American Idol: Top 6 Performance Grades
Idol Gives Back kicked off last night, and the vague promos led me to believe that there would be no elimination this week on American Idol.  With all the names of performers and celebrities set to appear on the show, I didn't think there'd be any time for our top 6 to bestow their vocal gifts upon the masses.  I was wrong.  They'll take care of all the celebrity appearances and whatnot tonight, during the two-hour results show.  Bono will be appearing, which is what I'm most looking forward to.  I'm guessing the top 6 won't get a whole lot of screen time tonight with all the stars that are set to appear.  Then again, they only need to be on screen for 90 seconds, which is more than enough time for an elimination.

So, how was the first episode of American Idol without Sanjaya?  Quite good, actually.  A couple of mediocre performances, but those were off-set by a couple of great performances.  As always, I've given out grades for each of the contestant's performances.  They are as fair as I can make them. 

Chris Richardson: C

What the hell is wrong with the judges?  Maybe they wanted to start off this night, since it's about charity and is supposed to be a generally happy event, with some positive feedback.  He sang “Change the World” by Eric Clapton.  The first half of Chris's performance was downright cringe-worthy, and the second half wasn't a whole lot better.  I've got nothing against Chris; the man is doing his best out there.  It's not a matter of unfulfilled potential.  He's just not a very good singer and it continues to show.

Melinda Doolittle: A-

Singing a Faith Hill song that I was not familiar with (there are exactly zero Faith Hill songs I am familiar with, to be fair), Melinda again showed why she is the most complete singer out there.  Melinda doesn't screw up.  She has great range.  She phrases her songs perfectly; she knows how to sing.  That's the difference between someone like Melinda and Lakisha.  They both have the same tools, but Melinda just creates so much more with them.

Blake Lewis
: B+

Blake sang “Imagine” by John Lennon.  Not only is this one of the best songs ever, it is one of my favorite songs ever.  When they announced that Blake would be singing it, it scared me.  I thought he was going to ruin it.  He did anything but.  After a very mediocre Blake performance last week, he came back by doing justice to one of the greatest songs ever. He sang it completely straight-forward, but did so flawlessly.  The judges were wishy-washy on it, which baffled me.  Sure, the performance didn't have flair, but that's because it absolutely is not supposed to.  A great job by Blake.

(I also thought it was funny when, in the pre-song segment,  Blake had to explain what the song was about.  He gave the typical “it's about unity” response.  It's really about how the world would be better with no countries or religions.  But, I'm guessing FOX wouldn't have aired that explanation.)

Lakisha Jones: C

I'm over it.  Really.  Lakisha, on a night where you could perform any hopeful, “human anthem”, you decided to sing a song by a former American Idol.  Do you know how many hundreds of great songs you had to choose from?  Do you see the artists that your fellow contestants chose?  Eric Clapton, John Lennon, hell, even Garth Brooks.  Lakisha did some yelling and sang it okay, but it wasn't a great song (sorry, Fantasia fans).  There's a very good chance Lakisha goes home tonight.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't be undeserved.

Phil Stacey
: C

Eh.  Phil is going the country route after receiving such positive feedback last week.  It's a fine decision, but I thought his rendition last night was a little bizarre.  He didn't add that country twang that was prevalent last week and the result was another hit and miss Phil performance.  He sang out of tune at times, his tone was off, and I didn't enjoy any of it.  Phil will surely be in the bottom two, probably with Lakisha.

Jordin Sparks: A

People have been going nuts over this performance since last night, and for good reason.  It was ridiculously emotional and showed the preternatural range that Jordin possesses.  However, it wasn't one of the greatest performances ever (as Randy proclaimed).  It started off a bit shaky and there were some slight out of tune moments.  It was still great, and I'm not so sure that Jordin's slight flaws don't actually help her.  In the competition with Melinda, Jordin may benefit from being a bit more raw.  Melinda's performances are so flawless that they come off as calculating, thus neutralizing a little bit of the sheer emotion.  But, again, a great, great performance by Jordin.  Her best of the season. 

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer