You can tell that American Idol really has become the monster that it is by the caliber of guests they manage to recruit. Remember the days of Barry Manilow and Motown songwriters none of the contestants have ever heard of? While last week they weren’t able to manage the rights to the Beatles (who can, these days, thanks to Michael Jackson), this week they actually got Gwen Stefani to show up to help the kids with their songs this week, which is convenient, given that the theme is “No Doubt Songs and Song from Artists that Inspired Them,” which is about as broad a theme as you can get.
The kids took their turns with Gwen, who offered the same, solid advice to nearly all of them: stick to the melody, stick to the rhythm, and you’ll be fine. As someone who is not a fan of singers who warble unnecessarily on trills and lines that have nothing to do with the melody, I was happy to hear her say that. I was even happier to hear that most of them followed her advice.
Speaking of Gwen, while the advice we saw her offer might not have been as useful as the advice we heard Lulu offer last week, but she came across as being really humble and self-aware. I’ve never been much of a fan, but I came away with a better impression of her after this.
Since I’m still relatively new to the show, I’m not used to the habits and patterns of these contestants; I can only respond to how I feel they did in the moment. But let’s be honest, isn’t that all we all do anyway?
LaKisha Jones: Last Dance, Donna Summer. I have to admit, when she first started singing this, I thought she was going to do the same sort of thing she did last week—slow and intense and maybe a little tedious. I must’ve missed the song title when Ryan said it. Needless to say, I perked up when the song did. She’s got a great, powerful voice, she’s adorable, and this performance should be enough to keep her out of the bottom three—well, out of MY bottom three, anyway.
Chris Sligh: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, The Police. You know all the shock about Sanjaya’s staying power? That’s about how I feel about Chris Sligh. His voice is weak, he moves awkwardly, and Gwen was right—the guy can’t stay on beat. Seriously, you guys, who is voting for him? Step forward and explain yourselves.
Gina Glocksen: I’ll Stand By You, The Pretenders. I’m a fan of rock chicks, generally, but the majority of the ones they’ve had on the show (of the seasons I’ve seen, at least) tend to be more attitude and less voice. Last week, I thought Gina fell more into that category—not that Paint It Black was bad, per se, it just wasn’t very vocally tough. But this week, Gina proved me wrong. I believe Simon has to be right when he says that this was her best performance. She knocked it out of the park.
Sanjaya: Bathwater, No Doubt. All the talk is about the hair (and the pony-hawk was pretty phenomenal—I agree with the comments on my Sanjaya thread that say it was a tribute to No Doubt) but no one has mentioned what I think was the most interesting thing; Paula’s comment to him about his voice. Yeah, I know, it’s Paula, we shouldn’t take her too seriously but…guys, I think she has a point. I think Sanjaya might actually have a voice in there somewhere, he’s just hiding behind all of the nervous kid stuff. I mean, I get it. He’s not performing nearly at the high caliber of the rest of the contestants. It’s just…I don’t know. He’s more fun to watch than Haley or either Chris for me, so I’m okay with him sticking around another week. Besides, like Simon says, it really doesn’t seem to matter what anyone says. The guy is a cannonball at this point, and we’ll just have to see where he lands.
Haley Scarnato: True Colors, Cindy Lauper. Haley is the kind of singer you hear all the time, the sorority girl, the choir girl, the one with the prettiest voice in her school, the one who gets all the solos, but when put up against phenomenal talent just fades into the background. The song choice just backs that up. It’s a beautiful song, I’m not denying that, but how many female choirs have I heard take that on? I felt like I was at Baccalaureate or something. She’s in my bottom three.
Phil Stacey: Every Breath You Take, The Police. Is it a compliment if I say that Phil Stacey has the perfect eyes for singing the stalker’s anthem, “Every Breath You Take”? I thought he did a nice, if standard, version of the song, but since all I have to compare it to is “Tobacco Road,” it seems to me that he improved one hundred fold.
Melinda Doolittle: Heaven Knows, Donna Summer. I’m with Simon—I hated the outfit too. And I don’t understand why, if she’s not even 30, she manages to carry herself like she’s 50. But she seems like the sweetest person up there, and she has arguably the best voice up there (I love hearing her sing), so…let’s hope that’s enough to carry her far.
Blake Lewis: Love Song, The Cure. Yeah. I’m a little sensitive about this song, because I love it, and I’ve hated every cover version of it I’ve ever heard. I was so scared of Blake beatboxing his way through it. That being said, it was better than I expected. He still kinda bugs me, though.
Jordin Sparks: Hey Baby, No Doubt. I love her. I hate that song, have always hated it, and I loved Gwen saying something about there not being much musicality to it. All that being taken into consideration, I thought she did a great job with it. She was fun, seemed like she enjoyed herself. I haven’t liked a contestant this much since Kelly Clarkson, if that says anything.
Chris Richardson: Don’t Speak, No Doubt. I said earlier, I don’t like singers who do too much ornamentation when songs don’t need it. I’d rather just hear someone sing. I don’t find it impressive if you can do vocal gyrations, outside of it being a neat trick to pull out once in a while. I don’t find much interesting in Chris.
If we presume that Sanjaya is safe because of some Faustian deal, then my bottom three is: Chris S., Chris R., and Haley
My vote for elimination: Chris Sligh.
All right, guys, what are your votes? Extra points for getting it right before airtime for the results show tonight.