Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Idol" Recap 05/15: Why 3-3-3 is half the Mark of the Beast

How should we interpret Clive Davis' absence tonight? Tuesday (May 15) night's American Idol is usually the part of the show where the Top Three perform three songs -- one self-selected, one selected by the judges and one picked by Clive Davis, the man eventually responsible for the winner's first album. Tonight, though, Davis' song has been replaced by a pick from the producers, a nice touch given producer Nigel Lythgoe's long-held contention that he doesn't really care about whether or not the show yields a successful recording artist.

Tonight's performances:

Singer: Jordin Sparks
Song: "Wishing on a Star"
My Take: I get the impression that Simon selected this Rose Royce joint for Jordin because it relies heavily on the kind of lilting high notes that Jordin has occasionally over-warbled on this season. If that's the challenge, she dodges those pitfalls rarely easily and takes advantage of the fact that most of the song is right in her range, with none of those awkward low notes either. It's a simple and pure vocal, but it plays as easy in that way that people often criticize Melinda for.
Kukla, Fran and Simon Say: Randy thinks that this is the point of the season where he looks to see who's in it to win it. Jordin apparently is. Paula impressed with Simon's choice. Simon's impressed with Simon's choice, though he criticizes the jazzy arrangement, saying it was "brilliant," but still not one of her better performances. I like how Jordin admits to Ryan that she'd never heard the song before, even though she'd flapped her hands like a Young Paula when it was announced in Arizona.

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "Roxanne"
My Take: Paula's an evil, evil woman, assigning a Police song after the lesson we learned in Gwen Stefani Week. Is Blake about to pull a Chris Sligh? Well, he's rushing every part of the song. Does he not know where the lyric "Roxanne" fits in with the music? He hops in at at least three different points. I'd say his Sting impression falls between Sligh's (on the low end) and Phil Stacey's (on the high end). At least he doesn't beatbox. Blake closes with a wince and a slide, as the mic goes flying off the stand.
Kukla, Fran and Simon Say: Randy thought it was a great, great performance. If he isn't talking about Dice-K's pitching last night, I quit. Paula thought he was fantastic. Seriously? Simon didn't think it was a good Sting impersonation. What were they listening to? I'd agree with the idea that he varied from the original arrangement, except that he varied his rhythm each verse.

Singer: Melinda Doolittle
Song: "I Believe in You and Me"
My Take: Are the producers going to give Melinda a Tina Turner song, because this night shouldn't pass without Melinda doing Tina. It's a sign of confidence on Randy's part that he's given Melinda a song from one of those artists he's often told Idol contestants never to cover. He's also chosen one of the less iconic Whitney tracks, which lets Melinda attempt to make the song her own. For the first time all season, I hear a few pitchy spots from Melinda, the first cracks in that perfect vocal veneer. But if we're judging Melinda versus Blake, just seconds earlier, well it's not a competition at all.
Kukla, Fran and Simon Say: Randy thought it was hot and blew it out da box. Paula thought it was fantastic, amazing and at her best. Simon calls it Melinda's best performance of the past four weeks and gives Round One to Melinda.

Singer: Jordin Sparks
Song: "She Works Hard for the Money"
My Take: Jordin falls into occasional mumbles, not that anybody likes this song for its profound lyrics about the importance of treating heard-working women right, what with all they do for their money. The performance is very similar to her opening performance. These haven't been inspired song selections thus far. I've already forgotten about both of Jordin's songs, which is bad news since she's in the dreaded first slot.
Kukla, Fran and Simon Say: Randy thought it was very nicely done and that the song doesn't matter. Thanks, Randy. That's actually my problem with Jordin tonight -- it doesn't seem to matter what song she sings, the performance is identical. Hopefully she'll chose something a bit more personal and emotional for herself later. Paula enthuses that Jordin worked hard for the money tonight. Simon thought it was very good, but again takes exception to the arrangement.

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "This Love"
My Take: Well, if it's a Maroon 5 song, you can count on the judges raving about how contemporary Blake is. We've abandoned the need to ask Blake to sing, which is probably a good thing by now. But the vocal turntablism is back for no reason at all. There's nothing at all wrong with his cover of the song. It's straight-forward, by-the-numbers and fine.
Kukla, Fran and Simon Say: You know what was really cool about that for Randy? Check it out: Yo, that that's the kind of record Blake should make if he makes a record. Paula was hoping he would do that. Simon preferred that to the first one and says it wasn't a copycat performance. Nuts. Nobody called Blake hip, original and contemporary.

But what about those other four performances? Like you're friendly neighborhood crack dealer, I'm gonna have to charge you. Or at least urge you to head over to Zap2it.

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