Let the Games Begin

*Pre-season's over on "American Idol." We're now down to the final 12, and The Game.

This week: The Diana Ross Songbook.

Points to Brandon for being the only "Idol" wannabe to try out a Bust Some Moves strategy. But he discovers mid-way through "Can't Hurry Love" that he also can't sing and dance at the same time and forgets some of the words.

Sticks with the A Star is Born wide-eyed newcomer strategy that has somehow served her very well so far even though the judges seem to understand she is in fact a professional backup singer by day and is also one of the oldest contestant, pushing 30. Shockingly, even when she lays it on too thick -- even by "American Idol" standards, which is really saying something -- and claims she's weeping after singing "Home" from "The Wiz" because she's never experienced anything like applause on stage, the judges buy it. Melinda wins this week's My Backstory Beats Your Backstory Award.

Blinded by vanity, literally, Chris takes off his glasses to sing "Endless Love." This give us the Simon Cowell Insult of the Evening, when the unerringly catty judge suggests Chris put them back on. Sligh also appeals for "Idol" Special Victim's Unit Case status, saying he was stabbed in the back by the show's song arranger.

Now deeply committed to her bad-girl rocker niche, Gina combs the Ross library for a naughty song and, ironically settles on the I May be Illegitimate but I'm Not That Kind of Girl ballad, "Love Child."

Perfecting his My Power is in My Hair strategy, Sanjaya comes out coiffed like Ross -- totally topping the week he came out tressed like "Idol" judge Paula Abdul. But he is overwhelmed by his song -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" -- and by the band, which is bigger and louder than ever. For any other contestant to score fewer points for performance this week will require going into negative numbers. And yet, he will probably stick around because he so adorably androgynous.

Career Save of the Evening goes to Haley, who comes out with a conventional If You Can't Sing Distract 'Em With Cleavage strategy, but nimbly switches to Self Flagellation -- calling her performance of "Missing You" "the worst" and herself "a schmuck" -- when her original game plan does not click with judges Randy Jackson and Paula (though it works like gangbusters on Simon who says "I'm very impressed with your presence on the stage tonight.")

Announces his I Don't Have a Game Plan game plan before singing "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" in slow motion. Points for not blaming the arrangement.

Already winner of the Jennifer Hudson Most Likely to Succeed Even if She Fails Trophy, LaKisha gives an uncannily controlled version of "God Bless the Child" and racks up extra points for being the only "Idol" to never try to oversell a song with mugging at the camera.

Blake's Remix Strategy hits a wall with "You Keep Me Hangin' On " prompting Randy to advise him that sometimes he should just let a classic be a classic. Blake tells Ryan he's not buying it.

Wardrobe Dysfunction Award goes to Steph for the paisley-esque frock - a rare misstep by the best-dressed Idolette this season. She also bags the Honorary Doctorate of Musicology Excuses for explaining to the judges - who wonder why her performance was all foreplay with no big finish - that the song was "too long to fit it in."

Looking ever more like the love child of Justin Timberlake and K-Fed, Chris performs Ross disco disaster "The Boss" which triggers this week's American Idol Judges Senior Moment, when Paula and Randy begin to yak about him having a whole late 70's Dan -Hartman-from-Instant-Replay vibe going on. Richardson has no idea what they're talking about. Neither does the audience.

Best Song Choice to Jordin for picking "If We Hold On Together" -- the theme song for an animated kids' flick and a "gooey" tune, as Simon called -- which plays perfectly into her 17-going-on-17 game plan and, Simon says, turns this week's performance night into a three-way race among her, Melinda and LaKisha.

Editor's note: Join Lisa at 1 p.m. today for a live online chat to discuss this year's "Idol" finalists and weigh in on last night's performances.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 14, 2007; 8:13 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: Stuck in the Middle With You | Next: So Many Losers


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I read your column in today's Post. You mentioned the comment that Simon made to Sanjaya about whales. Simon meant the word "wails" as in crying loudly, not "whales" as in the mammal.

Posted by: vog | March 14, 2007 7:31 AM

Haley has finally discovered her survival strategy has two components -- shorter skirts and lower necklines. It will be interesting to see whether her cleavage keeps her in longer than Sanjaya's hair.

Posted by: mark | March 14, 2007 8:32 AM

Did anyone else notice that Blake raided Justin Timberlake's closet?

Posted by: SS MD | March 14, 2007 9:25 AM

I totally disagree with your comment on Stephanie's dress - it worked really well for the song. I couldn't ever wear it, but she can - maybe not for just anything, but for the performance, it worked. And Chris R just has to go - I mean, he was awful, but so was Sanjaya. Hayley's big mistake was that she was nervous. Other than that, it was her best performance. For some reason, I liked Blake's performance - but I guess I was wrong about that one, even hubby said so.

Posted by: star11 | March 14, 2007 9:27 AM

You know I have no interest in this show and don't even know who these people are but your descriptions of the night's events are hilarious. Makes me almost want to watch the show.

Posted by: Juan | March 14, 2007 9:28 AM

The back and forth between Ryan and Simon was good too. Simon telling Ryan to come out of the closet.

Posted by: Kamantha | March 14, 2007 9:39 AM

I was quite underwhelmed with the whole show last night. It was a Ross songbook massacre. The most violent crime against music was committed by Brandon...how can you forget the words to "Can't Hurry Love"? (He really shoulda been out on his ass after destroying "Time After Time") His performance was even worse than the musical equivalent sticking "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" into a medeival rack and streching it until death occurs. Chris Sligh should take the 3rd spot in the bottom. He actually looks fatter without his glasses.

Posted by: cmj | March 14, 2007 9:39 AM

It's "wail" as in cry; not "whale" as in marine animal. Even I picked up on that the first time Simon said it to Sanjaya....

Posted by: louise | March 14, 2007 9:40 AM

Stephanie was the best dressed contestant of the night.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 14, 2007 9:40 AM

Simon's comment to Ryan to "come out" of the closet during the intervirw with Melinda was priceless. I can't believe it wasn't mentioned above in the main post.

Posted by: Fred | March 14, 2007 9:46 AM

It's comforting to know that Washington Post columnists and editors are doing a bang up job and have the same intelligence level as Ryan Seacrest and the hula-dancing boy contestant on AI. Am I one of the few people to know the difference in word usage of whale and wail? I would hate for the columnist to decipher this sentence: "I heard a well whale wail in Wales." There is a TV game show for people like you ... it's called "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (Oh, and I do agree with most of your comments about last night's show!!)

Posted by: boxboypab | March 14, 2007 10:06 AM

Just thinking about Sanjaya makes me giggle. Last night was pretty poor. Even the good ones weren't as great as they have been. But I LOVED Melinda's reactions during Ryan and Simon's quarrel.

Posted by: tyeinmd | March 14, 2007 10:19 AM

I thought Brandon and Chris Richardson were the worst of the evening. Branon really needs to pack his bags and head home pronto.

Haley will be around for a while because she use the strategy of uping her hem line and lowering her neckline approach although I think she is a half-way decent singer.

Posted by: maria | March 14, 2007 10:21 AM

Why, oh why, do they give the good songs to the guys? The guys suck and it's horrible listening to them massacre Diana Ross songs.

Also, FYI to the American Idol contestants (who I'm sure are reading this): Diana Ross solo is not nearly as good or as interesting as Diana Ross with the Supremes. You want a fun song that keeps you in the competition? Go with a Supremes song. You want a song that bores the audience to tears? Go with a solo song. Now, I'm generalizing a bit because there are some good Diana Ross solo songs, but none of them have the energy or fun of the Supremes' songs.

Also, please, America, kick Sanjaya out!!! I hate him, his dreadful voice, his "am-I-a-boy-or-a-girl" looks, and hit giant mop of hair.

On a final note, watching Lakisha do a Diana cover of Billie Holiday was not good. Lakisha is great covering Whitney Houston; she sucks when covering Billie Holiday. Leave Billie alone and don't touch her songs again. Billie's voice is completely different from yours, Lakisha. Also, drop the lisp.

Posted by: Ryan | March 14, 2007 10:35 AM

Am I the only one who didn't have a problen with Chris Sligh's arrangement? I agree he should have left his glasses on- but I was stunned when they gunned him down on the arrangement. Blake's changes, I get the dissing there-added to his singing out of his nose. Chris Richardson- his singing hurts my throat, Phil needs to find a key that actually works with his voice and not against it, Sanjaya and Brandon are just out-leagued... But I thought Chris' arrangement was tight, not overburdened by what is too big an orchestra, and his voice was deep and fluid....am I alone here?

Posted by: Poppysue | March 14, 2007 10:36 AM

I think the crack of Melinda being a background singer therefore it is easier for her to sing is not a fair statement. There are no rules stating that you can't be a "professional" singer in order to compete in the competition. She unlike Brandon (who is also a background singer) can sing. I personally don't feel that meekness she displays is an act.

Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that she will be voted off the show too soon because of her "professional singer" status.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 14, 2007 10:40 AM

I don't agree with anon at 10:40 - Melinda is too good. It is interesting to see that she is SO MUCH better than Brandon - I bet he has a hard time finding gigs after this.

Poppysue - I can almost see that Chris S's arrangement and performance wasn't too bad - but I did like Blake - which I have from the beginning and I find it really weird because I really don't find that style interesting at all.
Ryan - don't know where you are coming from because LaKisha was good - it may have been different - but she was and IS good. Even if you didn't like it, it was good - and that is possible, you know.

Posted by: star11 | March 14, 2007 10:46 AM

I wonder how many more weeks Lakisha ("KiKi") wants to go before she's mercifully voted out and freed from this AI purgatory to launch her Hudson-like career.

Posted by: Rob Iola | March 14, 2007 10:46 AM

Chris S. should've taken Ms. Ross' advice to find the melody. He didn't and the song didn't work. KiKi's version of God Bless the Child was not jazz, it was R&B. I liked it still. Stephanie let everyone down who knows that song. Forgetting words should be an automatic cut! Melinda did the Broadway/movie version of Home. The song is just okay, she did it well. I liked Phil.

Posted by: AI or Not | March 14, 2007 11:12 AM

Jordin is cute/pretty, big voice & young. I didn't even know that song. I agree with earlier poster, D.Ross songbook is not as enthralling vs. Supremes songbook. Surprisingly, the songs are not as easy to sing as one would think. Love Child, intricate phrasing, Gina tripped some. Sanjaya is just an oddity, but seems very sweet and sincere. Note-yelling doesn't equal expressing emotions vocally.

Posted by: AI or Not | March 14, 2007 11:20 AM

Melinda is far & away the best performer.

Sanjaya does not sing off key like Chris does.

Someone please tell LaKisha to brush her dang tongue already.

Posted by: Sam | March 14, 2007 11:27 AM

Lisa rocks, and the comments on this blog are what keep me coming back day in and day out to read what everyone's posting!

Posted by: love this blog | March 14, 2007 11:28 AM

let's leave LaKisha's tongue out of this! LOL

Posted by: p.s. | March 14, 2007 11:29 AM

OK, apparently I'm the only one who thinks Haley's dress was absolutely horrid! I was extremely surprised Simon didn't call her out on it. I think she's trying the Katherine McPhee look, but it doesn't work for her.

Posted by: kdinsd | March 14, 2007 11:39 AM

LaKisha was, by far, the best last night. She has blown me away week after week with her power, but this week it was her restraint and control that made me say "Wow, this girl is amazing!"

Melinda's "Oh, gee, you guys really like me?!" act is getting played out. She's performed behind stars and has heard the SAME type of applause probably multiple times before (including during the last few weeks of this competition) yet last night she's tears up? Girl, stop it. It's annoying and not endearing at all to people who can see through the act. With that said though, she is an amazing performer and my second favorite this year.

Jordin was impressive, but too sugary for my taste. I also thought Stephanie and Phil did a good job. The rest could fall off the face of the Idol earth for all I care. Except Sanjaya. He sucks, but my goodness his suckiness entertains me. Maybe he'll come out next week in capris and a tube top to balance the curls.

Posted by: M | March 14, 2007 11:49 AM

Hey, star11, what you say is good I say isn't good. You see, it's called an opinion. I can dislike something and believe it's not good. That doesn't mean that I don't think she has a good voice, but not all voices are meant to sing all songs. This isn't that complicated a concept.

On a separate note, I think Haley made the right move. Show those breasts! It's the best way to stay in the competition. This is why Lakisha, even if she wins the competition, won't do well selling records. She's dog-ugly.

Posted by: Ryan | March 14, 2007 11:51 AM

Chris S. looked like the pillsbury dough boy with a curly wig on. He did look fatter and pastier without his glasses.

Posted by: Carla | March 14, 2007 11:55 AM

Am I the only one that thought Lisa was being coy by playing along with Seacrest's whole wail/whale confusion?

Posted by: jw | March 14, 2007 12:21 PM

No mention of Paula's even-more-bizarre-than normal performance. Crying, swaying, balance problems ... odd eyes...

Posted by: Holy Cow! | March 14, 2007 12:34 PM

Sanjaya MUST go home...but not tonight. He should be in the bottom three, alongside Brandon and Haley, but Brandon needs to go home tonight. You forget the words, you're out, simple as that. I have absolutely no tolerance for that, it's inexcusable, especially at this point in the contest. And if you forget them, you canNOT stand there and do nothing!! Haley will be saved by the teenage boys hoping for a Scarnato-revealing "wardrobe malfunction" in the coming weeks, and Sanjaya will be saved by the teenage girls who want him to be their "BFF" and know he'll never hit on them.

Top three were definitely (in order): Melinda, Jordin and LaKisha. Lakisha was good, but that song is a Billie Holiday song, NOT a Diana Ross song. I know Diana recorded it (it never even hit the charts), but 9 out of 10 people you ask (who know the song) will say Billie Holiday sang it, though my favorite version is by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Jordin sang a song I've never heard before and sang it well. The reason I put her at #2 is the song was more vocally challenging than anything anyone else sang...and I keep forgetting she's only 17. Melinda just continues to amaze me. Wherever it is she's been singing backup, they've obviously been holding her back, probably because they don't want the competition. When you watch and listen to her and LaKisha, the main difference to me is that Melinda makes it look and sound completely effortless. She never looks or sounds like she's having to work at it. She may very well be working her butt off, but it never shows through in her performances. For that she gets my #1 spot, and is starting to put some distance between her and LaKisha.

So after the bottom three and the top three, the middle six were all just kinda blah. You could put them in any order from #4 to #9 and I wouldn't be able to argue one way or the other for any of them to move up or down.

Posted by: Ron | March 14, 2007 12:44 PM

Melinda might be Idol's most talented vocalist ever, and she deserves to win out. Gotta disagree with 'M', above, about her putting on some kind of act. She obviously wears her heart on her sleeve; you can see it when she performs.

Conversely, Sanjaya is the probably the worst in top 12 history. However, we'll probably see him for another week or two. His entertainment value and the teenybopper vote are keeping him in it. The young girls want his hair. He wants theirs too. He should have been ousted weeks ago, but anyone remember how long 'Chicken Little' stayed in the competition last year? It's all about getting your demographic passionate enough to dial in. Last night, I didn't see Brandon or even Stephanie getting people excited enough to overcome Sanjaya's inexplicable popularity. My prediction: Stephanie gets the boot tonight.

Also I agree with the poster who said Haley made a good decision; sex sells, and she looked very good last night.

Posted by: nonagon | March 14, 2007 12:57 PM

i remain amazed that sanjaya and chris r. even made it to LA, but less lasting through to the final 12. they are really, really, REALLY bad.

Posted by: b | March 14, 2007 1:59 PM

Washington Post: Given the vast number of television shows being broadcast every single day, and given that your TV columnist chooses to cover only one show (day after day), please find a suitable replacement for her. Preferably someone capable of identifying more than one show worthy of our viewing time.

Posted by: Joe | March 14, 2007 2:06 PM

LaKisha is hands down the best singer and as time goes on she continues to amaze me. As far as God Bless the Child being a Billie Holiday song Diana Ross did record it and I think that was a brilliant choice it really showed her control. You know she could have belted it out, which it seems like a good share of contestant tend to do way over sing the song, but instead she chose to control it and by doing that you could not help but understand all of the words and the feeling she put into it.
She makes it look so easy and seems so at ease on stage.
Of course you know its not easy when you see how many of the idol's bomb big last night. Melinda excluded, Jordan has a nice voice but I'm sorry that song was very boring and now I know why I've never heard it. But she will be in it for a long while I'm sure.
My pick for top 2 Lakisha and Melinda.
They are in a different league then the others.

Posted by: molly | March 14, 2007 2:26 PM

Molly, just because Diana Ross portrayed Billie Holiday in the movie "Lady Sings the Blues" (how many of you even knew that) and recorded it for the soundtrack, "God Bless the Child" will always be Billie's song. This is from someone who owns close to 20 Billie Holiday cds. Ms. Ross did a piss poor job of portraying this wonderful singer and in my opinion not even in the same league.

Posted by: dym | March 14, 2007 2:43 PM

Gee, Molly, you didn't completely echo the AI judges when you said that the Billie song showed Lakisha's control. (Note the heavy sarcasm.) The judges aren't always right. She shouldn't have covered Billie.

Posted by: Ryan | March 14, 2007 2:46 PM

Melinda, Blake, "Kiki", Jordan, Stephanie and Phil, stay !!!!

All the rest, please goooo home !!!

Posted by: marlena' | March 14, 2007 3:50 PM

Joe, come ON. Not only does Lisa do a great job covering tv generally, but American Idol is news as the most watched show in America. Repeatedly.

Posted by: m | March 14, 2007 4:14 PM

I am also getting tired of Melinda's big eyed act and the generally weak singing of the boys - particularly Sanjaya. However, over all (except for some the weak singing) I have to say this season is enjoyable - wish Chris Daughtry had tried out this season instead of last!

Posted by: Milwaukee | March 14, 2007 4:32 PM


Before posting a critical comment, perhaps you should actually read the newspaper to make sure your accusations are true. Lisa writes about a variety of tv shows, usually offering multiple columns a week.

Currently, she is just blogging (which is different than her columns) American Idol. She's blogged several different events in the past. Reporters don't work 24/7, she can't blog several shows and write columns. Although she might stalk Hugh Laurie if we asked nicely.

FYI, the Post has two tv critics. It's not that hard to click the mouse over to Tom Shales.

In fond memory of "chicken little"


Posted by: D in Philly | March 14, 2007 4:42 PM

What a night... awful.
Ms. Ross is actually still wailing in Beverly Hills.
Melinda's wide-eyed shy girl routine may be an act, but the girl can sing. And on this, her worst night, she was better than all.
KiKi's rendition was strange and I knew I heard a lisp.
I liked the boys updated renditions - I felt like each could be recorded with some tweaking to the arrangement.
SANJAYA - Please die-ya. A sweet kid with a voice only a mother and a savage beast could love. Too soft, too smiley, too much of not much.

Basically - you said it all. Just needed to put in my two cents.

Posted by: Brightwood, NW DC | March 14, 2007 5:08 PM


Just "teenage" boys?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 14, 2007 6:11 PM

Lisa, please tell me you were joking when you suggested during your chat that AI should tackle the Gershwin songbook. That is sacrilge!!!!

Posted by: dym | March 14, 2007 6:19 PM

Hahaha! Sanjaya escapes again! Suck it, all you Idol Purists! This boy is going ALL THE WAY.

Posted by: Sanjaya #1 | March 14, 2007 9:47 PM

As far as someone who owns 20 Billie Holiday cds is for some reason an expert on Billie, well Billie didn't originally record on cd.
I'm someone who owns at least 20 vinyl recordings of Billie and so you can see I've been listening to her for quiet awhile. As far as Diana Ross doing a piss poor job of playing her is not the point. My point is this show is about entertainment, Lakisha stayed with in the rules by picking a song that Diana Ross recorded which I thought was a brilliant choice that is why she will be in the top two.
I get tired of people saying Billie recorded it, so what we should never hear that song again? She died almost 50 years ago get over yourself, (notice the heavy sarcasm)

Posted by: Molly | March 15, 2007 9:40 AM

I can't believe that you people actually watch this idiotic show.

Posted by: smylx3 | March 15, 2007 10:29 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company