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What the Funk?

Where's their rhythm? We've got the blues. Even the legendary Funk Brothers couldn't save these Idol wannabes, says Nancy Miller

John Stevens, American Idol | BAD 'GIRL' No, John Stevens isn't a bad girl -- his rendition of ''My Girl'' was just really, really bad
Image credit: John Stevens: :Ray Mickshaw
BAD 'GIRL' No, John Stevens isn't a bad girl -- his rendition of ''My Girl'' was just really, really bad

Where's their rhythm? We've got the blues

Imagine if the world's most celebrated chefs came together to cook a fabulous feast, but the only ingredients available were white bread and Twinkies. That's what it felt like when legendary Motown masters the Funk Brothers took the stage to jam behind ''American Idol'''s Final 10. The legendary R&B musicians' masterful accompaniment brought home what we already knew: Just about all of the current ''AI''-ers have flavorless personalities with artificially sweetened voices that render us more bitter each week.

Even the night's celebrity guest judges, songwriting/singing duo Ashford and Simpson, were hard-pressed to note any solid-as-a-rock performances. Who will be the next to go? We'll wager Camile Velasco. But take a look at our wrap-up (with some pointers on what some ''AI''-ers can do to make a comeback) and decide for yourself.

Camile Velasco What happened to Camile? Randy Jackson once described her as the next Lauryn Hill, but with her wretched warbling to Stevie Wonder's ''For Once in My Life'' and dubious fashion sense (was that her granny's blanket around her hips?), she's gone downhill, not Lauryn Hill. This may sound crazy, but Camile should try rapping next time -- if there is a next time.

Jon Peter Lewis The good news? JPL has ceased his signature white-boy shuffle. The bad news? He's replaced it with squatting and bobbing motions that, aside from not improving his performance of ''This Old Heart of Mine,'' make him look like a constipated chimp. But you have to feel for the little guy in the brown leather jacket. Remember his nerdy necktie and jerky moves at the audition? He may not have the best voice, but he deserves one more week to see if he can pull it together.

La Toya London Even when she's sporting a mangled weave, this girl can still sing, as she proved with her rendition of ''I'm Crying (Ooh, Baby, Baby).'' She has the best voice to ever grace ''AI'''s stage, but there's something about her that's just, too mature. The next Anita Baker? Absolutely. The next pop star? Probably not. Still, I'm gunning for a sing-off between her and Fantasia Barrino.

Amy Adams No matter how many bottles of Manic-Panic she streaks through her oh-so-wacky hair, Amy Adams always comes off as Minnie Mouse-y onstage. But we're going to go easy on the Nikki McKibbin wannabe for the week. After all, at the end of her not-bad performance of ''Dancing in the Street,'' Simon Cowell said she resembled Jay Leno. Ouch!

John Stevens Here's a theory about John Stevens. He's involved in some freakish ''Ghost''-style body-switching high jinks, but instead of Whoopi and Swayze, it's John and the late Bing Crosby. Each week, John hits the stage praying he might be able to sing in a different style, like say, Justin Timberlake's. But instead, each time, he gets up there and well, Bing makes him shoobie-do it like it's 1939. Even worse? John can't really sing. His breathy, off-key version of ''My Girl'' wouldn't cut it in a high school talent show.

Jennifer Hudson She ironed out her character when she straightened her hair. But we're still feeling you, dawg-ette -- like a ''Heat Wave,'' you might say. Simon (who consistently has been too hard on Hudson) described her energetic performance as ''manic,'' and he may have a point. But Jen, get yourself a choreographer, and we could have an ''AI'' first -- three women (African-American women, no less) as the final contenders.

Jasmine Trias It appears her signature flower is shrinking in proportion to her odds of making it into the top 5. Still, we think she could be Hawaii's answer to Ashanti (who can't sing on-key, either). And we have to give her props for choosing to perform an Ashford and Simpson song, ''All I Need,'' in front of ASHFORD AND SIMPSON.

Diana DeGarmo The judges likened Diana's achingly effervescent performance of ''Do You Love Me'' to a high school play. This is spot-on, as Diana looks barely old enough to be in high school. Her whole sound is totally Junior Idol. Get her outta here and tell she can't come back until she's old enough to order a beer. Legally.

Fantasia Barrino Technically, La Toya's voice is better, but tonight, Fantasia delivered what the others can't: star power. And she did it singing the overplayed ''Heard It Through the Grapevine'' and wearing some old algebra teacher's sweater. Even Kelly Clarkson couldn't work it like that. But will her cocky 'tude cost her the competish? We'll see.

George Huff The affable George Huff seems to have borrowed style tips from Ruben Studdard. Who else (except maybe Whitney Houston) uses a sweat rag as an accessory? Still, though he sang ''Ain't Too Proud to Beg,'' the husky-throated Huff is so darn likable, he won't need to beg for votes.

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Originally posted Mar 31, 2004