A Melinda-Jordin Final? Not So Fast, Sings Blake

By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It was sing-for-your-life-for-real time on "Idol" last night, and the Final Three contestants -- Melinda Doolittle, Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks -- scrambled mightily to keep one step ahead of the law. At one point, in fact, Blake seemed in danger of being cornered by a rampaging microphone stand. He escaped, though, and was the surprise of the evening.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The format required each would-be Idol to perform three songs -- one picked by a judge, one picked by the show's producers and one of their own choosing. Simon compelled Jordin to sing Rose Royce's "Wishing on a Star," which might have worked for her, except that for some reason the band decided to ruin the song with a saccharine, smooth-jazz arrangement. The judges were polite, but Dawg, it wasn't good.

Paula picked "Roxanne" for Blake, probably because he often sounds a little like Sting. When he sang it, guess what, he sounded like Sting. But he did rock, and there was no gratuitous beat-boxing -- though he did get pursued by that angry mike stand, which seemed to be going for his face. Randy and Paula loved Blake's performance, but Simon stung him for, yes, sounding like Sting.

Randy picked Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me" for Melinda. (We were reminded -- by the governor of Tennessee, no less -- that Randy has worked with Whitney Houston.) Melinda was terrific, as usual, and Randy said she "blew it out the box." Simon proclaimed her the winner of Round 1.

To kick off Round 2, the producers cruelly made Jordin sing "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer. She looked and sounded lost, trying to get in touch with her inner '80s disco diva. Again, polite praise from the judges.

Blake's assigned song was "This Love" by Maroon 5, and for some reason he wore a white parka. Okay, technically it was a hoodie, but this thing looked much heavier than your average hoodie. Blake doesn't sing as well as Adam Levine, but he found a groove and kept his beatbox thing under control. All three judges liked it.

Melinda, who has given hints of Tina Turner in previous shows, was instructed to sing Ike and Tina's "Nutbush City Limits." She growled and purred convincingly. Randy: "I like that." Paula: "We love you, we love you, we love you." Simon: "Actually, again, another brilliant performance."

In the third round -- contestant's choice of song -- the two women played it safe. For Melinda, that was a great strategy: She closed the show with "I'm a Woman," which she had performed in an earlier show, and moved Simon to declare that he wants her to advance to next week's finale. For Jordin, maybe not such a good idea: She reprised "I (Who Have Nothing)" from an earlier show, and while she sang it well, Simon didn't like the fact that a 17-year-old was singing a "60-year-old song."

That prompted some sassing from Jordin, who reminded Simon that he was the one who made her sing a Rose Royce song, which was from way back "in the '70s." Careful, Jordin. Keep the youthful smile and put the fangs back where no one can see them.

Blake, meanwhile, gave his hip-hop-emo treatment to Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone." No, I had never heard the song either, but Simon "actually really liked" the performance. Any way you look at it, Blake had a much better night than the "Idol" cognoscenti had predicted. Of the three, he seemed most comfortable onstage. Neither woman seemed to enjoy the moment; Blake obviously reveled in it.

So now I'm wondering whether the widely predicted all-girl final will take place after all.

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