Boys, go home. In fact, while you're at it, white girls -- you go home, too. This definitely looks like a season where the women will outshine the men. But first, this editorial:
The most useless bit of advice they hand out on "Idol" is: "Pick the right song." Uh, how exactly is that going to guide a person? Obviously, they thought they were picking the right song when they chose whatever song it was they performed. So unless the judges get specific and tell them WHY the song they chose wasn't right for them, this comment is useless. Even then, they're confusing. Half the time, they tell people they shouldn't tackle songs by Stevie and Aretha and Celine and Mariah. The other half of the time they praise people for nailing songs by those same people. Some people get told to pick "young" songs. Then Jordan Sparks sang Tracey Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" and Simon applauded her for picking a "young" song. Wha? Chapman is inherently an adult artist. And while "Give Me One Reason" hit #3 on the pop charts, it was a MASSIVE hit on the adult contemporary charts where it stayed for a year if not longer. I thought she did a good job but it is not a young song.
Anyway, Ryan needs to stop trying to make issues with Simon and just get on with the show. A quick aside is fine. Blowing up a still of Simon and saying he was annoyed is not. And why does Randy feel the need this season to sigh and hang his head before delivering bad news? Is it really such a psychic weight on his shoulders to "keep it real?" Stop acting like it takes every ounce of his energy to tell someone who screeched through their performance that they weren't good. And now, the ladies.
STEPHANIE EDWARDS -- she looked good (despite too much makeup) and sang Alicia Keys' "How Come You Don't Call Me" -- which I should have recognized but didn't. (Again, they should flash the names of the songs on the screen, maybe before the break as in "Melinda Doolittle will sing Aretha Franklin's 'Since You've Been Gone.'") Tearing up in the video because her parents urged her on is always a good idea. She started slow but assured and had a big finish, even if she delivered too many trills and runs. But best of all, she looked very comfortable on stage.
AMY KREBS -- there are literally tens of thousands of great pop songs for people to sing. So why do they foolishly choose the same songs over and over and over. Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" is so mellow, it's very wrong in a way for "Idol." But Amy was terrible, very harsh and mediocre and an awful ending that was flat and rough. Her hair looked good, but she'll be lucky to make it to next week. Ryan made his first good contribution by asking Amy what she would take away from the judge's device. (Not that her answer was revealing, but at least he asked.)
LESLIE HUNT -- She sang Aretha's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." (Or should that be Carole King's....) It was the third ballad in a row, always a deadly combination -- it's not clear to me when they find out their order of performance or what other people are doing, but if the first two people did ballads, you wouldn't want to do one too. Oddly, it sort of sounded dubbed -- not that it was, but it just didn't seem to be coming from her. Plus, the director cut away to the background singers too often. One shot of them is plenty; any more just detracts from the singer on stage. Very draggy.
SABRINA SLOAN -- Finally, a really good performance. She sang Aretha's "I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You." And she sung it. Overshadowed by later singers, but I thought she really did a terrific job, even if she wavered a tad on the final note. Her comment about strategizing was interesting and on-target. A comer.
ANTONELLA BARBA -- the Paris Hilton wannabe (she looks like she was born in a mall -- to which she would say, 'What's wrong with the mall?'), she seemed very middle-aged perched on her stool and singing her ballad, in this case Aerosmith's I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" Rough, just not a good voice. I don't even really know why she made it to the final 24. And in the cruelest cut, I'd say her scarf/belt was affected and a bad look and blended in too much with her top. Dang, I even dissed her accessorizing.
JORDiN SPARKS -- She sang Tracey Chapman's "Give Me One Reason," a personal favorite of mine. She started off pretty good and then got GREAT. Bizarrely, the judges criticized her for holding back at first. But the biggest mistake inexperienced singers do is try to Mariah Carey every line of every song -- they BEGIN with the trills and the runs and the improvs before they've even sung the melody once. The great singers never do that. They introduce the melody and then start to embellish (and never as much embellishment as the bad singers feel compelled to pile on.) That's exactly what Jordin did. I think she's a wild card who can stay a little under the radar and keep improving week after week.
NICOLE TRANQUILO -- she sang a Chaka Khan song and it felt like a really weird vibe at first, not because she's white and singing soul but somehow because it didn't feel right for her. But ultimately as the song went on I finally started to groove on it a bit and she got decent towards the end. And Paula is right: she's definitely got a good voice. But is she a soul singer? I don't know what to think of her yet.
HALEY SCARNATO -- bonus points for the best cleavage of the night. (By the way, Simon's comments about looks are spot-on and he does the same with the men -- he points out when someone is good-looking and sexy and acknowledges the obvious, that cute people with sex appeal can coast a bit on their looks or at least gain a core fan base while working on their singing. Ooh, what a shock -- people are attracted to cute people.) She sang Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and was polished and smooth but not truly distinctive.
MELINDA DOOLITTLE -- Another Aretha song, this time "Since You've Been Gone." She was awesome, a true pro. This would have been a great job at the finals, much less the first show. She seems genuinely sweet and excited to perform and to be gaining confidence every night. Is she a ringer for being a backup singer, like one of the guys? No. With all her connections and work in the industry, she couldn't get a deal, could she? To me, she already feels inevitable. But then, so did Justin Guarini at one point. Even after seeing the rest of the performances, she's the front runner in my mind because I feel she can sing anything and diversity is definitely a useful tool in this show.
ALAINE ALEXANDER -- Finally, a cool rock/pop song that we haven't heard a million times before, namely "Brass In Pocket" by the Pretenders. Unfortunately, Alaine was terrible, flat and breathy and her high notes were extremely harsh. Simon's comment about whether Ryan was trying to date Alaine was inappropriate, given the controversy over Paula and dating.
GINA GLOCKSEN -- She could go farther than I'm expecting at the moment. Her big note on Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" was indeed a bit rough, though when she modulated down towards the end of it she got stronger and her finale was very good. She could be versatile.
LAKISHA JONES -- I still hold Melinda Doolittle in the highest regard, but there's no question Lakisha belted out "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in high fashion just four days before Jennifer Hudson will win an Oscar for "Dreamgirls." I thought the shortening of the song to fit the time constraints was a bit awkward but she overcame that and was indeed terrific. But belters can't always be versatile and what sounds great the first time on a song that really demands it can seem forced in another context. What would she do with an ABBA tune? But serious pipes, obviously. I can easily see her and Melinda in the finals, but the bloom may come off Lakisha sooner than you'd expect from the comments tonight.
Who should leave? Any of the white girls, cause the women of color were by far the best. I'd choose Amy Krebs and Antonella Barba.