Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Three Ladies and a Little Man: American Idol Top 4 Perfomances

What a disappointing evening! After the excitement of last week's Bon Jovi performances, and with probably the four strongest performers left in the competition, tonight's disco theme should have left me boogying around my apartment -- instead, it made me want to do anything but dance. True, there weren't any trainwrecks, but there also weren't any showstoppers. And that's a real bummer.

The performances...

Melinda Doolittle - "Love You Inside and Out"
I was worried about Melinda coming into this week, and, unfortunately, her choice of song, "Love You Inside and Out," didn't do much to ease my concern. First of all, this is the song Latoya London chose back in Season 3's Top 4 round -- and it subsequently got her the boot! Secondly, as the judges implied, Melinda came up with another solid performance, but it was totally lacking in the "wow" factor.

She better come up with something better in her second go-round, or she could could miss out on a Top 3 berth.

Blake Lewis - "You Should Be Dancing"
Hmmm...this was a mixed bag for me. I loved Blake's "You Give Love a Bad Name" last week, so I was looking forward to him bringing his unique Blake flavor to a disco tune. But he started off shaky, he seemed to fumble over the words a few times, and he just didn't look as confident as he has in the past.

The breakdown in the middle of the song? Hot. The falstetto throughout? Not so much.

LaKisha Jones - "Staying Alive"
Well, I will say this for LaKisha -- she certainly seems to have re-found her groove. After last week's showstopper (and smooch with Simon), this was the bold and sassy Kiki we fell in love with back in the semifinals. On top of that, she seemed to be sending a message by choosing "Staying Alive" -- if you want me to go, you're gonna have to drag me kicking and screaming from this place. Having said all that, the performance still left me a bit cold. Yes, it was well sung, and yes, it was soulful, but it just didn't blow me away. And why does LaKisha have such an aversion to listening to the guest mentors? If she had taken the sung up a notch, like Barry Gibb suggested, she might have hit a homerun. As is, it was a stand-up single.

If she doesn't come up with something a bit more stirring for her next performance, she might not be staying alive after all.

Jordin Sparks - "To Love Somebody"
Didn't Jordin just have the final performance slot two weeks ago during "Idol Gives Back" week? Methinks the producers are trying to give Ms. Sparks a bit of an edge. As is, I'm not sure she actually needs the help. She gave a confident, assured, very well-sung performance of a song that both Clay Aiken and Josh Gracin performed in the Top 4 back in Season 2. I'm afraid that the judges' response and Barry Gibb's high praise might backfire on Jordin, however -- it was good, but it wasn't quite as good as they all made it out to be. While I theoretically appreciate the vocal flourishes she brings, I actually wish she would drop the Mariah-isms and just sing.

Still, definitly the best of the night so far.

Melinda Doolittle - "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"
For the first half of this performance, I was bored. Then it kicked into high gear, capped off by a classic Idol key-change ending, and all of a sudden I was reminded of the special gifts Melinda possesses. It didn't have the gravitas of her earlier "My Funny Valentine," but it was head and shoulders better than her first performance.

On a side note, I have to say that while I haven't been annoyed by Melinda's humble demeanor in the past, I am now officially over it. Girl, this is the Top 4 of American Idol -- if you don't come out and convince us that you deserve to win this thing, we're not gonna vote for you. Make us believe!

Blake Lewis - "This is Where I Came In"
Like Melinda, this was definitely an improvement over his first performance, and getting out of his falsetto definitely resulted in a sound that was much more pleasant to listen to. Still, though, this was nowhere near the slam-dunk level of last week, or even previous successes "Time of the Season" and "I Need to Know." Because I had never heard the song before it was a bit difficult to groove to, but it did feel like a "Blake performance," and at this point in the competition it is important to have an identifiable style.

Oh yeah -- about that asymetrical vest? Not cute.

LaKisha Jones - "Run to Me"
The challenge of a two-song evening is receiving criticism on the first performance and still coming back for the second with your head held high. Melinda did it -- LaKisha, not so much. All of the passion she showed during "Staying Alive" totally disipated, and we were back to the solemn LaKisha from a couple of weeks ago.

And for a song featuring two key changes, where was the excitement? This should have brought the house down -- instead it laid kinda flat.

Jordin Sparks - "Woman in Love"
Why does Jordin always seem slightly better when she is rehearsing the songs than when she comes out on stage to perform them? She sounded pretty good (and looked amazing), but while the clip with Barry Gibb made it seem like it was gonna be off the hook, it ended up merely okay. I didn't hear the pitchiness the judges commented on, but I also don't think this was the triumph Jordin was hoping for.

Melinda. Jordin. Blake. LaKisha. This night should have soared -- instead it kind of limped along (at a rushed pace due to poor time-management, no less). Jordin probably had the best overall evening (her "To Love Somebody" was my favorite perfomance of the night), but none of the remaining contestants even came close to blowing me away. While I would have predicted after the first week of the semifinals that we were in for a LaKisha vs. Melinda finale, I'm now guessing the two two divas will be battiling it out in the Bottom 2 tomorrow night. Check back at around 1PM for my final prediction of who will go home.

In the meantime, I'm gonna re-watch last week's episode and remind myself that these folks are actually capable of sending shivers up my spine -- 'cause they sure didn't do it tonight.

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