Blake Drags The Competition Into The 21st Century

May 16th, 2007 // 13 Comments

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Is this a picture of your American Idol top two? We’ll find out tonight, but last night’s episode–during which Blake got the chance to perform two songs that were recorded during this millennium, and Jordin nearly had an onstage tantrum–made us think that the beatboxing wonder may have some life in this competition yet. And don’t worry: We’re just as surprised as you are.

Last night’s episode was a crisp run through nine songs–three from each contestant, with one each picked by the judges, the producers, and the Idol hopefuls themselves. In each group of three, Jordin was up first, Blake went second, and Melinda closed things out, so let’s look at the three contestants’ performances in that order:

MMM-BLAH: First up was Jordin, who started off with a pretty weak version of “Wishing On A Star,” which showcased all of the most annoying things about her voice’s inability to stay on pitch in the higher registers. While Randy and Paula liked it, Simon was lukewarm–even though the song was his pick. Intentional sabotage? We weren’t going to believe it until we heard the producers’ pick for her second song–Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard For The Money.” Because, you know, a 17-year-old football player’s daughter who has been groomed for pop stardom for her entire adolescence can completely relate to 9-to-5ers! Seriously, she should have done “Mmmbop,” which she revealed as her favorite song during the between-segments interview–at least it would have been believably lively. Jordin closed out with a storming reprise of “I (Who Have Nothing),” which she sang during British Invasion week–and it was fine, although the oh-so-serious track, combined with her prommy gown, caused the word “pageanty” to float into our heads again. And did anyone else get Antonella Barba “but you’re supposed to love me” flashbacks when she feebly tried to defend herself to Simon?

BLAKE TURNS TIME FORWARD So we weren’t really expecting much from Blake last night. He had to open with “Roxanne,” which is a tough feat to accomplish without sounding like you’re impersonating Sting or Eddie Murphy, as his first song, and he wound up going the Sting-impersonation route with middling results. But his last two performances put him where he was pretty comfortable–in the 2000s–and he actually sounded completely radio-ready. And–dare we say it?–we didn’t even hate the beatboxing, although it worked better on Robin Thicke’s “When I Get You Alone” than on his cover of Maroon 5′s “This Love.” (Possibly important note: Our affection for Blake’s performances last night could have been heightened by the fact that “When I Get You Alone” is smack in the middle of our “top 100 singles of the past five years” list. Although Jordin’s not being very good helped, too. And we still hate the improv comedy/a capella college thing.)

SIMON LUVS MELINDA, ALTHOUGH WE AREN’T CRAZY ABOUT HER STYLIST: While we weren’t crazy about the big Whitney ballad Randy selected for Melinda, she handled it well–even the parts in the higher register. But her last two songs–”Nutbush City Limits” and a reprise of “I’m A Woman”–that showed off her ability to completely stomp a song into her own image, and have an absolute blast while doing so. What we especially loved was the moment when she gave the backing vocalists their own moment during “Woman”–it was a nice way for her to tip the cap to her past. If only she didn’t wear a gray suit during that workout; the outfit sort of made her look like she’d been stuck working hard for the money late, and had to race to the stage to give her performance.

WHO WE VOTED FOR: All the contestants who weren’t named Jordin.

WHO AMERICA WILL PROBABLY CUT: We have no idea, although it probably won’t be Melinda. There are rumors out there that the powers that be have already determined Blake as the next victim, but after last night’s complete botching of Jordin’s song choices by both the producers and Simon, we’re not so sure.

PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 9.89999/10. Will she faint under the table at the climax of next week’s finale? Luckily, we’ll be liveblogging it, so you’ll know right away.

American Idol [americanidol.com]
Earlier: Idolator’s American Idolatry archives
[Photo via Men On TV]

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  1. Hallux Valgus

    I had totally forgotten about “When I Get You Alone,” which rocked many a Big Money house party mixtape.

    Also, I happened on that old Entertainment Weekly featuring the top 8. Do you remember who was at the top of the page? Jordin, Melinda, and Blake. Since I have a lot of free time and an active imagination, I choose to believe that this is not a coincidence.

  2. Rory B. Bellows

    @MC: Its not just the age. The difference between Taylor and Melinda is that Taylor was the underdog last year. Kat was the more polished singer that the producers clearly wanted to win and there was drama in seeing if Taylor could hold on each week. This year, there have been no real likable underdogs. The closest we came was Sanjaya. We were so desperate for an underdog and some drama that we briefly convinced ourselves that he could win. Melinda has been the frontrunner since the beginning and its boring. She is boring.

  3. Butch Huskey

    Melinda looks 42, but her Idol bio says she’s 29 & her parents look to be about 89

    i think Jordin goes

  4. MC

    @Rory B. Bellows: I don’t think Taylor was that much of an underdog. I know it’s not just the age. But the main reason Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have sold more copies of their albums than the other winners: they are young pop singers who appeal to young record buyers and old viewers alike.

    The only way Melinda sells more than 500K copies of her debut CD is if it’s a Christmas album.

  5. Rory B. Bellows

    @MC: I think they cast him as the underdog with Simon’s comments during the audition. That stuck with most viewers through last season.

    I agree with you somewhat re: Clarkson/Underwood. For the most part, I don’t think that AI producers know what to do with these winners once they get off the show. Clarkson and Underwood have done well because they have made albums that are contemporary. That’s very different than the types of songs that the judges and producers try to get the contestants to sing while they are on the show. (i.e. Whitney, Celine…) I think it just shows that there are very different factors that go into whether the season is a success vs. whether the winner’s career is a success.

  6. ArmCandy

    Last night completely changed the race. Simon has repeatedly told Jordin to freshen up her songs and act her age, but she’s determined to put us all to sleep. And the “I’m laughing right now even though there’s no joke” smile? Ew!

    I vote for a diverse Blake/Melinda showdown next week.

  7. DorothyMantooth

    So… Y’all know that She Works Hard For The Money is less about “9-to-5ers” and more about hoin’, right?

  8. Maura Johnston

    @DorothyMantooth: I thought the video was supposed to be literal! (Although I’d argue that my point stands double in that case, really.)

  9. Maura Johnston

    Also, that means that two of the songs last night were about prostitution, right?

  10. Hallux Valgus

    @maura: now that’s a theme night I could support.

  11. Adairdevil

    Melinda’s version of “Nutbush City Limits” was total cruise-ship fare. I was waiting for somebody to come to me with a menu and ask me if I’d like to try the surf’n'turf.
    It’s so much worse when they’re given a good song than when they’re just belting out the same old schlock.

  12. jhowlin

    Meanwhile, Simon is questioning Seacrest’s sobriety while no one mentions the 800 LB PINK GORILLA in the room.

    And how many things were just wrong with Sir Mix-A-Lot, Blake, and every white person in the state of Washington?

    American Idol: awkward, uncomfortable television.

  13. DorothyMantooth

    @maura:
    It sho’ do! And with a name like “Nutbush”…
    Well.

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