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"American Idol": Now, That Was Actually Good

"American Idol": Now, That Was Actually Good

I think Tuesday's "American Idol" performance show might have been the one I've been waiting for all season — and it couldn't have come at a better time. Singing three songs apiece, each of the final three turned in at least one pretty good performance, making tonight's elimination tough to predict. Will America vote on personality, putting Jordin and Blake in the finals? Or will they go by talent, setting up Jordin and Melinda for the head-to-head finale?

Tuesday's show also gave us some glimpses into the contestants' offstage personalities (finally!), with Jordin freaking out over getting a star on her local mall's version of the walk of fame — the only star, so far as I could tell — and Melinda wiping away tears when her town named a street after her. While I usually dread the results show, I'm actually looking forward to seeing the rest of the hometown visit footage tonight.

But at the end of the night, someone will have to leave. Don't forget to vote on who you think is going home, and to read my take on the performances,

Jordin Sparks:
First song — "Wishing on a Star," Simon's choice. It started out a little rocky, but Jordin was grooving it by the chorus — and grooving might really be the only appropriate word, because the arrangement was some weird smooth jazz thing. Randy said it sounded like Beyonce, Paula didn't say much but seemed to like it, and Simon hated the arrangement. You'd think the judge who picked the song would get to have some say in the arrangement, too, but maybe not.

Second song — "She Works Hard for the Money," producers' choice. Her voice sounded better on this one, though she looked a little less comfortable and more tentative than I'm used to seeing her. Randy said Jordin was hot no matter what she sings; Simon said she seemed a little old-fashioned. I actually agreed more with Randy than with Simon on that one.

Third song — "I Who Have Nothing," Jordin's choice. For some reason the dress she wore for this song reminded me of one of my old dance recital costumes, and that plus the song itself gave me a very musical theater-ish vibe. The big issue — as Simon summed up well in his comments — was that Jordin is so emotional when she sings, and she really tries to connect, but she's just not believable singing such a powerful song at 17. I wish she'd done "A Broken Wing" instead.

Blake Lewis:
First song — "Roxanne," Paula's choice. Did anyone else think the backup singers sounded way off key during this performance? Blake sounded better than they did, that's for sure. His voice really doesn't have a lot of texture to it, but I thought it was a perfectly pleasant performance, though I could have done with less microphone-stand dancing. Randy and Paula liked it; Simon was lukewarm.

Second song — "This Love," producers' choice. Ugh, I hate this song, but I admit it was the perfect choice for him. Even his beatboxing was perfectly appropriate. He's not a great singer, but he is a great entertainer (remind you of anyone, Taylor Hicks?), and this performance played to his strengths. Randy told him to make sure he does songs like that when he decides to make an album, and I totally agree.

Third song — "When I Get You Alone," his choice. I'm going to say that if Blake stays in the competition tonight, this will be the performance that saves him. The Robin Thicke song had a great energy for him, and he delivered a good vocal performance with — again! — appropriate beatboxing. Absolutely my favorite performance of his in the whole competition. Also, I applaud him for incorporating plaid into each of his three outfits over the course of the night. The judges liked it — even Simon, grudgingly.

Melinda Doolittle:
First song — "I Believe in You and Me," Randy's choice. I guess you're allowed to sing Whitney Houston if the judges make you. But they shouldn't make you, because damn, this is the first time she's sounded bad in this competition (at least to my ears, my boyfriend's ears and the ears of everyone in the Sugar chat room last night). The judges, on the other hand, heard a completely different thing, because they thought it was Melinda's best performance in a long time and awarded round one to her.

Second song — "Nut Bush City Limits," producers' choice. I didn't know this Ike and Tina Turner song at all, but Melinda totally rocked it, dancing like she hadn't since Bon Jovi night and working a serious Tina Turner groove. She really can be a great performer when she turns it on. The judges called it brilliant; Randy again awarded the round to Melinda, though Simon and Paula said it was a tie.

Third song — "I Am Woman," Melinda's choice. I was really excited when I heard she'd be reprising this; it was one of my favorite performances of hers earlier this season. I don't remember the details of that first performance, so it's hard to compare, but I loved how comfortable she seemed on stage, flinging her jacket around and busting some moves with the backup singers. I know I've said throughout this season that she seemed too old, or too awkward, or too shy to be the "Idol" champ, but she's so consistently good that I think she deserves a spot in the finals, at least.

Who should go home: This is so hard. I actually liked Jordin least on Tuesday, but overall I think she has the most star potential. I think Blake has the biggest fan base, and while he's disappointed me recently, he really redeemed himself on Tuesday. That leaves Melinda. If you'd asked me before Tuesday's show, I would have said she was the one to go; now, though, I really think she deserves to stay. So Jordin should go based on this week alone, but Blake should go based on overall talent.

Who will go home: I still have a feeling Melinda's going. I'd love to see her for another week, but actually, it would probably be OK for her to go now; I don't think she needs the "Idol" title to have a great career.

Photos courtesy of Fox

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