On ''Celebrity Duets,'' some of the nonsingers suffer from performance anxiety and mess up their presentation worse than their vocals
Lucy Lawless

”Celebrity Duets”: Performance anxieties

For those of you who missed last week’s results show, Lea Thompson was the celebrity eliminated. She went out with her head held level if not high; her duet with Belinda Carlisle on Friday night’s show was better than the performance that earned her the ax. I’ve been saying she was a weak link all along, but so is Cheech and he didn’t wear a short skirt, so I was surprised to see her go before him.

This week has to be Cheech’s final sing-along, though. When Wayne Brady said Cheech was feeling invincible, I was hoping that he meant Cheech had turned into some sort of superhero who could save Aaron Neville from a burning bus or something, because he certainly shouldn’t feel that his performances have made him a shoo-in for the finale. (I do want to pause here for just a moment to thank Fox and Celebrity Duets for reminding me of Aaron Neville’s creepy face tattoo of a sword, because sometimes when I just hear his sweet voice on the radio, I’m not frightened, and who wants that?)

Do you think Fox made some of those signs that were in the studio audience? The marker colors on a few posters looked pretty similar. It could be a coincidence; I just don’t know how many nine-year-old girls are Wayne Brady fans. I do, however, believe that one of the Carly signs, the ”Handsome and Loveable” Hal Sparks sign, and the ”We want a Xena movie” sign were homemade.

If we need to know which signs are real, we could always get a reading from Lucy Lawless’ ”Say a Little Prayer” duet partner, Dionne Warwick. (Maybe her Psychic Friends Network posse even knows who will win. I hope Lucy asked her.) Lucy’s stage moves during their song looked like a Vegas lounge act, what with sitting on the judges’ table and pointing her fingers around. It was a bit much, but her Battlestar Galactica fans are voting for her no matter what, so she’s still the female performer to beat.

The two males to beat, Alfonso and Jai, are now officially rivals. Alfonso said he knows that Jai is his greatest competition, so he trained (too?) hard to show him up this week. And ouch, his sore throat was obvious in the beginning of his song. Fortunately, once the actual duet portion began, Alfonso and Deniece Williams sounded great together (you’re wrong, Marie Osmond!), and then he hit a strong note to end the performance. Little Richard’s big toe shot up over it, but still, he warned Alfonso: ”Don’t let your voice write a check that your rhythm can’t cash.” That advice sounded so awesome that the only way it could have been better is if it actually had made sense.

Little Richard’s comment to Carly Patterson (”I got your horse; I hope you got your buggy”) made me sort of uncomfortable. See, that I can make sense of — or at least I think I can — and I really hope I’m wrong about it. Anyhow, now that there are only six celebrities competing, we have more time for the behind-the-scenes video clips. Which means we got to learn that, oh my God, Carly Patterson actually wants to be a singer! She wants this as a career! What a way to start out, letting everyone hear your raw voice on television before being properly trained. Her ballsiness is impressive, but Carly isn’t a good performer. Marie was right when she said that Carly always seems stiff on stage (even if this week she was stiff in a gorgeous aqua dress that I wish were in my closet right now). And David Foster was right when he said Carly needed to sing from her diaphragm. Hey, if she can learn to do that, she is one step ahead of Ashlee Simpson. More power to you, Carly. Good luck.

Not needing much luck, despite his mediocre vocals, is the popular Hal Sparks. (Oh, now that you’ve explained that yelling is what you think singing is, your voice sounds great, Hal! I kid because I love.) Honestly, ”Come Sail Away” was easily Hal’s best performance so far. He seemed to be straining less, whether he admits to taking the judges’ advice or not. Still, he lost some points with me because his threat to fight judge David Foster was a little too serious. He looked like his feelings were hurt. You’d think a former stand-up comedian would know how to handle hecklers.

Speaking of embarrassment, how funny was it to see Marie Osmond chicken out on singing? While she was too afraid to vocalize in a key that wasn’t hers (which they ask the celebrities to do all the time!), Wayne Brady took himself less seriously and hammed it up properly. I imagine the host will be singing a lot more on shows to come, when the number of celebrity competitors decreases and the show still has to run for an hour.

This week, Jai felt the pressure from his earlier positive feedback, and from the song he was assigned. As soon as Jai said that the song was meant for a woman and added, ”I’m not a woman,” I heard bloggers tapping away at their keys.

As far as getting a woman’s song is concerned, Jai should be happy he got the deep-voiced Taylor Dayne’s vocals to work with; it would have been a lot more humiliating if he had been paired with Mariah Carey. In fact, it was the speed of the Dayne song that seemed to be too much for Jai. He was breathing heavily, though in part the awkward choreography could be to blame. Having to back up and lead Taylor Dayne down some stairs as he was singing, all while ”relating to the camera”? That’s a tall order. And exactly as Jai feared, the judges were disappointed with his performance. Let’s hope this fulfilled prophecy doesn?t make him too antsy for next week.

So what do you think: Will Jai’s nerves slow his rise to the top? Will Cheech finally be out this week? And were you sorry to see Lea gone so soon?

Celebrity Duets
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