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'American Idol': Top 4 perform

Tonight on American Idol, the final four will perform twice, with all the songs courtesy Barry Gibb, who is the evening's mentor.

His bio notes his time with the Bee Gees, as well as his producing background. Not sure what this means as far the song choices go. When Barry met with them, he tells them they sound great together: "Wanna be a group?" Response: "[nervous laughter, and no one says anything indicating yes]."

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Melinda Doolittle is up first with "Love You Inside and Out." Barry says he was confused because it's usually falsetto, but that she pulled it off. What is there to say? She is great as usual. Randy says it's going to be an interesting night. He says it was solid, but he wasn't jumping up and down. Paula says it's hard to critique her because her vocals are always "spot on," but they are maybe looking for something else to wow them. Simon says that "what Paula was attempting to say is that she was not impressed." He adds that it was more of a backing vocalist performance than a star's performance and that he hopes for better in the second song.

Haley Scarnato gets glimpsed in the audience after the break.

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Blake Lewis is going to sing "You Should be Dancing." Barry (whose speaking voice reminds me of Sean Connery) says the song suits the beatboxing he's adding. So, sorry Blaker Girls, but I don't love it. The falsetto bugs me, and the "skipping" he adds to the "yeah" at the end of every line gets kind of old. Randy says sometimes the beatboxing works, but tonight it didn't work for him. "To be honest with you, it made it really corny for me." Paula said it started shaky but got better and showed his musicianship. Simon says he will give you "unique" but he thought it was absolutely terrible. I guess I'm the dudes on this one.

LaKisha Jones is going to sing "Stayin' Alive." (We in Maryland hope she does!) She brings a lot more energy and personality to the song than she has in a while. I think she wants this and wants it bad. Randy says it wasn't working and didn't like how she altered the melody. Paula says taking the tempo down took everyone ready to be dancing and brought their mood down. Simon: "Well, LaKisha, no kiss tonight, baby." He says it was verging on scary, and she too is lucky there are two songs. OK, apparently I'm on my own on this one.

Jordin Sparks takes a viewer question about what she's learned about herself in this competition. She says that she can handle a lot more than she thought. She's going to sing "To Love Somebody." Barry says, "I know a couple of hundred people have sung this song, but I haven't heard a great version than Jordin's." Wow. I'm so out of sync with the judges, I barely know what to say about it. But to my (untutored, exhausted) ear, she sounded pretty darned good. Randy says it's been a rough night so far, but that she had the best vocal thus far. Paula says she looks beautiful, and it's not sorta kinda the best vocal, it is the best vocal. Simon says they are back in the competition.

Melinda Doolittle is asked what first tape or CD she first bought. She says it was a tape of Michael Jackson's Bad and that her mom crossed it out and put Good. Hee! Her next song is "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" He's confused about why she skipped a line, and she says it's because she doesn't want to sing "about being a loser on American Idol." So I'm not the only one who thinks about the lyrics in the context of whether they would be horrible to sing if you got voted out. About three-quarters of the way through the song, she steps it up a notch and goes big with it. Randy says the second song was way better, with a beautiful ending, and she's still the resident pro. Paula says the vocal was perfect again, but that it would be nice for her to throw all her technique away and surprise him. Simon says the second half of that song has put her into the semifinals. (Uhhhh, aren't we wayyyy past the semis here?)

Blake Lewis is going to sing "This is Where I Came in," a slight more obscure song. Barry says they thought it was going to be a hit, but they were wrong, but that it still can be a hit record, and this is what the song needed. It did sound very contemporary. Randy says this was better, but he's still not jumping up and down, but that he doesn't have to beatbox every time. Paula says he is the "contemporary rebel in this competition." Simon says he doesn't know what that song was and that he found it "completely tuneless."

Can I just say this show goes a lot faster when there are eight performances in an hour instead of having the show be an hour and a half for no reason.

Judge Judy is in the audience, as is Simon's mother. What did I just say about filler? Oy.

LaKisha Jones is going to sing "Run to Me" for her second choice. He asks her to try bringing it up a key earlier than she had planned. Will she listen? It sounds like she might have a little bit of a cold going and might have stayed lower to protect her voice. On the last note, it kind of gives out. Randy says it was a lot better, despite the hoarseness. Paula says not to beat herself up, and when she responds, she can barely be heard. Simon says he thinks she and Blake are vulnerable. (They wouldn't be running out of time for JUDGING if they had dispensed with the Judge Judy nonsense!)

Last is Jordin Sparks. She sings "Woman in Love," taking on Streisand. Barry says he thinks she is going to be one of the greatest female recording artists. He sure isn't holding back with the praise. And she is good tonight. Randy says it wasn't her best performance, because it was a little pitchy (and here I thought we were going to get through an entire episode without that word). Paula thought it wasn't her best, and Simon thought it was old-fashioned and pageanty.

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