It's a battle of the divas!... Sorta
Well, kids, this was it -- your last chance to vote Jasmine, er, your least favorite contestant out of the competition as ''American Idol'' enters its final stretch. The most recent episode was already something of a surprise for those of us who'd been watching with pompoms and earplugs (sometimes I used both!) since last winter, especially since the smart money was on this becoming the infamous Three-Way Diva Showdown I so erroneously predicted weeks ago.
In any case, we sorta got a Three-Way Diva Showdown last night, didn't we? Or would it be more like a One Diva and Two Diva Wannabes Showdown? Either way, Jasmine Trias, Diana DeGarmo, and Fantasia Barrino were expected to put forth their finest, most powerful efforts last night. Did they do it? Let's take this one on a case-by-case basis.
Jasmine Trias It's no secret that I -- along with all of my friends and the entire EW office staff and, hell, every resident of every state save Hawaii -- think Jasmine squeaked by on sheer luck (and home-state pride) after last week's shockeroo. (The LaToya/Fantasia split didn't help, either.) So Jasmine was really going to have to step it up last night if she expected even the least amount of sympathy.
First of all, Girlfriend didn't help herself with another hideous ensemble -- please explain the 'do -- and she certainly didn't go anywhere with her first song, Whitney Houston's ''Saving All My Love for You.'' Randy Jackson, who spent most of the night terming performances as ''just ai'iiight,'' was spot-on when he told poor, clueless Jasmine that any singer pales in comparison to Whitney. (If only poor Paula had jumped in and shared some memories!)
Things didn't get much better with her second number, ''Mr. Melody.'' Here is where my antipathy towards Jasmine grew by leaps and bounds -- not only had she chosen a song by my least favorite singer of all time (sorry, Natalie Cole fans!), but the horrendous arrangement and her lackadaisical delivery made it sound like the opening number on a cruise ship dinner act! And speaking of which, didn't it remind you of ''The Love Boat'' theme? Ugh. Not cute.
Song number three could have been Jasmine's redemption, but this time, she just seemed to be overthinking the whole thing. Every verse was wobbly as she tried to stretch her notes into something worthy, and while she did hold that note towards the end, I'm not sure that the lone display of vocal stamina from the resident Flower Child on her final night is going to keep her afloat. Then again, she's beaten the likes of Jennifer Hudson and La Toya London, so I'm not going to discount ANYTHING.
Fantasia Barrino When you've managed to take music by the likes of George Gershwin, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston and make folks believe that it was yours all along, what more do you need to prove? Bobo has been a steady, constantly thrilling presence in this competition, and she proved yet again last night why her appeal cuts across so many boundaries.
I was partial to her versions of ''Chain of Fools'' and ''Fool in Love''; I could have lived without the overdone histrionics that accompanied ''The Greatest Love of All.'' And, please, people, let's give 'Tasia credit where credit is due: The girl is the ONLY performer in ''American Idol'''s short history to use the stage and the audience wisely -- and gotten away with it. (Though weren't you just a tad worried that Clive was going to grab her butt when she perched it dangerously close to his lap last night?) If Fantasia is voted off the show tonight, then we really are in far more trouble -- as a country, as a community, as a society of cheese-lovin' pop music listeners -- than I initially thought!
Diana DeGarmo I'll admit it -- despite my better judgment and my prickly inner self, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for DeGarmo. I'm assuming much of the rest of the country does, too -- I mean, how many mothers and fathers would be thrilled to have the perky junior show up on their doorstep with their son? I'm not so sure that the flat-iron worked on Diana's hair last night; in fact, when she first emerged from behind the stage, I thought Hilary Duff was making a surprise appearance to sing ''Come Clean.''
In any case, Diana kicked off ''Ain't No Mountain High Enough'' with her slightly annoying staple, yelping ''Come on everybody!'' before she launched into the song. It was all a little too cutesy-poo for me. Her second song, Celine Dion's inescapable ''Because You Loved Me,'' just sort of sat there. Not only has that song been drilled into the ground for anybody who's ever attended a wedding, danced in a cafeteria, or driven through the suburbs for more than five minutes, but it really just came off as another sappy ballad last night. Diana did come around on her final song, ''Don't Cry Out Loud,'' and once again proved that -- even though she has yet to reach Bobo's level -- she can certainly hold a note, no?! And unlike Jasmine, who seemed to thrust forth every final ounce of strength in a last-ditch attempt to pass herself on to the Final Two, Diana gave it everything she had without also sounding desperate.