May 18/19 - Finals Round
what was historically called "The Wheel of Death" round.
Like the round on "Say What? Karaoke" before it, song
choice is 2/3 out of the players' hand, and into the
judges'. It helps that one of the judges is an
impresario beyond compare. Having brought the world
Santana, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney to name a few,
he produced the winners' album for the past three Idols
(Kelly, Ruben, and Clay) and will produce this season's
winner's first attempt. The best judge since QT and the
most qualified that I can think of, Clive Davis joins
the Idol panel tonight.
Part One: The Idols
choose their own material. First up, Jasmine Trias tries
to build on... well, whatever it is that got her here
from last week. She's "Saving All My Love For You".
She's not bad, really. She's just holding onto that
narrow vocal range. We're coming to the end, and this is
where she's going to fall flat... and she does.
Randy: My problem is with that song, when you
pick a stylized singer like Whitney Houston, it's always
going to pale in comparison. It was good, it was not
great. There were like three or four notes, especially
the high ones, that were always sharp. You're good, but
you're not all the way there yet.
Paula: I have the same problem. If you're going
to pick that, you're going to have to sing as good as
Whitney, if not better. You're almost there, but not
Clive: Well no one can sing better than Whitney
Houston. This is a tough song to sing. I thought there
was a little sharpness, but you captured the tenderness
at the end.
Simon: Rather like a dinner with Paula Abdul.
Sweet but forgettable.
Another bad song choice. I wonder if Jasmine even
REALIZES her problem. Well, Fantasia Barrino doesn't
have that problem, as she does her thing on "Chain of
Fools". Consummate performance on top of consummate
performance. She's even beginning to work her way out of
her nasality. And when she doesn't, at least she makes
it work for her. Still not the best I've heard her, but
pretty damn close.
Randy: I don't care what goes on. As far as I'm
concerned, you are a winner!
Paula: It's about being unique. You came here.
You came to win. You picked the right songs. Good for
Clive: You took on our national treasure, the
Queen of Soul. You took it on with your own spirit, with
your own uniqueness. You nailed it!
Simon: you demonstrated there what we're looking
for, which is the difference between copying someone
badly and originality. What we're looking for, we've
hopefully found. It was superb.
Agreed. Next, is Diana DeGarmo, trying a bit of a fusion
version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Apparently,
ain't no decibel level high enough either. Sounds good,
but she shouted. Sell it, but don't oversell it.
Randy: I think that song was a little bigger than
Paula: I think you did a great job, Diana. I
think you had fun.
Clive: It was agreeable, infectious, but it was
good cabaret. Not unique.
Simon: I agree with Clive. You know you're doing
well, but don't worry too much about the audience,
because you shouted that song.
Part two: the judges' choice. Paula chose for Jasmine
"Mr. Melody." And Mr. Melody called, Jasmine. He wants
you to stop overreaching for the low and high ones and
start hitting them. Good stage presence, though. But
frighteningly consistent. Not doing it for me.
Randy: I think Paula made a good choice. That was
a better song for you. It sounded better.
Paula: I love when you just let go.
Clive: I have to take issue on that. I thought
this was light. It was not your best moment.
Simon: I think everyone's thinking the same
thing. So what? You just haven't connected with anyone
Next up, Simon chooses the Tina Turner throwback "Fool
in Love", saying that the combination of this song and
Fantasia will be, "because I've chosen it, magic."
Simon... mission accomplished. Reminds me of Tina in her
heyday. And she goes from strength to strength. Her best
Randy: You just remind me of the spirit of Mary
J. Blige, Aretha. You just the bomb, dude. I love you!
Paula: Going one step further, I don't even think
you need this competition anymore, because you are a
star. You are a triple threat.
Clive: If this were no competition, and I went to
a basement in Kansas, and saw you perform like that, I
would sign you right away.
Simon: I'm going to be tactical here, because you
need a sympathy vote. That was the worst thing I've ever
heard in my entire life.
Yeah, that's what I said! Then I got out of bizarroland
and wised up. But nice use of reverse psychology,
Mr. Cowell. Randy picks "Because You Loved Me" for
Diana. He thinks she has the pipes. She does, but half
to sixty percent of the time, she's not using them. She
was so dead on for the last couple of weeks, but not so
this week. She had to grow into her performances. Well,
one more to go, I guess.
Randy: You had to
challenge. It was just alright. It just wasn't the bomb.
Paula: You definitely had the pipes for it. I was
hoping that you were going to color up the song
differently. Maybe bring something that was like Diana.
Clive: I like your tender ending. You came down
and you captured the emotion.
Simon: ... Sevenout'ten? (Translation: 7 out of
A little generous, he is. Just a little. Okay, Ryan's in
the crowd tonight. With another Ryan. Reigning Canadian
Idol Ryan Malcolm tells us that the show's coming back
in two weeks, and we're hoping the third Ryan (Vickers,
that is) is all over it. Next is the classic spoke to
the Wheel of Death, but instead of the crystal bowl, we
have the crystal brain of Clive Davis acting, as he
chose the final three songs. First for Jasmine, "All By
Myself". La Toya did this one justice in the early
round. Admire Jasmine for putting forth her trademark on
it, because by that one note that she held onto but
couldn't hit, it sounds like she just might be all by
herself... in the loser's circle.
Okay, it was two notes.
Randy: The verses were just... I felt no
connection with any emotion. That's my problem, I don't
feel any connection.
Paula: Better on this one.
Clive: You hit the high note, but this song is
about loneliness, and being dependent on such an
overblown ending, it came off frightening as compared to
sharing the loneliness of not wanting to be all by
yourself any more.
Simon: You're a lovely girl. The fact that you're
so young and so sweet and you have this unbelievable
support from Hawaii is why you're still in the
competition. For me, it has to end tonight.
Couldn't have said it better. But, as we've heard so
much this year, "should" doesn't necessarily equate
"will". But after last week's shocker, it just might.
Next, Clive chose "The Greatest Love of All" for
Fantasia. She puts herself into it again, and owns the
performance. But with a caveat, having sung this a
number of times, it only works if you're Whitney
Houston. Not better than Whitney, of course. But as
good. Still a few shaky notes, but nothing real out
Randy: What a great song. What a great person!
Paula: You've had an amazing night!
Clive: One simple word. Wow.
Simon: What does it say behind you?
Fantasia: American Idol.
Says it all. And she's
crying. Yep. She's got NOTHING to worry about. Question
is, who will face her next week in the final? Diana gets
"Don't Cry Out Loud" from Clive... and it looks like
Clive just might've saved her from the midst of suckdom.
She brought back what we loved about her, and... wait
for it... wait for it... 13 second... NOTE THAT SHOOK
brought it back on this song. That was great. It's all
about the great song.
Paula: That was flawless!
Clive: You showed why you're still in the
competition. You did nail it. You did that song proud.
Simon: Write a letter to Clive Davis saying
"Thank you very much for booking me place in the final".
Yes, and if there is ANY justice, and ANY integrity left
in this competition, Jasmine has to go tonight. One
thing's for sure, Fantasia is a lock, given tonight's
show and last week's shocker. But tomorrow's show will
tell the tale.
America... don't screw
Welcome to the aftermath
of the Wheel of Death round. Since Gordon is living it
up at Super Millionaire and props to him for doing so
you're stuck with me for the next hour. At the end of
this show, we'll know who will take the stage at the
Kodak Theatre next week.
First, though, it's filler, filler, and more filler. Of
which, we have performances by Guy Sebastian and Tamyra
Gray. Right after we see last night's performances and
take the first of no less than 17 commercial breaks.
Afterwards, Jasmine says that she's done her best.
Fantasia says she's having fun. Diana thinks she's given
400 percent every night. You know someone else who's
been giving 400 percent? Tamyra Gray. And she's onstage
for another performance, this time, it's "Star" (which
you might have heard over the audition footage all
season). The CD, "The Dreamer", comes out May 25, and I
plan on being the first one in Fayetteville with a copy.
Next up, we all know that the "Idols" format is sold in
30 countries. One of them sends a gift from down under
tonight, reigning Australian Idol Guy Sebastian making
his US singing debut (he was in the audience
beforehand). He's outsold more Australian pop stars than
any other since. He offers some advice to the Idols:
"Take everything in." And if Ryan sports Guy's hairdo
next year, I'll cry. He offers up his first single
"Angels Brought Me Here", which sounds as good as it
But back to our homegrown talents. Jasmine went back
home to Hawaii, where she was swamped by... well,
everyone. Including the Lt. Governor Duke Aiona. One of
the signs in her high school even read "We DO have 5
phones!" Explains a lot, doesn't it? From the radio and
the TV appearances, Jasmine goes torch lighting in
Waikiki. Even as she leaves back for Hollywood, she
finds it hard to tear herself away. "It was so worth
Last night, Randy thought she was good, but not great.
Paula thought likewise. Clive said she was not
believable. Simon said "It has to end tonight." All of
them believe that she never connected. But what would
That later, but right now, Tamyra is back with news of
the finale. She co-wrote the single for the winner,
called "I Believe". It's what American Idol is all
about, basically. She previews her CD with her first
single, "Raindrops Will Fall". Again.
Next, Fantasia goes home to High Point, NC, furniture
capital of the world. First off, radio and TV, where
Fantasia gets down to the bo-bo. From there, she heads
to her old elementary school and (surprise) a furniture
factory. She gets the key to the city and a chance to
perform for all of North Carolina. Then, dinner and back
to Hollywood. "I didn't get any chitterlings, but I got
some pig's feet." Soul food... soul child. Yeah.
Judges critique: Randy, Paula, Clive, and Simon all
agreed that she nailed her songs and she doesn't even
need this contest anymore. To secure a win, Simon even
tried to drum up support with a sarcastic little blurb
about being the worst. But was Simon being facetious,
really? Okay, he was. But did America read it that way?
Finally, Diana... goes home... to Snellville, GA via
Atlanta. She stops off at Fox 5 to do the weather. Yeah,
because that's what the Idols do. She then stops off to
visit the dogs and sleep in her own bed for a bit. Then
it's a limo ride to see the mayor of Snellville, who
makes her acting mayor. Official colors of the high
school are pink and black! Then it's a signing at
Wal-Mart and a letterman's jacket at Shiloh High.
But did she letter in Idoling? Randy said she wasn't
being unique. Paula said she wasn't really feeling her
oats. Clive said she captured the emotion. Simon said 7
out of ten. That was before the last song, where they
shower her with praise and Simon advises her to write an
extensive thank-you letter to Clive Davis.
But... and I can't say this enough... Was it enough to
seal the deal? We're down to the last 10 minutes, and
the last hang-up before someone goes home. Permanently.
Randy hopes America didn't screw up. Paula advises the
loser to continue with her dream. Simon's moment of
sincerity: congratulations on last night's show.
"Let's do it."
Tonight's victim of the butterfly phase... Jasmine Trias.
America, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
All Jasmine can do now is toss a coin to decide who will
sing first next week. Fantasia wins it, and she votes to
sing second. But before Jasmine sings her swan song, we
have her clips, as she reflects more on friendship than
anything else, and the pain of watching someone leave.
"Even though I didn't make it all the way, I feel like
I'm there, where I want to be."
Just to prove that I'm not that cruel of a guy, I'll
just thank Jasmine for sharing the aloha spirit. The
spirit of openness. The spirit of belonging. Sunset's
over there, darlin'.
So the stage is set. Four hours of voting. Three songs a
piece. Two divas Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo.
One winner. Zero room for error. Negative one, that's
Simon. But you'd be "negative two" if your favorite
didn't win. That's why you gotta watch.
Super Bowl of Singing next week.