Ah, the "American Idol" top 12 performance show: the night that makes women out of girls, men out of boys ... or, rather, the night that makes everyone forget their words and cry. I'll be kind and say it wasn't the most thrilling night ever, and once again, the girls belted the boys right out of the auditorium. I'm going to chalk it up to nerves and to the female soul singers having an advantage on Diana Ross night, but things better pick up next week or I'll be ready to fast-forward to a Melinda / Blake / female-singer-to-be-named-later final three and be done with the whole mess.
Last night, all the fun came from the parts that didn't involve singing: The 'fro-off between Diana Ross, Chris Sligh, and Sanjaya; Simon and Seacrest bantering about high heels; Haley losing it after forgetting her song, then losing it again after Simon said something nice; Paula having her first crying breakdown of the season barely 20 minutes in. Aw yeah. Be sure to vote on who you think will be going home, and to hear my thoughts on the matter,
Brandon Rogers (at left): Brandon started with a thud, singing a bland version of "You Can't Hurry Love" with awkward hip shimmies. He was also our first word-forgetter of the night. Oh, Brandon. I had such high hopes. Since the judges can't use the "background singer" insult for Brandon, who actually is a background singer, Simon one-upped it by calling him a background singer's background singer. Zing!
Melinda Doolittle: She picked "Home" from The Wiz, which I had totally forgotten was sung by Diana Ross. She's Melinda, so it was great, though it wasn't exactly the most exciting song. She was crying by the end, and then Paula started crying so hard she could barely make it through her comments. Can you imagine those two on a girls' night with tearjerker films and Ben & Jerry's?
Chris Sligh: Diana gave him hair tips! She also told him to concentrate harder on finding the hook in "Endless Love." I'm not sure either of those things happened. Randy said it sounded like Diana Ross mixed with Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" (I think it was actually "Clocks"). Simon suggested he put his glasses back on, and I agree, because Chris sans glasses was just weird.
Gina Glocksen: Gina explained that her first experience singing "Love Child" was at age 4. Um. It was a typical shouty Gina song, except for this funky quieter part in the middle, but I spent most of it trying to understand the weird string (or chain?) on her jacket. The judges called it a middle-of-the-pack performance, and that makes me fear for her, because it's clear that "Idol" keeps the good and the bad but ditches those in between.
Sanjaya Malakar (at right): Well, I wasn't too far off: He didn't do "Stop In the Name of Love," but he did attempt "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Diana Ross came up with about a dozen ways to point out his utter lack of rhythm. His voice was so weak and reedy, and his hair ... oh, his hair. The judges basically just laughed at him, which all but ensures he'll be back next week.
Haley Scarnato: Personality-wise, I'm really coming around to Haley. Diana Ross made the point that her voice is good for the studio, just not live, and she does have a surprising amount of presence. She was wearing one of the more baffling dresses I've seen on "Idol" and forgot her lyrics, and yet I didn't mind watching her. I bet she gets enough sympathy votes to stick around.
Phil Stacey: I truly do not enjoy watching Phil at all. It's not just the baldness and the big eyes, as Simon said a while back — it's also the awkward, stompy way he moves on stage. He sounds fine once he gets to the chorus of his song, though. I think he should just sing choruses from now on.
LaKisha Jones (at left): Aw, her mom and Diana Ross both call her "Kiki." She sang the jazzy, sassy version of "God Bless the Child," and it suits her well. The judges praised her for showing restraint. If I had to pick sides in the Melinda vs. LaKisha battle, I'd still be on Melinda's, but I hope I don't have to choose for a while.
Blake Lewis: It's "You Keep Me Hanging On," the club remix! He was kind of the opposite of Phil, with a great performance but not-so-good singing, though we've heard him do better. This performance won't convince anyone who's on the fence that he's more than a hot, beatboxing novelty act. Still, who wouldn't want to watch more of a hot, beatboxing novelty act?
Stephanie Edwards: Please, don't tell me her "wow" moment in the first week was a fluke? Her "Love Hangover" was fine, but she never kicked it in for the big finish. She's really going to have to do more to keep pace with LaKisha and Melinda.
Chris Richardson: I'm glad someone went full-out disco, but wow, this was weird. I mean, if you ever wanted to know what Justin Timberlake would sound like singing Diana Ross, now you do. His dancing was also back to the robo-Chris style of the first couple of weeks. The show must have been running long, because he didn't even get a word in during his brief moment with Seacrest.
Jordin Sparks (at right): Do you think she ever played a Disney princess in a school musical? She went back to her cutesy thing with "If We Hold On Together," and though it was — as Simon said — gooey, she sounded really, really good. She actually could have a shot at the finals if she keeps that up.
Who's safe: Jordin, Melinda and LaKisha on the merits of their performances, plus Blake and Chris R. because of their fan bases.
Who should be in the bottom three: Sanjaya, Haley, Brandon
Who will be in the bottom three: Gina, Stephanie, Brandon
Who will go home: Brandon. A bad performance plus being the first singer of the night means I'd totally forgotten about him until the end-of-show recap, and I don't think I'm the only one.
Photos courtesy of Fox