Twenty-four hours after the top 10 boys belted — or in Sanjaya's case, creepily whispered — the "Idol" set's been cleared of that locker-room stink the guys often leave behind. Yet no matter how much Febreze they use, I bet the studio still has the faint smell of feet thanks to Paul Kim ... God rest his sole.
Yes, "Idol" fans are buzzing about how improved the boys were last night (see "'Idol' Recap: Grandma Gets Sappy Shoutouts, Simon Crushes A Soul"), but they still didn't come close to the strong debut the ladies made last week. Now the top-10 women have another chance to show the boys how it's done.
Unfortunately for us cynics, the "dedication" theme prevails again tonight. I hold my breath and hope that the girls won't rely on emotional shortcuts as much as the guys did. (If I had a nickel for every dead grandmother last night ... I guess I'd only have 10 cents, but still!)
One last thing before I get to the contestants: Thanks to a late-in-the-game "each voice is a different flavor of ice cream" metaphor awkwardly thrown out by Miss Paula, I thought it would be fun to identify each performance's corresponding ice-cream flavor! Now let's get to it before I melt.
Song: Heart's "Alone"
Verdict: A Heart Attack
The schmaltz-fest begins. Rocker Glock-er dedicates her performance to her "rock" of two years, boyfriend Joe, who recently dyed his hair red as a sign of solidarity ... or maybe he just works at Hot Topic. Like an idiot, Lock-Glock-And-Two-Smoking-Barrels chooses "Alone," a song that Carrie perfected two seasons ago. Looks like someone needs to go back to Idol 101, which teaches you that a breakthrough performance from seasons past makes that song off-limits — just like how you're not supposed to date a friend's ex.
Glock-A-Doodle-Do's screechy performance doesn't faze AJ Tabaldo (who totally hearts Heart) but as Gina squeals the lyric, "How do I get you alone?" I cry, "How do I get you to stop singing?" Background singer Charlotte — who was seen wearing a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt last week — is sporting a Tenacious D shirt this time. I kind of love her.
After the judges argue about whether Gina's edgy enough (Randy's claim that "Alone" is an edgy song is worthy of a spit-take) Ryan jokes that Joe and Gina should get engaged. I think Seacrest knows that an on-air proposal is the only thing that is guaranteed to keep the Schlock-Glocker around one more week.
Her ice-cream flavor? Rocky road. (That's too easy.)
Song: Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice"
Verdict: Iffy Chick
Self-proclaimed "cryer" Alaina Alexander says this one's for her workhorse of a mother, and we see where she got the tear ducts from — before Alaina sings one note tonight, mom is bawling in the audience. Odd that such a likeable and upbeat contestant is singing this angry and confrontational anthem. But even odder is that Alaina might have picked the worst song in "Idol" history. Think about it: She just alienated country fans (and Elizabeth Hasselbeck) by picking a Dixie Chicks song, and at the same time alienated Dixie Chicks fans by singing it terribly! D'oh! So although Alaina looks fantastic tonight, she needs to pray that some really incriminating photos of Antonella surface in the next 12-15 hours. Randy "Living My Life in Color" Jackson wins the award for Best Forced Compliment so far this season: "The first couple of bars were good." That's like eight notes, people! He might as well say, "You sang the first three words in tune! Good job!"
Thanks to her performance "running out of steam" midway through, Alaina's ice-cream flavor is Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked.
Song: Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia"
Verdict: All A-Bored!
At first I'm confused as to why LaKisha "Sexy Legs" Jones is dedicating a performance to her grandmother when she has a perfectly exploitable child to shout out. But then I see the grandmother and it all makes sense.
How much do I love Grandma Ruth? Let me count the ways.
1. Her wig looks like it was item 402 at the recent Whitney Houston auction.
2. Despite being nearly 90 years old, Grandma Ruth has style to spare. In fact, her blazer/skirt combo makes her look not a day over 72!
3. She is in "l-u-v" with Seacrest. That's just funny.
Now if only LaKisha had a quarter of Grandma's personality. 'Kisha's "Midnight Train to Georgia" is competent, but lacks the "oh no she didn't" punch of last week's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Style-wise, LaKisha missteps with her orange/salmon oversized shirt. The ill fit makes her look larger than she really is, and the hideous color clashes with everything from the Coke-room couch to the background animation swirling behind her during the performance.
No shocker then that her ice-cream flavor is orange sherbet.
Song: "My Funny Valentine"
Verdict: A Stunner
Melinda dedicates her performance to her two best friends. She calls them her "Gayles" and explains that she's Oprah — so evidently they'll be riding her coattails for years to come. Well, at least now it sort of explains why Melinda's dressed like a daytime talk show host. I'm a little suspicious that one Gayle is her stylist and the other Gayle's her vocal coach. Doesn't that seem unfair to the other contestants?
But my cries of "CHEATING!" are quieted when Melinda takes to the stage. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the first WOW moment of "American Idol: Season Six." The almost-perfect rendition of "My Funny Valentine" makes me forget that I've heard the song 4,000 times before.
Naturally, the judges flip out. Simon is so impressed that, in keeping with the grandma theme of the week, he turns into one! Just like my grandma tells me the same three stories over and over again, Simon says the same "big talent/ little ego" comment he made last week ... almost word-for-word. I'm also surprised that he doesn't call out Melinda for looking like a 50-year-old.
Doolittle surpasses 'Kisha as the one to watch, and for that her performance tastes like Baskin Robbins' Gold Medal Ribbon.
Song: Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me"
Verdict: She Doesn't Suck!
Now that Antonella Barba isn't getting booted from the show for taking risqué photos — those porno pics were phony and the acrylic nails prove it (see " 'Idol' Hopeful Antonella Barba's Pal Says X-Rated Pics Are Fake") — we have the unfortunate task of having to listen to her sing again this week.
But first, the Jersey girl shares a mini-"Real" moment with Ryan.
Talk about the elephant in the room! Seacrest chit-chats with the wannabe pinup about her nerves and her song choice, but all anyone in America wants to hear is an explanation for those bizarre and offensive "half-naked frolicking in the WWII Memorial" pics. Or at least a "That wasn't me in the porno pics!" speech. But nope. She's nervous. That's all we get. Ryan isn't exactly a hard-hitting journalist, so whaddaya expect?
On to the taped piece, where Antonella introduces us to her inspiration: her brother, Vincenzo. (Of course his name is Vincenzo.)
The girl with the weakest voice out of the top 24 has the gall to tackle Celine Dion. Somehow, and I really hate to admit this, Antonella isn't that bad this time around. Don't get me wrong, she doesn't belong on the same stage as Melinda or even Alaina for that matter, but she's almost always on key (hey, I sound like Randy!) and looks more confident this week. Could it be that I'm warming up to this girl?
Hold that thought. Did she really just compare herself to Jennifer Hudson?! I ain't having that. Therefore, I dedicate this Baskin-Robbins flavor to Jersey: Wild 'n Reckless.
Song: Christina Aguilera's "My Reflection"
Verdict: The Waterworks Work
Oy, that "Mulan" song again? Has anyone on "Idol" ever been successful with that mess? The herpe of the Christina Aguilera catalogue — I'm sure Xtina wants to forget about this bland ballad, only to have it pop up at inopportune times — "Idol" needs to retire this song "TRL"-style. I don't know anyone else on the planet that likes this junk ... except Blake who is seen singing along — and no doubt beatboxing pointlessly — in the audience.
Song choice is the least of Jordin's troubles. About midway through the performance — dedicated to her bro, PJ — she goes for a high note and doesn't quite hit it. From that point on, Jordin fights back the tears and the rest of the song falls apart. On the last note, the dam breaks and the girl is full-blown crying. (I imagine Alaina backstage kvetching, "That's MY trait!")
Here's where I get angry. The judges back off! Randy gives Jordin an easy out ("You're emotional because of that taped piece about your brother, right?") and she pounces. "Yeah! That's it!" Puh-leeze. She was fine at the beginning of the song. It's not until she hits a wonky note that she unravels. I've studied the moment about a dozen times. (God bless TiVo. How else would we be able to study inconsequential reality TV moments as if it was the Zapruder film?)
The judging is a hot mess, mostly because it sets a dangerous precedent. Randy Jackson may have worked with Beyoncé, Mariah and Steve Perry, but all you need to do to turn him into mush is to work yourself up into a teary-eyed frenzy. Even normally cold Cowell is taking it easy on her. I hope this never happens again.
Jordin's instability points me towards this ice-cream flavor: Macadamia Brittle!
Song: Beyoncé's "Dangerously in Love"
Verdict: Vegas, Baby
Stephanie's laidback interpretation of "Dangerously in Love" is dangerously in lounge lizard territory. The girl carries whatever tune there is to carry — seriously, could she have picked a less melodious Beyoncé song? Actually, yes! but I'm not blown away the way Simon and Paula are. How did they not catch her trip over the lyrics? Her haircut reminds me of LaToya London, and sadly her mediocrity does, too. (I was never a 'Toya touter. Sue me.)
Because the judges are split — Randy accurately describes it as Beyoncé-lite — there's only one flavor it could be: Haagen Dazs' Banana Split.
Song: Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"
What's worse, the fact that Leslie lamely told Seacrest that she "flaps" when she "gigs" or the fact that she picked a song AJ Tabaldo performed just a day earlier?
You might remember that I thought AJ's performance was drag-tastic. Ironic, then, that the girl with a manly voice is now trying the same song on for size. Leslie's affected performance is just all sorts of wrong. And by the time she starts scatting, I'm ready to change the channel. (Hey, isn't the season premiere of "Top Model" on right now?)
The judges aren't so keen on the "skisweezles" or the "bodoozingdabbles" either. Simon hilariously says Leslie's scatting sounds exactly like Paula on the show: "Blububububububububub." Paula doesn't do much to refute that claim when she incoherently screams, "We all like different flavors of ice cream and Leslie is a unique flavor!" (Yeah, Nutty Coconut sums her up perfectly.)
Song: Whitney Houston's "Queen of the Night"
Verdict: Big Crimpin', Singing Cheese
After last week's Celine misfire, Haylie's hoping to show that she doesn't sound like a 40-year-old. But her over-crimped hair distracts me because all I can think of is THIS! Ryan tells us that she's going for an uptempo Whitney song, and I'm really hoping it's "Whatchulookinat," an underappreciated nugget of Whitney insanity. Alas, she's singing "Queen of the Night," dedicated it to her fiancé, Bobby. (Brown?)
First Leslie, now Haylie. Man, these white girls sure know how to kill a show, don't they?
Haylie's manic eruption warrants the Dreyer's flavor Hollywood Cheesecake. But I immediately feel bad because she tears up after being ripped a new one by the judges. (Uh oh, the waterworks are working on me, too!)
Song: Whitney Houston's "All The Man That I Need"
Verdict: Surprisingly So-So
Sabrina's got the cushy final spot. Producers usually reserve this segment for a real showstopper. Sabrina just doesn't cut it. She has little control over her voice and, as Simon points out, she's shouting more than she is singing.
Luckily for her, she'll get some of the sympathy votes. Her 86-year-old Grammy is in and out of a lot of hospitals (and there are tears in her taped interview!) but I don't know what else will convince people to dial her 866 number.
The gooey mess of sentimentality mixed with the unwieldy vocals leads me down this path for an ice-cream flavor: Sticky Toffee Pudding.
High Note Of The Night
Nobody came close to touching Melinda Doolittle tonight. Her "My Funny Valentine" might go down as one of the great all-time "Idol" performances. My second-favorite moment of the night, however, happened during a commercial break. Apparently Dave Matthews is guest-starring on an episode of "House" and he's playing a "musical savant." If he can pull that off, he deserves to win a boatload of Emmys.
The girls let me down tonight. What threw them off their game? Was it complacency? (On the second week? I hope not!) Was it the emotional dedications? Was it cattiness? Anyone else catch Antonella Barba off to the side while the rest of the top 10 broke off into cliques during the end credits? DIVA!
With only one great performance in the can, almost any of the girls could be on the chopping block Thursday night. If the stars align, however, and AJ from the boys and Leslie from the girls are two of the four kicked off for each singing "Feeling Good," I have one final request: Let's do everyone a favor and instead of butchering Nina Simone again for their singing sendoff, why not have them perform a duet? "The Crying Game" would be perfect.