"Idol" Wednesday: There's Melinda, and Then There's Everybody Else
by Mark T.R. Donohue
The title just about sums it up, doesn't it? A lot of our response to each "Idol" performance is subjective. A lot of these singers are real talented (a few aren't); whose particular style you most respond to is going to vary depending on your background, orientation, and personal preferences. But come on. Nobody who watched the show on Wednesday night can deny that Melinda Doolittle is the best singer in the contest by a wide margin. If there's any justice in the world, she'll win the thing. Of course, there isn't a whole lot of justice in the world.
That's why as much as I would like to customize my TV with a "Sea-chip" that will replace everything that comes out of turtlenecked homunculus Ryan Seacrest's mouth with whimsical banjo music, I don't fast-forward to just the songs and the Simon when I watch "American Idol." All of the nonsense that goes into padding out each show, the witless banter, the cheesy interview footage, it all has to be factored into the equation. If Antonella Barba's fortunes take a turn for the worse, it might not be her singing but the fact that she's now revealed herself as a crappy violin player. (Probably not though.) With reluctance I am removing Gina Glocksen from my list of favorites, partly because she finally played to type and it was a disappointment, but also partly because she carries a good-luck troll around in her pocket all the time. Still, though, Gina, if things don't work out with Overmoussed Goateed Shemp #3, call me. I don't think you're going to win it all, but I still like it when you stick out your pierced tongue.
Jordin Sparks I don't get why Sparks hasn't done any rockers before now. Her Pat Benatar number was the best I've seen from her. Unfortunately the few pitch mistakes that Sparks made came where she could least afford them, on the major long sustained notes. A more costly tactical mistake might have been her choice of outfit. If she was going to sing Benatar, she should have dressed the part, with the torn shirt and the owl mascara and everything else. Instead she dressed like she was headed to a freshman mixer. I never would have guessed that Sparks and Glocksen would both bring the rock this week and Sparks would do so more convincingly. However, I think she's more likely than Glocksen to get sent home because she hasn't done as effective a job of establishing a memorable persona. That's to be expected from the youngest contestant among the group of women, I suppose. 8
Sabrina Sloan After a guys' night when I mostly agreed with what the judges had to say, we flew way apart on many of the girls' numbers. I don't how Simon, Randy, and Paula managed to completely miss the incredibly unpleasant, wince-inducing stream of blue and even purple notes Sloan emitted during her interpretation of "Don't Let Go." It's far worse to hear a good singer like Sloan miss notes than a less confident singer like Barba, because while Antonella will self-consciously swallow her voice when she's off-pitch Sloan projects and sustains like she's doing nothing wrong. Frankly, she made me cringe several times. For me her continuing dearth of personality is a secondary concern, but that and not the vocal choke job will be the reason if she gets ejected. 4
Antonella Barba I think she did her absolute best this time out, and her absolute best is not anywhere near good enough. I give her credit, as did Simon, for maintaining focus and really giving her all in the face of some pretty unpleasant media coverage. When ESPN's Bill Simmons is scoring cheap laughs off of you in his lame Celtics-misery train blog, it's a bad sign. Barba is good enough for your high school production of The Music Man, but she's not good enough for "American Idol." Cowell as he so often does tied a bow around it perfectly: "I just wish you could sing better." 6
Haley Scarnato Oh, wow. I can't think of anything at all to say about Scarnato. Um...I'd never paid particular attention to her looks before this week, but I thought she looked pretty cute in her red tank top. She rocks the mic with her left hand, and I have an established thing for lefties. But as for her singing? Well. I'm at a loss. Super lukewarm. "No pizzazz," said Randy Jackson. "Horrible! Couldn't remember her name," said Simon. She has to be toast tonight. 5
Stephanie Edwards I don't know if it's completely random or not, but the order of performers on Wednesday's show had my top four female contenders doing their thing all in a row to close the show. Make that the top three contenders and Glocksen after this week. Edwards maintains her contender status, but just barely, with a mostly safe take on "Sweet Thing." Her song had its share of ups and downs, but she's so obviously better than all of the girls who preceded her that I doubt many noticed. Her lower register is problematic; she should stay away from it in the upcoming rounds. Earlier on I thought Edwards' effusive personality might help her to make up the slight talent gap between she and the Jones/Doolittle duo, but Doolittle has stage-managed her aw-shucks act so perfectly that Edwards needs to to get outsized if she's not going to get muscled out of the picture. 8
LaKisha Jones I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hold LaKisha Jones to a higher standard than any of the other contestants, Doolittle included. Her raw talent is breathtaking. Wednesday night's "I Have Nothing" was excellent as expected but it just didn't lift me. She helped herself out by ditching last week's unfortunate sweater/skirt combo for a flatteringly cut gown. "Tonight you look beautiful," said Simon, and you're deluding yourself if you think it doesn't make a difference. I love her potential, and I would totally buy a record by LaKisha, but I wonder if she's really in it to win it. Doolittle unquestionably is. 9
Gina Glocksen Once again the judges and I disagree. Glocksen, with her tattoos and streaked hair, looks like a metal chick but has been singing adult contemporary numbers up to this point in the competition. She made us wait too long for her big rocker, and then she picked a song by the profoundly lame Evanescence and rendered it into a bit of a shouty muddle. Honestly, can't one of her homies from noted metal nexus Naperville, IL call her cell phone some time this week and explain to Gina who Joan Jett is? Oh, man, I would love to see this girl sing "Bad Reputation" or "Do You Wanna Touch Me." As it is, I was this close to breaking it off with Gina and running off with Simon Cowell until Glocksen threw the band the ol' devil horns during her postperformance interview with animatronic human replica Ryan Seacrest. There might be hope for you yet, Gina. 7
Melinda Doolittle What more needs to be said? What everyone else is missing, Doolittle seems to have in spades. She has a game plan, her song choice instincts haven't failed her yet, and while even the other talented females sometimes get drowned out by the backing singers, Doolittle's "I'm a Woman" threatened to overpower the band. She's got style, she's got grace, and as you would expect from a pro, her technical skills are second to none. Of course Simon Cowell had to ruin the exultant mood Doolittle's performance brought to the end of the show by somehow managing in his praise of Melinda to find space for a none-too-subtle dig at Jennifer Hudson. Oh, Simon. My man-crush on you grows every week. 10
Whoops, I almost forgot the picks.
Homes: Haley Scarnato, Sabrina Sloan, Jared Cotter, Phil Stacey
Lobes: Melinda Doolittle, Stephanie Edwards, Sundance Head, Chris Sligh
8-Sided Die: LaKisha Jones, Haley Scarnato, Sanjaya Malakar, Phil Stacey
Update: I was just watching this afternoon's "Pardon the Interruption" and Tony Kornheiser says Sanjaya has got to go. He also likes either Phil or Jared from the guys and Haley and Antonella from among the girls to get pink-slipped.
Warning: If you haven't watched the results show yet, stay out of the comments section.