On March 14, Brandon Rogers, a former back-up singer, was the first of the 12 finalists to be voted off the sixth season of “American Idol.”
The previous night, Rogers and his 11 fellow contestants each performed a song from the repertoire of Diana Ross in an attempt to bring themselves one step closer to becoming the next “Idol” winner. At the beginning of the two-hour performance show, judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell made it clear that the male finalists were lagging far behind their female counterparts thus far. The men failed to disprove the judges’ sentiment, giving a series of lackluster performances that were sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Some forgot lyrics, many selected dull or uninspiring songs and others spent more time focusing on dance moves than showcasing their vocal skills.
The judges’ least favorite performance of the night, 17-year-old Sanjaya Malakar’s weak rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” was enough to give viewers a severe case of second-hand embarrassment. While Jackson classified it as “almost unlistenable,” Cowell said that where “you hear a wail in Beverly Hills, that is where Diana Ross is watching this,” blatantly suggesting that Ross would not be pleased with Malakar’s interpretation of her song. The viewers seemed to agree, and Malakar earned a spot alongside Rogers as one of three performers who garnered the least number of votes.
Rogers forgot a substantial portion of lyrics during his performance of “Can’t Hurry Love.” Though not talentless, Cowell pointed out that Rogers lacked the star quality and originality that an “Idol” frontrunner should have.
Several of the male finalists were criticized for putting modern spins on the classic Motown style of their songs. Chris Sligh, who attempted to modernize “Endless Love” to showcase his personal style, did not fain the judges’ support. Abdul said that Sligh should have used the original melody, while Cowell said, “I think you murdered the arrangement.” The judges also criticized contestants Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson for their modern renditions.
Even the strongest male performances of the night attracted criticism.
Phil Stacey, who chose to sing “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” was praised for his strong vocals, but was told that his performance was “boring” by Jackson and only “okay” by Cowell. Stacey joined Rogers and Malaker in the bottom three during the results show.
In a stark contrast, the leading ladies of the evening garnered high praise from the judges. Melinda Doolittle’s performance of “Home” reduced Abdul to tears and reminded Cowell of a young Gladys Knight. Cowell also had positive words for LaKisha Jones, saying that her rendition of “God Bless the Child” set her, along with Doolittle, in a different league from the rest of the finalists. The surprise hit of the night was 17-year-old Jordin Sparks, whose strong performance of “If We Hold On Together” impressed all three judges and prompted Jackson to say, “You just made it a three-girl race.”
However, not all of the female contestants provoked high excitement. Contestants Gina Glocksen and Stephanie Edwards turned in average performances, while Haley Scarnato forgot the words during her rendition of “Missing You.” While Jackson and Abdul criticized a visibly shaken Scarnato for her pitch problems, surprisingly, Cowell expressed that he was impressed by Scarnato’s stage presence.
If last week’s vote was any indication, the males need to step up their performances if they want to continue their “Idol” runs. However, with each new week comes a new opportunity to impress judges and viewers.