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'American Idol': Top 8 perform

It's time for the Top 8 to perform on American Idol tonight, under the mentorship of songbird Jennifer Lopez. Wow, really? It's Latin night. Will this yield us "Sanjaya From the Block"? Phil Stacey crooning "Conga"? Let's just watch and get this over with.

Jennifer tells them they need to be so proud of themselves and that for the audience, it's all about who gives them goose bumps.

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Melinda Doolittle is going to sing "Sway." Jennifer says she showed this flash of sultriness, then tells Melinda she needs to deliver that for the entire song. Melinda: "Oh, shoot." She ends the interview with, "I'm so not sexy!" I predict Paula is going to contradict that because she gives her usual amazing performance, I think even with more confidence than she's shown before. Randy says he was waiting to see what she would do with this genre and that she gave another solid performance, though he's not sure it was her best. Paula calls it "very sultry, very smooth." She says it was subtle, sexy (!) and beautiful. Paula: "It had to happen, Melinda. I didn't like it." He says the song is all about personality, and that she appeared much older than she is and that it was very cabaret. He says she needs to put on a "wow factor" performance every week. (He probably wanted to say "It Factor," but that's OK.) Melinda to Ryan: "I think he really wanted to say something bad, and he finally got the chance."

LaKisha Jones comes up next. She has a viewer question forced upon her: "What made you try out for American Idol?" She says she wanted to provide a better life for herself and her daughter, and that she wanted to share her talent with the world. She is going to sing "Conga," which I hope will be amazing. Jennifer helps her figure out how to move during the performance. She is rocking this black and red dress and starts out on the platform behind the judges, working her way back to the stage. That is a tough song because of the speed, but she pulled it off. Randy says she came out and had a great time, and that she (IDOL KEYWORD ALERT) "made it her own." Paula says she thought it was a safe performance. Simon asks if she agrees with Paula, and LaKisha says she went outside her comfort zone and "moved a little bit." Simon says he does agree with Paula because it's "not a singer song, it's a fun performance song. You were having fun, I'm not sure how much fun everyone at home would he having." Randy says she dancing and moving, and Simon says the dancing wasn't very good. Someone gasps high-pitchedly. At first, I thought it was Paula, but I'm pretty sure it was LaKisha.

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Chris Richardson is going to sing "Smooth," and as soon I hear that, I think, "Oh, of course." She helps him with his pronunciation of "munequita" (sorry I can't do the tilde over the n) and also suggests he move it up a half-step in pitch. When it starts, it feels a little too low for him. He's surrounded on stage by a guitarist and a drummer, which along with the rest of the band is kind of overwhelming his vocals. My experience trying to sing that song in my car (oh, shush!) reminds me that the song is in two completely different ranges. Rob Thomas somehow pulls it off, but I don't really think Chris did. The second part, the higher part, was pretty good, but that first section was kind of uncomfortably low. Randy says he was wondering how he would do the song and that "found himself" at the end and added the runs and that it was very cool. Paula, on the other hand, things it was a "hot, hot performance ... what am I going to say?" Simon says it wasn't the best vocal, but he preferred it to the first two because it felt more contemporary. So this is me and the judges on two totally different pages!

Haley Scarnato is next up with Jennifer. She's going to sing "Turn the Beat Around." Jennifer instructs her on how to deliver the lyrics in kind of a staccato way. Haley says she needs a beat (since they are practicing just with the piano). Jennifer suggests they get Blake (leading me to believe he might be one of the "favorites" she wouldn't reveal at the beginning of the show. So ... Haley sings and she dances and she tries. But this song is fast, y'all, and she doesn't quite get the rhythm of the fastest lyrics -- she seems kind of out of breath in the middle of it. And ... I don't know. Her voice just has such a sweet quality to it that it doesn't really ever have that contemporary sound that Simon is always going on about. But let's toss it to the judges. Randy says it was really karaoke for him, and it could have been "any bar anywhere." Paula says she had fun up there. Simon says she has a great tactic: "Wear as least amount of clothes as possible [sic] because, look, ... you can't do well in this competition based on your voice because there are much better singers, so all you can do is have fun." Did he just call her a skank?

Phil Stacey is going to sing "Maria, Maria" from Santana. He keeps getting distracted by the fact that he is singing to Jennifer Lopez, and she makes him sing it again, getting into it right from the start. If she can get him to start a song strongly, I will believe that she is a miracle worker. He actually does have a better start than usual, but he doesn't get into his glory notes (his strongest suit) until the very end. But overall, better than he's been, in my opinion. Randy says he didn't really connect with the passion of the song, and the he found a lot of it boring. He said his upper range is still great, but it didn't all come together. Paula says except for the cracks at the end (I forgot to mention those), he had a great vocal. Simon says he's a nice guy and chose a good song, but that he found "no originality in the performance ... so there's nothing I can get particularly excited about." Phil interrupts Ryan's question about endurance through the competition to tell everyone about how his daughter has a stuffed animal she calls "Simon Cow." I really think he should have told Ryan that during commercial.

Jordin Sparks takes a viewer question: "If you were in charge of choosing next week's theme, what would it be?" She says '80s music. She's going to sing "The Rhythm is Going to Get You." Jennifer says she quality of her voice in this song reminded her of Michael Jackson (in a good way), and also gives her tips on how to move. The performance is a little vibrato-y at times to me, but she can sing. (Regarding the outfit, though, I have to say, it took me way too long to realize she was wearing a long black shirt under a cropped top -- I thought she had on super high-waisted pants, of the era whose much she had just praised. Much relived to discover that mistake. Whew.) Randy says, "You got it cuz you got it; that was the 'yo factor' on blast." Well OK, then. Paula says she's so authentic and so herself. Simon says there is nothing stunning, and that he hasn't seen a progression -- from anyone -- tonight.

Blake Lewis sings "I Need to Know," by Jennifer Lopez's husband's Marc Anthony. She tells him to get into the passion of the song. I think he actually listened because there is way more depth in his performance than the first round with Jennifer. I think Simon just got his progression. Randy: "Best song choice of the night." Paula says it was a "very smart performance" and that "it captured the essence of who you are." Simon says it was the best song choice of the night and best performance so far. He really did bring it up a notch -- he's had this kind of semi-hollow sound to his voice at times, and I didn't hear it at all this time.

We're closing with Sanjaya Malakar. Jennifer says he really impressed her. She tells him to take his time and that he made a really good choice. He sings "Besame Mucho." Lest there be any doubt, he did cut his hair last week, and he's growing out his facial hair. It's actually not a particularly bad performance, except for the creepy making-of-eyes at the camera. Pretty pleasant, actually. Randy says, "That was actually really good." Paula says it was "smooth" and "very, very nice." Simon says he couldn't understand a word of it, "you sang like a 14 year old, and I'm going to hate myself for this, it wasn't horrible."

In danger? I'd say Haley, Phil and Chris. Yes, I know I'm a broken record on the first two, but I'm going to keep saying it until it happens.

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