I love American Idol. If I can help it, I never miss a show. Being exactly half way around the world from the U.S. East Coast these last five years I feel a bit disconnected from my country. Watching Idol provides a bit of an umbilical. I know a lot of people consider it silly pop culture, but I don’t care; I’m a fan.
It comes on here delayed by almost a full 24 hours. I watch it here on Wednesday and Thursday nights; Idol is on back home on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I try to stay away from seeing anything about it on the Internet, but I admit I cheat sometimes, especially when it comes to the second show when the each week’s verdict is announced and another contestant becomes a “fallen idol.”
Tonight’s show started out with less frivolity than normal and properly so due to the Virginia Tech shootings. Ryan Seacrest delivered the opening message with exactly the correct amount of dignity and decorum.
The theme this week is “Country Night” with Martina McBride providing the mentoring chores. Surprisingly, at this point in the contest there are no country singers left in the running. The only “rocker” left us last week with the departure of the “rocker girl,” Gina Glocksen. I wasn’t sorry to see her go. She was due.
Follows is my take on what happened tonight on AI. I’ll be doing this until the final, giving my observations on each week’s show, as well as my predictions for the “bottom 3” and who I think will (or should!) ultimately go home.
1. Phil Stacey: The shaven headed crooner from the U.S. Navy kicked off the show with “Where the Blacktop Ends.” Phil has been one of my favorites from the beginning. He’s an older married fellow and he’s in the military—of course I like him! He’s my sentimental favorite; I hope he wins. He sang his song brilliantly. I’m not surprised; I always thought he would make a natural country singer and he is. I thought he had the second best performance of the night behind Jordin. Unfortunately, due to Simon's constant negative drumbeat against Phil, and probably due also to his marital status as "taken," Phil does not have much of a fanbase. It's unfortunate, but he may well leave us tomorrow--darn it!
Randy on Phil: “Dog, that was hot. If you want it, you can have a career in country!” Randy is right on the mark with this observation. I would buy Phil’s country albums.
Paula: She loved Phil’s performance; not surprising. Normally, the Idols really have to screw up for her to say otherwise.
Simon: “Finally! It took 10 weeks for you to make the perfect song choice… but I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to save you.” Phil was shocked that Simon at long last had something good to say about his singing. I don’t know why, but it seems that Simon has been overly tough on Phil the last two months. I hope this positive Cowell attitude toward MY “sentimental favorite” continues.
2. Jordin Sparks: This 17 year old is a big beautiful girl with a gigantic voice. Her country song choice was “A Broken Wing,” one of mentor McBride’s hits. It’s taken me awhile to warm up to this girl, but after tonight I think I’m a fan. I admit that I’ve been unfairly holding her age against her and I’m ashamed to say that because her daddy was an NFL athlete I figured she is just some spoiled rich kid. Well, maybe she is, but the girl can SING! Her big high vibrato range ripped that very tough song a new one and put it in its place. She nailed it. The girl goes after the highest toughest notes almost effortlessly, all the while I keep waiting for her to lose it way up there, but she never does. She’s an amazing performer, probably THE most talented Idol.
Paula: “Fantastic job. I loved how you built the song.”
Simon: “This is the first time after THAT performance that I believe YOU can win American Idol.”
3. Sanjaya Malakar: Every week this big-brown-eyed kid seeks to give us a new coif to marvel at, perhaps to take our attention away from his singing. He did it again tonight with some kind of Aunt Jemima looking thing consisting of unkempt curly hair pulled back behind a colorful bandana—not a good look for him, but who knows, maybe his multitude of little girl fans will love it. Last week he did Latin and did it pretty well. This week he did country and fell flat on his face. I like this kid and I always root for him to do well, but he really failed this time. He attempted to sing “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About,” which Martina McBride declared before his performance was the “perfect” song choice for him. Uh uh! Turns out she was dead wrong. Part of the problem is he had to follow fellow teen Idol Jordin who blew the doors off her song and left poor Sanjaya sounding even more average than he truly is. His voice, as usual, did not project, maybe even less than normal, and many of his notes fell flat. Actually, it sounded to me like he has damaged his vocal cords, kind of hoarse. Maybe he’s pushing himself too much trying to reach unattainable self-expectations. He needs to understand that his appeal is to the pre-teen teenyboppers and go with it. He will make a small fortune if he goes for that angle and I hope he does. He seems like a good guy. Actually, his best moment tonight was during the pre-singing tête-à-tête with Ryan when he answered that he’d like to see Simon sing a happy song because it would show off his true colors.
Randy on Sanjaya: “…keeping it real… that was just karaoke and bland for me dude.” Randy nailed it. Even I can sing as well as SanJaya, but I don’t have his puppy dog good looks—dang it.
Paula: Trying not to be mean she said, “Well, you certainly love adversity. You are just having a good time with it aren’t you?” Sanjaya managed to keep his teeth on display in a pseudo smile, but he was forcing it. He KNOWS he did poorly tonight.
Simon: Reverting to nasty cruelty, he really gave it to Sanjaya tonight. His first words: “…utterly horrendous!” Ryan Seacrest tried to run a little interference accusing Simon of NEVER liking SanJaya. It got personal at that point causing Simon to angrily demand, “Who RATTLED your cage? This was all funny for awhile, but that was hideous! …and I LIKED him last week BIG MOUTH,” all that directed at Ryan. Randy played peacemaker at this point interjecting to SanJaya, “Dude, I liked the hairstyle…” Poor SanJaya for once without even a hint of a smile, managing only a hurt disappointed look, had nothing to say.
4. Lakisha Jones: This woman USED to be my sentimental favorite UNTIL she started to show a little too much willfulness and lack of humility for my tastes. A couple weeks ago when she blew off Tony Bennett’s advice to lose an unnecessary “tag” at the end of a song THAT’S when I lost all interest in this fellow Michigander. Tonight she tried to sing “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and most certainly did NOT pull it off. First of all, it was a bit much when she tried to pander for “sympathy votes” by going on about her status as a struggling single mom. She did okay during the preamble of the song, but when she went into the all important “Jesus take the wheel” part she pushed it WAY too much. It came out screechy and overdone. And I don’t know if she’s trying to lose some weight, but if I were her I would get on that. Looks count in this competition, although I will say that her makeup made her look the most attractive she ever has—good job on that. After Jordin, Lakisha is THE best pure natural singer, but in a vote, because of her chub, Jordin would kick her butt.
Randy on Lakisha: “…pitch problems… you should have gone back to your roots and made the song more “gospelly.”
Paula: She agreed with Randy and said it came out like she was shouting, but in her Paula style she declared sweetly, “So what, you’re STILL brilliant!”
Simon: Always searching for the perfect metaphor he came up with this: “It was like eating a hamburger for breakfast, the song choice just didn’t work for you… and you shouted at us…it didn’t sound natural… wrong song choice.”
5. Chris Richardson: This boyband-singer-wannabe used to be one of my favorites, but no more. Gradually I’ve lost interest in him, mostly due to his limited singing ability. He chose to sing Rascal Flatt’s, “Mayberry.” It should have been the perfect choice for him since both he and Rascal have the same sort of nasally singing voice, but it didn’t work. Because he does sing through his nose there is no projection. He started out okay, but by the end of the song he was making flat notes and losing his connection with the song. It was less than a great performance and by the look on his face he knew it.
Randy on Chris: “…nasally…pitch problems…”
Paula: “…no joy, or love for what you were doing on the stage…”
Simon: “…nondescript, nasally, tinny. Insignificant.” At that Chris attempted to argue his side by telling Simon, “You realize that nasally is a singing style don’t you?” Simon rejoined just as Chris strategically cut him off, “…so (Chris), you’re telling us that you are singing that way on purpose?” Chris had already changed the subject to the Virginia Tech murders telling the camera and Seacrest that he had friends there and to "stay strong." During that Simon had his head down and shook it in apparent disgust. Obviously, either Simon does not think much of nasally singing, or he was upset that Chris might be using the tragedy at VA Tech to go for votes. Either way, Simon has got a point.
6. Melinda Doolittle: She’s the only truly—or at least self-declared—professional singer in the group. (According to my brother, in reality, ALL these idols are in truth “professionals.” He’s probably got a point.) Until tonight, I never thought of her as sexy or all that attractive, but not anymore! She had her hair in a new style that REALLY became her and got me liking what I saw. Even her attitude was different tonight. Normally she affects this not-entirely-believable humble doe-eyed facade that said “I’m just a nice girl without a mean bone in my body—please like me.” I was getting a little tired of that and she must have sensed others are feeling the same, because she turned all of that off tonight and came out as a sexy diva. Her country song was “Trouble is a Woman,” a tune that I’ve never heard before. She didn't perform it all that "country-like;' instead she made it her own adding a little urban flavor, and I can’t say this enough, it was sexy! Wow! Go Melinda! I think with this performance she surpassed Lakisha and has established herself as the second best singer behind
Randy on Melinda: “Solid performance!”
Paula: “…picked the right song…”
Simon: It amazes me sometimes the way Simon and I think the same and this came through tonight when he asked Melinda right off the bat, “Please don’t be surprised by what I say...” He was hinting that her shocked look when people praised her singing was getting tiresome. Simon indeed praised her, as usual, “…Fantastic! …and I think I detected a bit of a Tina Turner attitude there… and for now on lose the shocked look when we tell you that you can actually sing.”
7. Blake Lewis: Just as with Chris, I’m afraid I’m losing interest in Blake as well. He’s an okay singer and certainly has his own “thing” going on, but he’s not that good. He’s better than Chris, but his range is limited although he is a very good performer. I put him just ahead of Chris and behind Lakisha. Tonight, he sang Tim McGraw’s “When the Stars Go Blue.” For me it was not a good choice. It was uninspiring and there were way too many notes that fell flat. For some reason or other the judges like him and they always seem to support him no matter how average his performance.
Randy on Blake: “…picked the right song… It was nice.”
Paula: “…as usual, you have the whole package…”
Simon: “It was not a performance that I’m jumping out of my chair over. It was just okay.” At this point Simon made his own sorrowful acknowledgment of the Virginia Tech tragedy and kind of used it to excuse whatever poor performances might have occurred tonight by the Idols, “…I know I speak for my fellow judges when I say that our thoughts and best wishes go out to the victims and families
PhilippinePhil’s order of merit for tonight:
Notice that none of my top singers were in the bottom 3!
My bottom 3 picks for tomorrow:
1. Chris (I know what he was talking about now when he argued with Simon about nasally being a singing style. He was actually trying to mimic the style of Rascal Flatt. And when I think about it, he's right; many country singers use the "nasal" style. Simon owes him an apology).
2. Phil (Only because he has not built the fan base he needs to continue). (Yay! I think when Randy declared him a country singer THAT caused him to pick up the country votes. NOW they have THEIR favorite and Phil has his voter base!)
3. Sanjaya (I called this one right. Not exactly rocket science!)
My bottom 2 for tomorrow: (I got these ALL wrong!)
Going home tomorrow will be:
Chris (If there's any justice it SHOULD be either Chris or Sanjaya!) (As I said, I like Sanjaya; but it was "time for you to go grasshopper." And So, he is... This week's fallen idol).
After tonight’s performance, I predict that the final 2 will be:
The American Idol will be: