Okay, just back from LA and off to Illinois for the Roger Ebert Film Festival. Here's a quick, not-so-detailed impression.
INSPIRATION -- Urgh, surely the worst idea for a theme night. But it wasn't the songs as much as the treacly testimonials the kids gave on video before singing.
CHRIS -- the pants with the huge pockets ruined the look of the jacket. To me, Chris's "Change The World" just had no personality, despite the runs towards the end. It evaporated right in front of our eyes. Very vulnerable.
MELINDA -- Sang a Fatih Hill song and looked like a woman in her classy dress. And she was fierce, so controlled, so commanding. It felt more like a guest performer coming in than one of the contestants hopng to become a star. Her banter with Simon is loosening her pup too, getting away from the puppy dog looks. And that's a good thing. Just because she's the front-runner, don't rule her out.
BLAKE -- still pin-upable, even though his intro (we can't always make the world better but we can start by making it a better place? Or something like that) was incomprehensible. Sang John Lennon's "Imagine" and while you wouldn't want to mess with it too much, he could have tried to inject a little verve. But the singing was nice -- it was his deer in the headlights look that bothered me. Blake seems determined to have no facial expression while singing and tons of it afterwards -- like that goofy grin. But overall, appealing and safe. I'd rather listen to it ten times than Chris's...uh, what the hell did he sing? See, I forgot already.
LAKISHA -- Dreadful song choice -- Fantasia's I Believe? What is she gonna sing next week? Kelly Clarkson's A Moment Like This? And it was rough going all the way through. She covered it pretty well, but LaKisha had trouble catching her breath again, keeping the melody going and trying to avoid cutting lines short. She belted it a little bit but just seemed utterly lost and boring up there. The fun seems to have gone out of it for her as well. Very vulnerable. Why would you vote for her when you could vote for Melinda and Jordin is coming on strong.
PHIL -- another country song because he's SO country and then he goes and sings a Garth Brooks tune as if it were Josh Groban. Simon nailed it completely. But I think he was fine enough to get by.
JORDIN -- I love Jordin (though I'm already finding myself rooting for the first adult to win Idol) but I thought the judges were way off tonight. Jordin's much discussed wavering on the low notes was front and center on this song, which is all low notes till you hit the big chorus. She was shaky, shaky, shaky. Hit some lovely big notes but then Jordin got piercing on the final big note when normally that's when she takes my breath away. I also didnt like the arrangment, which started to build and build but then just sort of stopped. She should have been topping herself, when suddenly the song was over. Should have skipped the reprise of the low-note verse and just done one verse and a double or triple chorus slam. This is all to be kept in perspective I've been blown away by her the last three or four weeks, so I expect everything. This had fun moments and some chills, but wasn't nearly as polished as say IWho Have Nothing. But she's safe.
BOTTOM TWO -- Chris and Lakisha were the weakest, with Phil bringing up the rear. Chris was first so that doesn't help and he was so forgettable. But LaKisha to me was worse. And chooinsg another Idol song was so boring. I think she's going home.
SURPRISE GUEST -- Who is the biggest star, ever? You have to assume Michael Jackson, right? That was the guess of my flight attendandt, he said, Michael does all those charities. The female flight attendant said Michael isn't charity, he's a charity CASE1 I wouldn't think they'd want to associate with Jackson but you never know. A Beatle would certainly be big, so Paul McCartney could pop out. But given the charity and the dva-esque designation of "biggest star EVER," I'm going with Barbra Streisand. Hard to imagine she'd do something without tons of rehearsal, but you never know.