Can I just whine for a bit? I know the charity special last week raised a lot of money for people who need it. And that perhaps it would have been some bad karma to kick an Idol to the curb at the end of last week’s Kumbaya-fest. But DAMN. I missed my boot. My week is not complete until I witness someone’s dream being crushed. And no flipping Top 5? At all? BLEAH. Ya know, if it were Top 5, the remaining contestants would be singing two songs each this week. I’m just sayin’
Jon Bon Jovi is this week’s Idol mentor, with a little help from Bon Jovi keyboardist, David Bryan. I’ll say up front–not a big Bon Jovi fan. Back in the day, my tastes ran more to The Replacements, Husker Du, Elvis Costello, The Smiths–I turned my nose up at hair bands. I was too cool. And look at me now. Running an American Idol blog. Just the epitome of coolness. *cough*
So, we’ve established that I’m not a big fan of the musical stylings of Bon Jovi. In fact, the clips of the band back in the day, with the hair and the choreography and the cheesy pyrotechnics had me rolling my eyes. But that Jon Bon Jovi? Easy on the eyes. Why, yes he is. He’s holding up just fine, too. He’s way better looking without all the hair. He’s also a very enthusiastic and helpful mentor, and a very cool down-to-earth guy.
What’s more, this week’s performances were some of the best of the season.
Phil Stacey – …Blaze of Glory – Ooooh, Phil is definitely stepping it up. Now, this is a competition people. Maybe TPTB put him first hoping voters would forget about him, but I don’t know if that’s going to work. Simon can tell the press all he wants that Phil is in trouble–like he told Ellen DeGeneres this week–but I don’t think so. Not after tonight’s performance. Phil has found his groove, and he’s offering up some serious competition here. His song choice is from the movie Young Guns. (Classic brat pack–starring a young Kiefer Sutherland. Ha ha.) Jon says Phil, “just knocked this one out of the ballpark.” Phil says he’s practiced this song for 15 years, and indeed it fits his style like a glove. The song is like one long glory note. It’s perfect for Phil, who shines when he’s belting. Jon says, “A big voice, for a big song.” Vocally, Phil is not my cup of tea–I find him generic. But, there’s no denying he’s finally found his groove. After reminding the audience that he played bass on the tune, Randy is his usual hyperbolic self. “That was the bomb, ” declares Randy, and, “That was your best performance ever!” Paula thinks it’s the best opening they’ve had all season long. Simon thinks it’s “just OK.” He says, “I didn’t hear any authenticity…in the middle you were like a bad actor playing a role.” Nice try Simon. He wants Phil gone, but I don’t think it’s going to work.
I’d just like to say, that I freaking hate rawk hands. Just. LAME. That is all. And, by the way, Gina Glocksen–in the house tonight.
Jordin Sparks – …Livin on a Prayer – OMG, did you guys know that Jordin is only 17? Har. That’s been the joke around the blog lately–that Jordin’s age is always brought into the conversation when it’s time to judge her. Tonight is no different. Jordin says her mom loves Bon Jovi, and that she grew up with them. So, that means she’s very familiar with their oeuvre? Why did she pick a song that was so difficult to sing? She doesn’t have the range for this at all. Jon tries to help her change up the melody so she can sing it. When that fails, he says, “Jordin’s only 17 years old! I couldn’t sing half that well when I was her age.” Enough of that. Jordin should not be awarded extra points for her youth. The song starts off rough, but then completely falls apart during the chorus, as she drops and misses some notes. By the end, she’s shrieking. Not good. Paula and Randy pull the age card, but for the most part, Simon will have none of it. He describes her singing as “out of control” and that it “verged on shrieking at times.” However, Simon adds, he thinks she was at a “massive disadvantage” because she had to sing guys’ songs. Well, so did Kiki and Mindy, and they did just fine, no? Purely based on her performance tonight, Jordin should be going home. But, last week’s volume voting means this week’s performances don’t really matter that much.
Lakisha Jones – …This Aint a Love Song – Lakisha gets to answer an audience question this week, and for once she seems relaxed. She even cracks a smile and tells a few jokes. Up until now, she’s been all business, to the point of appearing cold and aloof. Cold and aloof does not translate into votes. After a couple of weak performances, LaKisha comes roaring out of the gate this week. LaKisha says she’s “heard of Bon Jovi ’cause I’ve seen him on Oprah.” Heh. She’d never heard his music, but somehow this week, for once, she manages to pick the perfect song. While I thought LaKisha would become completely undone by this week’s theme, she actually takes that 80’s hair band song and infuses it with some real gospel and soul. The judges all agree that Lakisha is back. Simon says, “LaKisha, I actually could kiss you after that.” And with that, Ryan takes Lakisha by the hand and offers her to Simon. Weird. And they kiss, right on the lips. Really weird. LaKisha gets pimped this week. Unfortunately, it may not matter.
Blake Lewis – …You Give Love a Bad Name – Blake decides to take a risk this week. Jon says, “this is an adventurous arrangement, are you ready to roll the dice on it?” He also says, “He has to sell his interpretation of a song that a lot of people know, and don’t want messed with.” Ha. I can’t figure out if Jon is pleased or irked that Blake is messing with his precious tune. Me? The original song makes me want to pluck my eyeballs out when I hear it, so I’m all for messing with it. Blake’s got a new, darker hairstyle this week, and it suits him. This, without a doubt is my favorite performance of the night. The beatboxing is back, but it’s not just thrown into the song for effect. Blake weaves it seamlessly into the song. When he’s not beatboxing, particularly on the chorus, his voice is strong. The effect is exhilarating. The arrangement is cool. He dubs up the verse and goes back to the traditional melody for the chorus. Right in the middle of the tune, he goes into an extended bit of beatboxing, then back to the dub and then back to the traditional chorus. It works. Blake’s risk pays off. And, this is why Blake is my favorite contestant right now. He’s more than a singer, he’s a musician with imagination who isn’t afraid to go out on a limb. I like that. Go Team Plaid. While the judges blew a collective cow when contestants rearranged Diana Ross back in the Top 12, they positively love the fact that Blake changed up Bon Jovi. Go figure. More hyperbole from Randy, “The most original version of a song on American Idol ever!” Simon says, “There will be half the audience who absolutely hated it, and half the audience who love it.” Yep, that’s why it’s awesome.
Chris Richardson – …Wanted Dead or Alive – Ryan introduces Chris, “Say Hi to Justin Timberlake.” Chris is not amused. He answers a viewer question, “What do you tell yourself before you walk out on that stage with millions watching?” Chris says, “Just have fun, make like it’s the last…you know….” He pauses before he continues. The poor guy is like Dead Man Walking. He chooses “Wanted Dead or Alive” which is one of Chris Daughtry’s signature performances from last year. It was recorded for the Idol compilation album and is the CD’s most popular cut. In fact, my local radio station here in Boston had it on regular rotation last summer. Chris D. also performed it on the Idols Live tour. The comparisons are inevitable. In fact, in his video package Chris says, “I know Chris Daughtry did it last year, but you can’t go without doing ‘Dead or Alive’ on Bon Jovi Night…someone had to do it…” He loves the song so much, in fact, he forgets the words, not only in rehearsal with Jon, but later on when he performs it on stage. Having said that, it’s not a bad performance. But, in an evening where nearly everyone around him has raised their game, he does not stand out. Randy and Paula like it. But, Simon says, “I think you did as much as you possibly could with this style of song. If it’s good enough to stay another week, I’m not sure.” I don’t think it is.
Melinda Doolittle – …Have a Nice Day – Melinda tells Jon, “I’m so bad at rock, I’m just now learning.” And with that, she takes the stage and pretty much blows everyone away. Melinda, really, you must cut the self-effacing crap. Like, now. Jon tells Melinda he can teach her how to RAWK, but really, I have a feeling she’s known all along. When Melinda hits the stage, she puts on her best Tina Turner. Man I just KNEW the judges would compare her to Tina, and they do. But, it is an apt comparison. She rips and growls her way through the song, convincing anyone who hasn’t yet been convinced that she can sing anything. Randy doesn’t think it is her best performance, but he likes it. Paula asks her “How does it feel to be a rock star?” Simon says, “I thought it was like a young Tina Turner…vocally in a different league to everyone.”
The show closes with a video…of the President and First Lady thanking America for giving so generously to Idol Gives Back. President Bush even cracks a joke. Sigh. Note to Idol: Please keep politicians off my Tee Vee, Ok? If I wanted to see President Bush, I’d turn on Fox News. Idol is my escape from the Big and Serious issues of the world. For the sake of the chillrun, I’ll forgive you the telethon, but don’t go all “IMPORTANT” on us and forget your cheesy roots. In a world that can be cold and cruel, we need the cheese. Do not forsake the cheese, please.
Who should be going home tonight: Chris and Jordin.
Who will be going home tonight: Chris and LaKisha
Final two I’d like to see: Melinda and Blake