This was a good week for us.
John's finally going to pay us!This season finally had a good episode! On paper, this group - three divas, one Timberlake copy, one beatboxer, and the most distracting cranium in Idol history - was not the best-equipped bunch to take on Bon Jovi. This was undoubtedly the best week of the season to date - the only bad part is it took this long to get a truly good week.
Before we dissect each performance individually, let's spend some time on the night as a whole. In many ways, this was everything last week wasn't. Last week was defined by a series of safe performances, as if no one wanted to be the poor fellow voted out on Idol Gives Back week. This time, though, it was clear that almost everyone took chances they weren't taking before. It doesn't always pay off, but we appreciate the effort. We'll take that instead of a snoozefest like last week any day.
Let's start with Phil. Not quite the riskiest performance of the night (that would be Blake's), but it was still an incredible gamble. It could have turned out very poorly. It worked fairly well for him - the vocals were spot-on, the performance itself was pretty good, and it was definitely one of the top performances of the night. Say what you will, but to us it's clear that Phil has improved markedly since the start of the competition. Why Simon felt this was such a bad performance, we have no idea. (Actually, we do. More on that later.) It's a real pity this had to be his last week.
Melinda continues to prove her frontrunner status. For someone in a strange place musically she was pretty good. Vocals were her trademark high-quality, and now she's getting better at commanding the stage and audience. She always had the whole package, but she's still improving. That, in itself, would be remarkable. Add to that the fact that she's never faltered vocally and you have a recipe for something truly remarkable. She's put together what to even the most jaded and cynical Idol viewer has to admit is the greatest run of consistent vocal skill in years. It's simply amazing.
It's safe to say that in a night where others took risks and pushed their own personal envelopes, Lakisha opted to stay right in hers. To be fair, it also worked well for her. Her recent performances have been closer to shouting than actual singing, but there was none of that on Tuesday. It was the right balance of power and control - she was able to hit the power notes without sounding like a caterwauling feline. This was the Lakisha we had not seen in a few weeks.
Unfortunately for her, that's a somewhat backhanded compliment. She spent the last few weeks digging herself a hole, and now she has to bail herself out of it. Her adventures in mediocrity have undoubtedly made it difficult for her to expand her fanbase. For someone in the final four, that is not good. She survived this week, but her prognosis of getting any further is rather grim.
There's an old saying that says bad things come in trees. So it's no surprise that for the third straight week someone reprised a song that a previous contestant had done before. Chris Richardson had to pick, of all songs, something Chris Daughtry did last year. To be fair, it wasn't a complete disaster. The vocals were still nothing to write home about, but overall it wasn't any worse than anything he's done before. Just like Lakisha last week and the one before that, Chris was really in a no-win position, but at least his performance wasn't a complete disaster. Two non-singing related notes. What the heck was with the lighting - did they want to blind the viewers at home? Secondly, why does Chris feel the need to keep moving his head when he sings? This led to someone bestowing a not-so-flattering, but completely appropriate nickname upon Chris: Bobblehead.
Worst of the week was Jordin. That's a real shocker. We knew she would have trouble with the theme, but just how badly she misfired was surprising. We thought it would at least be a reasonable vocal, but that was not to be. The vocals were rather bad, with plenty of screechiness that we don't usually associate with her. Jordin is as good as anyone else when she's in her comfort zone of slow power ballads, but out of it she's not as good, and she's perfectly capable of laying a goose egg. She's fortunate this theme came so late; had it been earlier in the season (top 10 or so), Jordin would have been in real trouble. This week, though, her strong fan base (and a healthy number of votes from last week) kept her on track for a finale appearance.
Blake... well, Simon was partially accurate when it came to him. It's not quite a fifty-fifty split between those who'll like it and those who won't. One-third will love it, another third will hate it, and the other third will think "what the heck was that?" We're firmly in the third camp, but we freely admit to Blake not being our cup of tea. We will give him this: he took a risk and made it work for enough people. It may well have been the most unique Idol performance ever. The beat-boxing has always been his ace in the hole, and he made excellent use of it. Even if he's not our favorite, we can still call a good performance when we see it. Well done, Blake.
Two exits = twice the cheese: When we did our top six roundup, we wondered who would last longer: Phil or Chris. Chris did, but only by a matter of minutes. Chris was no surprise, but Phil was something of one; conventional wisdom had it that Lakisha would go home on Wednesday night.
Chris going home was no surprise. He didn't have a good vocals, but made up for it with his performance skills, among other things. The oft-repeated mantra is that Idol is a singing competition, but that's not completely true. A good comparison is to the previously eliminated Haley Scarnato. Neither were particularly good singers, but had enough appeal as entertainers to succeed. Of course, Chris's overall entertainment abilities were better than Haley's, which is why he got a fair bit further than she did. Chris took it as far as someone with a weak voice, good entertainment skills, but nothing else particularly innovative could.
Phil's departure was somewhat of a surprise, but if one takes a look at the long view we can see why it happened. Phil has had a few good weeks, but his early season appearances were a little rough. That doesn't mean you're stuck at the level you were at the start - witness Jordin this year, and the king of improving-on-the-show, Season 5's Elliott Yamin . However, Phil wasn't as good at the start as either Jordin or Elliott were, and more importantly he wasn't consistent. You can't get more fans if you're good one week, mediocre the next, and stink the one after that.
Phil, in all fairness, exceeded most expectations of him from the start of the season. He did well to make the top six. If you have to get voted off, what better song to do it than Blaze of Glory?
Speaking of going out...: We normally don't have much to say about the results show. They're filled with enough filler to make Spam look like gourmet food, and most of the time there isn't much we could say even if we tried. We have one thing to say about this Wednesday's show, though.
Robin Thicke. What in the world was he doing up there? The guests on results night haven't always distinguished themselves, but even among those it woeful. It was a performance that would have been more at home in an audition episode rather than top 6 results night. Before seeing him in action, we had no idea who he was. (We still don't.) Is he always that bad? If he is, well, who knows. Maybe Sanjaya does have a career in the music industry after all.
So how much is he being paid again?: We were doing some channel-surfing recently when we came across Simon Cowell as a guest on the Ellen show. With nothing much on, we tuned in - and Simon said something that, in all honesty, surprised us. He said, in effect, that he doesn't actually listen to the performances on Tuesday night, because it's too loud and it's difficult to hear anything. So what he does is listen to the dress rehearsals, and make up his mind there.
Now, this is a mind-numbing failure on so many levels. One word: earpieces. Is it that hard to get sound to the three? Is there some reason that the same sound delivered to millions of households across America and the rest of the world cannot be delivered several yards? More likely, someone is being lazy. Apparently, it hasn't occurred to anyone that with god-knows-how-many cheering fans behind them, Randy, Paula and Simon might need some help. It goes beyond laziness. This is cluelessness.
Simon himself shouldn't be spared from the blame either. Just because it's hard doesn't mean he should stop trying. In real life, what Simon did would be a firing offense. Last we checked, to judge something you actually have to pay attention to what you're judging, not engage in childish games with the Seal Clapper in Chief, also known as Paula Abdul. We all know that sometimes the performances from dress rehearsals and the actual show vary. If you want to see it at home, all you have to do is watch the brief summary they give out at the end of each performance show. Those are from the dress rehearsal, not the actual show.
Is it too much to ask Simon to actually do what he's paid millions to do?
We're willing to do Simon's job - for a little less money, too. For comments, PM us.