Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"American Idol" 04/10/07 -- Top 8 Perform Vaguely Latin Songs

Bringing in Jennifer Lopez to mentor contestants for a singing competition would be like America's Next Top Model welcoming Anna Kournikova as a guest advisor, or George Foreman stopping by to teach the gang on Top Chef. Sure, J-Lo has been known to do something resembling singing, but it's pretty far down the list of things she does well, below dancing and "acting," but perhaps a smidge above TV producing (Yeah, South Beach, I'm talkin' about you).

And yet, here's J-Lo on Tuesday (April 10) night's American Idol, giving advice to eight superior vocalists (Yup, I'm even including Sanjaya) on the theme of Latin Music (a subject the Bronx-born singer only recently learned about herself).

Sarcasm aside, tonight's performances:

Singer: Melinda Doolittle
Song: "Sway"
My Take: No, this song was not a tribute to former Idol non-favorite Jose "Sway" Penala, but it was another chance for Melinda to subvert a theme to go in the direction of a sound that's decades old (the seminal Dean Martin recording is circa 1954). Melinda's voice is, as always, flawless, but J-Lo told us that this week's theme is all about passion, which is where Melinda goes a little flat. She seems to confuse "Squinting" with "Being Sexy," which is a fairly common mistake, particularly on Idol. Despite the lyrics, she contributes very little swaying to the actual performance. Only if I turn away from my TV does Melinda truly deliver.
Roosevelt, Stalin and Simon Say: Randy asks people to check him out and warns that this wasn't her best, but still solid. Paula found it sultry and smooth. Last week, if you'll recall, Simon said he was worried that they wouldn't get to say anything bad about Melinda this season, so naturally he begins, "It had to happen, Melinda. I didn't like it." He says that at this stage, Melinda needs the "Wow!" factor and even calls it lazy and wooden. He's so clearly going for pointless criticism that it's impossible to take him seriously. Melinda smartly observes that Simon wanted to say something bad and she's glad he got the chance. In my opinion, she disagrees without seeming cocky. Others will disagree.

Singer: LaKisha Jones
Song: "Conga"
My Take: I suspect I'm being unduly mean if I describe LaKisha as looking a bit like a Human Lava Lamp this week, right? Sigh. There's a lot of undulation is all I'm saying, a lot of rippling flesh, if that's your cup of tea. This song is a bit of an answer to the critics who say that LaKisha's only mode is to stand still and bellow. She has some problems projecting on the faster parts of the song and her dancing is, as promised, just a little limited, but she shows a different side. It's not her best side, but it's different.
Roosevelt, Stalin and Simon Say: Randy raves that LaKisha was having fun and that she made it her own. Paula, however, thought it was a safe performance. LaKisha disagrees with Paula, but Simon thinks it was a performance song, but not a singing song.

Singer: Chris Richardson
Song: "Smooth"
My Take: Nice of J-Lo to credit Rob Thomas with the vocals on this one, but not the lyrics and melody, which he wrote, as if that might strip "Smooth" of its Latin bona fides. This is the least nasally Chris has sounded all season, from which one could certainly infer that J-Lo is a brilliant musical mentor. What it really means is that Chris has picked a song in a lower register, which was a smart idea, because I was starting to get sick of his standard twang. He gets to be all high and whiny at the end, but it's a very restrained and largely successful vocal.
Roosevelt, Stalin and Simon Say: Randy liked that Chris did his thing. Paula thought it was hot and calls Chris sexy. It wasn't best vocal Simon has ever heard, but he preferred it to LaKisha and Melinda.

Singer: "Haley Scarnato"
Song: "Turn the Beat Around"
My Take: Just like I don't actually know if Haley can sing, I have no idea if she has rhythm. But she does want to keep reminding us about her legs. It's back to short-shorts for the season's designated morsel of eye-candy. You'd think Haley might have some new moves to show off on Latin Night, but she's pretty much fallen into a one-note rut -- She struts around in high heels, wiggles her shoulders, shimmies her chest and smiles broadly. Haley tries finding a few big power notes, but gets drowned out by the band, which at least means she was in tune. The lyrics are mumbled throughout, but it's not like the original is a model of clarity and enunciation.
Roosevelt, Stalin and Simon Say: Randy thought it was karaoke. Paula thinks Haley had fun. Simon endorses Haley's Clothing Depletion strategy, as does the cameraman, who lovingly pans from shoes to hair. Simon complains, then, about the vocals being rushed. Haley resists the temptation to tell Simon to stop sexually harassing her.

If you want to know how much Sanjaya rocked, you'll have to check out my full recap over at Zap2it.

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