Another one hour show streeeeetched out to 90 minutes. As watchboy aka Aaron pointed out, they've added a whole layer of redundancy, with the judges giving their opinions and then Ryan stepping onstage to ask the judges' opinions about their opinions. The men were less embarrassing last night, but the women are still in a different league so far.
GINA GLOCKSEN -- dedicated the song to her boyfriend. Looked good in a red dress while singing Heart's "Alone." Boring beginning, but when she got to rock out, she did better. A bit piercing at times, but energetic. Definitely needs to emphasize the Pat Benatar inside of her.
ALAINA ALEXANDER -- dedicated the song to her mom, who was in the audience and crying when Alaina began singing. She sang the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice," which made me wonder if she'd hurt herself with the heartland by singing that. She was completely overwhelmed during the chorus; I couldn't even make out her voice and her pitch was way off. Simon said she ran out of steam. I don't think she had any steam to begin with. Forgettable if not completely disastrous.
LAKISHA JONES -- dedicated the song to her grandma. She wasn't terribly fashionably -- I hate jeans skirts -- but at least she looked young and pop-ish, which I didn't expect from her. Sang Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia." For me personally, it was a revelation. I'd had her pegged as a belter and wondered if she'd be good at anything that wasn't full throttle or dramatic. LaKisha addressed all my concerns with a subtle, serious, restrained vocal. I found her grunts and groans briefly in the middle unconvincing (it ain't easy to scat, as we learned later), but this was excellent. It's silly to say about someone who was praised to high heavens before, but for me she was the most improved and I now think she's a genuine threat to win. Paula said simply, "I loved it. And I love you." That may be the defining Paula comment.
MELINDA DOOLITTLE -- Just when I was impressed by LaKisha, my personal favorite Melinda came out and was just sensational again. She sang "My Funny Valentine" in a wonderful, jazzy, maybe Anita Baker-ish manner. She was LEAGUES better than anyone else and looked good with room for improvement there. While she was performing, we got a shot of AJ in the guys' section, with his hands in the air, again looking like he's working it at a gay disco. All he's missing is the whistle. (Someone please tell him to stop raising both hands in the air like that, if possible.) Then, when she was with the judges, Melinda (who I'm sure is genuinely sweet and not simply the best actress since Meryl Streep), looked tentatively interested in what the judges would say and surprised and flattered in an "oh gosh, really?" sort of manner by their overwhelming praise. Two criticisms: her banter with Ryan came across as a little forced, when he said she didn't look nervous while performing. Nothing dreadful, just a little more calculated than before. And her dedication! She dedicated it to her two Gayles (ie. her BFFs) but they turned out to be her vocal coach and her stylist. Who's she gonna dedicate her next performance to? Her mananger? Her agent? Letting us know she had a team with her just reminded us that Melinda is a pro who's been working as a paid singer for years and that was not a good thing to bring up. Perhaps these two women are her friends who happen to work in the industry as vocal coaches and stylists and so they're just helping their pal out? In any case, the result was to make her look like Team Doolittle and that is NOT the right note to strike.
ANTONELLA BARBA -- Dedicated to her brother Vincenzo, whom Antonella started to tear up about when saying how much he meant. Shockingly, she wasn't held till the end where we would wonder if she was gonna perform. Ryan didn't mention the photos and she looked good, though Randy's comment that she was super-smoking hot seemed too much to me. She sang Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" and she might as well have sung "Nessun Dorma" for how far out of her league she was. She was weak at the beginning and her singing on the "big" passages was no different from her singing on the other passages. Was she keeping the mike too far away from her mouth? Awful, proving again she didn't belong here in the first place. (Besides, some people are waiting to hit on her when she returns to being a bartender/waitress.) My favorite moment was when Simon or Randy was criticizing her singing and she rolled her eyes as if they were out of their mind. But clearly, showing a little attitude was all she had left, since her singing won't cut it. She threw out a "Simon was wrong about Jennifer Hudson" snap. As if. Simon pounced and pointed out that "we" put Jennifer in the competition and America voted her off. Indeed, though he had said he didn't think Jennifer would win, Simon and all the judges were surprised when she didn't make it to the next round. But Randy and Paula laughed at the "we" since it was Randy who brought her back when she'd been cut. But point taken: America had Jennifer's fate in their hands so whatever the judges said, it was their decision and their choice. Besides, the decision was not a farce: Fantasia has proven a real talent and may yet have a long-term career. But Antonella? No.
JORDIN SPARKS -- She dedicated it to her brother PJ and broke down crying. This is when I finally and truly decided I hated Dedication Week; it's just annoying. She sang Christina Aguilera's "Reflections" in a spotty performance that wavered al over the place from a very rough beginning where she was weak on the low notes to dong good on the belting. Sure she's 17, but the judges were still VERY nice to her. It deserved at most an "a'ight" from Randy. By the way, we got a glimpse of her mixed marriage parents -- something that would have been shocking to see on TV even in the 70s (or at least the pointed centerpiece of a bold sitcom like "Maude") wasn't even worth a blink of the eye. That's progress.
STEPHANIE EDWARDS -- dedicated to her parents. She sang Beyonce's "Dangerously In Love," a not-terribly-good tune to my mind and super-tricky to perform. She was fun but not great, missing the big note in the middle but belting it pretty convincingly on the finale. She looked great but the judges are right: her own personality was sorely lacking. Her comment beforehand to Ryan that "we don't care" who wins was just silly. How about "we all want to win, but we're having fun and making friends too" or "I want to win by doing the best, not by having other people stumble so of course I'm rooting for them to do well; the better they do the more I'm inspired" or "I want to win so much it hurts me and nobody better get in my way."
LESLIE HUNT -- dedicated to her late Grandpa Bob. This is the first time I remember hearing her speak more than a line or two and her voice is kind of odd. She sang the Nina Simone version of "Feeling Good" rather than the Michael Buble version tackled on guy's night. She was rough on the low notes and the scatting wasn't terribly convincing. Okay, though.
HALEY SCARNATO -- dedicated to her fiance, who must be a dick. He doesn't like her being away? What's he gonna do if she wins? She sang Whitney Houston's 'Queen Of The Night,' one of the OTHER songs on "The Bodyguard" soundtrack. I thought she was sort of fun and it was definitely an improvement from last week and upbeat was the right choice too. But she may just get through the next round simply because she started crying on camera after the judge's criticism. Make the most of it next week, Haley.
SABRINA SLOAN -- dedicated to her grandmother, who does indeed have some serious hats. She sang Whitney Houston's "All The Man That I Need" and had a slow beginning until she hit a stretch where she could throw in all the "Idol" acrobatics in her vocals that people love, whether the song needs it or not. And her final note was a disaster, with Sabrina losing her breath, breaking off the note to gasp for air and then restarting the note and ending it in a flat tone, something none of the judges pointed out. The producers did her no favors by highlighting that final awful note in the recap.
GOODBYE -- Antonella, if there's any justice, and maybe Alaina or Lesley Hunt.