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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


American Idolatry: To Simon With Love

It was British Invasion Week on American Idol, and no, that doesn't mean Duran Duran, kids. The aging boomers who produce the show have gone back to their teenage years, when dinosaurs ruled the land and Mick Jagger hadn't yet become a living corpse. The guest "experts" this week were septugenarians Lulu, who we love, and some old guy who was the lead singer of Herman's Hermits. Who were Herman's Hermits, you ask? No one under the age of 40 knows. Here's how the top 11 did this week:

Haley Scarnato: Haley jacked up the halter'n'hot pants, racheted up the sex appeal, and shook her rump through the classic "Tell Him." From the first beat, you could tell this was a new image makeover for Haley, who probably realizes that she's been hanging out at the bottom of the pack. With Antonella gone, she's decided to take over the Caucasian Sex Kitten role. We'll see if it works for her...meanwhile, her performance was better than usual. Did she save herself? There's still 10 more to go...

Chris Richardson: Once again, Richardson did his Justin Timberlake impression, batting his lifeless dead eyes and scatting through one of my favorite songs of all time, Gerry and the Pacemakers "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying." And once again, it got him raves from the judges. But is this really all he needs to do...a little vocal flutter, staying in key, and dull physical presence? Is that really all it takes to be a pop star these days? If so, I understand why the music industry is in trouble. While no one will probably agree with me, I think Chris R. really needs to step up his game.

Stephanie Edwards: Surprisingly weak. The lushly orchestrated "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" was a great choice for a belter like Edwards, but she whiffed the ball completely. Missed notes, dragged phrasing, and a truly terrible outfit (knee-high hooker boots and a blue prom dress) were just the beginning of the problems. Her energy and passion were absent this week, and the judges' comments about her aging before their eyes was spot-on. I realize that 60's Brit pop isn't ever going to be in her comfort zone, but she can do better than this. I worry about her this week, for the first time.

Blake Lewis: When I heard that he was going to sing "Time of the Season" -- and beatbox it -- I was mortified. But damn if it didn't work...another innovative performance, slinking the song down to a minimal creep and giving the melody its proper attention. A smooth dance thing, which added to the music instead of overpowering it. The judges were very complementary (what a turnaround from last week!); he may not win, but I'm definitely buying his record. (Side note: with that stubble he's now working, he's officially become the Gay Eye Candy of Idol '07. Even totally, completely, absolutely heterosexual Ryan Seacrest was inspired to ask Blake "who's your daddy" in the post-song banter. Rowr!)

LaKisha Jones: Regular readers know that I am a massive James Bond fan. So when LaKisha started singing my favorite Bond theme ever, "Diamonds Are Forever," I began screeching like a little bitch, right there in my living room. (LaKisha, meet Shirley Fucking Bassey!) And then...it all went south for me. Yes, she can hit the big notes, but the smooth phrases of this song revealed something we hadn't seen before...she's got no breath training. Her hair was curled up, and her green dress seemed a little plain. I think even more than ever that LaKisha is the emperor's new clothes. At the very least, I'll leave it at this: LaKisha, you are NO Shirley Bassey.

Phil Stacey: Actual rock for the first time this evening ("Tobacco Road") was perpetrated by Stacey, who traded in his balladeering shtick for the night. Did it work? I wasn't convinced. He has no authenticity as a rocker (as opposed to bona fide Idol-ers like Chris Daughtry or Bo Bice, or even Sundance Head), and it ended up being a little screechy and above his natural vocal register. And I don't know if I've mentioned it, but...he's got really freaky bug eyes. And his bald head continues to unnerve me. I expect him to be in the bottom three again this week.

Jordin Sparks: More Shirley Bassey...yeah! "I, Who Have Nothing" is a very tough and emotionally complex ballad, but Jordin -- regal and poised in a simple black dress -- did a remarkable job of interpreting its dramatic and musical intensity. In the last two weeks, this young, dynamic girl has really brought it; there were moments where I think she transcended the reality show confines and found something elemental in the performance. Is she surpassing LaKisha as the alternative to Melinda among the women? I think so.

Sanjaya Malakar: A complete and utter travesty. Sanjaya Malakar singing The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" is like Haylie Duff covering the Sex Pistols. He growled and imitated rocker poses, which included some truly unfortunate pelvic thrusts and butt wiggles. (Does anyone find his effete come-ons sexy? And if you do, isn't that illegal in certain Southern states?) Nevertheless, his teflon skin will keep him in the competition again next week, because he hugged a little girl who was crying after his performance at the insistence of Seacrest. (If I were a fellow contestant, I'd scream foul at the producers.) But for any true fan of rock music, you have to me mortified by the crimes against music perpetrated by Sanjaya.

Gina Glocksen: Ehh. "Paint It Black" is a great song choice for the nascent rocker chick, but the performance just never moved me. Is she trying too hard? Maybe. There's something a little sinister about the song, and whatever else she may be, Gina isn't that. She's got a decent voice, but I don't think she did herself any favors this week.

Chris Sligh: A terrific version of "She's Not There", with great textual comprehension and serious musical ability. You can tell that the negative criticism of the last few weeks has shaken him; this week, he drove it straight down the line, not trying to hit it out of the park. I think it totally worked, to

Melinda Doolittle: Awww, a show tune! Melinda warbled "As Long As He Needs Me" from Oliver with all the requisite moody languor. (Yeah, I used "languor" in a sentence. How cool am I now?) I wasn't blown away, but then, Melinda's had me in her corner for weeks now. I'm okay with her phoning it in tonight. She's safe for at least another eight weeks.

Best of Night: Blake Lewis (Honorable Mention: Jordin Sparks)
Bottom Three Prediction: Stephanie Edwards, Sanjaya Malakar, and Phil Stacey
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Sadly, I think it'll be Stephanie
Previously on ModFab: Simon Says, Women Who Wowed, When Goth Chicks Ruled The Universe, The Sanjaya Conundrum, You're A Heartbreaker, Bye Bye Barba!, Gender Blending



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