Last night's show began with Ryan Seacrest in a wrinkled suit and unknotted necktie, much to the outrage of Art Haarper: "Tighten your necktie and get a shave. He looks like he just staggered out of happy hour." Overall, the girls' performances could have been neater too.
Paris Bennett - "Conga"
Cr. Crumpet Swank: Paris was good but not great. When Gloria Estefan was on the show, Simon, of all people, commented on how challenging her songs were to sing, and that people didn't necessarily realize that. Paris's performance was further proof of this. Her Gladys song remains her best performance, but that was now two weeks ago. Also, she better watch out for Mandisa as the field shrinks, since their similarities will cannibalize each other's votes. If push comes to shove I think people will side with Mandisa. Both girls have strong, expressive, totally effortless voices that are very R&B/funky/churchy. Vocally they are pretty much equal, perhaps. And they both have sunny, appealing personalities, but I give Mandisa the edge here because she comes across as merely fun and sassy and sweet, whereas Paris risks coming across a little too cutesy.
Coolia: I gave Paris the lowest scores of the night. I thought her timing was off on the song and she looked uncomfortable to me. She probably has enough fans to keep her safe, but performing first and not doing well could land her in the bottom 3 as a surprise.
Lisa Tucker - "Here's Where I Stand"
C. Crumpet Swank: Lisa gave another strong performance. That I remember. But the song and its details? I can't recall any of it, even though it was only last night. I think she is someone who is going to need serious help with song selection in order to stay in the game. As always her poise is exceptional. What distinguishes her from Mandisa and Paris is that her singing is a little more Broadway and less R&B. This might help position her more distinctly in people's minds as times goes on.
Coolia: It was not a song I knew, and I think the judges dinged her for that. I think she will make it this week but will eventually lose out to Paris in the precocious teen dept.
Melissa McGhee - "What About Love"C. Crumpet Swank: Although I liked Melissa's performance, I don't think she has enough charisma. She is also very plain-looking, which doesn't help. There's a little bit of a white-trash quality to her as well. Was that the same muffintop-baring outfit as last week? Is that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" wardrobe decision based on her moving forward last week? While by no means fat, she doesn't quite have the figure to pull that look off.
Coolia: I thought you would love her for doing a Heart song! I thought it was a good song choice for her, suited her well. She did look trashy.
Kinnik Sky - "If I Aint Got You"
C. Crumpet Swank: I thought Kinnik was okay, and not as bad as the judges concluded, but there's some essential quality missing with her. I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it has something to do with the fact that her voice is not particularly distinctive--both in terms of its sound, nor in its technical range, so when you put these two aspects together it leaves her wanting in the company of the other gals.
Coolia: Agreed. I think she picked a song that was too big for her and it showed her limitations. She's also not particularly likable or beautiful - although one might call her a handsome woman.
Katharine McPhee - "Think"
C. Crumpet Swank: Katharine was excellent. She looked like she was having a good time, was totally relaxed, and nailed virtually every note in an extremely challenging song. It was a delight to hear her sing something so funky and do it so well. Cathy Dennis and Lisa Stansfield would be proud. Two areas in need of improvement: 1.) Wardrobe. Wearing jeans and a solid, no-style top week after week is not going to cut it. She needs to hire Nadia Turner to be her personal shopper for the next few months. 2.) Post-performance composure. She's starting to come off a bit twit-like. She's too giddy and silly. It makes her seem a little dumb, when I don't think she really is. Good thing she's not blonde. Let's keep in mind, too, that she's really gorgeous in a totally unpretentious way. I don't think she realizes how beautiful she is, which is a good thing. Nevertheless, someone needs to get her going in terms of delivering a look which can capitalize on her assets.
Coolia: Agreed. She doesn't seem arrogant at all. She needs to show more personality if she wants to last, or she will end up like Latoya London who proved that great vocals weren't enough to win. But she should sail through to the next round.
Ayla Brown - "Unwritten"
C. Crumpet Swank: Ayla was done a disservice by her song selection, exactly for the reason Randy said: it was not a difficult song to sing, relatively speaking. Nevertheless, she was polished and delivered the goods. "Unwritten" is in the Top Ten currently, so who knows, maybe people will really connect with it, since she did do a good job with it, after all.
Coolia: I really don't like her, and that's probably influencing my pick for her to be voted off, and I will probably lose a point over it. Her performance was less robotic this time, but I still don't see any warmth in her, even in her interviews. Her voice alone is not enough to sell her to me, with her absence of personality. And being a hard worker isn't enough, although Paula keeps congratulating her for that.
Mandisa - "I'm Every Woman"
C. Crumpet Swank: Even though Mt. Disa is absolutely gigantic, she actually has a very pretty face which belies her weight. I know that's an old saw, "but she has a pretty face..." yet here it's true. So, Mandisa is grossly overweight but has a pretty face, whereas Paris is tiny but has a plain and middle-aged looking face. Which combination will people find more appetizing? Also, I think it's interesting to note that the fact that she's black actually cuts Mandisa some slack in terms of her weight. I maintain that, on a visual scale, people don't find bigger black woman, especially singers, as off-putting as similarly-sized white women. Do we perhaps have Aretha Franklin, "The Hippo of Soul," to thank for this? Mandisa's performance was rousing. My only complaint about her, and it's an ongoing one, is that her voice lacks a truly distintictive quality. I want there to be something in her voice which I could recognize as unique, and I haven't heard it yet.
Coolia: Ugh...I cringed, and I'm sure all my fellow Lane Bryant shoppers did too, when Paula told her she had a pretty face last week. yes, she does, but that's such an irritating cliche. She's so far ahead of the other girls vocally, and I'm hoping that people will get behind her. She also seems to have a really nice, sweet personality that gives her an advantage in the "likeability factor." I am curious to see if people will vote for a big gal. It will be a breakthrough if she goes far. Aretha was not that big in her heydey and I can't think of any obese chicks who became big popstars (Carnie Wilson doesn't count - her function in Wilson Phillips was to make Chynna look hotter). My wardrobe advice to her would be to stick to loose, flowing tops and skirts, cleavage-baring stuff, and avoid jeans which make her legs look like two giant redwoods.
Kellie Pickler - "I'm the Only One"
C. Crumpet Swank: How can one not love her? She has to be the most charming Idol contestant of all time. And as long as she continues to deliver solid performances like last night, she will make it into the final handful of competitors. God Bless Simon for proclaiming that he liked Kellie better than Carrie, since his constant praise of Carrie's singing helped (mistakenly) pave the way to her ascension as last year's Idol. Not only was he complementing Kellie through this comparison, it was as if he was finally admitting that Carrie is and was a dud when it comes to personality. Indeed, I was always mystified by how Simon never seemed to realize how supremely boring Carrie was/is; how she always seemed so stiff performing; how she exuded practically no charisma. For someone as astute as he to downplay such glaring deficiencies seemed incomprehensible to me. While AI is a singing competition, it is more than that as well, which Simon and the other judges have acknowledged repeatedly. So yes, Carrie has a lovely, technically impressive voice, but she is an utter bore to watch, further evidenced by her guest performance last Thursday. So let us now remember to celebrate Kellie Pickler as a total package: the clear, beautiful, strong voice; her fetching looks and sexy physique; the playful, innocent, joyous personality; her identity as a lover of dogs; that fighting spirit; and her growing confidence and charisma on stage. PICK PICKLER!
Coolia: Nerdia's comment about the DJ saying she had been rude to wait staff is still in my mind and now i'm questioning if she's genuine. I am waiting for The Smoking Gun to reveal she's been stripping in vegas for the past few years. But when I turn this cynical voice off, I do enjoy her. I cheered when Simon said she was better than Carrie - but I don't think she has the pipes to win. Her personality is much better than Carrie's, but her voice is not in the same league. Her voice is really pretty average. And I don't think she should win right after Carrie - it will turn the Idol competition into a repeat of last year. If she makes the final two with one of the boys, I bet a boy will win. She really shouldnt make the final two though - PICK MT. DISA!
Who Do We Think Is Going Home?
C. Crumpet Swank: Kinnik and Melissa
Coolia: Ayla and Kinnik