Tonight, the kids sing songs that inspired Gwen Stefani….
Can we bring British Invasion week back for an Encore? I heard that Gwen Stefani arrived with a very short list of songs for the kids to sing, and some of them had to switch songs mid-stream. Tonight, the performers who sing well are boring. The singers who aren’t boring, have problems performing. Tonight’s best performances are from Blake, Gina and Phil.
Gwen Stefani is this week’s Idol “mentor.” During her video clip, I’m struck by how normal and down to earth she is in contrast to her stage persona. She’s like the California girl next door. We don’t really see Gwen coaching the kids, so much as commenting on their performances. I love Gwen–she constantly stresses to the kids not to over-sing and to pay attention to the melody. Indeed, less is more. She’s very honest in her assessment of the kids, which is refreshing. Paula looks very mod tonight. Love the hair.
Lakisha Jones – “Last Dance” by Donna Summer – Lakisha has a much better look this week. Nice hair, pretty, youthful dress. She’s got a great voice. Her interpretation doesn’t add anything new to the song, and as always, Lakisha stays safely in her box. Her voice is like warm honey, and she can sound huge without sweating it–she rarely pushes her vocals as some lesser singers do. It is very effortless for her. However, as good as she is, her performances are a bit disengaged–she’s not connecting to the audience in a way that makes you want to root for her.
Chris Sligh – “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police – I love this song, but it’s got some crazy syncopated beats going on, and it’s very wordy. Chris has a tough time keeping up with the beat–particularly during the bridge. The echo effect on his mic is really distracting. Chris looks like he’s working hard as he concentrates to keep the beat and work the stage at the same time. He never relaxes into his performance. However, despite his voice cracking a bit at the end, his vocal performance is very good as always. He’s the best male vocalist of this crew, hands down. Randy mentions Chris’s rhythm problems and asks Chris what HE thinks. Chris is honest, explaining that he “picked the song a day late, ” but owns up to having some problems. He adds that the song was like a master class in rhythm. Simon says he thought it was a mess and mercifully the music cuts him off before he can say more. I hope his fan base power-voted for him last night, because this competition NEEDS him. Hang in there, Chris. Come back next week and sing your butt off.
Gina Glocksen – “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders – Gina cries when she meets Gwen, she’s one of Gina’s favorites. She tackles the great, great Chrissie Hynde, and does a very nice job, redeeming herself from last week’s “Paint it Black” disaster. She strips away the lame rock posing, that was never an authentic fit on her anyway, and delivers a simple and emotive performance. Randy and Paula thought it was one of her best performances ever. Simon begins to speak…”it wasn’t one of your best performances…” Gina looks petrified. He finishes, “It was your BEST performance.” A look of total relief and joy washes over Gina’s face. Simon adds, “This is more about knowing who you are, choosing the right song.” He’s got that right. And then he says, “It’s the best performance so far tonight.” Ryan congratulates her on getting a standing O from the audience.
Sanjaya Malakar – “Bathwater” by No Doubt – Gwen seems to have very little faith that Sanjaya can handle her song, “I feel for him. I think it’s going to be really difficult…it’s a hard song and he chose it, so good luck to him.” Her words portend the trainwreck that’s coming. There really isn’t much more to say. After last week’s balls-to-the-walls performance, Sanjaya is back to performing without energy or presence. His hair is done up in a curly pony-hawk that’s way more interesting to watch than his performance. Sanjaya shakes his ‘hawk as he sloppily slides around the notes of the song, forgetting the words here and there. But who cares. He could have farted the song, and at this point it just does not matter. Sanjaya has PEOPLE, and they’ll keep him out of the bottom 3. Simon concedes defeat, “I don’t think it matters any more what we say actually…you are in your own universe, and if people like you…good luck.”
Haley Scarnato – “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper – Haley delivers a pretty, but uninspired version of this Cyndi Lauper classic. Haley’s version is more advertising jingle (which this song was, for Kodak) than Cyndi Lauper. Her voice is sweet, but doesn’t project. She’s a pretty girl with a pretty voice and a pretty personality–but she lacks the emotional edge needed to pull the listener into her song. She’s boring. Haley tells Simon she thinks she did well. He says she’s forgettable. I agree.
Phil Stacey – …Every Breath You Take by the Police – Phil answers a viewer question. What is it like going from an unknown to a household name in a few weeks? Phil says that he’s so busy, he doesn’t even notice. Gwen is impressed with Phil. He picked the perfect song for his vocals. He still sounds underwhelming in his lower register, but he stays on key and pulls off the big notes, which is always his saving grace. Great hat, and the make up folks have done a good job coloring up his pale skin. The judges like his performance, Simon, in particular, is impressed. He says it was “very good.”
Melinda Doolittle – “Heaven Knows” by Donna Summer – Gwen says “She blew me away watching her sing.” Melinda delivers another perfectly phrased and perfectly executed vocal. Now, I’m waiting for her to step out of her box and wow us with something other than the same old same old. I hope that happens soon. The leggings and the hair style are adorable–the crazy blue top, not so much. She gets the typical kudos from the judges. Melinda is getting better at taking in the compliments with a simple thank-you, rather than looking wide-eyed (well, except when Gwen is complimenting her, then she’s back to the whole “who ME?” deal again).
Blake Lewis – …Love Song by the Cure and 311 – “Love Song” has very little melody to speak of–bringing the song to life in a truncated form on the Idol stage without boring the audience is a challenge. Blake puts the beatboxing aside tonight. He mostly pulls off the performance with a good vocal that’s a little pitchy, but sweet. Blake works the stage and camera really well. His presentation and stage presence keeps the performance from being dull. The judges like it. Paula says he’s the dark horse, and she’d love to see him in the finale. Simon says he’s the best male in the competition and the front running guy. Hmmm. Is Blake being set up as the male Chosen One?
Jordin Sparks – …Hey Baby by No Doubt – Jordin picked the song because she loves the beat. Although she has some major off key moments–the middle is a mess–she recovers and hits her stride by the end of the song. I have to give Jordin points for trying something tough. She really puts herself out on the high wire in a way that Melinda and LaKisha seem unwilling to do. For that reason, I think that Jordin could very well be the last girl standing. The result isn’t perfect, but that’s ok. I’m always wondering what Jordin is going to do next, and that’s a good thing. Simon says Jordin is probably the most improved contestant he’s seen this season.
Chris Richardson – …Dont Speak by No Doubt – Gwen calls Chris out on his “vocal Olympics.” Like last week, Chris cools the runs and the crazy hip-hop hands, but he has a lot of trouble with pitchiness this week. This song is very dramatic, and his boyband-lite dramatisation doesn’t do the song justice at all. Randy and Paula inexplicably tell him they like it. And Randy tells him, “You can do the runs, baby, so don’t be afraid.” Well, actually he can’t, so don’t encourage him, Randy, OK? Simon, seems to have taken the cotton out of his ears. He isn’t impressed with Chris’s vocals. It’s such a shame that his song last week, which was clearly his best vocal performance of the competition, didn’t seem to catch on with the viewing audience. Now, he’s back singing with the goaty runs and the helium voice. That’s unfortunate.