Okay, now it gets good. I thought Ryan's vest look was pretty natty. But how odd was it that Ryan dived right back into gay comments, making two "not gay" jokes in the first 15 minutes. Then later Simon chided Ryan, saying, "You do the links, sweetheart" and Ryan said, "We don't have that kind of relationship." Simon did indeed look a little miffed or hurt (oddly) by Chris Sligh's jab. But how ridiculous was it for Ryan to make a big to-do and ask Simon, "Why are you being so negative tonight?" Uh, because it's his JOB to be negative, ie blunt. And how was Simon's behavior even remotely different from any other show. At the end, rather childishly, Ryan pointedly thanked Randy and Paula but NOT Simon. As we all know, the three guys go out drinking together or have dinner and Ryan and Simon get along quite well, so I couldn't figure out the reason for all this manufactured drama. There's plenty on stage.
One final thought: wouldn't it be nice if they flashed the name of the song and the artist most famous for it on screen at the beginning of each performance. Or at least at the end or something. It's annoying having to spend the first minute figuring that out and of course you don't always KNOW the song they're singing. I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't. And now the singers.
RUDY CARDONEZ -- The Venezuelan singing "Free Ride." He was yelping a bit and his dance moves were pretty gay, but his presentation was very polished. I think as the seasons progresss, many of the acts look much more comfortable on stage and worj the camera the way Justin Guarini did in the first season. Okay.
BRANDON ROGERS -- He's the background singer. Had an open shirt with chains; very Barry White. The slow intro to Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" was nice. It might have been bolder to stick with that. But his Jackson-like whoops sounded good and he was wholesomely sexy and personable. The first of many singers to have his short artfully half tucked-in and half un-tucked, for that casual, hey baby how ya doing look.
SUNDANCE HEAD -- How many second chances can we give this guy? He did a horrible version of "Nights In White Satin" that was cheesey and awful and very embarrassing. Off pitch, flat. By now, we've all forgotten his audition. He never should have made it to the final 24 (the guy he faced off with at the end was better) and this proves it. That guy must be dying right now.
PAUL KIM -- Sang George Michael's "Careless Whisper" after swaggering on stage sans shoes. Flat and draggy, even for a ballad. I think he started in the wrong key -- it was way too low for him. He finally showed life on the bridge but then blew his momentum when he tried for a falsetto and lost his voice. Very, very weak but I assume being the sole Asian will keep him in for a week or two and give him a chance to improve.
CHRIS RICHARDSON -- needs to move beyond the Justin Timberlake look, but fast. Sang a Gavin DeGraw song and his vocals were very weak but he had fun onstage and was very personable.
NICK PEDRO -- stand up straight, Nick! He sang "Now and Forever" in a slow manner that was half lovely, half-dull. His voice was hoarse and he seemed off-key and nervous (again) but his falsetto was good and he looked nice and tearing up during his video intro should get him through if nothing else.
BLAKE LEWIS -- most improved makeover, thanks to the sweater vest and coloring his hair all one shade. Now if only he'd tamp it down. Sitting on the stool while he sang that Keane song was also good, giving him a nice Andy Williams vibe. he looked great and looked like he belonged onstage. I also liked his vidoe intro where he said his expereince was "Amazing...exclamation point!"
SANJAYA -- Sang a Stevie Wonder song and painted a bullseye on his back since the song's lyric was "I don't want to bore you with this" which of course Simon jumped all over. He's young and his song should be a little more fun and carefree than this mellow tune, but I thought his vocals were smooth and he looked pretty confident, other than that rough last note. Rivalled Rudy for "gayest Idol" award when Simon sniped "They'll like your hair" and Sanjaya snapped back that they'd like Simon's, too. But he's the youngest, the first from his ethnic group to hit the top 24 and Simon picked on him so he's safe for a few rounds.
CHRIS SLIGH -- I'd never heard of Mute Math's "Typical" but Sligh had a lot of fun with it. I thought his voice was a little pinched or strained but it certainly was a good PERFORMANCE. Chris's wit has been a plus but there's a big difference between being funny and being a smartass. And Chris's slap on Simon about Il Divo and the Teletubbies was being a smart-ass. Obviously, Chris had to research the joke sinc emost people wouldn't know Simon was involved with an album spinoff from the Teletubbies. (He also did a pro wrestling tie-in; the man just likes to sell CDs -- he leaves quality for the losers to worry about.) So the Teletubbies jibe was also weak since it would go over most people's heads (as would the Il Divo slap.) And Simon's retort that Chris looked like a Teletubby was wicked and good and well-deserved. I think Chris wisely immediately pulled back and said "Mr. Cowell" in his next comment and will hopefully learn having fun and being funny will take him far while wisecracks and mean jibes will fail. But Simon DID in fact look a little hurt or peeved or something, perhaps because he'd been a supporter of Chris? I don't know why. A man who would slag Bob Dylan is clearly not interested in what critics think.
JARED COTTER -- He sang Brian McKnight's "Back At One" smoothly and looked good. But he could fall into the Justin Guarini trap of playing up his sexiness rather than just letting it come through. We don't want to think you know you're sexy, Jared.
AJ TABALDO -- Another of the many semi-tucked in shirt guys, AJ sang Luther Vandross's "Never Too Much" and the way he danced and boogied and raised his hands in the air, you'd swear he was working it at a gay disco rather than performing on Idol. His vocals weren't very good but he was another one who had a lot of fun onstage. Lose the turned-up collar and the go-go boy dance moves, though AJ.
PHIL STACEY -- Am I the only one who finds him uncomfortably odd looking? He sang Edwin McCain's "I Could Not Ask For Me" and I don't care if he showed some spark in the middle. The first third of the song was ridiculously, horrifically, train-wreckable awful, with Phil mumbling and groaning and barely discernible. Randy said he was the best of the night? Only if you ignore half the song that he sang. The bit of liveliness and far better vocals halfway through should get him to another round, but still...dreadful.
MY PREDICTION -- Sundance and Paul Kim go home.