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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


American Idolatry: Livin' La Vida Loca

Bursting with all the authenticity of a Chevy's Fresh Mex at the mall, American Idol hosted its special "Latin Night" yesterday...which meant lots of Gloria Estefan and Santana covers, a few offensive bungles about Latino culture, and surprisingly cogent commentary from guest expert Jennifer Lopez. (She's hawking a new album, doncha know.) As evenings go, it was pretty mediocre...even the contestants who normally do well had problems. To wit:

Melinda Doolittle: Despite the admonition from J-Lo that she needs to go "sexy and sultry," Melinda offered up another flawless-but-retro performance. Her transition into Gladys Knight is almost complete, down to the vintage pearl necklace, ruby red lipstick and sharply-silhouetted black dress. Don't get me wrong, it was a great performance (can she do otherwise?), but it was not very au courant...Randy compared her to Celia Cruz (ouch, she's dead!), and Simon called her effort "personality-less." She recovered admirably in the chat with Seacrest, though. So despite a slight falter, she's not in any danger.

LaKisha Jones: Song choice, song choice, song choice. Miami Sound Machine's "Conga," with its spiky staccato rhythms, was completely at odds with LaKisha's sliding R&B style. Paula criticized her for playing it "safe," even after Randy extolled her virtues. I don't think it was safe so much as incongruous...LaKisha was visibly uncomfortable throughout the performance. After all these weeks, I'm still not totally sold on her. (And a side note...what is up with LaKisha's terrible fashion choices? Tonight she wore a weird blood-red leopard print (?!?!), the latest in a series of unflatteringly odd wardrobe misfires. We need a What Not To Wear intervention, stat!)

Chris Richardson: As I said before, song choice makes all the difference. Richardson is a lazy, off-the-beat singer with anemic stage presence...and none of it matters when you're singing "Smooth," Santana's infectious stomper with those amazing signature guitar riffs. With the house band rockin' the suburbs, Chris' performance was completely beside the point (though Simon did manage to gently critique it). This isn't the first time Chris has been spot-on with a song choice that carried him through. If Richardson keeps picking can't-miss tracks like this one, he could have an outside shot at the final three (that is, if the better singers like Melinda and LaKisha miss the moment too many times).

Haley Scarnato: First, the important thing...Haley has left the slutty skirts behind. Instead, last night she sported super-tight hot pants that left nothing to the imagination, topped by a see-through zebra blouse. (I feel like I got a crash course in female anatomy whenever she tried to dance.) Her tarted-up look, however, couldn't mask her dismally weak attempt at "Turn The Beat Around," a sharp-edged disco track that needs more bite and snap than Haley's got. I realize I've said it before, but...this should be her week. (We'll see if the hot pants work magic and keep her around. It's worked so far.)

Phil Stacey: Oops. Perhaps I spoke too soon. Phil's swamp-water version of Santana's "Maria Maria" might be my least favorite performance of the season. Off-pitch and with his voice cracking, Phil's interpretation was corny, syrupy, and flat as a pancake...like a cover band who poorly re-records hit songs so they can play in dentists' offices. Since I've been on a fashion rant earlier, I should point out that Phil also wore a tan beanie swung to the side, which hid his bald head from view but unfortunately made him look like a drunk golfer. Damn, just five minutes ago I was certain Haley would be going. Now? I'm torn.

Jordin Sparks: The judges were complimentary, but after knocking it out of the park for the last few weeks, Jordin's rendition of "The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" was a bit of a letdown. The song wasn't bad, per se...it's more that the whole affair suffered from very low-energy, her (overworked?) voice tremulous and shaky for the first time. Was she sick? Is she exhausted? Whatever the case, her usual passion wasn't in evidence. And while I don't think she's in much danger this week given the poor performances of Haley and Phil, she can't afford to phone it in like this.

Blake Lewis: Am I wrong, or is this the third week in row where Blake has gone without beatboxing? I realize he's afraid of getting pigeonholed, but his version of Marc Anthony's "I Need To Know" was a bit lackluster...I'm worried he's losing some of his originality and spunkiness. Sure, he was sexy...he's cute as a button. But like "Mack The Knife" last week and the Cure song before that, there's a creeping generic balladry starting to underscore his performances. His natural effusiveness is dissipating. Still, with the best praise of the night from the judges, I think he's safe from the bottom three. But how much longer will he coast? How much longer can he coast?

Sanjaya Malakar: Sweet wounded Jesus. Besame fucking Mucho? Sanajaya is covering Steve and Eydie, the champions of camp? You gotta be kidding me!! And even worse, he tried to play one of the shlockiest songs in recording history straight...or as straight as one can be with a teen-fuzz mustache colored in with eyebrow pencil and relaxed curls that look exactly like El DeBarge. I'm going to quit hoping that America will wake up to this musical fraud, since I'm certain he'll be back. Actually, I'll take it a step further. Since America prefers Sanjaya's camera grandstanding and freakish hairstyles to actual talent, I'll predict it first: he's going to win the whole enchilada.

Best of Night: Melinda Doolittle
Future Trannies of America: Sanjaya Malakar
Bottom Three Prediction: LaKisha Jones, Haley Scarnato, and Phil Stacey
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Phil Stacey (alternate: Haley Scarnato)
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



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