Tony Bennett is the guest celeb and the songs are the old standards. We're watching from a hotel room overlooking Town Lake here in Austin, Texas. At some point it will be sundown from the point of view of the bats that roost on the underside of the bridge over there -- Congress Avenue Bridge -- and I plan to dash out onto the balcony and see what that's like. Meanwhile, I'll be checking out "Bat Boy" (Phil Stacey) and the rest of the kids.
1. Blake Lewis sings "Mack the Knife." The 80-year-old Tony Bennett tells him, "This song is pretty rap." He gets through the lyrics and makes it acceptably snazzy if slightly tentative.
2. Phil Stacey is doing "Night and Day." Tony assures us he's a "good singer." He slows it way down. He's trying to convey meaning. There's a hungry burning, yearning inside of him, and he wants to spend the entire 24-hour period of every day for the rest of his life having sexual intercourse. It's an interesting proposition. Randy doesn't feel any passion. Paula needs him to have more joy. Simon: "It had all the joy of somebody singing in a funeral parlor... completely and utterly gloomy and really dark." Oooh, Bat Boy's bald head is gleaming with sweat as he assures us he was focusing on his wife.
3. Melinda Doolittle sings "I Got Rhythm." She's got daisies in green pastures. She does the song in three distinct phases, each more exciting than the one before. She ends really big. As usual, they love her.
4. Chris Richardson picks "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Tony's advice is: Remember the lyrics. "You came out there with a vengeance... that was very cool and young and hip," says Randy. Paula -- as she's been doing all night -- repeats Randy's points. It was young and hip.
5. Jordin Sparks sings on key, which Tony Bennett really loves. She's doing "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." Terrific, I think. "Some fire going on here... You're like a pro and you're 17," says Randy. "You really are this magnet of joy," says Paula, who's "proud of" her. Simon notes that unlike Chris, she failed to make it young. He didn't "like it as much as Squidly and Diddly over here."
6. Gina Glockson is singing "Smile." She's the one contestant who seems deeply moved at meeting Tony Bennett. And Tony Bennett talks about the song, which he says makes him think about 9/11 and the soldiers fighting in Iraq. "Smile through your fear and sorrow...." Paula praises her for being "sentimental," which she thinks is a compliment.
7. Sanjaya Malakar has the goal of making us see that he really can sing. The song is "Dancing Cheek to Cheek." The hair is slicked down and sleek (rhymes with "cheek"). He dances with Paula. Randy: "You've turned into a great entertainer." Paula: "I get why people love you." Simon tries a different tack and says it was great. [ADDED: The point is, Simon doesn't like Sanjaya, and in past weeks he's told us so, yet Sanjaya has stayed on. To try to oust him, Simon is praising him. But since he's tipping his hand, it's not a serious strategy. Just some humor.]
8. Hayley Scarnato does "Ain't Misbehavin'" kinda atrociously. Surely, this is the performance that deserves the phrase -- used every week -- "all over the place." But she's got a pulchritudinous dress. That's got to have some effect. Simon's opinion of the performance is: "I think you've got great legs."
9. Saved for last and thus presumably the best, LaKisha Jones. "If she hits that big note at the end, it will be good," says Tony. The song is "Stormy Weather." She violates his advice and does a fancy thing at the end. "A sassy, great performance," says Simon.
Well, we didn't really get to see any bats. They seem to be off on migration. I take it as an omen that Bat Boy will be gone too. They made the poor boy's head sweat.