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"American Idol": The Top Ocho Salsa (Sorta)

"American Idol": The Top Ocho Salsa (Sorta)

Can we all agree that Latin Night was a terrible idea for an "American Idol" theme? While I enjoyed seeing J. Lo as the guest coach, the rhythms of Latin music aren't terribly easy to pick up on short notice. The result: performances that sounded like good cabaret singing at best — and terrible karaoke at worst.

I think we've reached the worst part of every "Idol" competition: The good but unpopular contestants were voted off before their time, the bad contestants have developed fan bases (whether legitimate or ironic) that keep them around, and the front-runners are perpetually safe, so we have to suffer while the mediocre middle gets voted off one by one. A memo to the top eight, or at least the seven who will still be around after tonight: It's time to really go for it. Attack your songs, perform, set yourself apart. The worst that can happen is that you're over-the-top bad, and that seems to be working out fine this year.

Be sure to vote on you think is going home, and to hear what I thought about the performances,

Melinda Doolittle (at right): She said her biggest fear this week was not being able to seem sexy, but her hot black dress took care of that (though I wasn't loving the granny 'do). I agree with Simon, though, that she sounded like a cabaret singer — albeit a great one — and "Sway" was yet another classic song that won't doing anything to help her slightly-too-old-for-"Idol" image.

LaKisha Jones: I started worrying when J.Lo had to teach LaKisha how to pronounce "conga." She didn't look comfortable on stage and sounded a half-beat behind the band most of the time. Even Paula, who dances in her chair through almost every song, could only sort of jiggle. Randy thought it was great, but Simon and Paula thought LaKisha was too reserved.

Chris Richardson: I have a feeling his performance of "Smooth" will be one of the night's most divisive. I thought all his weird vocal runs were even more annoying than usual (every syllable does not need to have two or more notes in it, OK?) and instead of being sexy, he just kind of bobbed up and down. The judges, meanwhile, thought it was hot, smooth, and contemporary. I agree he sounded more modern than the other two, but that doesn't mean much.

Haley Scarnato (at left): Do you think she's made some kind of deal that for every week she remains on the show, she'll knock another inch off her hemline? Also, who gave all the girls the memo that Latin night = red-red lipstick? Anyway, the good news is that her "Turn the Beat Around" didn't make me as uncomfortable as her "Queen of the Night" performance a few weeks ago, but she kept losing the rhythm and making campy, musical theater-style faces.

Phil Stacey: Let's get one thing straight: Phil is not sexy. In fact, he's looking a little Buster Bluth-ish these days, and picturing Buster singing "Maria Maria" just killed any appeal it might have had for me. His voice cracked at least twice, and the whole performance was pretty lackluster. But Phil gets points for talking about his daughter's new stuffed animal: Simon Cow. Hee.

Jordin Sparks: I had a brief Gloria Estefan fangirl phase in my youth, so I was excited to hear Jordin try "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You." Her voice sounded great, but the tempo seemed sluggish, and she wasn't as loose on stage as she typically is. Maybe it was those super-high-waisted pants. Regardless, Randy said she had "the yo factor on blast."

Blake Lewis (at right): With that hat, he looked a little like Nate Fischer Sr. from "Six Feet Under." Which is to say: not a good look. Still, he got closer to hitting the rhythms of his song (Marc Anthony's "Need to Know") than anyone else all night. And he's Blake, so I'll forgive him the hat. (This time, Blake. Only this time.)

Sanjaya Malakar: My boyfriend said, bluntly, "He looks disgusting with facial hair." Truer words were never spoken. Still, props to him for being the only one of the night to attempt to sing in Spanish (which he's probably studying in, you know, high school). He sounded sort of sweet singing "Besame Mucho," and much as it pains me to say so, it was his best night so far. His attempt at bedroom eyes was just sad, though.

Who should be in the bottom three: Haley, Phil, and Chris

Who will be in the bottom three: Haley, Phil, and LaKisha. I know, I know, but this wasn't her best night, and I worry that her fans are getting complacent.

Who's going home: Phil. Maybe if I just say it over and over again, it will come true.

Photos courtesy of Fox

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