With no rockers left in this year's "American Idol" crew, I expected Bon Jovi night to be a bust — especially once I learned that everyone had to pick Bon Jovi songs, many of which have been ruined forever for me by too many nights of awful karaoke. Surprisingly, though, I thought this was one of the better all-around performance nights on "Idol" this season, even if the rocking was mostly mild. I don't forsee any of these kids having a sparkling alt-rock career, but it was fun to watch them try.
Two quick "Idol Gives Back" notes: The event has now raised $70 million, and George and Laura Bush popped in via pre-taped message to thank everyone for their generosity.
Now, onto the RAWK! Don't forget to cast your vote for which two singers are going home, and to hear my take on the night,
Phil Stacey: Phil said he was the kind of kid who sang "Blaze of Glory" into his comb in front of the mirror. Why he needed the comb in the first place remains an open question. He gave the song a little country twang for "Idol," which was a good call, and Randy and Paula both thought it was great. I didn't think it was Phil's best performance (though it was also far from his worst), and his consistent position near the bottom of the voting plus drawing the unlucky first performance spot on Tuesday might mean he's going home this week; I agree with Simon that he didn't do well enough to get another chance.
Jordin Sparks (at right): Well, it had to happen sometime — Jordin was really not very good this week. It could be her age finally showing through, because she seemed like a little girl playing rocker dress-up, from the big Diana Ross hair with red streaks to her out-of-tune "Living on a Prayer" that did absolutely nothing to show off her voice. She got points with me, though, for admitting that she knew the performance hadn't been good and confessing that rock week was hard for her. Simon called her shrieky and accused her of oversinging, but I thought she actually should have done more with the song.
LaKisha Jones: LaKisha picked "This Ain't a Love Song," which Jon Bon Jovi called a soul singer's rock song. I thought the first half was a snoozer, but in the final chorus she actually started strutting around the stage and showing some personality and really performing, which she hadn't done for a while. It made me remember why I liked LaKisha way back when. Simon told LaKisha he could kiss her after that performance, and then he ... did. On the lips. And then kept absently rubbing the bits of her lipstick off his lips. Nice.
Blake Lewis (at left): Dude, Blake went brunette! Jon Bon Jovi was not sold on Blake's beatboxing rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name," but I thought it was totally awesome. Sure, it was risky, and a lot of people might feel it's messing with a classic, but if you don't take risks with that song, you remind people of that time they had one too many mai tais at the karaoke bar, you know? At least his version sounded fresh and fun, and I'm glad he showcased his beatboxing after several weeks without it. Somewhat shockingly, the judges all praised him — even Simon, who said his willingness to take chances is what will bring him back next week.
Chris Richardson: He was not at all amused by Seacrest introducing him as Justin Timberlake, was he? Then he totally flubbed his answer to one of those stupid audience questions. Dude, grow a sense of humor. Anyway, he seemed comfortable singing "Wanted Dead or Alive," and though his boy-band bouncy-dancing bugged me during the performance, he didn't sound so bad when I closed my eyes. The judges said vaguely nice but not enthusiastic things that essentially amounted to "too little, too late."
Melinda Doolittle (at right): Her "I'm so not a rocker" speech was adorable, flubbed "rock on!" sign and all. Then she came out singing "Have a Nice Day" by strutting all over the stage, dancing with the guitarist, and, dare I say, totally rocking. It occurs to me that she's truly a student of music, altering her style and performance to each week's theme, but not in a fakey way. It was great to see her showing more attitude, too.
Who should be in the bottom three: Based only on tonight, it should be Chris, Phil and Jordin
Who will be in the bottom three: Based on both last week and this week, it will be Chris, Phil and LaKisha
Who's going home: Chris and Phil (in, uh, a "Blaze of Glory")
Photos courtesy of Fox