Grr.... the NJ.com blog is giving me problems, so for now, I'm posting my "Idol" thoughts here after the jump...
Melinda Doolittle, "Sway": Of course she's going to pick a song that she describes as "very old." I'm glad Simon finally gave her some reasonably harsh criticism, because while she's the best this season by a mile, she's been too complacent for too long. The vocals are, as usual, superb, appropriately understated and just a bit sultry, but I'm tiring of both her 80-year-old affectations and the humble pie routine, which she turns on and off so easily that I refuse to view it as anything but a tactical choice at this point. Props for her comeback to Simon's critique -- "I'm happy, because I think he really wanted to say something bad and I'm glad he got the chance" -- but she could stand to listen to him this time.
LaKisha Jones, "Conga": LaKisha appears to be going the Haley incredible shrinking wardrobe route, but vocally this may have been her least memorable performance to date. Ordinarily, she just copycats the style of the original performer, and she's a great enough mimic that you accept the karaoke and move on to admiring the range. Here, she's not trying to sound like Gloria Estefan, and it's like the latter half of Christian Slater's career, after he stopped doing his Jack Nicholson impression and we realized that was the most interesting thing about him. Also the first of several contestants tonight to run into significant problems moving and singing at the same time.
Chris Richardson, "Smooth": I'm going to give the judges the rare benefit of the doubt and assume this was a case of the studio's acoustics making it impossible to really hear the vocals, because this was terrible. The guitarist and drummer did their best to carry Chris, but his voice disappeared in the lower register (there were points where he barely seemed to be singing), and all he did was make me appreciate what an equal partnership the original version was between Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana. And his runs were as obnoxious and ill-fitting as usual.
Haley Scarnato, "Turn the Beat Around": This week, we're really going to discover whether Haley's legs are as powerful as Sanjaya's hair, because the hot pants were the only remotely appealing part of that performance. She can strut in heels, but she can't dance, and she sure can't sing and dance at the same time. Yikes. Now, will Simon blatantly calling her out on her skimpy costume strategy (while the cameraman did a slow, drooling pan up her body) shame people out of voting for her, or get her some sympathy votes?
Phil Stacey, "Maria Maria": Here's one of those "taste is really subjective" performances. My wife adored this, wanted to watch it again immediately, and talked about what a controlled performance it was and how well Phil captured the emotions of the song. To me, this felt like Phil once again sucking all the life out of the room -- or, at least, like he really wanted to suck out my brains. I don't know.
Jordin Sparks, "Rhythm is Gonna Get You": Yet another contestant who can't move and sing at once. This show may be the best defense yet for why the Britneys and, yes, J. Lo's of the world can get away with lip-synching in their concerts. Jordin's got more presence than anybody else (including Melinda), but she needs some breath control work.
Blake Lewis, "I Need To Know": This is by far the best Blake has ever sounded, even on the numbers where he's just stood still and sang, but J. Lo totally called him out on the lack of emotional connection to the song. Close your eyes and he sounds anguished enough, but open them and he looks as pleased with himself as he always does -- or maybe he's just happy that he got a free bowl of soup when he bought Judge Smails' hat from "Caddyshack." (It looks good on him, though.) There's something a little too cold and calculated about Blake, and it's become more obvious now that Sligh's gone.
Sanjaya Malakar, "Besame Mucho": Much like Simon, I hate to admit that that wasn't terrible. It was actually kinda decent. The song fits his miniscule range and inability to project, and it let him make sexy but harmless eyes at the camera that no doubt drove his tween fanbase nuts. This may be like Amy Adams giving the performance of her life on Country Week in season three, where a genre she'd never tried before turned out to be a perfect fit. Maybe Sanjaya should sing cheesey Spanish love songs for the rest of his career.
I'm going to keep predicting that one of Phil or Haley goes home until it actually happens. Sanjaya's obviously not going to be bottom three, so get ready for a "shocking" placement by somebody else. My money's on LaKisha, who peaked a long time ago and was really forgettable here.
What did everybody else think?