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Thursday, March 01, 2007


American Idolatry: When Goth Chicks Ruled The Universe

A much more calculated round for the women of American Idol this week, with some strategically-chosen numbers (good and bad), a growing awareness of their telegenic fashion (or lack thereof), and most of all, many determined attempts to separate from the pack and outshine the competition. Despite the smiles and we're-all-friends-here banter, last night's episode gave us our first signs that, behind the scenes, there's a war on. Here's our view of how it went down, in performance order:

Gina Glocksen: In a red formal dress that matched her streaky hair color, Gina looked like a goth chick going to the prom. But what I think she was trying to channel was Ann Wilson of Heart; her version of "Alone" eerily echoed Wilson's original phrasing and overwrought theatrics in the vocal. The judges' comments were useless, but there was fun to be had; in her high heels, Glocksen was easily a foot taller than munchkin Ryan Seacrest. No wonder he has problems dating women. I mean, besides the being totally gay thing.

Alaina Alexander: Drat. ModFab's mother, Mrs. ModFab, called right as Alaina started singing, to tell me about the ballroom dancing competition she and my father were watching on PBS. I told her I couldn't talk, but she took the next ten minutes to catalog the family's whereabouts, illnesses, and scandals. While none of it was especially interesting, it was distracting. (Love you, Mom!) So I have to ask you all...was Alaina any good?

Lakisha Jones: By all rights, I should be loving this woman. Lakisha's got that fierce diva thing working, she's powerfully talented, and her backstory couldn't have been written better if a publicist were fabricating it. And she's singing one of my favorite songs of all time, Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train To Georgia". But there's something off-putting to me about her delivery, a lack of understanding of the lyrics and a hard core where softness should be. She's good, and she'll certainly be a finalist...but I don't expect her in the final three.

Melinda Doolittle: Warbling an exquisite version of "My Funny Valentine," Melinda sounded like a young Anita Baker or a mainstream Diane Reeves. Only a few weeks in, she's proved indisputably that she's the most talented female competitor. She's got a winning likeability, too...her only weakness, to me, is her age (29) in a reality contest that prizes youth so obsessively. But I'll take her anyday over crappy fakes like...

Antonella Barba: America's new slutty pinup teen got off to a rough and wobbly start on Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me"...and never really recovered. She's simply not in the league of the other contestants, cute thigh-high minidress notwithstanding. Antonella got a little bitchy with Simon after he criticized her, saying that "he was wrong about Jennifer Hudson, too." Sistergirl, you are NO Jennifer Hudson. If this were truly a singing competition, as Simon keeps telling us, she'd be out of here tomorrow. But if this were a singing competition, J-Hud would have won years ago. This is NOT a singing competition, it's a personality contest. And her cute teen thing may make her invincible in these early rounds.

Jordin Sparks: The belter of the season, Jordin gave a teary intro about her brother before ripping the lid off of a Disney ballad. (Is this the one from Mulan? Pochohontas? They all blend together by the chorus.) There was a note off here and there, but she hit the money notes, and she was crying at the end...good move, says the calculated asshole inside me. The judges were appropriately gushy...Simon told her she had "massive potential." She has to be considered a frontrunner among the women at this point. If I had to say something negative, I'd suggest that she needs the AI stylist to give her the Kimberly Locke Hair Makeover.

Stephanie Edwards: In my opinion, Stephanie has become the Wild Card among the women. I hadn't paid much attention to her before last week, and neither had the producers. But she's shown herself to be a talented singer and a poised young woman...perhaps a teen version of Mary J. Blige, sliding gently over the notes of "Dangerously In Love" with a fullness that might escape Beyonce even. Where will she end up? Has she made enough of an impression to make it to the final 12? Is she getting the screen time her talent deserves, especially with Antonella Barba sucking up all the air in the room? Stephanie certainly makes it interesting.

Leslie Hunt: Leslie's got the slow-burning alto of a jazz chanteuse, and her vampy rountine last night was clearly intended to take advantage of that smoky quality. But her physical bearing isn't very interesting; she comes across like a sweet goody-goody, all perky and pop. The last-minute scat wasn't as solid as Blake's was the night before, and Simon -- in his first decent critique of the night -- correctly mentioned that she's being blown away by the bigger, more accomplished voices like Doolittle, Jones and Sparks. I don't expect her to be around long...she might even go this week, especially if Antonella gets another free pass from the voters.

Haley Scarnato: "Queen of the Night", indeed. Or at least, the winner for Most Improved. Haley attempted to rock out, and even if the results weren't completely convincing, she still gets bonus points for being the most adventurous of the evening. She's cute enough to be Idol camera-friendly, and she's got more personality than most of the other women. The judges were harder on her than I expected, though...she's fighting for the last spot in that final 12 with Glocksen.

Sabrina Sloan: Certainly the winner of the Best Dressed for this week...a sleek black halter top and her hair pulled back like a modern-age Cleopatra. She pushed a bit during her over-the-top version of "All The Man I Need" -- perhaps fearing the bigger voices that had gotten all of the attention tonight -- but she's emerging as one of the most accomplished talents on the show. I dig her.

Best of Night: Melinda Doolittle
Getting Cut On Thursday: Antonella Barba and Leslie Hunt (alternate: Alaina Alexander)
Early Prediction on Top Six Women: Gina, Jordin, Lakisha, Melinda, Sabrina, Stephanie
Previously on ModFab: Simon Says, Women Who Wowed



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