When I heard Ryan Seacrest announce that this season’s top 10 was going to be coached by Gwen Stefani, I got a wee bit excited. After all, Stefani is a pop star who’s actually relevant, being as that she’s the rare Idol guest coach who’s performed and recorded in this millenium. So forgive me for thinking, albeit briefly, that some of the Idols *coughLaKishacough* may have to step out of their comfort zones and perform something current and – dare I say it? – hip. Alas, my hopes were quickly dashed, as Ryan clarifies that the Idols will be performing songs by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt – as well as songs by artists that have inspired Ms. Stefani. In other words – anything goes. Sigh. To make things even scarier, Stefani remarks that her own personal idols are noted more for their character and style, rather than their voice – and the camera zooms in for a close-up of Sanjaya. And you thought your expectations of the season couldn’t drop any lower.
Making Jimmy Choo proud
I want to go on the record and say that I think LaKisha is great. She has an amazing voice and deserves a nice fat recording deal. Gwen Stefani agrees, saying LaKisha blew her away, and that she should be asking KiKi for advice rather than the other way around. Which would be true, if substance was always better than style, but we all know that in reality that’s almost never the case. The thing is…I’d love to hear LaKisha attempt something that’s been recorded in the past 20 years or so. Not tonight, though – KiKi, donned in a mod red and black dress and a kick-ass pair of knee-high black boots, is performing Donna Summer’s classic disco hit “Last Dance”. If you must do ‘70’s disco, then Donna Summer is probably the best you can hope for, but I’m not blown away by LaKisha’s version – her pacing seems somewhat off at the beginning, and frankly, she appears to be phoning in this performance. The judges, however, lap it up – Randy at least shows good fashion sense and proclaims the boots and the singing “hot”, Paula tells KiKi that she did Donna Summer proud, and Simon, bless his heart, also loves the boots and tells LaKisha that she seems 30 years younger this week. Proving that it never hurts to add a bit of style – particularly in the form of footwear – to enhance your substance.
Every little note he sang was tragic
Chris Sligh is a funny guy. Kind of like a less nerdy, chubbier Napoleon Dynamite. He doesn’t dance nearly as well, though. A viewer wants to know how he spends his free time, and he wittily responds that he likes to knit, crochet, and play bongos in his boxer shorts – an image that I’ll spend the rest of the evening trying to scrub from my mind. Chris is going to perform The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, and Gwen Stefani seems apprehensive, saying that Chris is “off-tempo”, the term that seems to have replaced “pitchy” this season. Chris starts into the song and not only is he off-tempo, his voice sounds weak and I could have sworn I heard him mess up the lyrics. I’d have to rewind my tape and sit through his performance again to be sure, though, and even if he’d sang it in boxer shorts and played bongos it still wouldn’t sound better the second time ‘round. Randy casts about for something positive to say, and finally tells Chris it was a good song choice, but it was rushed and off-tempo, of course. Paula gabbles something about “staying in the pocket”, and Simon waves his hand and tells us to forget about pockets and timing, the performance was a mess. Chris hangs his head and mutters something about kicks and downbeats to Ryan – I swear, AI isn’t just a cultural phenomena, they’re creating their own language as well.
From chalk to…cheese?
Gina is taking what can only be called a massive risk this week – she’s attempting The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You”. Is Gina really equal to the task of covering Chrissie Hynde? Gwen Stefani likes her, so anything is possible. She appears in a shiny, skin-tight dress – possibly borrowed from Ms. Stefani – and damn, she’s got great boots on as well. And Gina actually pulls it all off – she sounds light-years better than she has in the past few weeks, with vocals reminiscent of Susanna Hoffs. Randy lauds the footwear and the performance, calling it one of her best so far. Paula agrees and congratulates Gina on her continued improvement. Simon is the most effusive, telling Gina it was her best performance ever, the song was perfect, and comparing it to her past three weeks of performances, tells her it’s the difference between chalk and cheese. This, apparently, is a good thing – either it’s some odd British saying, or it’s another new entry in the AI dictionary.
Throw this baby out with the bathwater
What could be worse than Sanjaya singing a sub-par No Doubt song called “Bathwater”? Why, it’s Sanjaya with his hair pinned up in a faux Mohawk, decimating this silly tune with his feeble vocals. Gwen Stefani says it’s a “hard” song – really, it’s an absurd song, and my guess is that Sanjaya was attracted to the “style” aspect of it. It’s already too easy to mock Sanjaya and not nearly as much fun as it used to be, so it’s simpler to just say that this was possibly the worst thing ever heard on the American Idol stage. Randy claims to be speechless, but perhaps mindful of Sanjaya’s tender age, he tells the lad he can sing if he “puts it out”. Paula forces a smile and tells him if he went for it, he could do it. Really, the last thing Sanjaya needs is encouragement and fortunately Simon isn’t inclined to give him any, snottily noting that Sanjaya’s dressing room is obviously missing a mirror, and that it doesn’t matter what the judges say any longer. We may have had a little more respect for the kid if he’d shaved his hair into a real Mohawk.
Forgettable, in every way
If Haley Scarnato could sing as well as, say, Kelly Clarkson, she’d have this competition in the bag. Thing is…she doesn’t. She’s going to attempt Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”, one of Gwen Stefani’s favorite songs ever. Me, I’m just grateful Haley didn’t choose “Time After Time”, one of my favorite songs ever. She does look gorgeous as usual, clad in a stunning short black dress and her hair in cascading curls. Her vocal is actually not bad, except she can’t resist throwing in a couple of unnecessary glory notes. Plus, this pretty young thing simply can’t portray the raw emotion of the original. The judges give Haley the equivalent of a pat on the head – Randy thinks it was aiight, Paula likes it but wants Haley to be more “contemporary” (maybe she should have done Donna Summer), and Simon tells her that it was sweet, but forgettable. The short dresses are losing their charm, even for Simon.
How my poor ears ache
OK, OK…Phil’s “Every Breath You Take” wasn’t that bad. He’s not going to be invited to join The Police on their reunion tour, but Gwen Stefani thinks his version was a pleasant surprise. Stefani says that Phil is actually pretty good, when he sticks to the melody, and she’s absolutely right. It doesn’t do to try to re-arrange a simple melody into something it doesn’t need to be, and Phil manages to rein it in and just sing the song – a refreshing change for an IA contestant. Randy thinks it was a solid performance, and “kinda” liked it. Paula likes the song choice, but tells Phil he needs to build more character into the verses. Really, Phil needs to build some more character, period – the doting husband and father from the auditions is long-forgotten. And besides, Chris Daughtry did it last season, and better. Simon thought it was very good, and is pleased to see Phil taking the competition seriously – not an easy thing to do, when you’re standing beside a guy decked out in a pony-hawk.
Heaven knows – leggings are always a mistake
Are you starting to wonder why we need both LaKisha and Melinda? Me too. Melinda, the human bobblehead, has pipes that blow Gwen Stefani away, and she’s going to perform a Donna Summer song. Remind you of anyone yet? Melinda’s pulling out her usual big notes on “Heaven Knows”, and though the song is from 1979, her fashion is the worst of the ‘80’s – an oversize tunic top with leggings and heels. Although the vocals really aren’t Melinda’s best thus far, the judges still wax enthusiastic over their favorite – it’s the bomb for Randy and charisma from the word “go” for Paula. Simon is slightly more reserved, saying the performance wasn’t the best and that he hates her outfit. Simon’s fashion sense is so on tonight, I’m thinking he might be replacing Cojo on the red carpet one of these days.
The worst of ‘80’s fashion, part 2
Remember how we keep telling you Blake is cool? Did you think we were being sarcastic? Because Blake, bless his heart, is cool enough to NOT do The Police or Donna Summer. Instead, he’s going to do The Cure’s “Love Song”. How totally tubular! In keeping with the song, he’s decked out in a zippered shirt, baggy pants, and hanging suspenders. Of course it looks as bad as it did in 1984, but it’s over-the-top enough to be worn as a costume. I’m only sorry he didn’t do some heavy black eyeliner and lipstick. Best of all – there’s no beat-boxing, as Blake turns in a nice vocal and heeds Gwen Stefani’s advice about not straying from the melody. The judges are pleased but not overwhelmed – Randy likes it, Paula loves it and says Blake is “so cool” (see?), and Simon proclaims him the strongest guy in the competition. Faint praise in these circumstances, Simon. He warns Blake not to become “too indulgent” as it could get a bit boring. At this point, I’d take a little boredom over the frankly awful.
All the voters say…hey, baby!
Jordin, says Gwen Stefani, is cute and refreshing. Jordin is performing Gwen’s hit, “Hey Baby”, so the superstar is either flattered or Jordin does a pretty decent job of it. Hopefully it’s good enough to distract from Jordin’s outfit – I’m starting to think the stylists are nipping into Paula’s stash, because Jordin is wearing a dreadful short gray flared skirt with knee-high sock boots and a red-and-white striped top. The Catholic-schoolgirl-turned-streetwalker getup does her no favors, but Jordin overcomes her style woes with a high-energy performance and her usual fine vocals. It’s not perfect – Jordin seems slightly awkward at times, likely because the lyrics are a little too mature for a 17-year-old to pull off convincingly. Overall, though, it’s a fine performance, and Randy tells her that although it was a risky choice, she did a great job. Paula loves hearing her do “younger” material, and Simon says she’s the most-improved of this season’s lot, but calls the performance “a bit copy-cattish”. I figure if you’re going to copy, copy someone who does it well, and Stefani does her thing very, very well.
Don’t sing – because it hurts
Chris R. has decided he’s up to taking on No Doubt as well, and has chosen the mega-hit “Don’t Speak”. Gwen Stefani doesn’t appear to find Chris cute or refreshing, and says only that she hopes he sticks to the melody. This doesn’t bode well for Chris, and although he mostly stays true to the song, his vocal is flat and emotionless. Also, Chris is so utterly boy-bandish – his looks, his voice, his dance moves – that he’s just not convincing doing anything out of character. It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, but Randy likes the flavor and R&B twist of the arrangement. Paula says Chris is “just good”, and she shoots him a lecherous look that makes me squirm uncomfortably. Appearing relieved that this is the last performance of the evening, Simon tells Chris that he also liked the arrangement, but chastises him on his vocals. I hear bottom three calling, Chris – you know just what I’m saying?
On Wednesday’s results show, Gwen Stefani will rescue the Idol stage and perform live – hey, she’s just a girl, but she’s hella good, isn’t she? The always excellent MotherSister will be bringing you all the tears, the laughter, and Sanjaya’s elimination! OK, so I don’t know that for sure, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
If you agree that Paula was wearing a banana clip in her hair last night, PM me.