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Round of 11: British Invasion - March 20

Top of the evenin' to ya, guv. This week, the British invade for a second time as Peter Noone and Lulu mentor the top 11 in the music of the 60s that came from our friends overseas... First, though, a history capsule...

It all started with four young lads from Liverpool. When Flight 101 from England landed at Kennedy Airport in New York, music would never be the same. The Beatles were so popular that any band from England had a fighting chance to conquer America. Among those bands... the Searchers, the Foremost, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Zombies, the Who, Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, and of course, this week's mentors Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, and Lulu. For more info, try wiki'ing "British Invasion".

Peter works with the guys, while Lulu takes on the ladies. "These 11 people have the same kind of enthusiasm as the Beatles at Shea Stadium."

First on the Idol stage is Haley Scarnato, who sings "Tell Him" (Billie Davis, 1963). Lulu advises to make it more staccato. Will she comply, or is Haley going to slip into big voice mode? 

What they say: Randy says she was hot tonight. "That had the yo factor all over." Paula called her on a great song choice. Simon... "You naughty little thing." It was fun, young, and a bit shrieky.

What we say: Let's see... she looks hot... that's a good thing. But the breathiness is not attune to this song, and all of the troubles that have kept Haley from achieving greatness, from being too big a voice to being too pitchy to tripping up the rhythm, have come home to roost.

Next, this girl crying. Stay tuned... this is relevant. And also relevant, a scary-looking Peter Noone lookalike... oh way, that's just Nigel. Hi, Nigel.

Next, Chris Richardson meets Peter, thinking about "finally nailing a song." He sings "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" (Gerry & The Pacemakers, 1964). Peter wants him to watch out for the vibrato. "You got to stick with the melody there."

What they say: Randy called it another great performance, thinking it was another side. One of his best. Paula says it's all about being smart with choices. The arrangement was very "sexy and charming." Simon: "That was your best performance so far." He didn't make the song sound old-fashioned.

What we say: a stripped down version is always a big winner. Chris strips it down, lets the melody be the star, and ... finally nails it.

Stephanie Edwards is next. Today on Ask an Idol: What's the hardest part about getting ready each week? She says picking the song. Different energy this week? Everyone's focused. Next... "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" (Dusty Springfield, 1966). Lulu tells her she reminds her of Beyonce. We could've told you that...

What they say: Randy says it was a good choice, but a little pitchy. Paula likes the clothes, but she needs to start having fun. Simon says she's beginning to lose her edge.

What we say: What's the main problem with doing something with your own flavor when your own flavor is someone else's? That's right.... it doesn't sound genuine. And that's the problem here. Stephanie doesn't sound genuine. And the tonality of it is proof positive.

Next, Blake Lewis scats his way into "Time of the Season" (The Zombies, 1968). Peter warns him not to let the business get in the way of the song.

What they say: Randy calls it cool, edgy, and "really current". Paula thinks this season is for Blake and gives the ultimate compliment: "You could release that as a record." Simon thought it was a million times better than last week.

What we say: Blake missteps a bit, but you know what... who cares? The rest of the song makes up for it. He brings it into the here and now, and that's gonna get him the numbers...

And Ryan's dancing and singing... Not hot.

LaKisha Jones is next. Her history with British music... nonexistent. She nailed it to two songs, one of which is Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). The second was "You're My World"... Lulu likes the second one so much, she interrupts her confessional to talk KiKi into doing it. So which song does LaKisha end up singing? Hint: she's wearing $1 million in diamonds.

What they say: It's not Randy's favorite performance, and he didn't feel "LaKisha" in it until the end. Paula begs to differ. That was the right song for her. "You're a very smart girl." Simon: "This was LaKisha in 50 years time. It wasn't my favorite performance. Everything combined together was too old."

What we say: Props to LaKisha from putting one foot in her R&B roots and her other foot into something a bit more challenging. And the good thing is, it doesn't even remotely come off as pretentious. I believe that is what killed last season's "favorite" Mandisa... 

Phil Stacey sings "Tobacco Road" (The Nashville Teens cover, 1964). He just says that it was fun and that a lot of people covered it.

What they say: Randy says to watch the upper register. Paula thought some parts were pitchy, but enjoyed Phil's emotion. Simon... wasn't crazy. "It was kind of what I called a third-division bar band performance."

What we say: Yeah, that was a pretty piss poor choice of song. The pitch was off. And Simon's right, you really needed huevos to carry that song, and Phil didn't have it.

Jordin Sparks is readying herself. Ask an Idol: name a song that describes you best. "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters. Obviously, she can't do THAT song. But she can do "I (Who Have Nothing)" (Shirley Bassey, 1963). She's so excited.

What they say: Randy called it a tall order. "Very controlled, great performance. One of the best I'm gonna see tonight." Paula says a good singer is a good singer. Simon thought it was beautiful, but it was "sooooo depressing. I felt like jumping over a bridge."

What we say: That was the money shot. Jordin took that song where she wanted it to go, and it showed.

There's Nigel again... no, wait, that's Peter Noone. His biggest advice: "1) Stick with the melody, and 2) Remember, this is not just a singing competition, it's a voting competition." That said... here comes Sanjaya! He has no idea what he's going to sing, until he gets to the piano and thinks about "You Really Got Me" (The Kinks, 1964). Peter says what we've all been thinking. "He doesn't have a lot of experience to sell what he's got." He ALMOST sang "(Something Tells Me) I'm Into Something Good".

What they say: Randy's shocked. That was his best. Paula was waiting for this performance. Simon, pointing to a girl named Ashley in the crowd, says "I think the little girl's face says it all."

What we say: Remember what Peter said about selling it? So true. Sanjaya has ZERO stage presence, less of a voice, and he makes little girls cry.

Gina Glocksen's next. She's so psyched herself. Ask an Idol: do you think being on AI made you stronger? In so many words... yes. She sings "Paint It Black" (The Rolling Stones, 1966). Lulu suggests a half-step up. Better. She also suggests wringing it for all the drama.

What they say: Randy likes the edge, but the vocal was a little pitchy. Paula thought it was miles better than last week. Simon thought it was style over content, citing the bridge. "Vocally, not good enough."

What we say: The song choice... spot on. But it seems like she's selling more of an image than a song. Too much of that and you're going to have Simon calling you "a sheep in wolf's clothing."

Chris Sligh did his homework on Peter Noone. He remembers his father singing "Henry VIII." He chose "She's Not There" (The Zombies, 1964). He needs to figure out what the song is about, and if he can, he can sell it.

What they say: Randy likes that everyone's performing tonight. "It started off a little off the beat, but it wound up good." Paula thought it was a little ahead of the pocket. Chris tells Simon that he would've been more personable with the audience, but the song was about a girl who's not there. But he thought it was fun, albeit not the best.

What we say:  Did that sign say "Bringing Chubby Back"? It looks like he figured out what the song was about. And it is a good song for Chris to sing. The breath control is still an issue, but other than that... not too bad.

One more song, and then we call it a night. Here comes Melinda Doolittle! "Oh sweet Lord Jesus, what am I gonna do?" She eventually decides, divinely or not, on a "torch song" as Lulu calls it.  "She found herself in that song." Tonight's closer by Melinda is... "As Long As He Needs Me" (Shirley Bassey, 1967).

What they say: Randy thought they saved the best for last. "You have great relative pitch. You are a pro up there." Paula thought she told the story. Simon... "Are you really as nice as you seem?" She is. It started boring, but it ended sensational and impeccable.

What we say: Echo, echo, echo.

Okay, we're done with British music of the 60s. Let's go to what we think...

Hopped the Pond: Chris R., Blake, LaKisha, Jordin, Melinda
Hopped Back: Haley, Gina, Chris S.
Drowned: Stephanie, Phil, Sanjaya

Find out in 23 if this is an accurate portrayal of your votes...

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