We're already in the top 12, with the show moving faster than ever, it seems to me. Diana Ross was the guest judge and I'm not sure about her being dubbed THE most successful female artist of all time. Purely on records sold? I don't know if Barbra Streisand tops her. There's also Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey all competing in various categories like Top 40 hits, #1 albums, best-selling albums, and so on. But no doubt Miss Ross is a legend. I can't believe she said her mentors like Berry Gordy, Jr. believed in her "even when I didn't believe in myself." Please. Diana Ross has ALWAYS believed in herself. That's one of the things you can't help loving about her. At first, I thought she was a dreadful help, making polite noises for the first few kids. Ultimately, she was more interesting in how she judged them rather than helped them. She clearly didn't like Chris Sligh's arrangement of "Endless Love" and other little comments let you know who Miss Ross did or didn't like. But her suggestions? I could have done better.
BRANDON -- "You Can't Hurry Love." Let's face it, the guy is cute and appealing. He looked good and gave a good wink during the "please vote for me" section. When he forgot the words, he managed to make it look charming rather than a train wreck, smiling and then moving on. His voice was shaky but he ended well, especially after blanking out for a moment.
MELINDA -- "Home" from "The Wiz." Never seen the film so I had never heard this song. Not a great tune, but she did it really, really well. Just great. Simon's comparison to Gladys Knight is a good one. Melinda's wide-eyed, deer in the headlights look is getting a bit old, but I assume it's just the meek way she's gone through life. Any word yet on if she's a sweetheart in real life?
I loved Paula just melting into tears and saying, "I'm just one big goosebump." After the first season, I suggested that Paula be the host, since she was clearly more comfortable mentoring and cheering on the kids rather than critiquing them. I thought Ryan could become the third judge or do secondary interviews and they bring in someone else. Pat myself on the back, Simon responded to my idea by pausing thoughtfully and saying, "That's actually a very interesting idea. I'm going to mention that to the producers." [We'd spoken a number of times that first season by that point.] It didn't happen of course and ultimately they were right not to mess with the formula. Paula's wackiness and non sequiters are a priceless element of the show. She's also been very good at being tougher on the kids this season in her own marshmallow-y way. When she pauses and struggles to find something nice to say, you know you really did terrible. Now if only Randy would stop saying "It wasn't my favorite performance of yours, but...."
Another gay riff by Simon and Ryan, this one actually amusing I thought, when Ryan asked Simon for fashion advice about Melinda's high heels and Simon responded, 'You should know Ryan," and Ryan responded, "Stay out of my closet," (quite funny) and then Simon responded "Come out" and then Ryan responded something about that being Simon's fantasy. It's childish and juvenile but more in the way of the "You know how I know you're gay" riff from "The 40 Year Old Virgin" than in a "ew, gay is gross" way.
CHRIS SLIGH -- "Endless Love." What a bizarre song choice, but when I heard the arrangement Chris was going for I thought it was a pretty ballsy choice and it ALMOST worked. Sure, it smoothed out the melody a bit, but points for rolling the dice. I liked Simon's comment that even the boos when he criticized Chris were light, ie. people agreed with him. And he's 100 percent right about the glasses -- Chris looks better with them on.
GINA -- "Love Child." last week, she looked like the revenge of Ryan Starr with those long gloveless sleeves she was wearing and she looks like herself again this week. She was screaming a bit towards the end, but fun.
SANJAYA -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Sanjaya = Love, according to Miss Ross. I thought, how in God's name could he sing that big song? Even the backup singers sang extra quietly I thought in order to not overshadown him. But it wasn't awful and I wouldn't be surprised to see him stick around another week. He had earrings on both ears and of course the 'fro was fantastic. God bless him for embracing the full potential of his hair. Simon's comment about a wail/whale in Hollywood or Beverly Hills was in fact confusing in a funny way.
HALEY -- "Missing You." Well, she was far better than last week's dreadful "If My heart Had Wings" and she looked as good as she ever has from some angles, though that ribbon/belt was pretty godawful. I wasn't sure if she had forgotten the words, which the judges confirmed, but she ended well and was generally okay. I thought she should have worn a "Hi, My Name Is______" badge for Simon as a joke. But it's telling how far down she is on the list that a "I didn't think it was that bad" moved her to tears. Simon was right, as usual, but it wasn't that much of a compliment. She also gets bonus points for saying "I feel like such a schmuck" for missing the words. You just garnered the Jewish vote, Haley!
PHIL -- "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me." I have no idea why he's still here, since Phil is certainly no dreamboat, has no interesting personality and can't sing decently for an entire song to save his life. He was just flat and AWFUL at the beginning, as he always is, just okay on the chorus and had a decent ending. But you can only coast by on a big note or two for another week or so.
LAKISHA -- "God Bless The Child." And here I part with the judges. She looked good, but I spotted trouble when LaKisha said she'd never heard the song before. It is a very tricky song, emotionally, one that is almost mysterious (to me) in its meaning and tone. And even if I'm a little murky on the actual import of it (just like, say, "Send in the Clowns"), I know when it works and it rarely works for most singers other than Billie Holiday. LaKisha looked good and certainly sounded good, but from the point of view of the song,I thought it was a mess. The lyrics totally lost their meaning, she gave a lot of attitude as if it were some Celine Dion power ballad and at one point she threw in some unnecessary vocal runs that sounded horribly out of place and insecure, the very sort of thing I half-expected from her all the time. I've always been a Melinda fan, but LaKisha was winning me over. Tonight made me believe for the first time that she could eliminated in the Top 4 or Top 3 and not make the finals.
BLAKE -- "You Keep Me Hanging On." Poor Chris Sligh. Blake does the same damn thing he did and gets a lot more cred for it. He looked darn cute (despite the hair) and had some dorkily appealing dance moves. But his arrangement was pretty draggy and the vocals were spottier than he's been in a while. And just like Sligh he smoothed out the melody. But just like Sligh, kudos for rolling out a modern, fun arrangement.
STEPHANIE -- "Love Hangover." A little flat and of course she missed the words. She looked good, though. Like Jared, she might be fatally forgettable.
CHRIS RICHARDSON -- "The Boss." Okay, he's kind of cute, but he's always been a better entertainer than an actual singer. His vocals are always thin and weak and they were again last night. he belongs on a WB drama (I mean, a CW drama) or a sitcom more than onstage as a singer. Besides, he's too similar in some ways to Blake. They'll keep cancelling each other out, so one of them has to go and I say the sooner it's Richardson the better. But it won't be this week, I'm sure.
JORDIN -- "If We Hold On Together." Jordin looked terrific, but remember, she's only 17! If you doubt that, how else to explain her choosing the theme song from "The Land Before Time," a weak animated movie that has spun off an endless stream of straight to DVD sequels and which looms large for the young. It came out in 1988, one or two years before she was born. How else to defend picking such a lame tune with the entire Diana Ross catalog to choose from? But darned if she didn't deliver one of her best performances yet, with some good belting that Idol voters always love to overcome the so-so spots.
To me, the most vulnerable are Phil and Stephanie, though Sanjaya is always a possibility for the bottom two. Brandon and Haley handled themselves too well AFTER their performance to be gone this week, though it's always dangerous to perform early, which means Brandon and Sanjaya should be a little concerned.