The men are up again on American Idol. One can only hope they will put on a better show than last Tuesday's lackluster two hours.
Ryan Seacrest starts things off by saying congratulations to Jennifer Hudson on her Oscar win. Jeff Foxworthy approves and claps from the audience. (He is there to draw attention to his game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Which I always want to follow with, "Well, are ya, punk?") Ryan says this week, the contestants have been asked to dedicate their performances to someone who's inspired them.
Phil Stacey is up first. He dedicates his performance to "Navy Band Southeast," his military unit. It turns out his MOS (that's job title in military-speak) is actually singer. He sings "I Ain't Missing You." He starts out a little off (as per usual) but warms up and gets a lot better in the parts of the song he has to belt. Randy says it was "hot." Paula talks up his tone and says she could hear him on the radio. Simon says he isn't "jumping out of my chair." He says he's popular and nice but not unique -- but he does agree that the end of the song was pretty strong. When Simon brings up likability, Simon tells him not to worry about it because he will definitely be back next week.
In the Red Room, Ryan asks Sundance Head what the buzz over the weekend was. He says, "For me to be less crappy." AJ says the judges were fair, and now they have "a chance to redeem ourselves."
Jared Cotter says he is taking on Marvin Gaye since Simon told him to be more adventurous. He dedicates his performance to his mom and his dad, his mom because she told him to go to the auditions, and his dad because he's why he is into music. Which is sweet, but he's singing "Let's Get It on." (I suspect -- I hope -- they picked and then were told about the whole dedication thing.) He is markedly better than last week, way more energetic, and having a great time playing to the cameras. Randy says he wasn't sure if he took chances, but he loved the part where Jared groped his face during the song. (Simon to Randy: "You're actually funny.") Paula tells him he's a good-looking guy, but, "That's the kind of song where you don't have to push ... well, no pun intended." Then she gets really embarrassed. Simon takes over and says, "I'm glad that you made the attempt, but it did remind me of the Love Boat. ... It was a bit corny at parts." "That would have been a GREAT Love Boat," Jared replies. Hee! Everyone is on a roll! Ryan skeeves everyone out, saying, "And the things we've all done to that song ... Yeeeeah." Too much information alert!
Here is Paula after her accidental double-entendre:
AJ Tabaldo also dedicates his song to his parents. He sings "Feeling Good." Think he's going for a fresh start, with a song about it being "a new dawn ... a new day"? He gives a good performance, but I'm still not sure I will remember it in a few hours. Randy says it was better than last week, that he "proved that he's got skills." Paula tells him he has a "real real real real real good voice," and that he's refreshing. Simon says it was "nearly very good," that he stood out, that he looked "strangely comfortable" on stage. He tells Ryan he was outside his comfort zone, but he tried to listen to what they said last week and mold his performance to that.
Sanjaya Malakar dedicates his performance to his grandpa, who passed away when Sanjaya was 5. He sings "Steppin' Out With My Baby," wearing a dapper hat (and his grandpa's wedding ring). His performance seems really quiet somehow, until his last couple of notes. Randy says he's a nice kid and that he likes him, but that it was really weird; "This was not good," he says. Paula says he sang on pitch, and that he has an old soul, but that the song was a little old for him, since he's 17. Simon says, "It was like some ghastly lunch where after lunch, your parents have asked the children to dress up and sing. ... It came over as very weak, a little weird. ... In fact, halfway through the song, you were whispering." He says he wanted to celebrate the great years of music, especially since he was dedicating it to his grandfather.
Chris Sligh tells Ryan he thinks he has picked the right song. His performance is dedicated to his wife. Wow, I didn't realize he was married. He says she has been supportive of him through everything. He sings "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne. This dedication makes much more sense lyrically than the others thus far: "I've been saved by a woman ... She's good to me now." It's a little off-pitch at times but full of feeling, and he continues to appear completely not nervous. Randy says the song shows off his big voice and his skills. Paula also liked that and that the dedication to his wife was sweet. She does point out he was off-pitch at times, and that he was getting ahead of the music occasionally, but closes with, "You're real awesome." Simon says, "Tonight, you were a very good singer." He says he was a little worried at first that he'd dedicated a song called "Trouble" to his wife, "but the lyric kind of made sense." Ryan points out that Taylor sang this song last season, but Chris said he was glad to have the chance to sing it a little differently.
Nick Pedro dedicates his song to his girlfriend. He says this will be "the ultimate Valentine" since they had to be apart on Valentine's Day. He sings "Fever." At the beginning, the drummer gives a more animated performance than Nick does. It's a little all over the place for my tastes. Randy says, "It's cool that everyone has done so much better than last week," but he's returned to his roots and it was good, that this "is the Nick that we love." Paula praises his tone and tells him to go for it. Simon says, "I thought it was good, but when you're going to attempt to pull a song like that off, it's all about charisma, and you lacked charisma. ... I thought the drummer was quite good, though." (Apparently, Simon and I are on the same wavelength this evening.)
Tossing it to a commercial, Ryan says we can expect some "Virtual Insanity" from Blake Lewis. My immediate reaction: This could either be totally amazing or impossibly bad. Here's hoping for the former. In the red room, Ryan asks what watching the women perform meant for Blake. He says it showed him he needed to "step up my game a little bit, a little meaning a lot." He dedicates his performance to his parents. He sings -- and does a little beatboxing break in the middle, too -- and does right by Jamiroquai. Randy tells him it's good to see him return to form, he loved the beatboxing and the scatting and the falsetto. Paula says he made a smart choice, and "way to go." Simon disagrees: "I like you ... I thought the first part was completely copycat, the second part, you showed some originality, and the third part of the song, your tuning went. ... I was very disappointed this week." When Randy and Paula get all worked up about it, he says, "Sorry for having an opinion! ... I will bow to the god of Paula Abdul; I won't have an opinion!" Ha! I don't agree with him about Blake's performance, but that was comedy gold, as they say.
Back in the red room (I guess they are running short today), Chris Richardson tells Ryan he's going to be singing "Geek in the Pink." (I squeal about Jason Mraz being sung; my husband probably rolls his eyes, but they're glued to World of Warcraft, so it's hard to tell.) But first, Brandon Rogers is up. He is dedicating his song to his grandmother. He sings "Time After Time." In his interview, he expressed worry about the song being too slow, but that the lyrics were too fitting, so he was going for it anyway. It's sweet, but not uber-memorable. (But his mom is crying in the audience. Awww.) Randy says he liked the sentiment, but that the song didn't do enough for him vocally. Brandon says he was trying to put his heart into the song and that he didn't feel like it needed anything extra. Paula says she felt his heart and that he didn't have to oversing. Simon says he loves grandmas, but, "It's a singing competition. You have got to come out here, Brandon, and do what four or five of these girls did last week and make a wow impact." Brandon wishes happy birthday to his dad. Simon goes, "By the way, it's my mum's birthday ... in November. ... And I like puppies." Methinks Simon isn't the most sentimental dude around.
Chris Richardson is also dedicating his performance to his grandma. As was already mentioned in the red room, he's singing Jason Mraz's "Geek in the Pink." He still looks really nervous to me, though he doesn't sound that nervous. Randy says that "Chris is in it to win it. ... I even think that was hotter than the original, dawg." (Gonna have to disagree with that one.) Paula asks about him dedicating that song to his grandma. Chris says she wanted a country song, but she loves to dance, so he had to go upbeat. Simon says, "For me, best tonight, by a mile." Really? I hate it when I have a total disconnect with every single one of the judges. So, with the magic of Tivo, I listen to it again, without watching this time, and yeah, I guess his vocals were pretty good. I just really don't think he looks comfortable on stage, and that definitely affects my response to a performance.
Sundance Head is last. He dedicates his performance to his 2.5-month-old son Levi. He tears up when talking about being away from his son. He sings "Mustang Sally." He is clearly bringing back the bluesy side the judges were lamenting his having lost last week. (He's bringing bluesy back. [Sorry.]) Randy: "What a difference a week makes. Welcome back, Sundance." He says he wants to thank America for keeping him around another week. Paula tells him he needs to bring it like that every week. Simon says he's glad this Sundance is back, but let's not get too carried away, and that he thinks he can do even better. Ryan puts a photo of little Levi with a Sundance goatee drawn on it, saying he's been gone for a while.
I think Brandon, AJ and Nick might be in trouble on Thursday. I would say Sanjaya, too, but he was in the top four last week, so his fan base is probably going to carry him another week at least. Blake, both Chrises and Sundance were pretty great in my estimation, but I especially loved Blake. I don't necessarily want to see beatboxing every week, but it worked for him tonight. Phil and Jared are in the middle for me. But I'm not voting! Who are you voting for?