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'American Idol': Top 3 perform

Tonight on American Idol, the Top 3 will perform three songs. One was picked by a judge, the producers have picked a song, and the contestants each get to choose a song, too.

Jordin Sparks is up first. Simon Cowell chose her song, "Wishing on a Star." She starts out a little slow, but as the song gets faster, she gets warmer and closes really strongly. Randy says she evoked Beyonce and that the runs at the end were great. Paula said it was a great way to start the show. Simon says she sang it brilliantly, but he wishes they hadn't done "a weird jazz arrangement."

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Blake Lewis is next. Paula Abdul chose his song, and she went with "Roxanne" by the Police. He changes up the notes a little bit, so as to avoid sounding like he's copying Sting exactly, I assume. It works pretty well (at least he doesn't sound like he's about to go "Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahx-aaaaane" like people do when it's on in their cars -- surely that's not just my entire family and group of friends)? It is a little ... I don't know, tinny? His voice just doesn't have a lot of depth to my ear, and this song kind of reveals that. But, as usual, he performs the heck out of it, and the audience likes crazy. Randy says it was a great performance and a "pretty good vocal," and overall, an A. Paula says he did her proud, and it was fantastic. Simon says it wasn't earth-shattering, but that you are always forced to "do an impersonation of Sting" with that song, "and it wasn't as good as the original. It was good; it wasn't great." See, while I wasn't blown away, I think he did what he could to avoid exactly that criticism (at least, without making the song unrecognizable).

Melinda Doolittle is assigned Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me" by Randy Jackson. So they are definitely pushing her, given that they usually try to keep the contestants away from the big, well-known voices like that. She gives another strong, professional performance (marred by a bit of a shriek in the middle), but also ends solidly. Randy says he wanted to throw some difficulty at her, and that it was hot, and she "blew it out the box." Paula says she was fantastic and amazing and that this was one of her best performances. Simon says it was a very, very difficult song, and that this was her best performance of the past four weeks. "Round one goes to Melinda," he closes.

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Jordin is forced to take a viewer question about her favorite song of all time. She says "MMMmmBop" by Hansen always puts a smile on her face. Her producers' choice is "She Works Hard for the Money." She has a blast dancing all over the stage, keeps up with the tempo the whole way through the song, and gives it another big finish. Randy says she is working it out no matter what song it is. Paula: "Jordin, you worked hard for the money tonight; I thought that was fantastic." Did she just call Jordin a prostitute? Simon says it was a great performance, but that arrangement was a little off, but it was good. He's cracking up over Paula's comment and can't seem to get it together, adding, "I thought the money note at the end was very good." *cough*

Blake also has a viewer question, this one about what the movie of his life should be called and who should play him. He says Jim Carrey and it would be called Organized Chaos. His song from the producers is "This Love" by Maroon 5. He breaks it down a little going out of the chorus. Also, given that they usually steer clear of some of the racier allusions, I'm shocked that the shortened version includes the line about fingertips. But I'll leave it at that. (Of course, Jordin did just sing "She Works Hard for the Money," so maybe I am just confused.) Randy says when he makes a record that "that's the kind of record you should make." Paula says, "I was hoping you would do that. You are totally in your element." Simon says he preferred this to the first song because he sounded very comfortable and not copycat at all.

Melinda is asked who her idol is and why. She says her mom. She's going to sing Ike and Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits," as per the producers. She works the rock and soul vibes of the song, and it's definitely her most engaging and entertaining performance in a while. They wanted excitement from her, and I think she brought it. Randy brings out the record line again and says she needs to use that kind of music in her first album. Paula says she looks like she had fun and says they love her. Simon says he "loved that side of you, and actually, again, another brilliant performance." When Ryan forces them to score the round, Simon calls it a tie.

Jordin's song choice is "I Who Have Nothing." It's a huge song, and she delivers. Randy says it was her best performance of the night and that she had great control. Paula says it "sat well with your voice" and it was a good choice. Simon says she sang it really, really well, but part of her hates that a 17-year-old was singing a 60-year-old song, and he wishes she'd sung something else.

Blake is going to sing Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone." First, they show him in Seattle beatboxing while Sir-Mix-a-Lot (also from Seattle) sings "Baby Got Back." Hee! I'm not super-familiar with the song, but the vocals seem to suit his voice more than the first option did. Randy says he sees why he chose that, that it was "cool," though he sounds unconvinced. Paula says he had three great songs. Simon says he really liked it. He says he takes risks and looks like he is having fun and that's what he likes about him.

Melinda closes the show with her choice, "I'm a Woman." She works the song over, and even has a little interlude with the backup singers, cute since she used to be one. Randy says he is seeing "the range of Melinda Doolittle." Paula says she is "stepping out into the spotlight." And something about her journey. Simon says he loved the "little striptease" at the beginning (when she lost her jacket). He adds: "If I'm going to award a place in the final to the person who's consistently delivered week after week, it's you."

Everyone worked pretty hard this week, and it was a blast to watch. But I'm with Simon. If you're voting on consistency, it's all about Melinda. And while she's been dinged for not being super-interesting, I think she stepped it up on the performance front this evening. But everyone was entertaining. What do you think?

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