Jasmine on disco night: not stayin' alive
In addition to intensive singing lessons, Jasmine Trias needs instruction in ''American Idol'' etiquette: You're not supposed to weep uncontrollably until you're actually voted off (unless you're George Huff, in which case the smiling never stops). But come to think of it, Jasmine's disco night tears were justified by her hoarse performance of ''Everlasting Love,'' in which she displayed John Stevensesque atonality while demolishing what was left of her innocent image with a black dress so snug it outlined her belly button.
But bashing the out-of-her league Jasmine is easy. The hard part is making sense of the other three singers in the competition -- you know, the ones who will still be there next week. After disco night, it's starting to look like the inevitable La Toya could be joined in the final two by Muppet-like prodigy-on-the-rise Diana DeGarmo instead of Fantasia Barrino, who hasn't been the same since her pal Jennifer Hudson left.
Unlike the judges, I wasn't blown away by Fantasia's ''Knock on Wood'' (which, by the way, was originally a Stax-Volt soul tune, not a disco song). It was a smart song choice, but Fantasia seemed jittery, letting notes fly by instead of tearing into them -- and her venture into the audience seemed perfunctory. And as all the judges -- even kindly guest Donna Summer -- agreed, Fantasia's later choice of the ''Footloose'' tune ''Holding Out for a Hero'' was baffling, if not downright wacky (even if it did conjure fond memories of Kevin Bacon's body double boogying).
Fantasia remains, by far, the most distinctive voice in the competition -- and the only singer hip enough to really belong on MTV. ''Idol'''s audience, however, may well prefer LESS distinctive voices... which brings us to Diana DeGarmo. Ever since la noche de Gloria Estefan, the campy 16-year-old has been on a roll -- and on Tuesday, she even found a flattering dress. Her strutting, belted version of ''No More Tears'' was bombastic, but it also marked the quintessential ''American Idol'' moment: a girl next door blossoming into a star confident enough to take on Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand at once.
Unlike Diana, La Toya London offers no nifty narrative possibilities for the show -- her triumph wouldn't make the season a satisfying underdog tale. But she sure can sing. La Toya was especially impressive on ''Don't Leave Me This Way,'' summoning some genuine passion, especially in those closing pleas of ''don't leave me this way, baaaaby.'' But she still feels distant, and somehow too classy for her own good. If I were La Toya, I'd figure out a way to show more vulnerability, and fast. Hey, maybe Jasmine can give her crying lessons.