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Round of 10: Pop - March 27

And then there were 10. Tonight, a pop superstar provides the song list as the Idols are coached by former No Doubt fronter and current solo success Gwen Stefani. But will there be No Doubt in who should stay and who should go?

Capsule time! Since her early days as the singer in No Doubt, Gwen has become a singer, songwriter, actress, fashion icon... and of course, a performer. She helped bring reggae/ska-infused alterna-rock into the limelight during the 90s, selling 28 million copies and winning two Grammys. So far, she's sold at least 8 million copies of her two solo efforts, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." and "The Sweet Escape." She says that a lot of the songs she likes aren't known for singing or big voices, but more for their character. We'll see if some of that character can rub off on the Idols.

First is LaKisha Jones with Donna Summer's "The Last Dance" (1978). Gwen says she's very dynamic with her voice. "I should be asking her for advice."

What they say: Randy thought it was good for her to change it up and do an uptempo song. Paula: "You did Donna Summer proud." Simon says she's 30 years younger this week.

What we say: I'm going to coin a phrase for use on all GSNN-sanctioned Idol talks... "It's nothing we haven't seen before." Good, yes, but she could have had a chance to diversify her workhorse. Otherwise, back in full-bodied vocal this week.

Next on Ask an Idol. Someone asks Chris Sligh, "How much downtime do you have and how do you spend it?" He likes... sleeping. He's working seven days a week in this competition. He sings "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (The Police, 1981). Gwen tells him he needs to watch the tempo. That got him into trouble last week.

What they say: Randy likes the song choice, but the biggest problem... again... the tempo control. Chris agrees. Paula agrees with both of them, telling Chris to stay in the pocket. "You have to feel that beat." Simon thought it was a flat-out mess. "It just didn't feel right."

What we say: A couple of breaths where he didn't need to take them, and a couple of pitch problems, but as always, he captures the feeling of the performance.

Next, Gina Glocksen meets Gwen, and tells about "I'll Stand By You" (The Pretenders, 1994). "It's good to see her just stand there and be emotional."

What they say: Randy called it Gina's best. "Just believe and choose wise songs." Paula loves that Gina is coming into her own as an artist. Simon didn't think it was one of her best... it was THE best. "The best performance so far tonight."

What we say: It might have sounded like Gina had a Kathie-Lee-on-Name-That-Tune moment, but she didn't, and praise be for that. She made a power move by diversifying herself this week, and she's all the better for it.

Next up... Sanjaya. The song, "Bathwater" (2000). Gwen has to coach him through the lyrics... Never a good sign.

What they say: Randy is speechless. "The hair-do is definitely... interesting. You can sing, but you need to put it out there." Paula agrees with the whole "come on" aspect, saying he needs to sell the image he's portraying. Simon: "I don't think it matters what we say. You are in your own universe, and if people like you, good luck."

What we say:  What the hell is up with that hair? Doesn't Sanjaya know that the fauxhawk is an Idol killer (see Turner, Nadia from season 4)? AND he forgot the lyrics! It's "Bountiful selection." In other words... not this. I think he's starting to believe what everyone's writing about him, to borrow one of Block's phrases. and it just didn't work.

Haley Scarnato returns us to normal with "True Colors" (Cyndi Lauper, 1986). Gwen says all the extraneous melody that Haley practiced with is just that... extraneous.

What they say: Randy: "You didn't really grab me with that. You had some pitchy moments." Paula didn't like the choice. Simon thought it was "sweet, but forgettable. There was nothing to remember. It was just one of those performances. Too safe."

What we say: Vibrato Girl's back. Points for singing the song straight until the end, when she goes off book. But she was definitely stronger in previous attempts. That was a forced performance. And a pitchy one at that.

Phil Stacey is on the benches with Ryan. His Ask-an-Idol: how does it feel to go from an unknown to a household name? "The truth is we're so busy, you don't know how much of an impact you have on the country." Phil chooses "Every Breath You Take" (The Police, 1983). Gwen says it's another one of those songs you don't need to do anything with...

What they say: Randy thought it was a solid performance. Paula thought he played it safe in the verses. Simon... "This may surprise you, but I thought that was pretty good."

What we say: Phil let's the song speak for itself, and it speaks volumes this week. Phil needed a knockout performance to save his butt... and this was it. Let's see if he can string two in a row.

Next, Melinda Doolittle sings "Heaven Knows" by Donna Summer (1978). Gwen was blown away. "I would say good luck, but I don't think you really need it that much."

What they say:  Randy continues to say that she's living the words and that she's a pro. Paula: "You have charisma from the word 'go'." Simon doesn't think it was her best, but he loved the vocal.

What we say: after singing ballads for what seems like forever, Melinda shows America that she can kick it up a notch as well. Good job!

Blake Lewis on deck now with "Lovesong" (The Cure, 1989/311, 2004). Gwen tells him to be careful when he incorporates the beatbox.

What they say: Randy didn't think it was a good song choice, but he made the most of it. "It wasn't there, but I liked it." Paula loves that Blake is taking risks. "I think you're the dark horse." Simon calls him the strongest guy in the competition. "You're in this Chris Daughtry zone when you're doing your own thing, but you have to be careful about not being too indulgent."

What we say: Good song choice, even if it is the 311 version. And a nice nod to the band as well as he pushes to the hooks and what not.

Jordin Sparks makes a No Doubt song sounds "so much more musical than (Gwen) thought it was". That song, 2002's "Hey Baby".

What they say: Ir's hard for that to be stylized, but Randy says she can sell it. Paula likes that kind of mode. Simon says she's the most improved, but a bit copycat.

What we say: ... a mite sharp. But still, a good song choice to challenge yourself with. And sometimes you have to challenge yourself.

Chris Richardson is next, as he sings for Gwen. She doesn't think that the song warrants his "vocal Olympics." Just sing it... tonight's closer is... "Don't Speak" (1996).

What they say: Randy likes the R&B flavor and commends him on song choice. Paula just says he's good. Simon: "This was a much much better choice of song, however, I wasn't crazy about the vocal. I think you struggled in the middle."

What we say:  Once he gets over his original vocal Olympics, it's actually okay. But he's only allowed one save. He used it this week. He's got to be MUCH more careful next week.

The Sweet Escape: Gina, Melinda, Blake
Love. Angel. Music. Baby: LaKisha, Phil, Jordin, Chris R.
Tragic Kingdom: Chris S., Sanjaya, Haley

We're back in 23:53 to see what kind of damage you've done.



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