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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

 

American Idolatory: Take My Hand, You'll Make It I Swear

With no true rock singer left in the American Idol competition, the producers threw the remaining six contestants into the fire by featuring the songs of guest artist (and last week's Friday Hot Guy here on ModFab) Jon Bon Jovi. Few rock performers have blended rock, soul, and pop as well as the boy from New Jersey, which makes this music an excellent test of the versatility of reality show wannabes. Some rose to the occasion, some didn't...and some refused to play by the rules. Here's the rundown (and don't forget...we're cutting TWO people this week!):

Phil Stacey: Jon Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" was perhaps a prescient song for Cue-Ball to perform, because I certainly think he was on the chopping block coming into last night's episode. And while his lounge-singer routine charmed Paula and Randy, I remained firmly unmoved by the performance. Phil ignores the meaning of his lyrics, breezing through happy and sad ideas like they are one in the same. For the last few weeks, he's been desperate to prove that he's got the biggest boy voice left in the competition...and the power chords reinforced the point. (A point that seems beside the point to me, considering that Chris and Blake never claimed to be belters in the first place.) His success depends on the other performances, but I still think he doesn't have a prayer.

Jordin Sparks: Ouch. The 17-year-old phenom totally muffed the adrenaline rock rush of "Livin' On A Prayer," trembling through the low notes of the verses and overplaying the high notes of the chorus. From moment on, she was shaky and unsure of herself...and smartly admitted to the fact during the judges' critique. There's a lot of Jordin haters who comment here each week, and I'm sure there'll be a rush to declare that she's going home. I wouldn't be too sure, but she didn't do herself any favors with this lackluster performance.

LaKisha Jones: LaKisha singing Bon Jovi is exactly as uncomfortable as you might imagine....it's akin to Aretha Franklin covering Marilyn Manson or Whitney Houston duetting with Ozzy. Okay, maybe I overstate the fact, but it's simply not her genre. So I guess the fact that LaKisha didn't completely blow it gets her some bonus points. (Certainly the judges awarded her some; Simon even came on stage to kiss her, in one of the most shameless "please keep her" plugs I've ever seen.) I maintain that there's no one in the world that would buy a record of LaKisha singing rock music, but perhaps that's not important. I also maintain that her stretchy body suit was a fashion disaster...and I'm a big girl myself, so I know what I'm talking about. Still, my guess is that she'll get a pass to next week.

Blake Lewis: After a few weeks of dull, middle-of-the-road performances, Blake took it out to the edge with a beatbox-heavy, funked-up version of "You Give Love A Bad Name." I dug it, and dug it hard. Dying his hair to become a brunette (it worked!) and having a percussionist join him on stage, it was as risky as American Idol gets. Traditionalists will certainly heap scorn on it, and I bet rock purists were mortified. But it's exactly what Blake needed to do to get back into the race, and the risk paid off in spades.

Chris Richardson: Singing what arguably could be called the biggest Bon Jovi tune ever, "Wanted Dead Or Alive," Richardson tried to twist, turn, and wriggle free of the song's rock roots. It wasn't incredibly effective, as Simon noted; the R&B inflections clashed with the guitar arrangements, and the thin quality of his voice has never been more glaringly evident. Chris has been able to coast thusfar in the competition on his looks and some excellent song choices. This week, that ride may come to an end.

Melinda Doolittle: Of the three belters left in the competition, only Melinda found a way to translate the gospel roots of R&B into a straight-ahead rock format. Fearlessly grabbing "Have A Nice Day" with both hands, she wrestled its melody into something akin to "Black Velvet," a sultry but fierce attack. Randy compared the performance to Tina Turner, and the description was apt. Melinda has an ability to transform the song she performs in a way that no one else in the competition does. Even though I think Blake was more impressive this week, there's no denying the fact that this competition is now, and maybe always has been, Melinda's to lose.

Best of Night: Blake Lewis
Bottom Three Prediction: LaKisha Jones, Chris Richardson, and Jordin Sparks
Getting Cut On Wednesday: Chris Richardson and Jordin Sparks
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?, Not Exactly Live Aid

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