Tuesday's guest host/mentor was one of the Bee Gees, who wrote and produced some great pop/dance music from the late 1960s through the late 1970s. It was a welcomed change from last week's trudge through the Bon Jovi catalog.
The Gibbs Brothers' history is as dark and tragic as it is bright and successful. In 1988, the youngest brother (and non-Bee Gee) Andy died young and unexpectedly at 30; in 2003, Maurice, died older and even more unexpectedly at 53 from cardiac arrest due to a twisted bowel.
For this week episode, Barry Gibb visited "American Idol," one of the most popular shows in American TV, and listened to the four surviving "Idol" contestants do some grave and unfortunate things to eight songs in the Gibbs' very accessible and tuneful music catalog. The lesson that no one seems to learn: Sometimes you just need to leave a good song alone. The roll call:
Melinda Doolittle: For some reason, she picks the irrelevant "Love You Inside and Out," which is like pulling "Octopus's Garden" from the Beatles' catalog. It's not a great song to begin with; she half-hearts it and gets mediocre grades. The Obsequious Twins are typically non-committal in their disapproval. Randy: "I'm not jumping up and down ..." (as if he could); Paula: "You're vocals were spot on." Simon Darkheart: You sounded like a background singer.
Blake Lewis: He picks "You Should Be Dancing," from the era-defining "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. Seems like a good fit for a guy who's all about image and style instead of talent and substance. He has arrived with another affect: a skunk stripe in his blackened hair. It does him no favors. He whiffs hard. Desperately falls back on the beat-box shtick, like Dennis Hopper snorting his nitrous oxide in "Blue Velvet." Randy comes up with his best line of the year: "It sounded like some weird foreign disco." Paula tries to be kind: You were pitchy ... but you're unique. In other words: "You suck like no one else." Simon: A loud Bronx cheer.
LaKisha Jones: Will probably get fired Wednesday -- and deservedly -- for what she did to "Stayin' Alive," irony intended, I guess. Even numbed-brain Paula is miffed at how she sucked the blood out of a funky pop/dance tune.
Jordin Sparks: Picks a great song, "To Love Somebody," and treats it appropriately. Starts off strong and finishes with a Whitney-meets-Aretha flourish. All three give it warm praise.
Melinda Doolittle: Picks another perfect pop tune, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart." Starts off slow and dull, like a Gladys Knight throwaway, then shifts into Tina Turner gear. Paula brings some fine praise: "You sounded like Stephanie Mills." Simon: You are moving on to the next round.
Blake Lewis: Makes a grave tactical error by picking a song few people have heard, "This Is Where I Came In," which may be where he goes out. It's a dull, nearly tuneless song that can't be resuscitated by his meager attempts at making it "contemporary" by tossing in some beat-boxing (which is as old as the Bee Gees). Darryl & Darryl get into a spat about that. Randy: Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should do it on every joint (he means every "song", not "spleef"). Paula: "If he can, he can." After that Algonquin Roundtable exchange, she says to Blake: "You're a contemporary rebel," which sounds like a death knell to me. Simon rings the bell of truth: A bizarre choice of song. You are in trouble.
LaKisha Jones: Picks another good song, "Run To Me." Her torch-ballad version is safe but lifeless, forgettable. It's obvious, though, that producers off-camera are letting the judges know that time is short, and so are the critiques. Basically, they all say, "It was OK," the way you tell a waitress at a diner that you enjoyed your microwaved hash browns. She's in trouble, too.
Jordin Sparks: Takes on a song made famous by Barbara Streisand, "Woman In Love." It's too big and over-arranged, made for a 30-something diva. She handles the big notes, but there are too many. She sounds like she has caught what was ailing LaKisha Jones a few weeks ago. Maybe it's a size thing. As she awaits the jury's verdict, she looks like she could fold Ryan Seacrest like a flip-phone and stick him in her purse. Judges give her three weak thumbs-down. Simon: It was old-fashioned. Act your age. Yep.
Tomorrow: Blake or LaKisha goes home.