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Antonella Barba is not picture perfect on ‘Idol’

Racy photos or no, she may be going home, along with Alaina Alexander. By Craig Berman
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Hey! Anyone hear about those risqué pictures that purport to depict “Idol” semifinalist Antonella Barba in various stages of undress. If not, you probably don’t have access to the Internet — or you’re an “American Idol” judge, host or producer.

The “American Idol” story of the week was blatantly ignored on Wednesday. No mention of any provocative photos. No claims from Barba that the more risqué shots were pure PhotoShop fabrications — . No joke that maybe Barba should dedicate her performance to the inventor of MySpace for making her the talk of the Web. Just a hope that the whole issue will go away.

The only way that’s happening is if Barba gets voted off. Based on Wednesday’s performance alone, that’s a strong possibility, but it’s hard to see a scenario where teenage boys won’t burn up the phone lines to keep her around. Who knows what will turn up on the Internet next?

LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle continue to lead the pack, with Stephanie Edwards and Sabrina Sloan right behind. Gina Glocksen was solid in opening the show, Jordin Sparks gets points for being young and personable, Leslie Hunt was solid … and after that it’s anyone’s guess who gets voted off. But, after a second unspectacular performance in a row, Alaina Alexander is the best bet to be one of the unlucky two.

Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville , Ill.: Glocksen said she wouldn’t have auditioned for “Idol” again were it not for her boyfriend, and dedicated her performance to him. Her version of “Alone,” made famous first by Heart and again by Carrie Underwood in Season 4, got off to a slow start. Glocksen powered through the chorus, however, and wound up pulling it off. Randy and Paula liked it a lot, but Simon wondered why Glocksen wasn’t edgier. With Glocksen’s dyed hair and the visible tattoos, it’s hard to see what Simon is looking for on the edginess meter. This isn’t “American Punk Idol,” after all. Grade: B+Stay or go? After the performance, Ryan asked Glocksen how long she and her boyfriend had been together. When she said “two years,” Ryan hinted “time for a ring…” Gina’s boyfriend probably won’t be sending Ryan a Christmas card for that one, but as long as he votes for his girl, she should be safe.

Alaina Alexander, 24, West Hollywood , Calif.: After the comments she got from the judges last week, Alexander made it clear that she’s “Not Ready to Make Nice,” even if she did dedicate the Dixie Chicks cover to her mom. She might not be “ready to back down,” but she doesn’t quite have the range or the power of her rivals. Alexander was better than she was last week, but the judges hated it and would be happy if America sent her home. Simon compared it to Randy Jackson in a 100-meter race, running out of steam after 75 meters. On the positive side, all three judges again complimented her on her looks.Grade: CStay or go? Alexander’s probably going home. Her voice was fine and she’s a likeable contestant, but the competition is tough, and for the second week in a row she didn’t measure up.

LaKisha Jones, 27, Fort Meade , Md.: Jones not only dedicated her song to her grandmother, she said that grandma was “in love — l.u.v.” with Ryan Seacrest. Nobody needed that visual right after eating dinner. Her rendition of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” was safe but strong, and she’s still light years ahead of most of her competition. Simon pointed out that she needs to come out with the force of the star that she’s been thus far, rather than letting the nerves get the best of her at the beginning. And then he moved on to a critique of Jones’ outfit. Grade: AStay or go? Jones is a lock for the final 12, unless her fans actually believe that and skip the voting.

Melinda Doolittle, 29, Brentwood, Tenn .: America has somehow reached a point where “Idol” contestants not only have vocal coaches and stylists — they freely dedicate songs to them on national television. Dolittle sang “My Funny Valentine” to those twofriends — her “Gails,” as she put it — and it was a thousand times better than candy hearts or wilting flowers. Randy called her the one to beat, Paula thought it was “astounding,” and Simon opened with “that was incredible … without question, the best vocal we’ve had in the competition. You don’t know how good you are.” So basically, they all liked the performance. Grade: A+Stay or go? Doolittle’s a safe bet to stay, and is one of the early favorites.

Antonella Barba, 20, Point Pleasant , N.J.: Before going onstage, Barba told Ryan that she was a little less nervous than last week. Perhaps after the firestorm that the (perhaps doctored) photos have caused, singing before millions of people seems like a walk in the park. Unfortunately her attempt at Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” dedicated to her brother, was way too much for her vocally. The non-Paula judges weren’t impressed at all, though Randy did call her “drop-dead beautiful.”Grade: CStay or go? Who knows? As Barba pointed out, Simon was wrong about Jennifer Hudson. Of course, as Simon pointed out, the audience voted Hudson out. But even though she didn’t sing to her potential and was eclipsed by most of her rivals, all the intangibles remain in her favor. There’s a good chance she’ll be back next week.

Jordin Sparks, 17, Glendale , Ariz.: The youngest woman in the competition, Sparks dedicated Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” to her younger brother, and clearly the experience made her emotional. She broke down as she finished, and had to compose herself before taking on the less-than-hard-hitting feedback from the judges. Randy called her unbelievable for her age and Simon like it as well, but it wasn’t her best performance. Grade: BStay or go? She doesn’t have the vocal talent of Paris Bennett, but she’s likable and the judges want her to stick around.

Stephanie Edwards, 19, Savannah , Ga.: The way Edwards tells it, her mom and dad practically had to drag her to the Memphis auditions in handcuffs, but her early success and the dedication of Beyoncé Knowles’ “Dangerously in Love” to them surely makes the effort worthwhile. Randy called it Beyoncé-Lite, which of course it was, but it was a second consecutive strong performance for someone who didn’t enter the semifinals with a lot of name recognition. Simon and Paula loved it, and Edwards’ star is shining as brightly as anyone’s so far. Grade: A-Stay or go? Edwards should be safe for another week.

Leslie Hunt, 24, Chicago , Ill.: Hunt had one of the more poignant dedications of the night, singing in honor of her grandfather who passed away three days ago. She sang “Feeling Good,” and if that sounded familiar it’s because AJ Tabaldo sung the same thing last night. The vocals were good, but it didn’t help that she sang at the end of a strong series of performances. As Simon said, “There were four raspberry ripples this week, and that was a vanilla.” Grade: B+Stay or go? Hunt’s probably safe for one more week, but will have a tough time clearing that last hurdle to the final 12.

Haley Scarnato, 24, San Antonio , Texas: Scarnato dedicated Whitney Houston’s “Queen of the Night” to her fiancé, who apparently is not thrilled that she’s far away from him. That might not be the case for long. Scarnato was livelier than last week, but also skirted the line between “Idol” hopeful and wedding singer. It was only fair on a night when a lot of others were stronger. Grade: B-Stay or go? She’s right on the line between safe and sorry.

Sabrina Sloan, 27, Studio City , Calif.: Sloan was one of the stars of last week, and looked poised again as she dedicated Whitney Houston’s “All the Man I Need” to her grandmother. Maybe it was because of the level of effort from everyone else, but it didn’t seem as strong as last week’s song. But it was still really good, and easily enough to move on. Simon even tempered his criticisms by calling her a great singer — rare praise indeed.Grade: B+Stay or go? Sloan’s a good bet to be back.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.