Apparently desperate to get more people attached to the remaining eight finalists by revealing their more intimate sides, "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest opened Tuesday's show with a clip from last Wednesday night. He gathered the contestants together and showed off baby pictures of several of them, then asked if anyone could guess the theme for this week.
"Nursery rhymes?" a befuddled Anwar Robinson asked.
That didn't seem to be as unlikely as it might appear, since it's not like those would be any less relevant to a future in pop music than last week's theme of Broadway musicals. However, justifiably fearing a huge ratings backlash if the audience was subjected to an hour's worth of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Seacrest quickly assured everyone that each remaining finalist would be singing songs released in the year they were born. The baby pictures were just there to embarrass everyone, much like they're used by parents at their children's proms and weddings.
Nadia Turner, 28, Miami, Fla.: Nadia Turner started it off with "When I Dream," most notably sung by Crystal Gayle. Not that the song is obscure, but Randy Jackson opened the criticism with "Wow — a year's worth of songs and you pick that one. I don't even know what that song is." It would have been forgivable had it been upbeat, but it wasn't, and though the vocals were strong enough, the performance was awfully dull.Grade: D+The judges: "That was the equivalent of musical wallpaper. You know there is wallpaper, but you don't remember it. I think you could be going home after tonight." — Simon Cowell.Stay or go: All season long, Turner has chosen her songs and her outfits based on what she feels like doing rather than what the audience would like best. That may be her downfall this week. Her best bet to stay is to hope that the voter backlash against Scott Savol that knocked him to the bottom two last week will finish him off this time around.
Bo Bice, 29, Helena, Ala.: How many times in his performing career has Bo Bice heard fans yelling for him to play "Free Bird?" Probably nine million. That's what he went with Tuesday night in another strong performance. Bice knows what he's good at — the 1970s rock style — and he delivers every week.Grade: B+The judges: "See you in the finals, Bo. See you in the finals." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: For the third week in a row, Simon was Bice's only critic, although this time his comments were just bizarre. Apparently, he doesn't consider "Free Bird" a well-known song. But the audience seemed to know the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, so Bice should be OK.
Anwar Robinson, 25, East Orange, N.J.: Robinson continued to take it slow, singing Dionne Warwick's "I'll Never Love This Way Again." It was his best showing in weeks … steadier and more understated than normal. Moreover, Randy became the second judge to call him the best technical singer in the competition, echoing Paula's feedback from last week.Grade: BThe judges: "One of your better performances in a while." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Robinson didn't have the most memorable performance in the world, but it was good enough that he'll probably avoid the bottom three this time around.
Anthony Fedorov, 19, Trevose, Pa.: Fedorov brought the competition into the 1980s, with Paul Young's "Every Time You Go Away." The teenager needed a strong performance after a stretch of mediocre ones, and by and large, he delivered. It won't leave many nostalgic for the Paul Young reunion tour or anything, but it should get enough people to clog the phone lines to keep him from danger.Grade: B-The judges: "Last week, I thought was a low point. This week … I thought it was pretty good." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Simon has always been Fedorov's toughest critic, so the praise had to feel good. He'll have to do much better if he hopes to actually win the competition, but should be safe from elimination Wednesday.
Vonzell Solomon, 21, Fort Myers, Fla.: Maybe Solomon's rendition of Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy" sounded great to the audience members, since all three of the judges praised it. It clearly lost something in the translation to TV, however. The performing far outstripped the vocals, and highlighted Solomon's shortcomings — she's always had a much better stage presence than she does a voice, and Tuesday night only reinforced that assessment.Grade: CThe judges: "You are such a bright light. You are just adorable out there." – Paula Abdul.Stay or go: Adorable or not, Solomon is always in danger — she was in the bottom three last week even after a strong performance. It wouldn't be shocking if she was made to go onstage in the bottom three again on Wednesday. But she's unlikely to be the one voted off.
Scott Savol, 28, Shaker Heights, Ohio: Savol sang "She's Gone" by Daryl Hall and John Oates. Hall and Oates were in the audience, which Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest seemed to think was akin to performing "My Way" in front of Sinatra. Maybe Savol can use that as an excuse, because the performance got off to an awful start before it was partially salvaged by the chorus. Pitchy in spots and wavering from key to key, Savol has certainly had better days, and may not have earned the right to any more of them on "Idol."Grade: C-The judges: "You try performing in front of Hall and Oates!" – Paula Abdul."I wouldn't do it. But I would have my low notes in tune." – Randy Jackson.Stay or go: Savol was one of the bottom two last week, and he's in danger of a similar fate this time around. He and Turner are in the biggest danger of being voted off.
Carrie Underwood, 21, Checotah, Okla.: Apparently shocked and saddened that Randy Jackson called last week's performance boring, Underwood went rocking with Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield." She mixed up some of the words, but odds were that nobody in the audience noticed until Randy pointed it out in the comments. It wasn't her best showing, but combined with her earlier choice of Heart's "Alone" it shows that she's more than a country girl trying to pose as a pop star. Moreover, it was a whole lot livelier than last week's effort.Grade: BThe judges: "It was a little like watching a kitten trying to be a tiger." – Simon Cowell.Stay or go: Underwood was successful in playing the role of a rock star. Sure, she forgot some words, but she could have been singing in Ancient Greek and gotten enough votes to move on. She's perfectly safe.
Constantine Maroulis, 29, New York: No singer has stepped up more than Maroulis. He's one of only three singers who hasn't been in the bottom three (along with Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood), and will avoid that again this time around after his version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." More than anyone else, Maroulis has played to his strengths, and his irreverent side has shown through.Grade: AThe judges: "You're the one to beat in this competition." – Paula Abdul. Stay or go: Paula's statement may be a little too strong, but Maroulis has to be considered one of the favorites at this point. He'll stay.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.