How many times have I said this "American Idol" season that things will get better once it really starts to matter? Because wow, was I wrong. It's down to the final four, and yet I'm still waiting for even one of these contestants to deliver a performance that really wows me. Is it sad that my most memorable moment of the season so far is still the Blake/Chris R/Chris S/some other dude boy band from Hollywood Week?
This week, we got eight uninspiring Bee Gees songs, coached by Barry Gibb, who looked every bit the aging hippie. The two most remarkable parts of the evening: 1) Seacrest gave us our first "Seacrest out!" of the season, and 2) I found myself agreeing with Paula on a number of occasions. Don't forget to vote on which contestant is going home, and to read my take,
Melinda Doolittle — First song: "Love You Inside Out." Melinda does the '70s disco thing so well, but she didn't really put any interesting spin on the song. It was pleasant to listen to but nothing special, and once again, she seemed old to me. Simon called it a backup singer's performance. Then there was some weird Simon vs Paula banter while poor Melinda stood on stage looking baffled.
Second song: "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." This performance started out slow, but it built into something big and impressive by the end. Her huge power notes alone should be enough to move her through till next week, I'd bet. Paula babbled something about Melinda needing to throw her technique away and surprise us, and I think there was a point hiding in there somewhere. Melinda's been consistently good, but she hasn't done anything crazy or risky yet, and I would love to see her really go for it next week.
Blake Lewis — First song: "You Should Be Dancing." What a weird performance. I thought Blake would be all over the Bee Gees' dance music, but the off-key falsetto and the beatboxing combined for something fairly awful. That was maybe the first time I haven't found a little something redeeming in one of Blake's performances. Randy didn't like the beatboxing; Paula didn't like the rest of it; Simon hated everything.
Second song: "This is Where I Came In." You know, I appreciate Blake's commitment to making plaid sexy again, but it really just seemed like his sweater was missing a sleeve. I liked the first half of the song; then I realized it was just repeating the same couple of notes over and over again. Simon called it "tuneless," and I don't know the song well enough to know if that was Blake's fault or the song's. The highlight, though, was Blake's cute dancing, which just might give him enough votes to overcome the weak performances.
LaKisha Jones — First song: "Stayin' Alive." I don't know what happened over the past few weeks, but I've started to find her voice fairly unremarkable. Also, once again, LaKisha managed to totally blow off a mentor's advice (this time ignoring Barry Gibb's points about using falsetto on the chorus). Girl doesn't listen, does she? Paula thought the slowed-down tempo killed the audience's energy; Simon said the performance was "scary in parts," which I thought was overly harsh, but I didn't like it either.
Second song: "Run to Me." Yawn. Better than her first performance, but there still wasn't anything grabbing me about it. Her voice really cracked on the last note, too, which I guess is what you get for shouting through your first song. Paula told her she's still a champ, while Simon said LaKisha and Blake seemed most vulnerable after their performances.
Jordin Sparks — First song: "To Love Somebody." Barry Gibb said that of all the hundreds of people who have done this song, he's never heard a better version than Jordin's. Wow, I bet there are a lot of professional singers above the age of 17 who were pretty offended by that, huh? She was back to form after last week, and even the show-offy, Mariah Carey-ish stuff she threw in toward the end of the song managed not to be too annoying. The judges and I all declared her the winner of round one.
Second song: "A Woman in Love." I think Barbra Streisand tends to be on the list of "artists one should never imitate on 'American Idol,'" right alongside Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey — so I suppose I should give Jordin kudos for trying. She sounded so consistently off-key for a lot of the song that I actually wondered if it was intentional, but I'm still impressed with how much emotion she puts into every song she sings — she really goes for it every time.
Who should be in the bottom two: LaKisha and Blake
Who will be in the bottom two: LaKisha and Jordin.
Who's going home: LaKisha. Blake had a bad night, but I think his fans realize that and will have called and texted in force. That's why I put Jordin in my bottom two instead of him, and it's why I think LaKisha will be on her way home tonight.
Photos courtesy of Fox