Three’s a Crowd… Competition Gets Tight for Finalists

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Like Jack, Chrissy, and Janet…the final three American Idol contestants were lively and entertaining last night.

Unlike the hers and hers and his…I don’t think it will be the bubbly girl who leaves the show this week. Even with some of Blake’s strongest performances given last night, I have a feeling our little tuxedo t-shirt wearing fella may have beaten his last box in this year’s competition.

This week viewers were treated to the Idols on their hometown visits and to three songs from each contestant (one picked by a judge, one by producers and one by the contestant). However, even with all the individual focus on the Idols this week…The Idol Powers that Be have managed to, yet again, keep a tight wrap on the contestants’ personalities…as they have done all year. We didn’t see them riding golf carts around Graceland. We didn’t get numerous interviews with their family and friends. We didn’t get tons of background on who they are. I guess, this year, AI is truly just…a singing competition.

But that bothers me a little.

Seriously, what artists in popular culture are just about the singing? Isn’t there always some personal appeal, some mystique about their back story, something…beyond the notes?

I guess Simon finally whined enough to whitewash all the contestants so they appeared as devoid of personality as the members of Il Divo.

However, though the contestants’ personalities were hidden under a bushel…Simon and Paula were particularly lively and chummy this evening…so much so that, at one point in the show, I yelled, “Get a room!” at my television.

Last night was not the strongest night for Jordin Sparks. Not only did she have only one truly strong song out of three…she managed to sing three songs that were all written nearly a decade or more before her birth.

At her hometown visit in Glendale, Arizona, the town’s mayor announced that Simon had picked her first song of the night…”Wishing on a Star” by Rose Royce. This irritated me supremely. Simon has used the phrase “self-indulgent” more than once over the years, but I have to say…this was one of the most self-indulgent choices ever made on the show. Why on earth would he choose a song from 1977 when he’s done nothing but complain about how dated her song choices and performances have been? Jordin, who not surprisingly had never heard of the song, did an okay job. But, honestly, the song is pretty crappy…it wouldn’t have mattered if she had cried blood…there wasn’t much for the audience to connect with.

Her second song of the night, chosen by the show’s producers, was “She Works Hard for the Money” (circa 1983) by Donna Summer. Jordin did a great job on the chorus, but the verses were a little weak. Unfortunately, her performance didn’t matter much on this song either…but not because of the song itself…rather…because of her shoes. Why on earth did the wardrobe folks find it necessary to put a girl who must be at least 5’11” in 5-inch gold lame’ platform heels? I was convinced from the moment she slinked onto the stage that she was going to fall.

For her final number, Jordin sang a repeat of an earlier competition favorite, “I Who Have Nothing,” which dates back to 1963. Of course she did a beautiful job…she did a beautiful job the first time. It was wonderful…it was 44 years old…but it was beautiful. I will say Simon had no right to criticize the age of the song after picking a 30-year old song for her first round. Though her first two songs were rough…her third choice put her neck-and-neck with the next contestant of the night…Blake.

Blake Lewis lucked out with Paula’s choice of “Roxanne” by The Police. What I hope folks will realize is the difficulty of this song’s phrasing…and Blake took that difficultly up a huge notch with his abbreviated arrangement. This song is about rawness and anticipation…and though Blake didn’t quite get that…he was pretty dang sexy, which worked well…despite the fact that he “Taylor Hicks-ed” his mic at the end.

Blake’s second song of the night was Maroon Five’s “This Love.” I’ve heard this song before and thought it was catchy…but Blake’s fantastic take on the number make me actually LOVE the song. He…nailed…it. Great song. Great performance. Great vocals (even with his few wobbles).

Although I was laughing like a loon at seeing Blake perform “I Like Big Butts” with Sir Mix-A-Lot on his hometown visit to Bothell, Washington, I was worried about Blake’s final song, Robin Thicke’s “When I Get You Alone”…a song that samples a song that samples Beethoven. The piece was a bit manic…but it was also filled with energy and some good vocals. Plus, it was jazzy and contemporary…just like Blake. He has been the edgy risk-taker throughout the competition (a role I’m sure folks would have thought was going to be filled by Gina Glocksen) yet he has remained a likeable contestant. That alone is pretty amazing. Add to it a solid performance and you should have a strong contender for the final two…but I’m afraid he might lack the “sparks” needed to be standing next to the final contestant of the night…Melinda.

Randy Jackson did the unthinkable to Melinda Doolittle last night for her first song choice…he chose a Whitney Houston number. Time and time again, the judges have ripped into contestants for covering Whitney and Celine and Mariah and other divas. Yet, Mr. Jackson faxed word to the governor of Tennessee (who could have only appeared whiter if he had been wearing a loaf of Wonder Bread) to announce to Melinda on her hometown visit to Nashville that she would be singing “I Believe in You and Me.” I was nervous for her…but I shouldn’t have been. This was the first performance by her all season where I got chills. And the beauty of tackling such a difficult song was seeing that even Melinda has to sweat it out on some things…and that gave her a some much needed rawness and human-ness. Plus…she looked absolutely lovely.

Her second song, picked by the producers, was the Tina Turner song “Nutbush City Limits.” Again…I was worried. I didn’t even know this song…but, let’s face it…a Tina Turner song is just as frightening as a Whitney song…just for different reasons. However…again, Melinda made this more than a song…she gave a performance and I loved it. The girl can have tenderness and edge, all while kicking ass on her vocals. You gotta love that.

For her final performance, she revisited one of my favorites from earlier this season…”I’m a Woman.” Though she camped it up with the jacket and hoochie mama backup singers…she flubbed the second line…big time. And after reviewing my tape…it was apparent to me from the look on her face that she knew she had screwed up the second line. However, the judges conveninetly neglected to mention the flub and even went so far as to say she’d be in the finale because she has consistently delivered solid performances. I, too, think she’ll be in the finale…but not because of her consistent performances. I think she saved herself tonight with her wobbles. She was reaching on several notes in the Whitney song. And she didn’t have the dance moves and energy of Tina Turner. And she totally and utterly flubbed a line in her final song. But it’s because of those flaws that we saw that Melinda isn’t a robot…or at least not entirely. She’s part monkey…and people love monkeys…I know I do.

So…my prediction for final two is Melinda and one of the other two. And I’ll go one step further to say that if Melinda is pitted against Blake…Melinda will win…if she’s pitted against Jordin…Jordin will win.

And you’ll see that life is frolic and laughter is calling for youuuuuu…

Entertainment Weekly

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33 Responses to “Three’s a Crowd… Competition Gets Tight for Finalists”

  1. Connie8 Says:

    If only I cared. I guess I used it all up.

  2. Quossum Says:

    I just watched the DVR and *had* to come comment somewhere–I’m so glad that you’re being a night owl tonight, too, Shelley! 😉

    Jordin: Sings well. Looks pretty. Doesn’t grab me, but I know she’s very appealling to many and has a strong ‘tweener base. After all the joshing on various board about how any flaws she might display are pooh-poohed away with, “But she’s 17!” I almost thought it was an inside joke when she herself said, “But I’m 17!” during her Q&A with Ryan. And hey, is Santino designing her outfits? Still…strong contender.

    Blake: Only guy left. Looks cute. Is creative and quirky and sings reasonably well–but is that enough? Somehow I knew he’d go to his knees sometime during the night. I knew he’d beatbox–luckily he wasn’t too obnoxious about it tonight. I thought he did a decent job with “Roxanne.” I *love* “This Love”–it’s my favorite song off a strong album, so I tensed in apprehension when I heard Blake was going to do it. No worries–a good job. That last song I’d never laid ears on before, so it was harder for me to get into, but it typified Blake-ness and I liked it.

    Melinda: Consistent. Strongest of the night. Great, great singer. I like how she changed up the “I’m a Woman” song a little to make it a bit different from last time. I’m not too into ballad-y songs, and even I loved that first one. I think her outfit on the 2nd song wasn’t doing her any favors, nor did the lyrics, but it was a fun performance showing another side to her. I didn’t notice the flubs, and the praise given by the judges just might work against her in fostering fan complacency.

    Melinda got to show a wide variety of her strengths. Blake was the one who was most “himself” through all three performances (and I give him props for not recycling a song, giving us three new ones). Jordin has a lot of talent and a lot of fans.

    I really can’t call this one at all. I would *love* to see Blake and Melinda in the final, because I think they’re respectively the most interesting and the most talented of the three. But I think it’s going to be Jordin and somebody.

    Here’s a YouTube link to a more extended version of Blake with Sir Mix-a-Lot in Seattle. Enjoy!

    –Q

  3. Theresa Says:

    I watch with interest, but I don’t care this year. Any of them would be fine with me, though Blake is at least entertaining. My 17 year old daughter says kids her age like Blake.

    Rodney Ho posted a good article, summing up my thoughts, too, at the AJC:

    A couple of excerpts…

    A year ago at this point, the “Soul Patrol” was waving the flag for eventual winner Taylor Hicks. Fans of Katharine McPhee were spreading “McPhever.” Elliott Yamin was the lovably soulful, snaggletoothed underdog. And Chris Daughtry acolytes were still steamed the baldheaded rocker had been shockingly eliminated a week earlier.

    This year, there was barely a peep of protest on the “Idol” message boards after LaKisha Jones was cut last week. And while there appears to be basic respect for this year’s three finalists — beat-boxing Blake Lewis, backup singer Melinda Doolittle and upbeat teen Jordin Sparks — passion is largely absent.

    “The show has absolutely no spark,” wrote Dave Della Terza, founder of the popular Web site votefortheworst, in an e-mail. “Who knew Sanjaya was single-handedly keeping things interesting?”…

    David Bloomberg, who has helmed http://www.foxesonidol.com since 2002, said the fact that people are less interested in the performances is a sign of ennui, but he’s flummoxed by the popularity of the results show.

    “Maybe it’s because the producers have turned the results show into more of a variety hour,” he noted, bringing in the likes of Pink and Atlanta rap star Akon to perform….

    Bloomberg expects the class of 2007 to emulate earlier years. He doubts anybody beyond the top three will be releasing CDs anytime soon — except maybe one.

    “Someone might sign Sanjaya for a quick buck,” he said, “like William Hung.”

  4. jenfera Says:

    I really would like to see Blake & Melinda in the final. I voted for both of them last night. For what it’s worth, Melinda’s numbers were harder to get through for than Blake’s. When I realized that, I voted more for Blake. Blake is keeping it exciting and modern, and Melinda just cannot be denied.

  5. ivoryhut Says:

    For the most part, last night I was thinking that ’bout this time last year was when we got Shoot. Blow. Holster.

  6. nolagirl Says:

    I’m glad you brought up the lack of the “story” behind each contestant, Shelley. Is tonight when we see more of the hometown visits, or was that it? I can’t remember.

  7. Shelley Says:

    nola…at this point in the game last year…hadn’t we had interviews with their family and friends already? or am i nuts?

    plus…last year we got more backstories from the contestants (like working as the easter bunny in the shopping mall) and this year we have had more “viewer questions.”

    right?

    maybe it’s that we sought out information last year. i have to admit…i haven’t been to single fan site for any contestant this year.

  8. leejolem Says:

    I didn’t get to see the performances, because I was at a much more riveting performance–my daughter, Abigail’s last band concert (she’s a senior this year). It was very emotional. All the seniors got recognized, and her band (there were 4 bands–graduating class of #750) played some beautiful selections–something from Schindler’s List, a spiritual that included the hymn Were You There, and a Henry Mancini medley. Luckily none of the bands will be voted off tonight, and I didn’t have to watch 3 judges and their silly antics.

    Blake singing Roxanne sounds intriguing to me. Without having seen the final 3 singing I would have to say I would like Blake and Melinda in the final 2. Jordin just bores me. I watched them on Jay Leno Monday evening, and I found her rather annoying. That sounds mean, but she just seems so pageanty/percocious to me. I’m looking forward to Elliott tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Goodby to Ian on DWTS. I think any of the final 4 could have won it last year. They are amazing.

  9. bamaborntxbred Says:

    It’s just too close to call.

    I want a Blake and Melinda finale. I’ll be bored with the last show if Blake goes bye-bye. However, I really don’t care if he wins. I just want him to entertain me for one more week. I’m selfish, huh?

    I’ll buy a Blake Lewis album when he puts one out. I won’t buy a Melinda or Jordin album.

  10. leejolem Says:

    Remember all the stories last year–toboggan, easter bunny, Elliott’s pharmacy, Chris’ customer service job. I think it made us more connected to the contestants. What was their point in doing away with this connection? Taylor was not neccessarily any more fascinating last year than the others. I don’t think his backstories got him the votes. To me it was much more interesting than seeing the star performances.

  11. leejolem Says:

    I’m dying to see SMB at the finale. I hope he gives a smokin’ performance. A Melinda/Taylor duet would be hawt. Actually Taylor and Blake would be pretty cool too.

  12. jenfera Says:

    It seems like they change it up every year. If you go back to season 4, that one was odd in the lack of celebrity mentors. They just had some very strange themes for them each week, and we did learn more about all of their backstories. The year before on season 3, we had a nice balance of both. They had Elton John, Gloria Estefan, and Donna Summer, that I can remember, but we also knew for sure that Fantasia had a hard-knock life and that all of Hawaii was voting for Jasmine. I think they just try new formats each year.

    bama, I agree that I want Blake still in it for my entertainment. He keeps it interesting. If he gets voted off this week, I will still watch next week. After all, I have followed it this long and hey, Taylor will be on the results show next week so that will make it worth it. Oh, and Ryan always makes it worth it anyway.

    The three people at work that I discuss AI with all love Jordin and don’t like Blake. I think that is fueling me even more.

  13. nolagirl Says:

    Maybe TPTB are STILL pissed that Taylor won and feel that he won on popularity, not on his singing abilities, so they wanted to not have that happen again. Who knows. Maybe the contestants are just REAL boring. (not too far of a stretch, is it?)

  14. Mr. Reality Says:

    NEW RULES FOR MONKBOT COMMUNITY:

    1) No more endless musings on AMERICAN IDOL! The show has peaked, and it is time to separate from the mindless herd mentality of middle America and move on to more worthwhile cultural offerings, such as the upfronts and new fall television offerings!

    2) Investigate online rumors that Taylor Hicks (aka “a poor man’s Justin Guarini”) is using pre-recorded guide vocals ala Hilary Duff during his live concerts. Is there any truth to this? If so, provide empirical evidence and not a silly post displaying faux outrage.

  15. Claire Says:

    Faux outrage? Mr Reality, fo’ shame!! The Supreme Monkbot would nevah EVAH resort to such Britney-esque tactics. The very THOUGHT!! Taylors voice has been carefully honed and coddled with YEARS of Red Snapper and cigarette therapy, not to mention several vigourous workouts per week on stage. The thought that he would don fishnet stockings, a headset and have scantily-clad laydees gyrating in the background while mouthing to a MIME TRACK is well, just plain huffnfizhizzliousness.

    Empirical evidence? Pah. I drop ice cubes down the trousers of your “empirical evidence” (uh, whaddeva that actually means).

    *slaps Mr Reality with leather glove*

  16. jenfera Says:

    Hooray for Claire!! “I drop ice cubes down the trousers of your ’empirical evidence'” Bwaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

  17. leejolem Says:

    “a poor man’s Justin Guarinin”–I hope you are not implying that there will soon be a movie released entitled From Taylor and Kat With Love!!!

  18. jenfera Says:

    My husband has called Taylor a “poor man’s Michael McDonald” vocally, and a “very poor man’s George Clooney” visually.

  19. jenfera Says:

    Okay, obviously I am bored today and I am posting way too much. But I had to share one more thing. I am cracking myself up. I was exchanging emails with the three co-workers I discuss AI with. One of them just went on and on about how bad Blake was and how Jordin is the most marketable. I replied that Entertainment Weekly agreed with me, and I meant to cut and paste the link to the article Shelley posted here. But I guess I hadn’t actually copied yet, and the last thing on my clipboard was still there. My email read:

    Entertainment Weekly agrees with me:

    I drop ice cubes down the trousers of your “empirical evidence”

    Haaaaaaaaa!

  20. Julie Says:

    Shelley, may I (respectfully) suggest that you go out and buy a copy of Ike and Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits” and give it a listen. It’s a funky, oddly syncopated, really difficult song and though I love Melinda with a passion that borders on scary, and I think she did a great job with this song, nothing can compare to the hard-ass boogie of the original. It’s one of the oddest songs to reach top 40 radio in the seventies, and everyone should experience the original at least once.

  21. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Jen! I needed that laugh today! That’s hysterical.

    I’m having panic attacks today b/c my doggie, Magoo, has been having trouble breathing. I went home at lunch and he’s acting normal except for that. Maybe he’s just congested with a cold or allergies. I don’t know. (My mom kicked him in the side the other day and I can’t help thinking she punctured his lung or something….)

    I made a vet appt. for tomorrow but I’m so distracted right now. I’ve been googling “dog breathing/wheezing troubles” all morning and have worked myself up into a fear-ridden shell of a woman.

    Between that and the anxiety over AI….arrrrrrrgghhhh!!!!

  22. jenfera Says:

    Awww, poor Magoo!! You must be a wreck. I’ll be thinking of your doggie and hoping he’s okay!

  23. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Thanks Jen. I hope it’s nothing too serious.

  24. nolagirl Says:

    Sending best puppy dog wishes to Magoo. Poor guy. I know it’s a useless piece of advice, but try not to worry too much! Give him kisses from me and Bella. 🙂

  25. leejolem Says:

    Poor Bama! I hate it when our animal children are sick. We have a sharpei and her breathing is always weird–she snores worse than any human I know. Try not to fret too much until you see the vet.

    Jen, I can just see your coworkers’ faces when they read the ice cube email. They were probably thinking you had gone around the AI bend. I hope you gave your hubby a very nasty look when he said that TH was a “very poor man’s George Clooney” visually. Although that is a really funny comment–I would have laughed in spite of myself. My dh said that Taylor’s cd sounded amateurish and then went out and bought Daughtry’s cd. Men!

    Claire, you could start writing dialogue for Paula when she gives her critiques. Your ice cube/trouser comment made more sense than 90% of what she says.

  26. Hatson Says:

    Since when does Mr. Reality set Monkbot rules? What have I missed? Was there an overthrow of the current administation?

  27. Quossum Says:

    I think the missing backstories are part of what’s making this season lack passion. Hell, by this time last season we knew the names of Taylor’s goldfish, for heaven’s sake!

    Is this some attempt by TPTB to keep us focused on the singing? ‘Tain’t workin’. Of course, I’m sure it’s much cheaper to use random viewer questions than to do the legwork of helping us get to know the contestants better.

    Even DialIdol claims this one is too close to call. Think they’ll show use the 33%, 33%, 33% thing tonight?

    –Q

  28. Shelley Says:

    Don’t worry…there’s no overthrow. 😉

  29. baby duck Says:

    Bama, I feel your anxiety for Magoo. Last week I took Amigo to the vet for a lump on his leg. He had surgery on Friday, and I had to wait until this week to hear the test results. Turned out benign, but he still has another week to go with a big ol’ bandage on his leg and a cone on his head.

    Last year I hung out on the AI TH message board alot. I can’t remember the numbers for certain, but I thought his board had over a million posts and 2500 pages. This year the one with the most posts is Blake, interestingly enough. But 145K+ pales in comparison to Taylor last year.

    Mr. Reality could always start his own blog and have whatever rules he wants. He could slap commenters with ice-cube soaked trousers when they got out of line. Shelley might even link to it on the Blogroll. But speaking of new fall television offerings, I thought I read awhile back that Kellie Pickler was getting her own sit-com. Any confirmation? I’d watch it!

  30. jenfera Says:

    leejolem, my dh is a Daughtry fan too. No accounting for taste! But we did have an interesting conversation tonight. We were comparing this season to last and even he admitted that, “Your… friend there… at least he…got into it.” I said, “You mean, he was passionate? He could emote?” He just barely wanted to admit it, but he agreed, and said that’s what this year’s contestants were missing. He even said my friend was better than Blake. It pained him to say so.

  31. jenfera Says:

    Oh, and baby duck, I would watch Kellie’s show too! I am sure it would be hysterical!

    Hey, I know! Ryan should have a talk show and Kellie could be his sidekick! I’d watch that ANY DAY!

  32. leejolem Says:

    Jen, “your..friend”–that’s too funny. I think my dh would call him my obsession!

  33. jenfera Says:

    Trust me, lee, he says “friend” with a lot of disdain in his voice. And often precedes it with a colorful adjective not befitting of repeat on Monkbot.
    😉

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