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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

 

American Idolatory: Not Exactly Live Aid

If the Latin and Country theme nights were surprisingly helpful in shaping the American Idol race, last night's theme, "Songs of Inspiration," wasn't helpful at all. Packaged between maudlin clips of Ryan Seacrest at an African orphanage and Simon Cowell volunteering at a food bank, the actual performances seemed merely like background music for a Sally Struthers infomercial. (Feeding the hungry is important; watching Seacrest attempting to care about someone other than himself is physically painful.) The band gave us adult-contemporary arrangements of the lyrically-overwrought classics....a style that favors belters like LaKisha, Melinda and Jordin. To add insult to injury, Paula was sober, which is a real buzzkill. Nevertheless, here's the rundown:

Chris Richardson: I've told friends in the past that I think "Change The World", the late-90's collaboration by Eric Clapton and Babyface, is one of the best pop songs ever written. That's not necessarily a compliment -- more a statement about musical hooks and audience-friendly lyrics -- but it can be compelling in the right hands. Sadly, Chris isn't the right one; he didn't butcher the song, but the simplistic take on the song only highlights the lightness of the material and the performer. Is he at risk? Let's see what Phil and LaKisha do first...

Melinda Doolittle: Another night. Another great performance. So why aren't I more inspired? I think Melinda is in danger of becoming Chris Daughtry...the contestant that is so continually good that we begin to take them for granted. With only six left, this is not the time for her to get complacement. She needs to shock and awe, every week.

Blake Lewis: Well, at least no one can say he's doesn't take on big material. Warbling through John Lennon's "Imagine," however, Blake continued his descent into plaintive dullness. It's a great song, but it's one that every human being on the planet has heard before (and heard better). His flat, straight-to-camera delivery makes him seem blank instead of sexy. Where is the beatboxer with the rebellious spirit and twinkle in the eye? What happened to that guy? I liked him. (That other guy, I mean.)

LaKisha Jones: Agh...this is getting frustrating. A night like "Inspiration Night" should play to all of LaKisha's strengths. Instead, she just set the Diva Meter to autopilot and churned out the big notes with all the personality of wallpaper. Singing Fantasia's "I Believe," LaKisha inadvertently exposed exactly why she can't win -- despite her formidable talent, she's ultimately not an original. The way that Bette, or Chaka, or even Whitney are originals. LaKisha's admired by many Idol watchers, as she should be...but it's impossible to obsess about her, and that's a quality divas sorely need.

Phil Stacey: Is it me, or is his bald head getting bigger? Or just more moon-like? Look. I've never been a fan of Phil's, as regular readers know. Still, I'll admit that he didn't suck last night. Perhaps it's because I didn't know the song he sang, or perhaps it's because he kept the histrionics to a minimum. I won't say that I loved his performance, but I will say that he might have bought himself an extra week. And that's as much praise as you're getting out of me for old Bug Eyes.

Jordin Sparks: Taking on the most difficult and well-known song of the night ("You'll Never Walk Alone," from Carousel), Jordin turned on the electricity, the personality and the power of her voice...and walked away with the evening. With no one else even close to Melinda's league, Jordin has the potential to be a true star...something that voters, at this late stage in the game, are starting to look for. If it comes down to pure vocal talent -- which is not a certainty in this most popular of popularity contests -- it'll be Jordin versus Melinda in the final showdown.

Best of Night: Jordin Sparks
Bottom Three Prediction: LaKisha Jones, Chris Richardson, and Phil Stacey
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Chris Richardson
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, To Simon With Love, Not Feeling Hella Good, Mack The Knife, Haley The Slut, Livin' La Vida Loca, Oh Bucky Covington Where Art Thou?

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