Blogging "American Idol": Livin' On A Prayer

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Didn't we all hope Bon Jovi Night would end with Sanjaya making a tearful re-entry, stage right, bleating "Never Say Goodbye"? "Remember when we lost the keys / And you lost more than that in my back seat, baby..." Sanjaya would KILL on that one. The show just isn't the same without him. There's a certain INXS-sans-Michael Hutchence vibe about it. Where is the frisson we used to get every week, wondering what kind of pitiful Sanj-tacle we were about to witness? Sure, it's still Idol, but if Adam Clayton went out on the road with The Edge's cousin, Larry Mullen Sr., and the guy who used to sing for Icicle Works, it wouldn't be the same as U2, would it? Although an Antonella/Sundance duet on "Wild in the Streets" might have eased the pain.

Bon Jovi Night was a surprise highlight, as if the five contestants whose names don't rhyme with "Carlisle, Belinda" figure they may as well wing it, since it doesn't make a difference if they make it or not. You live for the fight when that's all that you've got! Their picks from the Jon Bon catalog were totally random — where was "I'll Be There For You"? (That bitch was yours, Melinda!) "Runaway"? (Jordin, holla!) "Bad Medicine," "I'd Die For You," or "Born To Be My Baby"? I remember hating "This Ain't A Love Song" in the summer of '95, but Lakisha torched it last night, and put herself back in the game, weeks after the former front-runner seemed to have run out of gas. She blew it so bad in recent weeks, this might have come too late, but as Jon once sang, it'll take a miracle to save us this time. Blake's beatbox mega-cheddar in "You Give Love a Bad Name" was enough to make Diane Lane quiver anew. Also loved his brunette bowl-cut, no doubt a tribute to the long-lamented Alex John Such.

Okay, so who really sucked? Jordin, who stepped up to a soft lob over the plate, swung big, but grounded into a triple play. Guess she's the one mall chick in America who CAN'T sing "Livin' on a Prayer," even though I admire her as the only contestant who tried to actually look like Bon Jovi, circa Farenheit 7800. She couldn't measure up to her previous blaze of psuedo-Italian glory, Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." Phil defiled the Young Guns II soundtrack, while Chris' attempt to mount the steel horse of "Wanted Dead Or Alive" proved that he's seen a million faces and nasally'd them all. Melinda stunk, sorry, though the judges naturally loved it, comparing her to Tina Turner, who wasn't that great at uptempo songs either. Is Tina Turner the most overrated constant-Idol-judges'-reference-point of all time? Too bad Gina missed the chance to do "Midnight In Chelsea." ("Gothic girls all dressed in black, serious as heart attacks — ah, Jon's tragically brief Bauhaus phase.)

Who's going home? These five words I swear to you: Chris is out of here. Unfortunately, so is Lakisha, probably; Simon gave her a big kiss last night, but you know Simon — his very first kiss was his first kiss goodbye. The show ended with a strange cameo from the President, whose day job is keeping the war going long enough to boost the Republicans in 2008, and has nothing else on his desk, so of course he has time to watch Idol. He saluted Bono, basically thanking him for his support in the 2004 election (not exactly Bono's proudest moment), but Jon Bon Jovi was a big Kerry supporter, so maybe tonight he'll get some equal time. If he remembers to show upâ€"as we all know, Jon tells the day from the bottle that he drinks, so let's hope he wakes up this afternoon and sees the Jim Beam bottle labeled "Wednesday." Let's also hope tonight's the night Chris gets his plane ticket. Sorry, Chris — there's nowhere to run! And no one can save you! The DAMAGE is DONE!