How do you do a cheesy singing contest show the day after a massacre? Ryan Seacrest, in somber lighting, backed by quiet pulsing music, asks us to pray. He doesn't lead us in prayer. Pray later, the show goes on.
The theme tonight is country music, tutored by Martina McBride and her blue eyes.
Phil Stacey is first, with his bald head, and he seems to know how to sing country. (Not that I'd know authentic in this genre.) The judges all agree: Phil's a country boy.
Second up is Jordin Sparks. She does "Broken Wing," just standing there, singing out, and everyone loves it.
Now, Sanjaya's up, along with his hair. The big thing this week is a kerchief, with frizzy curls sticking out in back. He's smiling and ready to go. The song is "Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About," you know, because, after all, we have been talking about him. And he does give us something to talk about: how hideously he sang that song. Was he even trying?
LaKisha's telling us how much the song "Jesus Take the Wheel" means to her, and Martina McBride is overwhelmed by the emotion. But then LaKisha comes out and tries to sing it, and something is horribly wrong. I'm no music expert, so I can't tell you what it is. Let's hear from the judges. Randy: "some pitch problems." Paula thinks maybe she couldn't hear the band. Simon: "It's like eating a hamburger for breakfast." It felt like she was shouting.
Chris is doing a song called "Mayberry." He's got "country roots." Martina likes it. AGH! My ears! What a harsh, ugly edge to his voice. I'm guessing that there's a way to sing this song that has charm, but he hasn't found it. It's just a crazy mess. Simon: "A very nondescript, nasally, tinny vocal, which had no impact on me at all." I agree. Just a little, I suspect they're being extra hard on him to help LaKisha out of a jam. Because 'round about now, LaKisha looks doomed! All we've got left are Blake and Melissa, and they are the two best, most likely.
Chris defends himself, hilariously: "Hey, nasally is a form of singing. I don't know if you knew that." Simon: "Oh, so it's intentional?" Chris: "Yeah." Then he defends himself a bit underhandedly: "My heart goes out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends out there. Be strong." Does LaKisha get to come back out and say that she cares about the massacre victims too? Or, once you bring up the massacre, does it seem wrong even to talk about whether Chris is being unfair by bringing up the massacre?
Melinda sings something about Trouble being a woman in tight blue jeans or with a man on her mind or some such thing. Hm! Who knew? I thought Trouble was Senator Byrd's shih tzu. Anyway, they all love her. Simon says he "saw a little Tina Turner." But she's got to lose that attitude of surprise that she has every week... as if she's always just finding out for the first time that she's any good.
Blake is going to do "When the Stars Go Blue." Country is out of his zone. He needs to relax, says Martina. He needs to get to a softer falsetto and do it in a "really pretty way." He does okay.
I'll put them in order, based on tonight's performances alone: Melinda, Jordin, Blake, Phil, Sanjaya, LaKisha, Chris.