The best line on American Idol last night came from Paula, gushing to Melinda: “It’s awesome when you’re fantastic!” Well put, Zen master Abdul. She’s right — it IS awesome when you’re fantastic, which must explain why last night’s episode suffered from a distinct lack of awesome, since none of the final three even knocked on fantastic’s door. Entertaining moments were sparser than Barry Gibb’s chest hair. But it was cool to see Blake kicking it with Sir Mix-A-Lot. And Jordin — NOW you tell us your favorite song of all time is Hanson’s “MMMBop”? Too bad she didn’t call in Taylor, Zac and Ike to back her up for a big-ballad production of “Weird,” because she could have used a knockout punch. Instead, she just recycled “I Who Have Nothing” — better than the Tom Jones version, not as good as Sylvester’s, about even with Status Quo’s. As for Melinda, she went back crawling to “I’m a Woman,” which was painfully corny back when Raquel Welch sang it with Miss Piggy on “The Muppet Show,” and hasn’t gotten any less corny since. No Aviance night for you, Melinda!
At least Blake did three new (for him) songs, but while it’s obvious he will soon be the biggest star in the world, it’s also obvious he has earned a plaque in the pitchiness hall of fame, with all that beatboxing a smokescreen for his chronic inability to sing on key. “Roxanne” was just painful, with Blake squeaking, “You don’t have to SELL your body to the NIGHT!” Dude, don’t suck so close to me! Jordin sold her body to “She Works Hard For The Money,” even limper than her recent versions of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Woman In Love” — please, doctor, separate this girl surgically from her borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties. Melinda phoned in a tedious Whitney Houston obscurity, did a Tina Turner parody in a hideous distressed-jeans-under-hippie-dress outfit, and still managed to outsing the other two (no doubt her decision to interpret “Nutbush City Limits” had something to do with Ike Turner’s decision to get locked up on drug charges last night — the only wonder is Blake didn’t drive Sting into the adjacent cell). Yeah, people complain about Melinda because she has nice Southern-auntie manners and not much imagination or charisma and she can’t stop with the boring show tunes (next week: “No Time At All” from Pippin!), but she’s still more fun to spend ninety seconds with than the other two.
So who’s going home tonight? Jordin “Minnesota” Sparks? Melinda “The Goddess of Gloom” Doolittle? Or Blake “Call 1-900-MIX-A-LOT and Kick Them Nasty Thoughts” Lewis? Looks like Jordin is getting the axe — like Lakisha, she’s a quality entertainer in the making, but not enough of a pro to battle the physical exhaustion of doing this full-time for three months. It also looks like the entire Idol machine is equally tired, and ready to ponder where this whole season went wrong. Reality TV is a fast-paced game, and yet every week, Idol is there to say: “No thanks. We have no room for improvement. Yes, we realize Project Runway completely changed the rules, and now Idol looks as slow and old-fashioned as restoration drama, but we’re not going to have a winner of the week, or replace Seacrest with somebody a little more Tim Gunn-like, i.e. recognizably semi-human.” It’s like Gene Hackman said in Night Moves — nobody’s winning, one side’s just losing faster.”