Well, one thing is clear -- Sanjaya isn't going anywhere. In easly the most boring performance show yet, Sanjaya didn't just entertain. He also wisely chose a song that let him sing, something most of the acts failed to do.
JENNIFER LOPEZ -- I thought she might be in full diva alert for a moment. And surely Diana Ross was sorry she didn't arrange to have the kids sit on the ground at her feet like apostles while she held forth, the way J-Lo did. But one on one, J-Lo offered concrete useful tips to the kids. She was also a lot more politic about keeping to herself who her favorites were. And from her comments, I genuinely think she watches the show.
MELINDA -- Sang "Sway." A quiet number I know best from the Dean Martin version used in Wong Kar-Wai's "2046." It was a pretty good choice for Melinda, who said "I am so not sexy" in her intro. She's right. Melinda's forte is sweet, not sexy. Her performance was Vegas, but in a good way. Very smooth and almost swinging. She didn't quite let loose until the very end. And her outfit was pretty adult. Melinda's big problem is that voting for her feels like voting for your mom. She's definitely an adult and shouldn't pretend differently, but she doesn't have to seem dowdy. Simon was spot-on in saying it was a bit lounge, cabaret and Melinda had a funny response: "I think he really wanted to say something bad and he got the chance."
LAKISHA -- Sang "Conga." Why in heaven's name did the producers put Melinda and LaKisha one and two? What does it mean? Who were they trying to hurt or help?Her dress was a fun red and black number and I loved the video with J-Lo. J-Lo said LaKisha mainly wanted help with her dance moves. In other words, LaKisha came in and said, "This is what I need." This girl definitely has her own mind. Unfortunately, she isn't always right. LaKisha chose a terrible song for singing. It's all rhythm and gives her almost no chance to inject any personality. Boring, boring and as Aaron aka watchbboy told me in a phone message, LaKisha could be vulnerable. I thought he was crazy until I heard her sing. Both Randy and Paula have been much more pointed this season. Randy was nice to LaKisha and usually Paula would have gladly taken his cue and avoided any criticism (without praising them either, to be fair) but here she spoke up and said LaKisha played it safe with this song. LaKisha amusingly took most umbrage when Simon criticized her dancing. Ryan then made a joke that he'd pay to see Simon try those dance moves and Simon retorted "I'm sure you'd pay a lot." Oh how those boys love to tease each other about being gay.
CHRIS RICHARDSON -- His video with J-Lo was TERRIBLE -- didn't that scarf make him look like a fool? And in the commercial break before he performed, Chris was shown for just a moment, but he managed to make a mock-serious sort of bow or hand gesture that screams out "I am in love with myself." He's hitting all the wrong notes as far as presentation. Chris's song was "Smooth" by Carlos Sanatana and Rob Thomas, a savvy choice because the vocal isn't Latin, it's pop and more in his comfort zone. He looked okay, though no sense of any Latin accent and he's really got to lose the wallet chain thing. Chris started rough with some low notes but he ended pretty well and throughout the music was much better than his vocals and gave a real latin feel to an otherwise so-so performance. Band 8, Chris 5. Paula said it was sexy and Chris managed to look down modestly without looking coy. Simon was right that it felt contemporary, unlike Melinda and LaKisha. But that's about all I would say for it. Just three performers and already I feel like two of them are vulnerable.
HALEY -- Sang "Turn the Beat Around." AGAIN she wore short shorts to show off those legs, not to mention high heels. At least the tiger print top gave her a Latin vibe of sorts, but if she has the nerve to look offended at any suggestion she's playing up her looks, I'll scream. During her video, Haley had some serious boots on and Blake got to be a nice guy by coming in to provide some beats for her rehearsal. Her performance was again very unmemorable. She was a bit breathless at the start and sure it was kind of fun in a theme park sort of way but it had nothing to do with her really. Her lipstick was very, very red. When she went on the stage behind the judges and sang to the audience, Simon turned around to get a good look, something he almost never does. I even saw a small smile on his face when turning towards Paula at one point. When Simon said she was smart to wear as little clothing as possible, the camera did a slow pan of Haley from the feet up. At least she had the good taste not to act offended this time. But again, "Idol" does not like contestants who too obviously play on their looks. Sorry Aaron, middle-aged straight men are simply not a big voting bloc. Very vulnerable.
PHIL -- Sang "Maria, Maria" by Santana. Okay, is this Latin night or simply Gloria Estefan/Santana night. I'm not sure if it's just out of ignorance or a desire to play it safe. Will anyone actually dare to sing a song with Spanish lyrics? I hate it when you see the performer and the massive video behind them with the same image you're looking at close up - it's like watching someone hover over themselves in a really narcissistic way that to me has a subtly negative vibe. The director also cut away to a close-up of the acoustic guitar playing about six times or more during the song. One quick shot at the beginning is find, but why keep cutting away from the performer to show an inanimate object? They seem to be stacking the deck against him. Plus, his jacket was horrible, his vocals were faint and his performance was colorless. Very, very vulnerable.
JORDIN -- Sang "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" because of course Gloria Estefan = Latin music. Like "Congo," this is not a song that gives the singer much of anything to do. Jordin has been coming on strong but tonight she was very boring. The song seemed to take FOREVER to get over and even her big high note at the end seemed far too little too late. Is there anyone that WON'T seem vulnerable this week? My list is getting very long.
BLAKE -- "Sang Marc Anthony's "I Need To Know." Great song choice and you would think it would have won over J-Lo, though she didn't seem to tip her hand, referring to her husband as "Marc Anthony" in a rather formal manner. She just wanted Blake to focus on the meaning. "In just want you to pick that girl up," she said. Hmmmm. Then Blake came out with an untucked shirt in a very latin style of dress and a cool hat and sang his ass off in what was surely his best performance to date. He is gunning for the finals and is clearly the #1 guy -- Chris Richardson keeps falling farther and farther behind. I don't know what kind of a recording artist Blake will be, but he is definitely going to find out one way or another. Very good even great vocal and a great ending. It's a big night for him and this may be the only week we say that Blake was the best of all. And I wrote all that down before Simon said the same thing. You cna't go wrong just listening to Simon week in and week out. And did I notice his tattoos before? They snake up and down one arm, at least.
SANJAYA -- Sang "Besame Mucho." J-Lo was very cute about him, giggling that she thought even Simon would be impressed in a way that really makes me think she has watched the show. His hair was Latin-appropriate and he showed an eye for detail by staying scruffy and not really shaving. Major points for singing a song with Spanish lyrics. As always, Sanjaya is on-key. His voice faded away a little in the lower notes at the end of some lines, but he made it seem more like the style of the song than a weakness on his part. It was by far his best vocal and he even sang with power at a few points. It wasn't just good for Sanjaya. It was a better performance than most of the other performers tonight. I'll bet he's in the Top Three this week, along with Blake and Melinda. I loved the shot of Sanjaya's sister and his super gay-looking friends. (I should have paid more attention to what Blake's friends looked like too.) Simon said "It wasn't horrible," which was funny but didn't go far enough in my book. Sanjaya has clearly done the best he will ever do tonight. Ryan joked that Sanjaya was "clearly unaware of the camera though, right?" Simon: "Didn't know it was there." Sanjaya wisely just smiled and ignored their banter.
THE BOTTOM THREE -- Heck, I've already guessed the top three might very well be Melinda, Blake and Sanjaya. Will the people voting for Sanjaya because he's the worst keep voting for him when he's actually good? Besides, they won't be a factor much longer and frankly probably never were. People who hate the show just don't watch it. What tiny percentage of viewers do you think bother to watch the show even though they hate it or take the time to find out the numbers to dial so they can vote within two hours of its airing? People who hate "Idol" simply wouldn't care that much. You think there's a big cross-over between Howard Stern and Idol? I don't. Assuming Blake, Melinda and Sanjaya are the top three, the middle two might be Chirs and LaKisha. That means the bottom three is Haley, Phil and Jordin. I think Jordin is safe and Haley and Phil are the bottom two. And Phil goes home. But it's such a weak batch of performances, I think those three and LaKisha and Chris are all vulnerable.