AMERICAN IDOL 3
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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper and Chico Alexander, GSNN


FACT FILE:
Host: Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America
Airs: Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET and Wednesdays at 8:30p ET on FOX


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May 18/19 - Finals Round 10

Welcome to 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 quite.
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 you.
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 you.
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 tonight.

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 tonight.

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 ten)

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 there.

Randy: What a great song. What a great person! Props!
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 THE HEAVENS!!!

Randy: You 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 it up.


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 ever did.

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 it."

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 America say?

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.

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