Jennifer Lopez was the special guest "vocal coach" on last night's Latin-themed American Idol. JLo is a talented performer, occasionally appealing actress (Out of Sight being the high point) but I don't know that I would necessarily call her one of the premier "vocalists" in the industry today. And it's interesting that several of the Idol wannabes didn't ask her as much about the singing as they did about how to dance or move. But JLo has a Spanish language album to pimp, and she certainly appeared game to be on the show, even if the "theme" didn't offer us much to enjoy from the performances. (And I will say this - much like Gwen Stefani, JLo looked great, genuinely appeared to care about the kids singing and there wasn't a trace of the "diva" behavior that's plagued her public persona for some time).
Melinda started us off with "Sway" and once again, hit all the notes and delivered a technically sold vocal. However, JLo hit the nail on the head during the coaching, and Melinda didn't infuse the song with passion or sultriness. Not one of Melinda's better performances.
Lakisha did "Conga" like it was a wedding reception with too many drunken guests, and tried to inject a little soul into a kooky novelty song. Decent enough vocal, but not spectacular. Two of the "big voices" down, and I'm underwhelmed.
Next up is Chris, who is taking on Santana's "Smooth" which featured Rob Thomas on vocals. I actually love this song, and if anything, it certainly makes me appreciate the vocal prowess of Thomas all the more after hearing Chris murder this with nasally, whiny vocals. Inexplicably, Randy and Paula love it. I still think almost everything he sings sounds like a bad, bad version of Justin Timberlake combined with a cat thrown into a blender and fused in a sound mixing board. Not good.
Gentlemen, now appearing on the main stage, put your hands together for Haley! If that sounds like what you'd hear in a strip club waiting for the next uneducated whore to peddle her wares for the sweaty masses, then you're in the right place. Haley comes out in shorts that might fit on a Barbie, and karaokes her way through "Turn the Beat Around," tangentially connected to latin music because Gloria Estefan covered it for a bad Stallone movie. Look, I like the song (I'm a sap for disco) and don't get me wrong, Haley looks hotter than ever. But she clearly realizes she's way out of her league vocally on this show and is doing all she can to troll for votes with horny teenage boys. She looks fantastic in her fuck me heels and red lipstick, but can't keep up with the song and only hits a few decent notes. Unless next week's theme is "titty bar music from Motley Crue," then her days have to be numbered.
Phil rises from his crypt to perform Santana's "Maria Maria" and despite a late "crack" in his voice, delivers a very, very solid vocal. I think I'm out on an island here when it comes to Phil. I enjoyed his "Sinatra-lite" stylings last week, and am impressed with his singing again this week. The judges and other pundits don't seem to "get" Phil's vocals, while I think he shows range and does a fine job. I can't explain it, but he's the best of the night so far for me.
Jordin breaks out another Estefan song, "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You." She "makes it her own" a little, injecting a bit of soul and sass into the song, and delivers a great vocal and energetic performance. In my world, Jordin is probably the front runner at this point, because not only does she have the voice, she also has the personality and ability to deliver in virtually in genre or theme they throw at her. Outstanding.
Mercifully, Blake left his fucking beatboxing in the rehearsal room with JLo and Haley. He performs Skeletor's (er, JLo's husband, Mark Anthony) "I Need to Know" and raises the ante on tonight's show once again. Except for the fact that he can appear a little dead in the eyes and not emotionally connected on occasion, he really smokes this one. A great song choice, a great vocal and performance, and he is the highlight of the hour. And he's wearing Judge Smails' hat.
Sanjaya performs a song with a Spanish title that my closed captioning can't quite understand ("Besame Mucho?"). But that's okay. My surround sound and speakers don't really understand Sanjaya's vocals, either. The big surprise? A great song choice for the little nutbag, and he puts out a performance that doesn't peel the paint off the walls. He actually keeps things in his limited vocal range, and gives a subdued and effective performance - definitely his best so far.
Thank god for the fast forward button and TiVo, because tomorrow's results show bloats to an hour. All in all, a challenging theme tonight and some surprising performances in an hour that was just "meh."
TNRLM Top 3: Blake, Jordin, Phil
TNRLM Bottom 3: Haley, Lakisha, Chris