American Idol: Top Ten Finalists
This week, the contestants were coached by Gwen Stefani and selected songs by No Doubt, or by artists that inspired Gwen, such as The Police, Donna Summer, and The Cure.
We're given Gwen's list of accomplishments: singer, songwriter, fashion icon, actress, and performer. Gwen tells us that she's excited for the contestants, and she feels very invested in the competition now.
There's only an hour and seven minutes tonight, so we get right to the performances. First up, LaKisha.
1) LaKISHA-- Gwen calls LaKisha amazing and says she should be asking her for advice. LaKisha sings Donna Summer's "Last Dance." Again, I keep expecting LaKisha to do more, but that's only because she set the bar so high. She gives a solid performance. Randy likes that she picked an "uptempo joint", and he loves the boots. He calls it "hot." Paula says Kiki did an "excellent job." Simon loves the boots too, and says she's 30 years younger this week. He gushes that this is the "Lakisha he loves," making a mark on the competition, with a great vocal.
2) CHRIS SLIGH -- Gwen thinks Chris should work on the tempo and concentrate on the beat. He sings "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police. The echo effect they have on his voice is really distracting, I think. He sounds like he's singing in the Grand Canyon. Randy says it's a good song choice, but that he didn't listen to Gwen, and rushed ahead of the band. Paula says his problem is "staying in the pocket" because the audience wants to groove with him and can't. Simon thought it was "a mess," all over the place, and the song didn't suit Chris. The Idol music cuts off Simon, who snaps, "I haven't finished yet . . . rude . . . it's not the Oscars." I think Chris may be in trouble after this performance.
3) GINA -- Gwen thinks Gina does a good job keeping her voice in control, and being emotional. Gina sings "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders, which is one of my favorites. She's dressed in fishnet stockings and mini-skirt, and knee-high boots. The crowd goes crazy after "The Glock" sings. Randy loves her boots too, and calls it one of her best performances ever. Paula says Gina looks fantastic, and thinks the song allowed Gina's voice to soar. Simon says it wasn't ONE of her best, "IT WAS HER BEST" performance. He also declares it "the best performance tonight." Calm down, Simon, it's early. And we haven't even heard Sanjaya sing yet!
4) SANJAYA -- Gwen feels for Sanjaya, because he picked a hard song to sing ("No Doubt" she's really afraid he's going to murder her tune). He sings No Doubt's "Bathwater" and he comes out with the Sanjaya-Rooster-Hair. What the heck? Is this kid asking for us to trash him all over the internet? Hold on, he also forgets the words at one point, but nobody calls him on it. Randy finds the hairdo "definitely interesting." Randy says Sanj can sing, but he's got to "put it out there, Dude." Paula agrees that Sanjy needs to go for it, to go with "the wackiness" of the faux-hawk. Simon presumes there was no mirror in Sanjayjay's dressing room tonight. Simon also says what most of us are thinking -- it doesn't matter what the judges say, Sanj is in his own universe, and people like him (Fanjayas and VFTW are going to vote for him no matter what). Looks like Sanj (and his hair) will be sticking around.
5) HALEY -- Gwen encourages her to tone down the song, and keep it simple. Haley sings Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." It's actually not that bad, just not as sexy as last week's performance, even with the little Mariah Carey ending. Randy says it started rough, and was awwright, but didn't really grab him. Paula babbles something about being more contemporary, then calls her a "pretty girl." Simon calls it "sweet, but forgettable." He says "there was nothing to remember really." Obviously, "Sexy Haley" is more memorable for Simon. As long as voters remember last week's Haley, she'll be safe.
6) PHIL -- Gwen was "pleasantly surprised" by Phil, and she encourages him to stick to the melody. Phil sings "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Again, the echo effect is working double-time, and is really distracting. Then the sound drops out, comes back, and my picture freezes, but I can still hear Phil singing. Is it my service or the satellite feed? It finally unfreezes at the end. I honestly don't care for Phil, but I think this is the best he's sounded. Randy calls it a really solid performance, and "kinda liked it." Paula calls it a good choice, and says "his magic" is in the chorus, but he plays it safe in the verses. She calls it a "real good performance." Simon actually agrees that it "was very good." He calls it a great choice of song, and believes this is the first time Phil is taking this competition seriously. I do think that Phil is going to be safe with this performance.
7) MELINDA -- Gwen is blown away by Melinda, and calls her voice "crazy." Melinda sings Donna Summer's "Heaven Knows." She sounds great, of course, but there's something awkward about the hair and dress, as if she's trying to look younger, but it doesn't work. Randy calls her "a pro" because she sings with feeling, and is "living the words." He calls it "da bomb." Paula says that Mindy Doo tells a story, and she's "fun, and joyful." Simon doesn't think it was her best performance, but thought it was "vocally outstanding." However, he hates the outfit.
8) BLAKE -- Gwen thinks he has to be careful when he does the beatboxing, because it could distract from the melody. He sings The Cure's "Love Song." Again, I like Blake, but when he's not dancing or beatboxing, it tends to get a bit boring. Randy didn't love the song choice, but likes the "tender thing" Blake did. Paula lurves Blake forever. She thinks he is taking risks, being original, and making the competition "hip, cool, and contemporary." Wow, okay, did she just wake up out of her stupor and make sense? She calls Blake the "dark horse" she'd like to see in the finale. Simon calls him "definitely the strongest guy in the competition." However, Simon warns Blake not to become too self-indulgent, or boring.
9) JORDIN -- Gwen tells her to "get the booty going." She finds Jordin cute, and refreshing. Jordin sings No Doubt's "Hey Baby." I like that Jordin is keeping it young, but don't care for the red-checkered tablecloth she is wearing as a shirt. Randy calls it a "very risky thing to do," but thinks she could "literally sing anything." He says she'll make a "great recording artist." Paula calls Jordin "adorable, hip, and young." Paula likes seeing Jordin "in this kind of mode." Simon thinks Jordin is the most-improved contestant, and is showing a younger, more confident side. However, Simon thinks the song was somewhat "copy-cattish." I don't think it was her best performance, but unlike LaKisha and Melinda she takes more risks, and is showing us versatility. That and her youth-appeal definitely put her at the top of the pack.
10) CHRIS R -- Gwen suggests Chris stick to the melody (she gives this advice a lot), focus on the emotion, and avoid the "vocal Olympics" he usually does. He sings No Doubt's "Don't Speak." Randy likes the R&B flavor, and calls it "good." Paula says, "You're good, Chris, you're good." Simon likes the song choice and arrangement, but wasn't crazy about the vocals. He thinks Chris struggled in the middle. I'm not a fan at all, and saving Chris for last only convinces me that I wouldn't miss him if he went home already. I'm tired of the cheesy boy band whining and wailing.
Based on tonight's performances, I'd put Chris S, Sanjaya, and Chris R in the bottom three. Since Sanjaya has a cult following, he probably won't be where he belongs, meaning Haley will most likely join the boys at the bottom.
Who will go home? I say Chris R. What do you think?
Tomorrow: Live Results Show #6, and Gwen and Akon perform.
Don't forget to choose your favorite finalist in AOL's poll.
And for more Idol coverage, go to People.com.