The final twelve contestants took the Big Stage last night, but the dramatic vocal performance of the night was a duet by Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell, as they continued their ongoing tango of homophobia, or -philia, I’m not quite sure which. During a sidebar on, of all things, Melinda Doolittle’s shoes, Ryan sniped at Simon: “Stay out of my closet!” Simon: “Come out!”
It was a cry for help, though I’m not certain on whose part. Anyway, it was Diana Ross night, so here’s a look at the performances of the other divas:
Brandon Rogers (You Can’t Hurry Love): Brandon seems to be singing the Phil Collins Songbook, not the Diana Ross Songbook. And he forgets his words. YOU DO NOT FORGET YOUR WORDS! He tries to save himself with the classic “I had such a great time” defense: “I got caught up in it too much–I was enjoying it a little too much.”
Melinda Doolittle (Home): Good choice for her to pick a dramatic song–from The Wiz–that allowed her to really belt it out. She still has too much smiley-itis, but she is learning to emote a little better. Paula actually breaks into tears, although maybe it’s just the Coca-Cola talking.
Chris Sligh (Endless Love): Chris, sans glasses, says he changed the chord progression; Ms. Ross does not seem amused, and we can soon see why. He has apparently changed it into a Coldplay song. Now it’s treacly and bombastic. Simon says he “murdered” the arrangement, but, maybe more damagingly, says he should have kept the glasses: “It’s not you.”
Gina Glocksen (Love Child): Diana advises her to “pronunciate” better in the pre-song coaching. She made a good pick–my favorite Supremes tune, it’s probably the most rocker-friendly–but she doesn’t quite have the vocal firepower to match the song or her ambitions.
Sanjaya Malakar (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough): AI’s Teflon King, his hair styled into soft ringlets, reminds us again that they should have kept his sister instead. Randy actually laughs at him: “That song was unlistenable for me.”
Haley Scarnato (Missing You): Oh, right: she’s still here. She misses notes. She forgets words. In a kiss of death, Paula tells her she looks lovely. On the bright side, Simon remembers her name this week and–he has a weak spot for the pretty ones–seems to be trying to throw her a lifeline.
Phil Stacy (I’m Gonna Make You Love Me): Phil’s better at blasting a song than selling it: he has a big, big voice, but as before, his performance is a little shout-y and not very emotional. However, a big sign of his baby in the audience probably wins him an extra 500,000 votes.
LaKisha Jones (God Bless the Child): You knew she was going to kill this song before she stepped on stage; as Randy says, she did herself a favor by holding back and not oversinging, and unlike many AI singers, she delivered the song as if she actually knew what the lyrics meant.
Blake Lewis (You Keep Me Hanging On): Like Chris, he rearranged the song, setting it to a slower beat, thus walking in the hallowed footsteps of Vanilla Fudge. Unlike Chris, he doesn’t ruin it, but he doesn’t improve it either. Mainly, I find it really distracting wondering through the whole song when he’s going to beatbox.
Stephanie Edwards (Love Hangover): I like Stephanie a lot–I don’t buy the line that it’s already a two-way contest between LaKisha and Melinda–but this is a weird song choice. The original is a breathy intro that leads into a climax without many lyrics. Breathy and subdued don’t play on AI, so she blares out the sultry part and skips the climactic disco section altogether. Again, she sounds like Beyonce: singing “I don’t want a cure for this,” I keep expecting her to add “…for this jelly.”
Chris Richardson (The Boss): This is a pretty unfamiliar song, but I think it’s still clear that Simon was right: he was missing notes like a kid trying to pin a tail on a donkey. His charm and Justin-Timberlake-jack-in-the-box moves should keep him in another week, though.
Jordin Sparks (If We Hold on Together): Nice, if not too memorable. This ballad, we are told, was in The Land Before Time, which makes me picture her serenading a little orange Triceratops.
I’d send home Sanjaya, but who am I kidding? I predict this is the week Mr. Rogers leaves the neighborhood. You can’t hurry love, Brandon, and you can’t forestall elimination.