The show opens with a big fat ole’ congratulations to Season 3’s Jennifer Hudson. To those of you who live in a cave–she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards Sunday night. Good going Jennifer!
Now, we see if the boys set aside some time this week to locate their missing A game. I would say, for the most part, YES. Here we go.
Tonight’s contestant video packages have a theme. Each contestant dedicates their performance to friends or loved ones. The dedication package is a perfect vehicle for contestant self-pimping. Who will elicit the biggest “awww” reaction from the viewing audience? We shall see.
Phil Stacey – “Missing You” by John Waite – Phil dedicates his performance to his Navy buddies–Navy band Southeast–back at his command. His superiors fully support his run on American Idol. But do they support lame-ass 80’s covers? I’m not digging the song choice here. Phil delivers a consistent and competent performance, but his vocals are underwhelming and he relies too much on the big glory note to impress. I’m just not seeing much charisma here. Randy and Paula likey. Simon says, “I’m not jumping out of my chair…you have a completely unoriginal voice.” However, Phil is developing a fan base. I think he’s a good bet for the Top 12.
Ryan chats up the boys. What were people talking about after the show? Sundance tells America that he will try not to be so crappy this week. Good plan, dude.
Jared Cotter – “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye – Jared dedicates his performance to his parents. Jared tries REAL hard to appeal to the ladies. Maybe a little too hard. He does a nice job with this Marvin Gaye classic. Eep, he’s wearing white tennis shoes with a suit. He falls down on one knee. Then his last move–he runs his hand down his face–just looks dopey. Yeah, Jared is definitely trying too hard. Let your voice carry the day Jared, the rest is just distracting. Randy thought the “face move” was “hot”. Paula begins to say something that almost starts to make sense. Thankfully, Simon takes over for her. He says it’s “corny in parts.” That about sums it up.
AJ Tabaldo – “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone and Michael Buble – AJ also dedicates his performance to his parents. AJ picks an interesting song, and does a nice job, although he is pitchy in spots. But, he takes a risk, and it mostly pays off. My initial impression of AJ was that he lacked personality, but I was wrong. He’s a cute kid. And, as one of the unpimped, he has an uphill battle distinguishing himself from the pack. He’s doing a pretty good job, but I’m not sure it will be enough to carry him into the Top 12. AJ gets good marks from all the judges.
Sanjaya Malakar – “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” written by Irving Berlin – Sanjaya dedicates his song to his grandfather who died when he was 5. Sanjaya wears his wedding ring for support. So sweet. Yes, Sanjaya is so sweet and so nice, just like a puppy. But he’s way out of his league here. Tonight, he sings the Irving Berlin standard “Steppin Out With My Baby”. Like last week, his performance is tentative and lackluster. Midway through the song, he kinda loses his pitch and the tempo. I imagine he picked the song because it’s from his grandfather’s era. The sentiment is admirable, but it’s a terrible way to pick a song. For these contestants, the criteria needs to be how the song showcases their talents, period. The judges aren’t complimentary, especially Simon. Again, Sanjaya looks crushed. And again, I am going to plead with America–send this boy home, he’s in way over his head. However, the mom and ‘tween vote are sure to propel Sanjaya into the Top 12. Sigh.
Chris Sligh – “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne – Chris gives the audience hair tips. He dedicates his song to his wife, who kept him going even when he wanted to quit. Taylor Hicks introduced us to Ray LaMontagne’s great song “Trouble” last year, and his version really showcased his vocals. Chris performs the song with more pop and less soul than Taylor did, but it serves the same purpose–it highlights the fact that Chris can sang. I happen to love Chris’s raspy tenor. He’s got a great range and is really able to evoke the emotion in a song. He had one of the better performances last week, and I think his performance is even better this week. Chris is no longer the “front-runner”, that’s Lakisha Jones right now. But, I think it’s much better to start off a little behind, with room to grow. Props from all the judges tonight. Chris is a good bet for the Top 12.
Ryan says it’s time for Fox to make good with the Benjamins. What?
Nick Pedro – “Fever” most famously by Peggy Lee – Nick dedicates his song to his girlfriend. Awww, look at them standing in a pumpkin patch. Nick fares better this week with an old standard. He’s got an interesting voice, but it lacks pizzazz. Nick needs a knock-out performance to stand out from the pack. So far, no go. Unfortunately, that spells trouble for his ability to continue in this competition. He gets good marks from the judges. Simon likes his vocals, but says he lacks charisma. I think he’s on to something.
Blake Lewis – “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai – Blake dedicates his performance to his parents. His mom is a singer and a guitarist. His dad seems cool. Blake, I beg of you–lose the hat. Or at least wear the brim over your forehead. That look…it’s just so…precious. And so is your beatboxing. Blake proved last week that he has one of the best voices in this competition. His singing is superior this week too, but the beatboxing comes off like a party trick–it’s gimmicky. I say keep it simple, ya know? Randy and Paula like it a lot, but Simon is disappointed. Simon actually likes the beatboxing, though, but found the rest of the performance “copycat”. I don’t agree.
Brandon Rogers – “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper – Brandon dedicates his performance to his grandmother. Oh Brandon, Brandon. I know you wanted to make your grandma happy, but you picked the wrong song. Totally. Brandon has a ton of potential, but he’s squandering it. The song does nothing at all to showcase his vocals. Dude, you got a minute 30 to impress the audience. You gotta pick a song that shows what you got in a very short period of time. It doesn’t help that the arrangement of the song is choppy–there’s no opportunity for a payoff. Brandon insists that he felt the song. I’ll have to take his word for it. Always, always pick a song for no other reason than it will advance you in the competition. There’s just too much at stake. Brandon could be in danger this week, and that’s a shame. Simon keeps it real, “You got to get out there and show that you are a great singer.”
Chris Richardson – “Geek in the Pink” by Jason Mraz – Chris also dedicates his song to his grandma, his “big mama” back in Virginia. Chris says she’s “spunky.” Chris picks a song this week that masks his vocal limitations and highlights his strengths. It’s an unusual choice–I’ll give Chris props for picking a good song. But I’m still not feeling his vocals, or his goofy jazz hands. Chris says his grandma wanted a country song, but he compromised and did something upbeat. Thank you Chris for sparing us from that trainwreck. Take notes Brandon. The judges are all complimentary.
Sundance Head – “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett – Sundance dedicates his song to his son Levi, who was born in December. Since then, he’s been away from his family because of Idol. When he mentions that his wife says that Levi is beginning to smile, Sundance chokes up. He just won tonight’s “awww” contest. He’ll get a ton of votes just for that. Sundance performs a song that highlights what he does best–he is a blues belter. But he’s going to have to mix it up to show that he’s more than a one trick pony. However, I would say Sundance went a long way to redeem himself tonight. I think he’s in this for the long haul. The judges agree.
There’s time to kill: Jeff Foxworthy, host of “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” is in the audience to pimp his new show. Ewww.