Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Idols from the Block: Top 8 Performance Recap

What a strange episode of American Idol! It's like we've entered Idol bizarro-land.

Click on any contestants name to read a more detailed commentary on their performance

First of all, Jennifer Lopez was a fantastic guest coach. Who'd a thunk it? She was insightful, gave constructive criticism, had a delightful energy, and didn't look embarrassed to be there. You go, J-Lo!

Second, the boys performed better than the girls, for the first time this season, and even Melinda had an off-night. I certainly didn't forsee that as a possibility, but alas, there it was.

Overall, I'd have to say it was a pretty uninspiring evening of music. It's a difficult point in the competition for the contestants -- they have been performing for eight weeks straight, so they must be exhausted, but there is still enough time that the end does not seem right around the corner. Add to that a difficult theme, and we've got some pretty lackluster (and somewhat surprising) results.

One of the most surprising things about the evening were the just-okay performances from Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones, two of the frontrunners all season long. Melinda opened the show with "Sway," and while she was vocally solid, as always, she just didn't have the fire the song called for. She also didn't commit fully to being sexy, stopping short of really moving her hips and playing up her womanly appeal. It was definitely her weakest showing so far.

LaKisha brought a bit more energy to "Conga," but she seemed to expend so much energy on getting the words out and figuring out which hip to pop that the song ultimately didn't go anywhere. In addition, LaKisha continued her pattern of choosing cliched songs that have been sung previously on the show. If this girl doesn't bust out some true originality, she could be sent packin' much earlier than she deserves to be.

Chris Richardson, however, gave his first truly credible performance of the season, singing "Smooth" with, appropriately, a smooth and sexy conviction. Looking adorable as always, he lost some of the tentativeness that has bothered me in weeks past, really nailing the Rob Thomas/Santana tune. Nice work, Chris -- I guess partying this weekend with Lauren from The Hills didn't screw you up too much after all!

The same can't be said for Haley Scarnato, however, who came pretty close to butchering "Turn the Beat Around" (another song that has been done to death on this show). Taking liberty with the melody is one thing, but at points it seemed like she was singing a song I had never heard before! And honestly, Haley, enough with the legs -- we get it, they're great, but how about a cute pair of jeans and a top so we can focus on your vocals instead of your appendages. This is a singing competition, not a "Best Gams" pageant.

Phil Stacey, meanwhile, gave a surprisingly believable reading of "Maria, Maria." It wasn't showstopping, certainly, and yes, he did crack at the end, but I actually think this was one of Phil's stronger performances. I'm not sure it will be enough to keep him out of the Bottom 3, but I actually enjoyed Phil more than I did Melinda or LaKisha. Who ever thought I'd be uttering those words?

Jordin Sparks followed in the footsteps of her fellow divas, giving a technically solid, but totally uninspiring, performance of "The Rhythym is Gonna Get You" (yet another song that has been performed on the show before). Her vocals were a bit more exciting than her fellow divas, but when you are awkwardly walking around the stage while belting out a song about rhythym, something is very, very wrong.

Blake Lewis, however, really turned up the heat on "I Need to Know," whipping out a few of his sexy dance moves and a shockingly strong vocal. In fact, this was Blake's best vocal performance of the season by a mile, and he looked comfortable and confident swaggering around the stage in a way none of his fellow contestants did. I could have done without the hat, but I'd say this was definitively the best performance of the night.

Which brings us to, of course, Sanjaya Malakar. At this point in the competition the most surprising thing Sanjaya could do would be to sing well -- and he did! True, he doesn't hold a candle vocally to any of his competitors, but his sweet tone actually worked, and he didn't seem like the huge poseur I imagined he would by singing a Spanish language song. (He even, for the first time this season, avoided placing last in My Rankings). More horrifying, however, was that goatee. That is, if you could call it a goatee -- I bet if we put some milk on that upper lip of his a cat would lick that crap right off!

So, overall, definitely not the strongest we've seen the Idols, but a couple standout performances nonetheless. With so many middle-of-the-road performances it's a bit hard to guess who will be in the Bottom 3, but right now I'm guessing Phil, Haley, Sanjaya, and maybe even LaKisha or Jordin is a bit nervous. Check back tomorrow at around 1PM for my prediction of who will be going home.

Click on any contestants name to read a more detailed commentary on their performance
1. Blake Lewis
2. Chris Richardson
3. Jordin Sparks
4. Phil
5. LaKisha Jones
6. Melinda Doolittle
7. Sanjaya Malakar
8. Haley

Is Sanjaya (Gulp) The Second Coming of Tamyra Gray?
Ten Best Top 8 Performances of All Time
Ranking the 9th Place Finishers
Ten Best Top 9 Performances of All Time
Ranking the 10th Place Finishers
Ten Best Top 10 Performances of All Time

Ten Best Top 11 Performances of All Time
Ten Best First Finals Performances
Ten Best Semifinals Performances of All Time

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