8. Scott MacIntyre: (Last week: No. 9) Love the singer, but the singing? Well, not so much. It’s true, his stripped-down rendition of “Just the Way You Are” was his best performance of the season, but it still had all the relevance of a Beta Tape Player in a Blu-Ray world, and contained more than its share of bunky notes. Since the judges pumped up the praise during “Top Downloads” Night, they don’t need to worry about looking too cruel during “Songs from the Year You Were Born” Week. Isn’t Top 8 enough for the inspirational contestant?
7. Lil Rounds: (Last week: No. 7) Is she one of this season’s strongest singers, or an over-hyped shouter who keeps picking songs that are too big for her limited voice? The judges keep taking the former stance, but Lil’s too-flat, too-strained “I Surrender” supported the latter opinion. It can’t hurt her chances that she’s one of only two remaining women, but Lil needs a breakout week to reverse weeks of dying buzz. The tragic array of hairstyles ain’t helping, either.
6. Anoop Desai: (Last week: No. 5) After an awesome “Always on My Mind” and a solid “Ooo Baby Baby,” ‘Noop Dawg slipped backward with a decently sung but tepidly performed “Caught Up.” Inconsistency is a problem, but so is his image. Needs to prove he’s more than Joe Student singing an R&B ballad. Why not try delving into the alternative genre, and go for a radical style upgrade — might we suggest a buzz cut? — to make America take a second look/listen?
5. Matt Giraud: (Last week: No. 6) His off-pitch, almost maniacal cover of “You Found Me” was his biggest disaster since the “Viva La Vida” Incident. But Matt has a history of following up blunders with top-notch performances. Needs to take a lesson from season 7’s talented Carly Smithson: The more desperately she wanted to win, the less fun it looked like she was having on the Idol stage, and the crueler Simon got with his feedback. In other words, how can anyone enjoy Matt if he’s not enjoying himself?
4. Danny Gokey: (Last week: No. 4) The judges went back to their knee-jerk praise after his heartfelt but overbaked “What Hurts the Most.” And while the polarizing personality hasn’t missed many notes in the competition — save for those so-so verses in “Jesus Take the Wheel” — he needs to realize not every song should be driven like a Monster Truck rumbling through a rowdy arena. A little originality in his song arrangements wouldn’t hurt, either.
3. Allison Iraheta: (Last week: No. 2) Landed in the bottom three for the second time in three weeks after the judges spent 90 percent of her critique ragging on her wacky plaid dress and spiky fuschia hair rather than her lovely vocal performance of (and decent guitar-playing on) “Don’t Speak.” Would love to see her nail her Top 8 performance, but worried the judges might try to stone her if she threatens their pre-ordained Adam-Lil-Danny final three.
2. Kris Allen: (Last week: No. 3) Another week, another gorgeous vocal — and this time while tickling the ivories instead of strumming his guitar. Oddly enough, though, despite the fact that Kris’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the best of the week, the judges remained muted with their praise. Since when did the combination of great looks, great voice, and a great personality become so hard to love?
1. Adam Lambert: (Last week: No. 1) Riding so high that he manages to look cool (and maintain his top slot) even after choosing Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” Would love to see him dial it back and give viewers a second glance at the emotionally connected artist who gave us that devastating cover of “Tracks of My Tears,” but let’s be honest: he could probably belt “Macarena” and still sail through to the finale.
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