"The calls you make won't only save your favorite contestants...they'll also save lives."
American Idol is so deep.
Yes, after weeks of anticipation, we have finally arrived at "Idol Gives Back," the two-night charity extravaganza. I have to say, I was a bit skeptical about how this clearly well-intentioned program was going to be integrated with the rest of the show -- would it come off as cheesy? Manipulative? Well, color me surprised -- I was genuinely moved (goosebumps and all) seeing Simon getting choked up about the conditions in Africa, watching Randy visit with Katrina-ravaged residents of New Orleans, and seeing Paula hugging Atlanta children who are without health care. I truly hope that people vote like crazy tonight, and donate during the big telethon tomorrow. Idol has given me a lot of joy over the past few years -- it would be remiss if I (and the show) couldn't give something back. Kudos, Idol, well done.
Oh yeah, and it's also the Top 6. On to the (gloriously Sanjaya-less) performances...
There's the Chris I love! Lookin' super-fine in a hot jacket/tie/cargo pants number, Chris was sexy, soulful, and totally credible bringing, yes, his "nasally" style to the Eric Clapton tune "If I Could Save the World." He even seemed like he had an identity this evening, outside of the Timberlake-isms. When this boy smiles, my heart melts a little bit -- and tonight, as an added bonus, when he sang my ears didn't bleed!
As always with Chris, however, when the judges heap praise on him I get a bit nervous that the viewers will relax their fingers. And with fellow cutie Blake having been in the Bottom 3 last week and therefore getting the attention of the tween set, could this be the last time we've seen Chris perform? If so, at least he will have gone out on a high note.
I have loved the Faith Hill song "There Will Come A Day" since Faith performed it on the telethon immediately following 9/11, so I was super-psyched to hear that Melinda would be performing it tonight.
And she did not disappoint. Giving it her own Melinda spin, she really did give us, in Simon's words, a "vocal masterclass." Sure, Melinda doesn't have the thrilling high notes that Jordin brings to her performances, but she is so assured, so soulful, and so musically gifted, you can't help but believe her. I'm falling in love with Melinda all over again.
When it was announced that Blake was in the Bottom 3 last week, I was mad -- I'm counting on my boy making it to at least the Top 3. Having said that, however, his performance of the John Lennon classic "Imagine" tonight was totally yawn-inducing. Where is the Blake excitement? The fire? The uniqueness? At least when Jennifer Hudson and Ruben Studdard sang this beautiful but not particularly dynamic song they brought a soulful flavor to it. Blake brought, well, I'm not quite sure.
It was in tune, and, yes, it was sincere, so I'll give him that. And his hair looked cute. Beyond that, though...
Oh LaKisha, did you not learn your lesson last week when you chose a song originated by a former Idol winner and ended up in the Bottom 2? Fantasia's "I Believe" is a better choice than Carrie's "Jesus Takes the Wheel," but 'Tasia put such an indelible spin on the song, and sang it with such passion and committment (elements often lacking in Kiki's performances) that she was sure to suffer by comparison.
And suffer she did. If I had never heard 'Tasia's screechy magnificence on this song, this might have blown me away, since it was actually pretty well sung. As is, though, it seemed like a B-grade karaoke version. And I can't lie -- if this is a preview of what LaKisha would be like performing the winner's single in four weeks time, I can't say I'm terribly impressed.
It's a little late in the game, but Phil finally seems to have found his sense of style, rockin' a pretty sharp faux-tuxedo jacket.
Wisely sticking with the country genre, he sounds pretty darn fantastic on the Garth Brooks song "Change." I think I figured out what is lacking in Phil's performances for me, though -- he doesn't play to the camera, and, as a result, I don't feel connected to him. If I close my eyes and just listen to him sing, I am really quite moved. But watching him still leaves me a little cold. Still, though, a very solid effort.
In the past few weeks, Jordin has very quickly become one of my favorites, quite possibly my very favorite, in this competition. And this week she chose a real singer's song -- and hit it out of the ballpark. Bringing all of the emotion that Phil was lacking in his performance, she felt that song, and looked gorgeous doing it. She was a little wobbly on the lower notes at the beginning, but all of that fell by the wayside once she got into the chorus. And how about that final note? That was crystal clear, Season 1-Kelly Clarkson quality. Simply maginificent.
Overall, this was easily the best night of singing we have seen all season, and has gotten me very excited for what the next several weeks will bring. Melinda and Jordin duked it out for my "Best in Show" title, but I'm going to take the easy way out and declare it a tie. Blake was the weakest of the evening in my eyes, but I'm guessing the Bottom 3 will consist of Chris, LaKisha, and Phil. Check back tomorrow at around noon for my final prediction of who will be going home.
And remember to vote, vote, vote -- it could save a life.
1. (Tie) Jordin Sparks and Melinda Doolittle
3. Chris Richardson
4. LaKisha Jones
5. Phil Stacey
6. Blake Lewis