Somehow, not a terribly exciting show last night for "Idol." Gwen Stefani seemed kind of sweet but she had one and only one piece of advice for the kids: shut up and sing the melody; none of those damn "runs" and trills, please. Good advice, but a bit one-note. (Pun intended.)
LAKISHA -- Donna Summer's "Last Dance." She looked good and had on some serious boots. The song was a breeze for her and she was a pro. Very fun. Clearly first to get the show off to a good start. And LaKisha is popular enough that the producers aren't worried about having her perform early. (Remember, performing early is always a danger because the audience builds every half hour for "Idol.")
CHRIS SLIGH -- The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." He looked fine but Sligh has always been my favorite male until Blake started building steam. Now tonight Sligh has hit a wall. He had a very shaky start (did he begin the song in too high a key?). He was okay on the bridge but the bridge is where all the easy emoting comes in. He seemed absolutely lost and I suddenly wondered why he was still in it. One big difference popped into my head between the front-runners and the people just hoping to stay alive. LaKisha was performing. Chris Sligh was competing. He's in a very dangerous position.
GINA -- The Pretenders' "Stand By You." She looked fun and the boots with those crosses were crazy, helped enormously by fishnet stockings. She was a bit screechy on the high notes and the music overwhelmed her on certain passages, but overall this was a revelation for me. Who knew she could sing? I knew she could sort of rock and had a smart, fun personality, but she actually sang this song with conviction. It was her best performance by far, something I wrote down before Simon said the same thing. Her relief in front of the judges makes her vulnerable in an appealing way, which also helps.
SANJAYA -- No Doubt's "Bathwater." Gwen was as damning as she could be while still staying polite. "It's going to be very difficult for him." Uh, that was before you saw his crazy mohawk. Sanjaya, after a week or two of looking lost and scared and embarrassed that he was getting by when better singers were cut, has relaxed and decided to have fun. He is an entertainer and the air just proves that. The judges didn't even bother mentioning when he forgot the lyrics for a moment and just mumbled. And I'm sure it's my imagination but Sanjaya seemed to stumble and pause a tad every time he had to switch the gender in the song from "You're my kind of man" to "You're my kind of...girl." Perhaps he was used to singing along with the original lyrics? And again, he had a pretty good ending vocally, which is always the first thing on voters' minds and the hair was enjoyably silly. Damned if it wasn't entertaining. I wanna see what he's gonna do next week and so do a lot of other people. Simon was right again when he said, "You are in your own universe. And if people like you, good luck." Why bother critiquing him, indeed?
HALEY -- Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Her dress was good and she showed a lot of leg, but the hair and makeup and necklaces were too adult, too busy. She looked like a kid trying to look like a grownup. Just like the song actually. It was dull and had a very bad ending. When Simon nailed her ("Sweet but forgettable") the audience gave almost no reaction, which is always a bad sign. Definitely this week's Stephanie.
PHIL -- The Police's "Every Breath You Take." He looked pretty good, with the cap always a smart idea. Just like Chris Sligh, they added a lot of echo to his voice to sing this Police song. Faint and colorless were the words I wrote down while he was singing. Yes, he picked up a little steam and was a lot more forceful on the bridge ("Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace/I dream at night, I can only see your face") but that's where all the easy energy of the song is. Heck, I emoted the hell out of the song on the bridge when I sang it at karaoke during the Christmas holidays with the family. (And yes, I won.) The background vocalists helped fill in the upper falsetto on "Baby, baby PLEASE" which helped a lot on his ending. Somehow, not even dull enough to be memorably dull like Haley and Sligh. And did Ryan Seacrest really say, "That's the way we roll."? Yes, he did.
MELINDA -- Donna Summer's "Heaven Knows." Thank God it wasn't a show tune! I liked the pattern on Melinda's dress but the combo of the dress and the black tights wasn't appealing. But it was a fun look when the camera was close in (loved the tassle; very Seventies). For a change, she was fun and young and passionate. The curl on her hair was good too. Sailing through.
BLAKE -- The Cure's "Love Song." He looked much cuter in the video clip. On stage, he was wearing some awful 80s looking top with zippers and contrasting patterns that was awfully dated. He even seemed a little...fey, which is fine with me but still not the most aggressive. I philosophically like the fact that he sang the Cure but it was a very reserved song that kept him in check. He made almost no impression vocally and was generally very tentative. Simon said he was the strongest of the guys, but tonight that seemed like faint praise.
JORDIN -- No Doubt's "Hey Baby." Her school girl outfit was cute but made her look a little chunky, I thought. The big earrings were cool. Early in the song, she was getting lost on the low notes, but she picked up steam. After last week's sensational performance (I'm still annoyed none of the judges said they watched the playback and underestimated how great she was), I really wanted Jordin to capitalize. She held steady here and certainly didn't go backwards, but she didn't gain any ground. But fun.
CHRIS RICHARDSON -- No Doubt's "Don't Speak." He had on a goofy jacket and tie combo that looked okay in a dorky/cute way. And in a night where for the first time I felt the men lived down to their reputation as being out-classed by the women, Richardson stayed true to form as the rest of the guys. He was pretty good, but not special and like all of them seemed a bit lost. He was definitely competing, not performing. (Like Randy Johnson, I'm gonna have one idea and keep repeating it.) I'll say this about Chris: he looks EXACTLY like what you would have thought the winners of "American Idol" would look like: a male boy band pinup (or sex bomb a la Britney Spears if you're thinking of girls). And that's exactly the sort of winner the show has NOT produced in its first five seasons. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Taylor Hicks, Fantasia -- really, only Carrie Underwood has fit the idea of a star in the making that a record label would pick out of a lineup. America has focused much more on singing and personality instead of sex appeal. That's why Richardson was in the bottom two before and will be again sometime soon.
WHO'S OUT -- Sanjaya is always the wild card. No one would ever be surprised if he were in the bottom two and no one would ever be surprised if he were sent home. But I think he's safe for another week. My initial picks for the bottom two are Chris Sligh and Haley, with Sligh going home. But Phil and Chris Richardson and even Blake are vulnerable too. Sligh just seems more vulnerable because he sang early in the show when viewership is lower by millions and was so...nothing. Bummer, because I've liked him all along and thought last week's "Time Of the Season" was one of his best yet.