It's Latin night, and the Idol kids just don't have any salsa in their souls, making for a rather dull night of mediocrity. But there are mild surprises to be found at both the top and the bottom of the night's leaderboard.
Melinda, "Sway" -- it's clear from the get-go that this isn't going to be one of Melinda's best performances. True, she looks marvelous, and there's a lovely breathiness to her voice as the song begins, but she looks more stiff and uncomfortable than she ever has, and she keeps putting more power back into her voice, undercutting the sultry mood of the song; the big note at the end shatters the mood entirely. Still, a second-rate performance is better than a first-rate performance from most of her competitors.
LaKisha, "Conga" -- I hadn't noticed before how little of LaKisha's eyes we get to see. Her lids are very heavy, and she tends to look down; I think this is the main reason that I feel so little emotional connection to any of her performances. As for the performance, it's fine, but Simon is correct to note that this isn't a singer's song; it calls for energy and personality, neither of which LaKisha is able to project in sufficient quantities to hold my interest.
Chris, "Smooth" -- smart song choice, and while I might have liked a touch more excitement from the performance, it was entertaining. The nasal whininess that plagued him in earlier weeks is greatly reduced, and he's relatively restrained with the vocal acrobatics.
Haley, "Turn the Beat Around" -- when she needs Blake to be her drums in rehearsal, you know she'll never sell this song. The words are the percussion here; if you can't hear the drumsticks landing with every consonant, you're doomed. And sure enough, although Haley articulates the rapid-fire text cleanly enough to be understood, it completely lacks that rhythmic pop. And she's well aware that (as Simon points out) she's no longer staying in the competition based on talent; she's staying here because of the short shorts and the way she shakes her chest.
Phil, "Maria, Maria" -- yawn. Dull. Blah. A pair of unfortunate cracks while going for the high notes are the only interesting moments in the piece. On the other hand, the beret occasionally hides his freakishly oversized eyes, making him look much less like a stalker, so he's got that going for him.
Jordin, "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" -- Same problem as Haley, though not quite so extreme; the song's lacking the rhythmic crispness and bite that it needs. Aside from that, it's a very good performance.
Blake, "I Need to Know" -- perfect song choice. No beatboxing (hurray!), more power in his voice than usual. At the beginning, he even finds some of the passion that Jennifer told him he needed; he can't quite sustain it for the whole song, but it's still the best we've heard on a weak night.
Sanjaya, "Besame Mucho" -- I know, I promised not to keep piling on any more, but this actually isn't painful to listen to. The pitch is OK, and he even finds a little bit of power in spots without going flat. It's still not a good performance, but he's improved from painful to dull.
For the night: Blake, Melinda, Chris, Jordin, LaKisha, Phil, Sanjaya (his first time out of the basement!), Haley.
For the season: Melinda, Jordin, Blake, LaKisha, Chris, Phil, Haley, Sanjaya.
Should go home: still Sanjaya, of course. Will go home: A tossup between Haley and Phil, though it's not out of the question that we could say goodbye to LaKisha in one of those mid-season shockers that we usually get right about now.