On the Scene: Idol's Final Three

Jordin_lSince I’ve taken a bit of a leave of absence, let me first say how nice it is to be back on the regular Idol PopWatch beat. No, Dancing with the Stars is not quite over yet (like Idol, there’s only one week left!), but I managed to squeeze both shows into one jam-packed Tuesday evening.

It all started at T minus 15 minutes when, lo and behold, a new, never-before-seen warm up guy takes the microphone. Johnny D. is his name and freebies — cash, candy, prizes — are his game. There’s nothing quite like a sugar rush to get a crowd going, and Johnny, who looks like Christopher Knight with an extra 30 or so pounds and wears a fanny-pack stuffed to the gills with Milky Ways and Three Musketeers, knows this better than anybody.

Besides chocolate, Johnny has a thing for Rihanna, as we learn when his playlist segues from "Pon de Replay" to "S.O.S.," and, of course, bad jokes. He recycles his colleague Corey’s pager line ("If you have a cell phone, please turn it off. If you have a pager, get a cell phone, it’s 2007") with no shame, but that has to be par for the course in the warm-up business.

With five minutes to air, Simon and Randy are shockingly on time for their big entrance. Randy comes first, making his way through the sea of high-fives. A minute later, you can spot Simon’s ridiculously bright teeth shining in the dark of the hallway. His choppers are exceptionally white, no doubt, but it’s also that ear-to-ear smile which practically gives off its own halo. Paula is the straggler on this night, arriving a minute and a half before the show’s open.

addCredit(“American Idol: Michael Becker”)

Perhaps because the show is winding down for the year, all threejudges were especially giddy and affectionate with each other. Randyand Simon hugged at the judge’s table and Simon dutifully scratchedPaula’s back through most of the opening segment. Ryan, meanwhile,tried his best to keep things professional.

Speaking of Mr. Seacrest, his intro mark was literally four feetaway from my seat so I got to see the perfectly landscaped scruff niceand close. (Side note: I almost mistook Scott Wolf, who was alsoseated nearby, for Ryan). Something else I noticed? Ryan smells reallygood. Then again, the guy is a proud metrosexual, so it should come asno surprise.

It’s show time. Ryan effortlessly delivers his opening line anddutifully makes his way back around to the gigantic splitting videoscreen. Since there were three performances by each of the contestants,everything was very much on a schedule, leaving little time for backand forth jabs but plenty of opportunity for praise. In that sense, theaudience was right there with the judges.

Like for Jordin’s first performance, Paula led the hand-clappingwhile the audience followed suit with a standing ovation. The same forBlake (“Roxanne” was Paula’s pick after all). In fact, pretty much allthe performers received standing O’s tonight and, through an informalsign count, it seemed fans really were split three ways. It’s anyone’sgame at this point.

But the folks seated next to me were all about Melinda who, justbefore taking her place on the Idol stage, embraced Blake, then neededhelp navigating the stairs wearing some very high and sharp heels.Paula, on the other hand, had no problem running in hers. On the firstcommercial break, she dashed back to her seat with three seconds tospare.

As Melinda’s hometown tape ran, Randy chuckled when the governor ofTennessee read his fax aloud, but during Melinda’s first performance,all the judges seemed very distracted and, dare I say, they even talkedthrough half of it. C’mon guys, not cool. From where we sat, you couldsee her straining to look beyond their chatter and focus on the upperseats. In the end, they did give Mindy Doo props, but where’s therespect?Meanwhile, Blake and Jordin are getting situated on the side of thestage. Jordin towers over Blake so he tries to stand tip-toed (it stilldoesn’t add much). But the little Blake that could lookssuper-confident and not at all fazed by this final three showdown.Maybe it was Maroon 5’s “This Love,” which turned out to be a great fitfor his voice and style (the band will be appearing on Wednesday’sshow) or knowing what it felt like to be in the bottom two, but Blakebrought it, and the crowd definitely responded. Even Ryan gave him acongratulatory handshake and slap on the back.

Jordin (pictured), on the other hand, looked at bit more jumpy and nervous thanin weeks past. Ryan walked her through the viewer question during thecommercial break and, though it only required her to say Hanson’s “MMMBop,” it seemed to take a lot longer to prep. Again, I think the shoeswere a deterrent, as Jordin also struggled with her heels, though theywere highly appropriate for the song (“She Works Hard for the Money”).

Melinda got some last minute hair fixes (courtesy of official Idolhairstylist Dean Banowitz) before she closed out the show. Sitting onthe awkward silver stool (you know those things can’t be comfortable),she was smiley, chatty and, as always, poised. The room, naturally,exploded as soon as she hit her first note, with Paula againdemonstrating her trademark dolphin clap (perfected by Amy Poehler onlast week’s SNL, don’t you think?). And with a group hug(contestants, not judges this time), it was all over, leaving theaudience just as confused filing out as they were walking in.

But there was one person who looked like he wasn’t going to lose anysleep tonight: good ol’ Blake. I saw him walking through the parkinglot about a half hour after show’s end with a security guard, stoppingevery few feet to pose for photos with fans. Caption it the picture ofcool.

Comments (203 total) Add your comment
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  • K

    Blake & Melinda finale, fingers crossed!

  • Tamara

    I hope so too, K. Let’s hope Michael Slezak is right!
    Thanks Shirley, especially for reporting that Blake’s spirits are as good as they seem on TV. That hometown visit really rejuvenated him after the beatdown he got last week!

  • Cece

    I wish I had seen it. I’ll youtube it later.

  • Bruce

    Blake & Melinda–yah! Dump Jordin, who looks like Baby Huey tsanding next to the other two!

  • wintersux

    My favorite moment from last night’s show was when Blake did his knee slide and the microphone flew off the stand and went bouncing into the audience. Loved it!

  • Ann

    I’m sure I’ll be in the minority here, but I’d much rather see a Blake-Jordin finale. Melinda is a fantastic singer, but American Idol is much more than that. Melinda caters more to the Adult Contemporary crowd, in my opinion.

  • Scotty

    I’m so glad that EW agrees about Jordin. I thought maybe there was something wrong with my ears last night after I heard her sing and the judges gave her such praise. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked her so far and would probably buy her CD. But, hearing “I Who Have Nothing” again just proved I haven’t heard anything as emotionally impacting as that song since she first did it. I do hope its Blake and Mindy in the final two. Mindy will bring needed emotion and nuance to what are typically dreary AI original songs and, I think given the leeway, Blake has the talent to recraft a song to fit his style. Can’t wait ’til tonight!!

  • chay

    I like Eddie Murphy’s version of Roxanne 10x better than Blake. Melinda all the way!

  • Big Momma

    Have to agree with Scotty. A little nervous though as I was able to get thru so many times to vote for Melinda. Does anyone know what dialidol is saying?

  • mike

    Someone is on drugs in here. Melinda Jordin to the finals. You’ll see

  • Ceballos

    What’s funny is that Blake’s attitude radiates “I’m just here on borrowed time.” He’s savvy enough to know that all the exposure he’s gotten has all but assured him of a record deal, and that winning will probably lock him into more generic music than he’d want to do.
    That’s why he’s taking so many chances, and looks so relaxed out there…he doesn’t live or die by this show…ironically, people respond to that and he might actually WIN.

  • Matt

    Blake’s scratching… Jordin’s vibrato…. I hope you all voted for Melinda last night! I don’t think I can watch a beatbox vs. bleat-vox final.

  • My Opinion

    Last night was great overall! I could see any of them selling records and/or winning. But, I would love to see Blake and Melinda in the finals. Blake is the most hip/original and would sell records, but his voice is the weakest of the three. Melinda is awesome and the best singer of all, but her older style will not sell records. Hip it up and Melinda, you are the next American Idol!! Until tonight, I will be sitting on the edge of my seat!!!

  • KAT

    I guess I simply can’t stand watching Blake with his tiny pie hole mouth and his ghastly scat singing and beatbox garbage. I think Jordin has a superb voice and that she is being unfairly bad-rapped for her emotionality and youth. I am not a voter on this silly show since I won’t pay for advertising and the greed of the producers, however, I do think choosing Melinda is the best of the bunch this year despite the purity and clarity of Jordin’s voice which far surpasses the smoky tones of Doolittle, albeit she does lack performance expertise as she is so young. It’s all about personal taste and I regret that Jordin may not be in the final two. I cannot stand Blake and would never buy a CD of his. I would buy Jordin’s CD. I hope that the finale will be fair this year and worth the time of sitting through two hours of excrutiating
    ads and silliness. Plus Sanjaya will be back to add interest and charm to this lackluster season.

  • pat

    I think Jordin has a fantastic voice. I think she needs to work on dancing and moving on stage, but that can be taught. I would like to see her and Melinda in the finale. Even if she isn’t I predict a bright future for her.
    Blake just leaves me cold. I can’t imagine that out of all the thousands of people who tried out for Idol that he would be the second best they could find. Unless the producers specifically want him in the finale so it will be a slam dunk win for Simons “girl” Melinda, I just don’t see how he belongs there.
    That said, in my opinion none of the contestants has the whole package of looks, talent, moves and charisma of Season 1 runner up Justin Guarini. I wish they’d let him sing at the finale and show them how performing is done.
    Watching A.I rewind Season 1 the contestants were way more interesting and talented than anything we saw this season, hands down. I’d love to see each rewind seasons top 10 reunite and perform on the Idol finale.
    That would be fun!

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