With 11 American Idol contestants left, the producers went with a British Invasion theme show to help the singers show off their voices. This was a much better theme than the Diana Ross theme show because of the variety of songs that made up the choices for the participants. The special guest mentors were Lulu and Peter Noone. Lulu worked with the women and Peter worked with the men. In the filmed segments shown before each performance you could tell that Lulu really knew how to help the contestants by the advice that she gave. On the other hand Peter Noone seemed happy just to be hanging out with the contestants. His advice was for the most part incomprehensible.
From the beginning of the judging I could tell something was going on. The judges seemed to be praising performances that were mediocre at best. I think it was to build up the contestants to make sure they received more votes than Sanjaya in the end.
Haley Scarnato came out wearing a skimpy outfit with incredibly high heeled shoes - four inches at least. She showed a lot of shoulder, leg and dexterity by keeping her shirt from falling off while using her legs to bounce around the stage in those incredibly high heels. When I stopped paying attention to her overexposed flesh, I noticed she was singing "Tell Him", a song known by everyone. I had to laugh when Lulu advised her to sing in a more staccato style which was excellent and practical. That's how the song is sung and if you've heard that song as many times as I have, you know that's how it's sung. Anyway, the judges praised Haley for being more aggressive and flirty and didn't seem to care that half of what she sang was out of tune or "pitchy" as the judges like to say.
Chris Richardson was next. He chose to sing "Don't Let The Sun Get You Cryin". This is the first film clip in which we see Peter Noone giving less than practical advice. He basically told Chris to find the melody and sing it. Obviously Chris thinks he found the melody otherwise he wouldn't have been able to practice with Peter Noone. Duh. Anyone, Noone gave Chris a less than ringing endorsement in his one on one interview, saying that he didn't hear much in Chris's voice which he thought was quite breathy. Of course I agree with him. I'm not a fan of Chris Richardson. He looks creepy and I think his voice is consistently weak and thready. Here is my note from Chris's performance. "As I write this, Chris is singing his song and I'm so bored that I'm filling these lines with words just to keep busy. Yawn." The judges talked this dull performance up as well. This is the moment when I realize the judges might be giving false praise to help get Sanjaya off the show.
Stephanie Edwards sang "You Don't Have to Love Me" but not before answering a ridiculous FAN QUESTION for the time wasting FAN QUESTION SEGMENT. On behalf of a fan from somewhere in this great land, Ryan Seacrest asked Stephanie "What is the hardest part of getting ready for the show each week?" Stephanie answered the question earnestly but I felt bad for her because she was moments away from singing for her life. It was a good song for her but her performance was dulled. She seems to be losing her "it" factor. The judges were booed when they told her that but I could see on her face that she agreed. If she makes it to next week, we'll see a much stronger performance from her. At this point, I started thinking I was wrong about the judges padding their compliments. Side note: Lulu told Stephanie she sounds like Beyonce.
Blake Lewis beat boxed his way through "Time of the Season". Peter Noone told Blake he liked that he's trying to modernize the song but he wouldn't want to be in the front row for all the spitting. "Let the girls sit in the front row." I thought he had a lot of trouble singing in his upper register and in some parts he sang completely out of tune. To my surprise, the judges loved him and said it was his best performance EVER. Yeah. Right. If you saw the show, you know what I mean.
Lakisha Jones sang "Diamonds Are Forever". She was wearing $1 million worth of diamonds and still managed to deliver a mediocre performance. I only wrote two words on my notepad to describe her performance. "Pitchy" and "eh". Simon told her he had flash forward of her to 40 years from now.
Phil Stacy was really strange last night. He sang a rocking song called "Tobacco Road" which seemed more country rock than British Invasion. He sounded okay but he looked so odd running around the stage in his button down shirt and blue jeans. His image was more milk toast than rocker and the combination was strange. He should have focused more on standing still and singing the song well than running around like a chicken without a head. But I've always found him creepy which goes all the way back to the original auditions. He's not my favorite.
Jordin Sparks nailed "I Who Have Nothing" one of the most depressing songs from the British Invasion song book. She did a great job. Of course, Lulu loved her and who wouldn't. She's a bubbly, happy, talented, well-adjusted teenager who can really belt out a song. Simon thought she sang beautifully but he was so depressed that he wanted to jump off a bridge.
Sanjaya Malakar sang "Girl You Got Me". He nailed it. He sang every note in tune. I will concede that he doesn't have the confidence to really sell the songs he sings. But last night, he broke out of his shell and did the best a little boy that lacks confidence can do. What was his funny about his segment, were the constant cutaways to a little girl crying in the audience. They showed her momentarily during Blake's performance but for Sanjaya's - I think she got as much camera time as he did. She was really cute. After his performance, Ryan Seacrest called Sanjaya out of the audience to give her a hug which he did and it was a very sweet moment. The crying preteen made me think that perhaps British Rock music was laced with secret notes that induce tears in young girls on a subliminal level.
The judges held back on saying anything negative about Sanjaya's performance, which I think was done intentionally to fight the wave of calls from VOTE FOR THE WORST readers, because we know that they hate him. Simon came closest to saying something negative with his commentt that "that little girl's tears said it all". Anyway, the website encourages people to vote for the worst singer in order to keep him or her on the show for reasons understood only by the wizards behind that website. But if they knew anything at all about music they would back Phil Stacy or Chris Richardson because Sanjaya is not the worst singer.
Gina Glocksen chose Paint It Black. Lulu gave her seemingly good advice when she told her to sing in a higher key. But that was not good advice. Throughout the song, Gina struggled with her pitch and then she did something really odd. She just started screaming random notes at the end of the song, completely screwing up the melody. Now I am a Gina fan and I don't think that performance hurt her last night. After all, she will get all the votes that were meant for Sundance Head (Southern white rocker) but I didn't like her singing last night. I mean she was fun to watch. She sure did look a lot more naturally running around that stage than Phil Stacy. But she needs to stand still and sing well just like Phil. They can worry about their choreography later.
Chris Sligh did a good job singing "She's Not There". When he sings, he likes to start on the downbeat or half of the down beat which makes him stand out. I like that he does that because I'm always interested in hearing how he makes it all fit even though he's a little bit off the beat but the judges haven't picked up on that yet. They consistently tell him that he's ahead of his music. Eventually they'll realize it. There's something so likable about Chris Sligh. I hope he does well and that this show is a launching pad for his music writing career. There were two funny signs in the audience. "BRINGING CHUBBY BACK" and "FRO PATRO". While Ryan was wrapping up Chris's performance, Chris starting chanting "FRO PATRO!" which of course was a parody of Taylor Hicks and how he kept screaming "Soul Patrol" after every performance. Chris is funny.
Melinda Doolittle chose a song from the musical Oliver called "As Long As He Needs Me." I never realized this song was considered part of the British Invasion but no matter. Her performance was perfect. It was so beautiful it made little 11 year old Ashley cry yet again in the audience. Melinda Doolittle will win American Idol - no doubt.
In the End
At the end of the show when they ran through everyone's clips and phone numbers you could really hear how everyone with the exception of Lakisha and Jordin suck in comparison to Melinda.
Also, Ryan called Ashley up to the stage so she could cry on every contestant. She made me cry to. Sweet kid. I hope in her life that's all she has to cry about. I predict that Sanjaya and Phil will be in the bottom three again but I don't know who the third will be.