How is this night different from all other nights?

Well, the pundits are all wondering about the Passover Effect, and what impact thousands of prematurely truncated Seders will have on the voting results following Tuesday (April 3) night’s Tony Bennett-mentored Classics Night on American Idol.

The performances:

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "Mack the Knife"
My Take (The Wise Son): Tony Bennett’s advice to Blake probably could have been taken more to heart: Pay attention to the lyrics, man. Blake is occasionally sharp, but the problem with the performance isn’t his smooth vocals, it’s how little engagement he has with the lyrics. He’s just twirling around (mimicking Mack going ’round the corner, I suppose), making wavy gestures with his hands as he swoons his way to a song about murder, rape and violence. The opening verse of the song, of course, discusses the teeth of a shark, which must be the reason why Blake keeps opening his mouth extra wide, devouring the camera like chum.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy thinks it was a perfect song for his cool jazz vibe. Paula says he’s a hep-cat and that he personified pizzazz. Simon gives Blake 7-out-of-10, but gives the band an eight.

Singer: Phil Stacey
Song: "Night and Day"
My Take (The Wise Son): You have to massage every word, every note to make this song work and Phil’s vocal tone is superb. But somebody failed to take Bennett’s advice and add a little beat to the song, a little pep. Phil’s interpretation is disconcerting in its intensity and gravity. With Phil’s perfectly backlit ears, half-closed eyes and polished head, the lyrics become more of a threat then I’d prefer them to.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy tells Phil that he didn’t feel the passion (this after raving about raving about Blake’s bubblegum spin on a serial killer). Paula compares Phil to a young Frank Sinatra. Simon is incredulous and asks which Frank Sinatra she’s referring to. "I think it had all the joy of somebody singing in a funeral parlor," Simon says.

Singer: Melinda Doolittle
Song: "I’ve Got Rhythm"
My Take (The Wise Son): Since this week’s theme is pretty much served up on a silver platter for Melinda, I’ll skip quickly to my salute to the Idol stylist for several steps in the right direction. I liked the side-bangs and it turns out that a bit of a low neckline is a good thing. As for the performance? As Melinda’s song asks, who could ask for anything more? Just compare her to how vocally safe Blake and Phil were and it’s embarrassing. She could have torn both of their songs to bits (in a good way), but if they even looked at her sheet music, they’d go whimper in the corner.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy appreciates that Melinda gives America a vocal lesson every week. Paula calls it a masterclass. Then she rambles about things Melinda has in addition to rhythm. Simon thought the first half of the song was cabaret, but that the second half was great. He worries that they may not ever be able to criticize her.

Singer: Chris Richardson
Song: "Don’t Get Around Much Anymore"
My Take (The Wise Son): Oye. Don’t go rehearsing with Tony Bennett if you haven’t don’t your homework, Chris. He’s got the lyrics down tonight, at least. I like his semi-twangy interpretation of the song and I get the sense that he’s getting into the spirit of the evening’s storytelling. His phrasing is precise and considered and his stage-craft is tailored to the song itself.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy says he blew it out, with a vengeance. Paula praises Chris for not compromising his artistic integrity. Simon found it believable and that he made it kind of hip.

Singer: Jordin Sparks
Song: "On a Clear Day"
My Take (The Wise Son): Jordin’s not quite in time with the band at the beginning, but she finds her way to catch up. It’s a fairly straight-forward showcase, another female performance that puts the men to shame with its range and vocal purity. Chris was good, but between Chris’ consistent nasal rasp (sometimes effective, other times not) and Jordin’s ability to adapt to every song and genre? It’s no contest.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy calls her da bomb and blurts, "I’m like what?!?! She’s hot, America!" With Simon giggling to the side, Paula calls Jordin a magnet of joy. Simon liked the way she sounded, but cautions that she didn’t make it young and current.

Singer: Gina Glocksen
Song: "Smile"
My Take (The Wise Son): Gina’s harboring a small alien in her helmet of hair style tonight. This is a tough theme for Gina, but for the second straight week she does a good job showcasing her voice. I have bad news for here, though: She sounds much, much, much better when she isn’t singing rock songs. Her persona may be ill-suited to standards — she looks like she’s holding something in, something hinted at by the slit-skirt and high boots — but she sounds good. She may look the part when she rocks, but her voice can’t take the strain.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy calls it nice and controlled. Paula goes another step and dubs it flawless. Simon says that after the two girls who came before, Gina’s vocals just weren’t good enough.

Singer: Sanjaya Malakar
Song: "Cheek to Cheek"
My Take (The Wise Son): Who had "White suit, hoop earings and slicked back hair" in the Sanjaya fashion pool? Oooh and does his suit also have shoulder pads? I think it may. Remember when there was that one week that John Stevens sang a song so simple that we were all briefly re-convinced that he could sing? I don’t. But I’m sure it happened. This may be that week for Sanjaya. To his absolutely credit, I didn’t even notice that Sanjaya was singing. I was too busy laughing at his attempts to be suave and his less-than-successful stab at dancing with Paula while crooning.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say:

Randy admits he can’t comment on the vocals anymore, but he calls Sanjaya a true entertainer. Paula gets why people love Sanjaya. Simon responds with "Let’s try a different tactic this week… Incredible." The contestant welcomes Simon to the Universe of Sanjaya.

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Singer:
Haley Scarnato
Song: "Ain’t Misbehavin’"
My Take (The Wise Son): Dressed in a sparkling sea-foam dress, Haley is accentuating the whole package this week, with a plunging top and extremely high hemline. Bennett told her to concentrate the song on just one person, but how many men in the audience are going to be convinced that they’re that one? There are hard sells and soft sells and Haley’s in the first category tonight. She struts, flirts, swings her hips and coos. She winks and bats her eyelashes and emotes directly into the camera. What I truly wish, though, is that we could have seen Katherine McPhee’s version of this song. Kat could have delivered the vocals to go with all that business.
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: Randy and Paula don’t have much to say, passing it to Simon, who looks Haley up and down and declares, "I think you’ve got great legs."

Singer: LaKisha Jones
Song: "Stormy Weather"
My Take (The Wise Son): It’s LaKisha’s turn for the pimp slot again. She’s been perfectly costumed this week, brassy and classy. The arrangement is overblown and nearly deafening, but fortunately, LaKisha is one of three contestants this season capable of singing over the band at its loudest. Once LaKisha realizes that the band is trying to overshadow her, she rises to the challenge
The Wicked Son, The Simple Son and Simon Say: It was da bomb for Randy. Paula raves about LaKisha’s look and tone. Simon says she’s back on form with a sassy, great performance.

TONIGHT’S BEST: Guess who? Yup. It’s Melinda, LaKisha and Jordin, probably in that order.

TONIGHT’S SANJAYA: I’ve gotta go with Sanjaya here.

IN DANGER: If Haley’s sex appeal and Sanjaya’s Sanjaya appeal are enough to keep them around for another week, does that mean that Phil is doomed?

Agree? Disagree? Sanjaya? Sound off on last night’s show…

And check out all of our Complete Zap2it American Idol Coverage.

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg