American Idol: Top 12 Performance Grades
Well, that was an interesting show.  The theme of last night's American Idol performance episode was Diana Ross.  Diana showed up to help all the contestants and, as a requirement, everyone had to sing a Diana Ross song.  Everyone.  I understand that Diana was prolific in her own time, but still, with the judges constantly critiquing song choice, it seems unfair to place such strict boundaries for choosing songs to perform, especially this late in the game and with the stakes so high.  The result was a night of mostly unmemorable songs, with a couple of winners thrown in.  Granted, that's not much different from your typical night of performances this season, but I think it took away the opportunity for some singers to surprise us.

As we've done throughout the Hollywood rounds, I'm going to give out my performance grades for all twelve singers from last night.  I was a little disappointed overall, but I attribute that to the Diana Ross experiment.  She'll be performing live on tonight's results show; it'll be interesting to see if she has anything left in the tank. 

Brandon Rogers: D

Brandon kicked off the show with one of The Supremes more memorable songs “You Can't Hurry Love”.  It's an iconic Girl Group song, which makes it jarring to have a dude singing it.  Unfortunately, that was the least of our worries.  Brandon continued his disappointing run by forgetting his words (to devastating effect) and giving a mediocre performance all-around. He seemed nervous, which is understandable; this was the first performance by anyone this season in the big theater.  He'll probably stick around, mostly by default, but I'm hoping he'll eventually cash in on his potential.

Melinda Doolittle: A

As always, Melinda puts on the best performance of the night.  It's getting boring talking about Melinda in this space.  She is that good and she's very likely going to end up winning American Idol.  It's kind of like when I review episodes of The Office.  How do you comment upon consistent excellence?  The song made Paula cry, but she's unstable enough to where I think I could make her cry by orating amateur poetry through a bullhorn. 

Chris Sligh: C

Chris continues to sing well, but that was about the only highlight of the performance.  He chose “Endless Love” as his song, but he messed with it, changing a few chords, and the results were less than inspiring.  Simon hated it, but I wouldn't go that far.  He still shows the potential to make it through to the top 4 or 5, but that's probably as far as he can go.

Gina Glocksen: B

I liked this performance more than the judges.  Singing “Love Child”, I do admit that it got a little boring in parts, but I thought it was excusable.  She sang it well, maybe yelled too much, but it was an overall pleasant experience for me.  Gina is one of the two or three sleepers in the group, because I don't think she's had to close to her best performance yet.

Sanjaya Malakar: D

Sanjaya is, pure and simple, out of his league.  He had his hair in some sort of quasi-perm and, when that is the best part of your performance, you know you're in trouble.  If he's not eliminated tonight, we'll know something is seriously wrong in the voting world.  There may need to be an intervention on the part of FOX if he remains on the show.  Could they buy him out?  What do you think his price would be?

Haley Scarnato: B-

This was Haley's best performance, even if she did sing out of tune for  much of the second half of the song.  Simon complimented her (slightly) and this made her cry with joy, and I don't begrudge her for it.  For Haley, who had been belittled by Simon over the last couple weeks, the anticipation of his comments must be excruciating, and I'm happy that she got some redemption.  The truth is she performed well, looked great, and had exemplary stage presence.

Phil Stacey
: B-

A ho-hum job by Phil.  His voice is very good, and he performs well most of the time.  The problem is (and I don't know if he can fix this) is that he is too bland.  He doesn't excite the audience or give them anything new to chew on.  This is unfortunate because, say, if we matched his voice with Chris Richardson's presence, we'd really have something.

Lakisha Jones: A

She sang a Billie Holliday, jazzy song  and absolutely nailed it.  Her voice is so strong and emotive that it continues to look like a two woman race between her and Melinda.  The judges absolutely flip for this song, and it wasn't an overreaction.  Her confidence looks to have grown over the last month, which is heartwarming, but also great for us in the audience.

Blake Lewis: B

Blake chose the classic “You Keep Me Hangin' On” and remixed it in his own style.  The results were too techno for my tastes and the judge's as well.  I don't think it was as disastrous as they thought it was, but it definitely didn't hold a candle to the original.  The fatal flaw in the performance was Blake slowing the song down.  By nature, the tune is upbeat and energetic.  Take that away, and you don't have a whole lot. 

Stephanie Edwards: C+

People give Stephanie too much love.  There, I said it.  She chose a Diana Ross disco song that I didn't know and, now, don't have any interest in knowing.  She sang out of tune and she bored me.  Still, Stephanie is a good singer, but not good enough.  On stage, she is just okay and, although it won't be this week, I expect her to be off the show within the month.

Chris Richardson: C

Chris is an exceptional performer.  He is fearless and infectious, the kind of person born to be up on stage in front of millions.  If only he had the voice to match.  It's unfortunate that, vocally, Chris can't cut it with the top-of-the-line singers on American Idol.  It's going to end up costing him at some point, but probably not until the top 6 or so. 

Jordin Sparks: A-

So, I learned tonight that Diana Ross had a song on “The Land Before Time” soundtrack.  You know, the animated movie from the early 90's about dinosaurs.  And, amazingly, Jordin chose that as her song.  It was understandably schmaltzy, one of those cookie cutter Disney ballads, but Jordin sung the hell out of it.  The judges praise aside, I still don't see Jordin taking down both Melinda and Lakisha.  She's just not up to there level...yet.  Remember, Jordin is only 17.

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer