"Idol" watch: Beat-boxing, Bon Jovi and Bush

The president and the first lady deliver the weakest performances on Tuesday night's "American Idol."

Published May 2, 2007 2:05PM (EDT)

Check it out, dawg. You won't find bald Navy men rockin' the mike on "Grey's Anatomy." "Ugly Betty" ain't got no human beat-box action. Jon Bon Jovi and his keyboard player won't be making appearances on "The Colbert Report" anytime soon. Think the president and first lady will show up on "Entourage"? Nuh-uh. Only on "American Idol." Let's do this thing.

It wasn't that long ago that Phil Stacey interested me mostly because I couldn't decide if he more closely resembled a female mannequin or a young Nosferatu. But maybe he got ahold of some fresh blood because Stacey hit his stride a couple of weeks ago and has been the strongest male performer ever since. His cocksure rendition of the "Young Guns II" chestnut "Blaze of Glory" was easily the Bon Joviest of all the night's Bon Jovi covers. No small feat for a bald dude with plucked eyebrows.

After a couple of weeks of being just plain bad, gospel belter LaKisha Jones got back to being badass. Jones' storming version of the tear-jerker "This Ain't a Love Song" was probably good enough to get her off the chopping block. LaKisha, I have some private advice for you -- it's all about picking the right song. If you're still around next week, no matter what the theme is, just come onstage and sing the bejesus out of some Mary J. Blige. You can make my check out to "cash."

This season, "Idol" has played out in accordance with Newton's third law -- for every rise to the occasion, there must be an equal and opposite flop. Jordin Sparks' flat, nervous run-through of "Livin' on a Prayer" was the counterbalance to LaKisha's resurgence. Sparks, a sunny 17-year-old, looked great decked out in a kind of goth Stevie Nicks black-lace number, but she just couldn't get her voice around the song. I'd like Jordin to win, but even if she doesn't, she's too talented and likable to not have a post-"Idol" career.

I'm not sure I can say the same thing about Melinda Doolittle. She's easily the best singer on the show -- her confident take on "Have a Nice Day" earned an apt Tina Turner comparison from Randy Jackson -- but she just doesn't have the charisma of some of the other less-talented contestants. She's not a goofy military man, a fiery force of nature or a cute youngster. She's just a really good singer. That might not be enough.

That brings us to Chris Richardson and Blake Lewis -- the Tiger Beat contingent. Southern boy Richardson upgraded himself from a homeless man's to a poor man's Justin Timberlake with a nice, Lynyrd Skynyrd-y take on "Wanted Dead or Alive." His thin, nasal voice isn't well suited to anthemic rock 'n' roll, but you've got to give credit to someone who the can make lines like "I'm a cowboy/ On a steel horse I ride" seem even halfway cool.

Himbo No. 2, Blake Lewis -- his blond hair dyed black -- made the gutsy decision to turn "You Give Love a Bad Name" into a showcase for his beat-boxing skills. Blake, I understand your soft, airy voice isn't cut out for the arena-rock awesomeness of prime Bon Jovi, but do you really want to be known for vocal gimmickry? I guess it worked for the dude from the "Police Academy" movies.

But even Blake's voice-trumentalism was better than the wooden delivery of the president and Laura Bush, who came on to thank people for donating money during last week's "Idol Gives Back" charity show. The D.C. duo -- clearly reading from cue cards -- came across with all the warmth and charm of a frozen fish stick. I hope they don't expect to get very far with such lazy, insincere performances.

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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