Idol Loves Idol

Melinda Doolittle = Tina Turner!?
Obsessive analysis of American Idol.
May 3 2007 6:33 PM

Idol Loves Idol

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Phil Stacey is eliminated on American Idol. Click image to expand.
Phil Stacey (left) and Ryan Seacrest on American Idol

Jovi week. The phrase has a magical ring. I've been intoning it like a prayer for weeks, as Season 6 of American Idol has settled into a monotonous plod, enlivened only by the occasional guest-star appearance from beyond the grave. And then, Tuesday night, there he was: Jon Bon Jovi, seated in the mentor's chair, commanding his charges to "own" their songs. JBJ embodies the Idol pop-star ideal: nice guy, good voice, great hair, voracious appetite for musical crossing-over. On Idol, he led the contestants through his catalog of blowzy pop-rock-metal songs, wore a "Philly Soul" T-shirt, gave a little remedial instruction in the blues, and even snuck in a little gospel, urging Melinda Doolittle to "testify" and to take "Have a Nice Day" "to church." And of course, he played "(You Want To) Make a Memory," the first single from the forthcoming Bon Jovi "country" album Lost Highway.

He looked terrific. But the Idol hopefuls weren't about to let the 45-year-old singer forget that, technically speaking, he's an old fart. Really, someone should have told Jordin that "my mom is gonna flip out … she got me into y'all" are not words a rock star longs to hear from a pretty teenage girl. Then came Blake's "remix" of "You Give Love a Bad Name," which he began by pantomiming the placing of a hissing, crackling LP on a turntable. Vinyl records, Jon Bon Jovi, rock 'n' roll—they're all so 20th century, mere playthings in the hands of Bothell, Wash.'s all-time greatest beatboxer! The judges loved Blake's "brave" performance, but man, was it corny. I picked Blake to win Idol way back in week two, and have been a consistent cheerleader despite my better instincts, but I have grown weary of his wispy singing voice, his beatboxing shtick, and especially his utter inability to connect emotionally to songs. As for his jet-black dye job this week: He might have sewn up the votes of a few stray My Chemical Romance fans, but it's not a good look for him. Plus, if you have to go goth, don't do it when the guest star is Jon Bon Jovi, the living testament to the mystical power of frosted blond boy-tresses!

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In any case, Blake is now the sole male survivor, which is right and fitting: He was by far the best guy in a weak field. Navy man Phil Stacy was sent back to his ship and wife and children. Chris Richardson was dismissed also—we can assume he has embarked on the arduous task of working his way through several thousand groupies. Neither will be missed. Lakisha gave a strong performance in her usual Sturm und Soul style, earning a kiss from Simon. (Am I the only one who thinks that Simon is treating Lakisha extra nicely to make up for the boorish comments he's made to big-boned black women in past seasons?) I'm fairly certain Lakisha is the next to go, though, leaving Jordin and Blake to battle it out for the runner-up spot to the unstoppable Melinda, whom the judges preposterously compared to Tina Turner this week. I nodded off for 10 minutes after writing that last sentence, by the way. There is simply no tension left in the competition. It's nearly as dull as Melinda Doolittle's debut album.

So, what's left, in this post-Sanjaya Idol season, to hold one's attention? The incidental stuff, the peripheral color, the curios. The cut of Ryan's suits. The gleam of Simon's teeth, which I refuse to believe are real. Antonella Barba in the studio audience, for crying out loud! Guest appearances by the likes of Robin Thicke, who dropped by Wednesday to show Chris Richardson what a successful falsetto-crazy Justin Timberlake wannabe sounds like. And next week another, still greater, Idol mentor: Barry Gibb. Hopefully, the sublime songs of the Bee Gees will breathe some life into the show. (At the very least, let's hope they erase the memory of the least-welcome guest appearance in the show's history.) If all else fails, there's always Paula Abdul's malapropisms, a reliable source of entertainment and enlightenment. "An artist like the band Bon Jovi," she declared on Tuesday. "They've endured monumental success." Haven't we all?

Jody Rosen is a Slate contributor.

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