“Idol” speculation

Chris Daughtry might not have caught any of his successors on “Idol”’s sixth season (“I haven’t had a chance, but I’ve been dying to see it,” he told C-VILLE), but we’ve been diligently tuning in. Here’s our take on the remaining nine finalists.

Melinda Doolittle

Here’s what Melinda’s got working against her: She looks about 40. She is short and kind of squatty. She has no discernible neck. All in all it’s an awkward little package, and America is a shallow place. Here’s what she’s got going for her: Melinda is a freaking amazing vocalist. The former back-up singer and current Queen of Nice has been referred to as a young Gladys Knight, and the comparison is totally accurate. In what is arguably “Idol”’s least talented Top 12 ever, she is a shining star every week, able to take any song, sing it superbly, and make it her own. If she doesn’t win this thing there really is no justice.

Gina Glocksen

Simon Cowell pushed Gina into the rocker grrrrl box during the semi-final rounds, and it suits her. It might not be entirely authentic (love the hair, though), but it distinguishes her from the diva crowd that’s basically running the show this season. Gina has a surprisingly wide vocal range and a lot of heart, but she’ll have a tough time making it past Top 6. Even with some great performances (The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” Evanescence’s “Call Me When You’re Sober”) she has yet to truly electrify the audience.

LaKisha Jones

LaKisha came loaded for bear during semi-finals, killing week after week with R&B diva standards. The judges all but crowned her winner right then. A little premature, if you ask me. LaKisha has a lot in common with S5’s Mandisa and S3’s Jennifer Hudson, with that big voice and body. But like her predecessors, she has a tough time adjusting to theme weeks. And when she’s out of her element she loses a lot of her fire, as seen in British Invasion week, where she looked petrified singing “Diamonds Are Forever.” And that’s Shirley Bassey! Not really a stretch. Simon predicts a LaKisha/Melinda final two, but I suspect a “shocking” LaKisha dismissal is but weeks away.

Blake Lewis

Blake is the strongest guy in the competition, but that’s damning with feint praise. Blake’s a good performer, but a woefully limited singer. And as the judges keep telling us, this is a singing competition. Blake often covers up his weaknesses by throwing in his beatboxing, or some dance moves, or letting his eyes have sex with the camera. And I’m not going to lie—it works. But that isn’t going to win him the race. Thankfully he’s been making some smart song choices of late, and leaving the beatboxing at home. There’s hope for him yet, and he could definitely make final two.

Sanjaya Malakar

Sanjaya has become the story of the season, and in addition to Melinda, the only reason to regularly watch. But don’t do it for his singing, which is typically pathetic. (Seriously, his trademark hushed shuffle wouldn’t pass muster at  a junior high talent show.) What makes Sanjaya so compelling is that he’s done what no other Idol contestant ever has: he’s critic proof. Simon admits that it doesn’t matter how awful Sanjaya is, or what he and the other judges say. There is a group that will always vote for Sanjaya no matter what. That group likely consists of preteen girls, members of NAMBLA, and the smartasses from VoteForTheWorst.com. Oh, and hairdressers across the nation. He’s certainly inspiring millions with each new iteration of those flowing locks.

Chris Richardson

Chris is like Justin Timberlake’s little brother. But instead of bringing sexy back, he’s bringing back pinched, irritating R&B runs. It’s frustrating, because Chris should be a sure thing. JT’s style is popular right now, and Chris emulates it fairly successfully. And he’s cute as hell. But what makes Timberlake work isn’t so much his voice, but his charisma. And Chris mostly lacks that. He often looks scared to be on stage, and once those nerves kick in the melisma goes into overdrive. The guy should be a lock on Final 6, but he’s doing so poorly at this point that he could very easily go home before then.

Haley Scarnato

Haley is possibly the least interesting “Idol” contestant ever. She has yet to deliver a really stellar performance, and most of her attempts have actually been pretty crappy. A few weeks ago she wised up to the fact that she’s an ant on a show packed with female vocal giants, and decided to distinguish herself by any means necessary. And that apparently included showing off her plentiful assets. Not to be crude, but almost overnight her skirts got a lot shorter and her necklines a lot lower. Haley’s a beautiful woman, and frankly should use the gifts God gave her. Because singing won’t do the trick. It’s insane that she’s gotten this far…

Jordin Sparks

Jordin is 17. You’d never know it to look at her. For one thing, she’s a giantess (she’s the daughter of former NFL player Phillippi Sparks). For another, she’s gorgeous. And additionally, she’s got poise way beyond her years. And girl can sing. Melinda and LaKisha got a lion’s share of the attention early in the semi-finals, but a string of great performances by Jordin have increasingly made her one to watch. It’s unlikely that she’ll win—she’s probably splitting votes with the other “divas,” and it only takes one bad performance to shift those to somebody else—but she’s a delight every week, and here’s hoping for a long career for her one way or another.

Phil Stacey

I’m amazed Phil is still here. He’s a hideous thing to look at; the best description is a slightly less-pointy Nosferatu. And his singing isn’t much better. He has a tendency to completely mangle the start of a song, and when he reaches the power notes he just shrieks into the microphone. Just…no. He’s also a kiss-ass who is totally in love with himself. He’s landed in the Bottom 3 twice now, and should be put out of our misery soon enough.

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