Wednesday, March 14

AI Finals - Top 12

It's finally the finals! We're back to the bigger stage, band, theater, & live audience, which will be a factor for good or bad in some of the performances. Tonight we are "celebrating" the music & career of Diana Ross, the "most successful female recording artist" ever. She says she enjoyed mentoring the contestants & we see her telling them that she wants all of them to have career longevity.

Brandon is up first with "You Can't Hurry Love." Well, he needs to hurry some up from voters after this performance. Not only was the song not great to showcase his vocal ability, he totally forgot some words in the middle when he paused for a dance move. He didn't cover well, either. Randy said it was boring & he seemed like just a background singer. Simon said it was a complete let-down, a predictable performance and that he showed no star quality.

Melinda sings "Home" and is also predictable IMO: 'predictably' awesome! I always enjoy watching her perform and the crowd absolutely loved it, making Melinda rather emotional as she faced the judges. Paula was also emotional as she knew how much moments like that mean. Simon said she made a boring song good and that she reminds him of a young Gladys Knight.

Chris S. sang "Endless Love." He tried to modernize it by "changing some chords," he explains. We see Diana cautioning him in rehearsal to just focus on singing the melody. The judges said the same thing after hearing his arrangement (which sounded strangely like a Coldplay song). While it was good, it perhaps wasn't as necessary as Chris (& his gut) thought. He also decided to leave the glasses off, which was also a poor decision (he looks like Hurley on Lost!). I feel a bit sad for him because Simon keeps telling people to do something original & stand out, but he got criticized for doing that. He pays close attention to the judges' comments but sticks to his decision when Ryan asks if he regrets doing it that way (standing up for himself in a humble way as opposed to a cocky way, IMO).

Gina sings "Love Child" and was telling "Miss Ross" about how she liked to sing this as a child despite not understanding the story at that time. Diana kept encouraging Gina to "pronunciate" the lyrics so to best convey the story (apparently that is a real word, just used rarely). I thought Gina performed well. Randy said it was pitchy & boring; Paula agreed that it wasn't her best. Simon said there wasn't "much to say" and then kept on talking, lol, saying he did think it was a good song choice for her & it wasn't bad but nor was it great enough to wow him.

Sanjaya's hair is protesting the flat-iron treatment last week by being ultra-curly this week! It's a bit much, but he certainly brings the charisma tonight! And a touch of vocal talent. Despite singing done-to-death-and-then-some-on-AI "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," he projects, embellishes, & creatively enhances several sections of the song. The rest he sings softly & uninterestingly (except for aforementioned charisma; boy was workin' it!), but it's definitely better than the past 2 weeks & shows a touch of why he was in the top 24 to begin with. Randy pretty much hated the performance (said he was "speechless"), though he liked the creativity of hairstyle that he's showing. Paula said he needs to "let go" more, vocally, and Simon (after a few boos) ended by "being positive" and saying that Sanjaya is "brave."

Haley chooses "Missing You" and tells Miss Ross that it makes her think of her fiance. Diana explains she wrote it after Marvin Gaye's death (music trivia!). She also says Haley has a good studio recording voice but doesn't project well enough for a live stage performance. For much of the song this is true, and she is also off-key. However, toward the end there was a strong, high part that showed better vocals than I've ever heard from Haley before, including a glory note or two. Unfortunately, right as she entered that section she botched the words. She'd spoken to Ryan earlier about being more nervous this week so she was very upset after the performance. Randy & Paula focused on the negative but again Simon was complimentary! He started by saying "I didn't think it was that bad," which made Haley totally lose her composure & start crying (partially from relief & gratitude!). He said he was impressed w/her stage presence and some of her vocals. She said that she felt terribly about the performance but wanted the judges to know that she really appreciated the positive comments.

Phil sings "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and for some reason is much more confident and comfortable on stage than he has been. He commented before that he hasn't started off well and that he'd do better this week, and he did! Showed he can sing in the lower range as well as the high stuff; I think this was his best performance yet. I need to listen again, as it's bugging me who his voice reminds me of...? Randy says it's the best male vocal of the night (so far; he's 4th out of 6) but that the song seemed lacking. Simon said it was a good choice but that he shouted the big notes. He said it was still better than last week's. Phil made rawkhands while Ryan was giving his voting number (I read in TV Guide that Phil likes/wants to do rock but doesn't want to be compared to last year's bald rocker!)

Lakisha had never sung "God Bless the Child" before but did a great job! The crowd really loved it, too. She purposefully held back the belting and Randy appropriately complimented her on not overdoing it. He said it was "sensational" & the perfect song choice for her. Simon said, "You either have it or you don't... and you have it!" He said that she & Melinda are in a different class talent-wise than everyone else.

Blake sings "You Keep Me Hanging On," apparently unaware of the song's reputation for getting Idol contestants kicked off! Maybe his changing the arrangement will break the curse, as he made it somewhat electronica). It was interesting that Diana enjoyed his arrangement (unlike with Chris). It was good; I don't think he's necessarily the best male vocalist, but I think he's definitely the most musically talented (and experienced performance-wise). And I don't know why, but he really, really looks like Robin Williams to me tonight! Randy didn't like the arrangement & said his vocals are better than this showed. Paula liked it & said his arr. was better than Chris S.'s. Simon said "I didn't get it" and that you don't need to change classics.

Stephanie sings "Love Hangover" in an Asian-style dress that I don't think flatters her at all. She's good, but she doesn't make me care (I miss Sabrina!). I didn't notice it, but Randy & Paula mention that she forgot some of the words. They also said that she sang well but they were very disappointed she didn't include the upbeat, disco-style part of the song (Simon said it was as if she just sang an introduction). Stephanie replied that this showed her vocals better. Simon said it was a poor choice & she was outsung by several others.

Chris R. sings "The Boss," yet another I don't know. He was cutely starstruck with Diana. It's an uptempo song & she suggested he really "work" the stage & audience, so he started with even more bobbing than usual (stop channeling Elliot!) & went out to the platform for part of the song. Overall it was a good performance & possibly his best vocal yet. Randy said he overdid the runs but he still enjoyed it; Paula said he best (of the guys) nailed the mix of classic & contemporary (I don't know the song & rearrangement wasn't specifically mentioned, but he could have.) Simon disagreed & said based on singing alone - without his charm & personality - that it was terrible.

Jordin is last with "If We Hold On Together," a very Disney-sounding song. Diana said she's beautiful & has star quality, and she told Jordan to focus on her projection (of the lyrics/story). She started seated on the stage & really looks gorgeous. The song was great, she really showed her range vocally and stylistically (belting to soft). Randy was impressed & said she just "made it a 3 girl race." Simon said it was "a little gooey" (hee! and yes!) but "very, very good vocal."

Whew! In summary Melinda was, as usual, the best. I think Brandon or Stephanie will go home & that Haley will round out the bottom three.

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