heart of the matter in just a few words. Actually, Antonella's retort was pretty memorable too, for an entirely different reason, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Jordin Sparks ("Heartbreaker")--I really liked Jordin's song choice here--not because I'm a big fan of this Pat Benatar song, but because she chose a rock song. That sets her apart from some of the other top women--particularly Sabrina and Stephanie--who seem to be picking the same kind of R&B belters every week. And while I can't say Jordin's performance was anything special, it sort of worked. She pretty much pulled it off and showed she has some range--overall, a solid week for Jordin.

Sabrina Sloan ("Don't Let Go")--Sabrina is a good singer, and she sang this fine, but I agree with Simon's criticism of her being mechanical. Unlike Jordin, she's sort of sung the same song every week and hasn't shown anything particularly new--just come out and belted out a song. That's getting a little boring. I'm very thankful theme weeks start next week--it should force Sabrina to stretch and we'll see if she can sing other kinds of songs.

Antonella Barba ("Put Your Records On")--So we have the first allusion to the Antonella photos, and it hardly made an impression with everything else going on during the time Antonella was on stage. First, her singing was better this week, at least for parts of the song. Of course, other parts were horribly flat, and overall it was still the worst of the night by far. As for Simon's criticism that "I just wish you could sing better," that kind of says it all. He's absolutely right. I think everyone involved in the show wishes she could sing better, becuase, um, did you see how hot she looked tonight? Nice outfit, with the boots and....Anyway, as I said, I didn't think there was anything wrong with what Simon said--anyone who watches the show knows he's absolutely correct. For Antonella then to say that she deserved to be in the final 12 and that "I have a different style" than the other things and "I don't try to be like them" was just breathtaking. Antonella, considering many of the other women, as you said, are really good singers, I guess when you say "I don't try to be like them," you're saying you're not trying to be a good singer? Is singing off-key this "different style" you're talking about? Wow. And then she actually said to not judge her against the other contestants because they're different. Whatever.Those silly statements may have cost her the votes she needed to stay around--although probably not. But if she wanted to help herself, saying "I think I did my best, and I hope I get another chance to improve" or something like that would have served her a lot better--and not made her look completely clueless. As for Simon's comments about the photos, I thought they were fine--alluded to them while praising her for getting through the last couple weeks. She seemed to appreciate it.
But one last comment: Since the theme of the taped pieces tonight was "things you didn't know about me" or whatever, wouldn't it have been great if Antonella had said something like "You might not know I posed for photos in a wet t-shirt at the World War II Memorial"? If she had done that, I would have voted for her for all two hours.

Haley Scarnato ("If My Heart Had Wings"?)--What was that song? It sounded like one of the original songs that got rejected for the American Idol final show. What an awful song. Having said that, I suppose Haley did a decent job singing it, but that was the definition of what Simon calls "forgettable."

Stephanie Edwards (A Chaka Khan song I don't know the name of)--Stephanie is the other reason I'm excited for the theme weeks, so we don't have to hear her sing another one of these slow jam songs that I'm not a big fan of. I guess she sang it OK, but I'd like to hear her sing a quieter song with a better melody to see what she's got.

LaKisha Jones ("I Have Nothing")--This song was last heard on that memorable night when Katharine McPhee popped the buttons on her dress and people all over the Internet claimed they could see her private parts. That has nothing to do with LaKisha, I just thought it was worth remembering. As for Lakisha, that was great--strong vocals, and yet controlled and didn't overwhelm the song. Melinda may be the more polished favorite, but I wouldn't count out LaKisha yet.

Gina Glocksen (Some Evanesence song)--Like Simon, I'm also glad that Gina took his advice about being more "edgy" and did get edgier--if that's a word. I do wish the edgy rock song she had picked was better. I suppose she did OK on an unexciting song. But I hope she keeps up the rock thing--at least as much she can during the theme weeks--because it at least gives the viewers something different and nonexistent in the competition otherwise this year.

Melinda Doolittle ("I'm a Woman")--Wasn't crazy about the song choice, but she sure sang it well. Although I've commented on how I like Melinda's down to earth personality, I'm already getting a little tired of the "Oh, I can't believe you think I'm good" look she was giving the judges tonight. And I loved Simon's rip of Jennifer Hudson--that's who he was referring to when he mentioned that somebody had said her time on Idol was a "stepping stone." It was actually the only "stone" she had at the time--without Idol, she never would have gotten an audition for Dreamgirls. But I'm not going to get into that whole thing now.

So who's going home? Haley is an easy choice for one. And I really hope it is Antonella, because I think the other six all are deserving of the final 12 and it would be a shame for any of them to lose out to a far inferior singer. So I'm going to predict that Antonella will be the second person ousted--although if she survives, I'll guess that Gina Glocksen goes. Fingerhut out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A step backward for the guys

Wow, that was a pretty underwhelming night. After showing some promise last week, the guys as a group returned to their place as the junior varsity for the women tonight. At the end of the show, when Randy and Paula said they thought only four guys deserved to be in the top 12, I started counting the guys I considered worthy and only got to three before starting to wonder if I could find a fourth--which made Simon's answer of "three and a half" make some sort of sense.

Before we get to the rundown, though, a few words on a new development in the Antonella controversy. Frenchie Davis from season two, who I mentioned last week in talking about this issue and is currently starring in Rent on Broadway, materialized this week to register a complaint about the unfairness in how she was treated compared to Antonella. She was on with Howard Stern this morning and said that she doesn't think Antonella should be kicked off the show, but does think the producers should make some sort of apology or gesture to her for embarrassing her by kicking her off the show in season two because she posed for some sort of porn or porn-style Website in lingerie. (Porn-style is a term I just coined, kind of like kosher-style, to describe something that may not technically be pornography, but is in that vein.) As I said last week, I'm glad the producers didn't kick off Antonella, because they never should have kicked Frenchie off. But at this point, does Frenchie really think the producers are going to apologize to her? You can't even get a straight answer from the producers about why some of the top 24 got no screen time during the audition and Hollywood shows. These guys are still kicking people off the show for no apparent reason (see Akron earlier this year). Why do you think they're going to all of a sudden change their spots now? Two interesting things about Frenchie's interview this morning, though: First, she said she was totally up front and told the producers about the pictures, but wasn't kicked off the show until two months later--which either means they wanted to wait until someone else found the pictures before deciding they mattered, or they're just mean. And Robin Quivers noted that there is a significant difference between Frenchie and Antonella--Frenchie did her photos for money, while Antonella posed privately for friends and then had someone post them on the Internet. Anyway, there's some kind of protest Wednesday night in Los Angeles--that I don't believe Frenchie is associated with--making this out to be a racial issue and sponsored by a group called Project Islamic Hope. Make of this what you will.

As for Ryan's announcement that Thursday will bring news of "one of the most important events in Idol history," why do I think it might not be quite as earth-shaking as advertised?

Blake Lewis ("Instinct"?)--With Simon talking so much the last couple weeks about being current and not being old-fashioned, it appears a number of the contestants have really taken that to heart and are doing a lot of current songs. I'm not sure that's always a great idea, like in this instance. Sure, this song made Randy happy because it gave Blake a chance to beat-box (stupid Randy), but I want to hear Blake sing, and sing pop songs. Doing this kind of pseudo-reggae/hip-hop thing--sure he did a lot of sound effects, but did it really showcase Blake singing? I didn't think so. The other thing I was surprised by was that Randy and Paula didn't know this song. It's not a particular favorite of mine, but it was pretty popular a few years back and got a lot of radio airplay. Where were they? (Actually, Randy was probably busy in the studio with Journey, but whatever...)

Sanjaya Malakar ("Waiting on the World to Change")--As Randy said, it isn't much of a kudo to say that Sanjaya's performance was better than it had been the last two weeks, but it is something to hang the hat he wore last week on. In fact, he wasn't just better than the last two weeks, he was much better than he was the last two weeks. Having said that, he wasn't exactly good, but I was surpsised at how down on him Paula was, considering the improvement.She was acting like there had been a death in Sanjaya's family while he was singing or something. But Sanjaya unleashed a little growl or something akin to that at one point in the song and at least showed a little life. I still hope he gets kicked off Thursday, but I'm not expecting it.

Sundance Head ("Jeremy")--Wow, even Pearl Jam is clearing their songs for Idol now. That's cool. But this song was a terrible choice for Sundance because however good his vocals were tonight (they were OK, but certainly nothing special), they would alway pale in comparsion to Eddie Vedder's vocals. You just can't sing a huge, iconic song like this, which was all about Eddie Vedder's screaming, intense singing, and try to duplicate it. You're always going to pale in comparison and sound like a lame imitator. And that's what Sundance sounded like.

Chris Richardson (A pretty Keith Urban song I don't know the name of)--With Chris having done up-tempo songs the last two weeks, this was a really good choice because it allowed him to show off his vocals a little more. And he did a nice job. Not "he could be the next American Idol" nice, but not bad. Actually, my real reason for liking the song choice is that he didn't have the opportunity to do that Justin Timberlake-esque dancing that was bothering me so much.

Jared Cotter ("If You Really Love Me")--Great song, OK performance. This guy has a good voice, but I think Paula is kind of correct--he doesn't really do much exciting with it. I've been less impressed with him each week, but he does have that hand over the face thing which everyone seems to like. But like Ace Young's soulful looks into the camera, that will get old in a couple weeks.

Brandon Rogers ("Celebrate")--I know, this isn't "Piano Idol," but perhaps Brandon could accompany himself on the piano during songs, since he showed he is a good piano player. That would certainly help him stand out, because he's not really doing it with his singing. His performance wasn't bad, and better than last week's borefest, but Simon is correct--he wasn't all that memorable.

Phil Stacy ("I Need You")--So all the judges were wondering why Phil chose this song. It was an odd choice, and Phil said he just loved the song. But I have another theory. Simon said last week that he wasn't unique and too karoake, so I think Phil was trying to pick a song that Simon couldn't say was just like the original--and how better to do that than sing a song that a woman made popular. (And actually, last year, Paula or Randy suggested this as a way to be different and stand out. They, of course, gave him no points for that tonight.) Anyway, he didn't sing it very well--those opening notes were, once again, horrible, and it didn't really improve all that much by the end. This week's award, though, for stupidest judges' comment once again goes to Randy for comparing Phil to Steve Perry of Journey. Randy, are you crazy? Randy, Steve Perry had a great voice--and Phil Stacy doesn't. I hope if Steve Perry was watching tonight, he threw something at the TV, got drunk and is jamming Randy's cell phone with crazy messages. Oh, and after that comment, it wouldn't suprise me if Phil found a way to sing "Open Arms" or "Don't Stop Believin" in the next few weeks to make Randy happy.

Chris Sligh ("We All Want to Be Loved")--I agree with Randy (I hate to do that) and thought this was the best of the night. Chris may not have the strongest voice among the guys--although, come to think of it, there aren't many strong voices in this group--but he knows how to sing a song and convey its message. Don't know why Paula was so tough on it--she must be having some personal issues.

Who is going home? Once again, I have no idea. Sanjaya and Sundance, according to Dial Idol, are still getting lots of votes, so I think they'll probably survive. I think Brandon Rogers might not survive this week, and I'll take a wild guess and say Phil Stacy for no particular reason except that he wasn't that good. Fingerhut out.


Monday, March 05, 2007

The other outrage from yesterday's Duke-UNC game

In the wake of yesterday's Duke-UNC game, everyone's talking about the Gerald Henderson elbow--and with good reason (at first I thought it was accidental, but after 46 viewings of that replay, I now think it may have been intentional.). But no one is talking about an even bigger outrage--according to more than one newspaper account of the game, the Tar Heel team actually cut down the nets at the Dean Dome after the game. (There is some dispute about whether they only cut down one net, as the News and Observer reports, or two, as the Associated Press reports, but there is no dispute that there was some cutting.)

There's been a lot of talk the last few weeks in the sports world about how fans are too eager to rush the court after wins, and there's some truth to that. This year's Duke-Maryland game in College Park was a milestone--it was the first road game Duke had lost in at least two seasons in which the opposing fans didn't rush the court to celebrate. (And Duke fans have contributed to this trend--considering they rushed the floor last season after beating Va. Tech, because Sean Dockery hit a half-court shot to win the game.) But rushing the court is still a generally spontaneous act done by students who may not always be aware of the history of their team's past accomplishments.

Cutting the nets down--that's a premeditated act. And UNC decided to take out the scissors because they ...what? I'm not really sure. They finished tied for first place in the regular season standings and won the tiebreaker with UVA, but the ACC has always declared its tournament champion the "ACC champion." There is no title or banner (unless they've changed it in the last couple years) for winning the ACC regular season. And not only did Carolina win the ACC regular season title two years ago--so it's not like this was any new accomplishment--they, um, won THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP two years ago too. And they're excited for tying for first place in the ACC this year? I wish I could come up with something more creative to say, but I think saying that cutting down the nets was incredibly lame sums it up. Of course, since UNC hasn't actually won an ACC tournament and been the actual ACC champion since 1998, maybe they're just desperate to celebrate anything even remotely close.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stop the crying

Considering all the crying by singers and gnashing of teeth by Ryan and some judges about tonight's eliminations, you'd think they were shocking. But while the two most deserving of booting didn't go tonight--Sanjaya and Antonella--it's not like Nick, Alaina and Leslie were all that surprising or undeserved. A.J. does have a beef--and he sang his song even better tonight--but let's face it, it's not like he had any chance to win the competition.

And after hearing two of the worst performances ever on American Idol the last two nights with Sanjaya and Antonella, tonight we saw the absolute worst sing-off ever. I can't remember ever seeing a contestant who found herself completely unable to sing most of the song. If Alaina was a profesional, I'd say that was unprofessional. Remember, when Alaina auditioned, she said Idol was her last chance at a show business career, and she was going to give it up if she didn't make it. I'm wondering if her crying was due to her having to leave Idol, or the fact that she may now realize she really does have to give up that dream of a show business career--because 19th place on American Idol really doesn't get you very far.

As for Kellie Pickler, during most of her appearance I wondered whether she had some work done, because her breasts look huge. Why, though, she came with that old-looking hairstyle and sang that slow, boring song--even if it was her next single--is beyond me. I heard her first single, called something like "My Red High Heels," and it was fun and not bad. But that song, while kind of pretty, is what Simon would call "exactly the wrong song for you." Interestingly, the judges didn't give Kellie much of an ovation--kind of rare considering they usually give a standing ovation to any Idol alum that comes back. I guess they were as unimpressed as I was.

So who sings next Thursday? With both Katharine and Taylor's albums tanking, I presume it will be one of them.


Ladies Night number two

After watching Duke lose to Maryland for the second time in three weeks, I'm feeling kind of nauseous. So let's do this as quickly as possible and get right to the singers...

Gina Glocksen ("Alone")--So Gina takes on the song that Carrie Underwood knocked out of the park two years ago (a performance memorable enough that even Paula Abdul recalls it in her remarks). Gina doesn't make anyone forget Carrie's version, or Heart's for that matter, but hits a solid double, I guess. This song fits Gina's "I'm so crazy, I just have to have a streak of red in my hair" persona better than Celine Dion did last week, but I still have to agree with Simon's comment that she seems like she's going to be "more edgy than this." Some more edginess would help her stand out, since vocally she seems a notch below the top women.

Alaina Alexander ("Not Ready to Make Nice")--So she chose to dedicate a song entitled "Not Ready to Make Nice" to her mother. I will say this for Alaina: Unlike Brandon last night, she understood that the song she chose to sing didn't need to have anything to do with the person to whom she was dedicating it (See previous blog entry for explanation). Unfortunately, it was a bad choice of song for Alaina, or Alaina just isn't that great of a singer. I think the latter may be the truth. Randy and Simon were correct--the beginning was OK, but by the time she got to the chorus it was a mess. I couldn't even understand the words she was singing the entire second half of the song. Hard to believe she won't be going home this week. On the bright side, she is pretty.

Lakisha Jones ("Midnight Train to Georgia")--After her big, bombastic performance of that Dreamgirls song last week, I liked that Lakisha took it down a couple notches tonight and didn't oversing this song. I thought she was really good and didn't really understand Simon's problems with her outfit being too colorful. Aren't the seminfinals the round of the competition where they don't have the help of stylists and just have to wear their own clothes? Lakisha's a single mom who works at a bank--give her a break, Simon...

Melinda Doolittle ("My Funny Valentine")--So here's my question. Simon often last week said singers were old-fashioned for singing songs from people like Celine Dion, or told Blake last week that he was good because he was the only one up to that point who had sung a song that was current, and then Simon says the best performance of the competition is from someone singing a song from the late 1930s. That's not to criticize Melinda's performance, though, which was excellent. In fact, I think her performance tonight makes her the favorite, simply because she showed she's somewhat more polished than Lakisha with this song. But my favorite thing about Melinda is that her friends had to give her that booklet of very specific instructions on how to dress properly. I found that very funny and endearing.

Antonella Barba ("Because You Loved Me")--Wow, I'm not even sure where to start. I guess I'm a little surprised there wasn't even a slight mention or allusion to the photo scandal (see previous blog entry). I figured Ryan might ask her some question about it, or Paula would say something like "It's been a tough week for you, hasn't it?" or she would dedicate her song to the photographer (kidding!). I guess that means the Idol producers are not going to let it affect her place in the competition, which I think is the correct decision. Because with singing this bad, they have to hope she's going to be eliminated pretty soon. She was flat the entire song, and I think I might agree with Simon that it might have been worse than last week. That performance rivals Sanjaya for one of the worst in Idol history. On the other hand, she looked great, and I kind of felt bad for everything she's probably been through this week, until...she mouthed off to Simon, and about one of my pet peeves, his alleged dissing of Jennifer Hudson. First of all, Simon did a perfectly fine job of defending himself on one aspect of this whole thing--he didn't kick Jennifer Hudson off the show, the viewers did. But more importantly, Simon wasn't that harsh on Jennifer Hudson anyway. When she first sang on the show in the semifinals (in the previous format in which the top two of four groups of eight were selected and then a wild card round selected four more), Simon actually said she was good but had picked the wrong song--she sang "Imagine," which didn't really give her a chance to show off her vocals until she belted out the last few bars. She got in through the wild card round, and then early in the finals, Simon told her one night that she was "out of her depth" in the competition, a quote that has been reprinted often in the last few months. Watching the whole clip the other night on the Barbara Walters special, that is a correct quote, but leaves out the rest of his comments that night, in which he said that Jennifer was good, but that there were other singers in the competition that were better and she could probably not do anything to overcome them. He was referring at the time to Fantasia and Latoya London, and he was right. Sure, everyone can have different opinions, but can anyone who watched that seasons of Idol really say he was wrong? They were better than Jennifer Hudson--and I personally found Jennifer a little overwrought as she advanced in the compeitition that year. She sang Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England" like it was some kind of opera song--it was just too much.

Furthermore, after those comments about her being out of her depth, the following few weeks, according to Internet recaps I went back and reviewed (hey, I do research for this blog), Simon didn't say anything negative about her. In fact, the week she was eliminated, he praised her by calling her one of the "three divas" with Fantasia and Latoya (the famous week where all three of them ended up in the bottom three.) So can we stop talking about Simon being "wong" about Jennifer Hudson? I hope I've set the record straight. And I was glad to see Jennifer tell Barbara Walters that she should thank American Idol because she never would have gotten the part in Dreamgirls without the show--although I was a little disappointed that she didn't do it in her acceptance speech.

Jordin Sparks (A Christina Aguilera song I don't remember the name of)--She seems like a lot of fun--she's got a great smile--and I thought this was a solid, if not spectacular, performance. But Randy, enough with the "you're only 17" thing and your amazement with that. She's in the competition and she has to go against people older than her. Those are the rules. Judge her like everyone else. I think she understands that, as do those of us at home. And for whatever age she is, she's one of the top contenders.

Stephanie Edwards ("Dangerously in Love")--I don't think I'd heard this song before, but thought it was a Beyonce song because this was the title of one of her albums. Midway through the song, my suspicions were confirmed, because Stephanie sounded a lot, probably too much, like Beyonce when singing this song. And I didn't think she quite pulled it off, particularly the middle part of the song with the wordy, complicated pseudo-melody. Randy apparently forgot who Stephanie was and said that she was "so much better than last week" before kind of remembering and mumbling something about her being good last week. Actually, I thought she was so much better last week, and a little disappointed this week. She wasn't bad, just not as impressive as I had hoped she'd be after last week's introduction to her.

Leslie Hunt ("Feeling Good")--It's the same song that A.J. sang last night. I wasn't crazy about A.J.'s version, and I can't imagine I'm going to be downloading Leslie's version to my computer, but it was OK. The scatting was kind of cool. But Simon's right, she kind of paled in comparsion to the many better singers that went before her.

Haley Scarnato (Some Whitney Houston song)--This didn't do much for me. I didn't really like the song, and I didn't think Haley sang it that well. As for Paula's "it was leaps and bounds better than last week," that's a nice thing to say but it's not really true. Last week, her Celine rendition might not have been anything special, but it was competently done. This was just blah.

Sabrina Sloan ("All the Man that I Need")--Sabrina sang a much better Whitney Houston song, and sang it a lot better than Haley sang hers. Simon was correct, though--the vocal gymnastics at the end were a little bit much.

So who's going home? This seems much easier than the guys last night. Alaina should certainly be one, and I think Leslie Hunt is probably the other one--and if she doesn't, Haley will. But let's go with Alaina and Leslie, and Fingerhut out.