American Idol: Top 9 Finalists
Tony Bennett is in the house to coach the finalists in the finer points of singing. Bennett is the "King of Swing" with a career that spans 60 years. And at 80, he looks terrific. I just wish he hadn't worn the bright yellow jacket. It makes him look like an elderly Realtor.
The good thing about singing "the old standards" is that they are great songs, with great melodies, that almost anyone can sing, and almost everyone has, as they are staples of high school productions across America. Unfortunately for our contestants, the bar has been set pretty high by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. Those are some big shoes to fill. And trying to judge the finalists against such legendary vocals, is honestly like comparing apples to raisins. So it's best to not even try.
1) BLAKE -- Tony suggests that Blake needs to understand the song's meaning (it's about a gangster), and he thinks Blake should slow down the tempo a bit. Blake sings "Mack the Knife" wearing an ugly tie and powder blue jacket that reminds me of the 1970s. Randy calls it "a very good way to start out the evening." Randy likes it, even though Blake had a couple of pitch problems. Paula says he "personified pizzazz." She calls it fun, and cool. Simon says good choice of song, good performance, and gives it a 7 out of 10. Unfortunately, he gives the band a higher score (8 out of 10). I know Blake is popular, and cute, but he is no Bobby Darin. Heck, he's not even Kevin Spacey. But he's Blake, so he's safe.
2) PHIL -- Tony believes Phil is one of the better singers he's heard. Phil sings Cole Porter's "Night and Day." And he does his best to channel Frank Sinatra. Randy likes the big notes, but didn't feel any "real connection" or "passion." He calls it disconnected. Paula calls him reminiscent of a young Frank Sinatra, but offers him some constructive criticism about having "more joy" and warming up his vocals. Simon asks Paula, "which Frank Sinatra are you referring to?" Simon thinks Phil's performance "had all the joy of somebody singing in a funeral parlor." He calls it "gloomy, and dark." What do you expect? If he put on a cape, he'd look like Vlad the Impaler's paler, creepier cousin. He's no Frank Sinatra. And I'd say he's going home, but I say it like every other week, and Philly's fans keep saving him. I just don't get the appeal.
3) MELINDA -- Tony calls her the "best singer all day." He thinks she has a lot of promise. Melinda sings "I've Got Rhythm." The dress makes her butt and stomach look huge, but it doesn't matter. She sounds terrific. The vocals are impeccable once again and she brings down the house. Randy loves that Mindy Doo gives everyone a lesson in singing, and knows how to interpret the lyrics. "This is how you do it," the Big Dawg exclaims. Paula calls Melinder a "master class" and says the performance was "flawless." Simon didn't like the first half of the song, which he thought was a bit cabaret. However, he thought the second part was great, and fun. Simon says it's a problem that he can't criticize Melinda, because "we like being mean to people occasionally." And by "we" he means "I." Melinda has secured her place in the competition.
4) CHRIS -- Tony thinks Chris will have a lot of fun with the song, once he gets the lyrics down. Chris sings "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Randy calls it one of his best performances of the season. Randy thinks it was cool, young, and hip. Paula says Chris didn't compromise, and kept it "so hip" and cool (she basically repeats everything Randy just said). Simon agrees with Randy and Paula. He calls it "probably one of the strongest tonight." No, it wasn't bad, I'll give him that. But I just don't think it's "hip" or "cool" to dress and sing like Justin Timberlake circa 1996. Chris has to develop his own look, and one that is more updated than yesterday's boy band.
5) JORDIN -- Tony likes the way she improvised the song in rehearsal. She sings "On a Clear Day." Randy calls it "da bomb." "Yo, she's hot, America," he proclaims. Paula calls Jordin a "magnet of joy." Paula loooves her, and thinks she'll sail through to the next round. Simon didn't think Jordin made the song young or current, like Chris did before her. He thinks she sang it well, but it was "old-fashioned." Simon says he simply didn't like it as much as "Squidly and Diddly" as he calls Randy and Paula. I continue to like Jordin, and really think she has a chance at the final 2. But I did wish she picked a better, younger, more upbeat song tonight. Still, I think she's more than safe.
6) GINA -- Tony doesn't give Gina any advice, but he tears up thinking about the song she is singing, because he thinks about 9/11 or Iraq when he sings it. Gina sings "Smile" written by Charlie Chaplin. She sounds good, and I think she's gotten pretty smart at picking songs that are right for her vocal range and talent. And for once she looks happy, and not like she's about to burst into tears. Randy calls it "a very nice, controlled performance for the rocker girl." Paula calls it "flawless, understated, and sentimental." Simon "can't rave about the vocals" because he thinks Melinda and Jordin outsang her. The Glock could be in trouble, because I'm not sure how memorable her performance was tonight.
7) SANJAYA -- Tony thinks Sanjaya is terrific, and likes that Sanjy dares to be different. Sanjaya wants to prove to America that he can sing!! He sings Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek." It's not the type of performance that proves anything. But he makes up for the paper-thin vocals by getting Paula to dance with him, and you know Paula "is in heaven." Randy won't even comment on the vocals. He only says that Sanja has "turned into a great entertainer." Paula says his vocals were off, but she understands why people like him. She thinks Sanjayjay is charming, and she thanks him for the dance. Simon says, "let's try a different tactic this week -- INCREDIBLE." And I think Sanjaya says, "Welcome to Sanjaya's Universe," but I'm not sure (maybe I just imagined it). He IS starting to get a bit cocky, though, isn't he? Do you think he's starting to believe his own hype? Come on, Sanjy, stay sweet, or you might alienate some of your Fanjayas.
8) HALEY -- Tony tells Haley that she destroys the story of the song when she sings it to "you, and you, and you, and you." He tells her to sing to ONE person, and it will make it a better performance. She sings "Ain't Misbehavin" in a really flirty (IS misbehavin') way, ignoring what Tony told her about what the lyrics meant. Randy thought it would be a good week for her, but doesn't know what to say. Paula says "did I mention green is a good color for you?" They both defer to Simon, who calls them rude, but bluntly states, "I think you have great legs." He agrees it was a good style of music for Haley, but a bit pageanty (is that a word, Simon?). I think Haley Scar could be in trouble this week. She threw all the bells and whistles in (leg kicks, cleavage, short skirt, come-hither looks) and it didn't work. Are her legs good enough to save her? I don't think so.
9) LaKISHA -- Tony tells LaKisha to hit the big note at the end and hold it, and she'll be good. LaKisha sings "Stormy Weather," but she doesn't hold the note. I'm beginning to think that Kiki does not take advice from anyone (even living legends). Randy loves her performance, although it started rough. He calls it "da bomb," Paula says "this is the most gorgeous you've ever looked." She also thinks LaKisha sounded beautiful, proving that "we all love Tony Bennett." Simon calls it a "sassy, great performance." Kiki is safe another week. But I really wonder how she is going to do when she is finally challenged, or made to sing outside her comfort zone, especially if she continues to ignore the advice of her coaches.
Idol Gives Back Update: There are more confirmed celebrity guests for the big event, including: Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Helena Bonham Carter, Mr. Bean, Forest Whitaker, and Harry Potter. The show is getting so large, that they've expanded to a second venue, and tickets will go on sale Tuesday, April 10th. And Kelly Clarkson, the original American Idol, will return home to perform live!
Bottom three: I choose Phil, Haley, and Gina. Let' s just ignore Sanjaya, and assume he's safe.
Going home: Is it "Bye Bye Girly" time? I think Haley is going home.