Live blogging during "American Idol," after the jump ....
Ryan says it's good to be back and sends out "a huge congratulations" to Jennifer Hudson. The show obviously wants her to pay a visit this season -- the kissing up has been quite detailed.
Introducing the guys. Phil first, Sundance last. Did Sundance learn to sing well enough to close?
Ryan says hi to the ladies. Antonella is with them. Then the judges. Randy is sure they will be better than a week ago. Paula says they should have fun and "own the song." Ryan teases Simon about his fame, Simon decides neither to banter nor elaborate.
Tonight's theme: Songs dedicated to people who inspire the singers. Phil's singing for his Navy mates. John Waite's "I Ain't Missing You." Very respectable. B. Good marks from Randy and Paula. Simon's "not jumping out of my chair. ... completely unoriginal voice. ... still not hearing anything unique." But says Phil will be back next week. Randy shouts in Phil's favor.
Significant camera time for Jeff Foxworthy, host of the "5th Grader" show premiering tonight. Gee, you think they might chat with him later? Commercials.
We're back, guys on the couch. Ryan checking the buzz. Asks Sundance first. He doesn't mention Antonella. Asks A.J. He doesn't mention Antonella. Introduces Jared.
He's dedicating his performance to his mother and father. Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On." Umm, for his parents? The show is either double-tracking him or using an accompanying backing vocal to make him sound better. Not helping. The longer the song goes, the more trouble he has. Interesting gesture with hand across his face. Can't hit those Marvin-y notes. C minus. Randy found it pitchy but "kind of liked it," especially the "face move." Paula says he doesn't have to push the song -- and is thinking of something else; she liiiiiiiikes him. Simon respects his trying but brings up the "Love Boat/corny" parallel. Jared says, "That would have been a great 'Love Boat,' man." Ryan notes "the things we've done" to the song. Which again, JARED DEDICATED TO HIS PARENTS.
A.J. also plays the parent card. What's he going to sing, "Super Freak"? No, it's "Feeling Good." Decent start. He's selling it. He gets -- dare I say it? -- pitchy in spots, but still not bad. C plus. The guys are definitely trying harder than they did last week. Randy notes how much better he was than a week ago. Paula gives him "props." Simon calls it "nearly very good."
Sanjaya. Dedicates to his grandfather, who died when he was 5. Wears grandfather's wedding ring when he performs. "Stepping Out With My Baby." With a hat. Boring. He never picks it up and seems to run out of steam. Almost like a recitation until he tries for a big finish. Which is not big. D. Randy calls him "a nice kid" but says it "was like a bad high-school talent show. ... really weak." Paula says he wasn't pitchy, calls him "an old soul" -- and Simon presses whether she liked the song or not. "I don't like you," she says to Simon, but doesn't really pass judgment on Sanjaya. Simon agrees with Randy, only rougher -- "very weak, a little weird." Paula gives him a chance to explain his performance. He brings up grandpa, forcing applause. He's got that meek-Melinda thing, only Melinda can sing.
After a break, Chris Sligh. Dedicated to his wife. "Trouble" ("Saved by a Woman"). His attitude troubles me some, but I like his singing. And he's kicking it tonight. B plus. Judges positive.
Another break or, as Ryan puts it, Fox has to take care of the Benjamins. He is so street.
Nick. Dedicating to his girlfriend. He wasn't with her on Valentine's Day so singing for her is "the ultimate valentine." And the song is ... "Fever." Very lame sing-songy start. Peggy Lee and Little Willie John are hard to top, though. Maybe if he had done Springsteen's "The Fever" instead. ... C minus. Randy insists everyone is better than last week, liked Nick getting back to "the Nick that we loved," even if he was pitchy. Paula also praises the "throwback" but wants him to "go for it." Simon thought it was good but that Nick lacked charisma. Questions Nick's wardrobe. Ryan asks Simon what he'd choose. "I'm not a stylist," Simon says. The discussion continues downhill, but Simon stops it.
Since we're in a commercial, let's pause to meditate on a Robbie Robertson lyric: "Take a picture of this/The fields are empty, abandoned '59 Chevy/Laying in the back seat listening to Little Willie John/Yea, that's when time stood still/You know, I think I'm gonna go down to Madame X/And let her read my mind." That's from "Somewhere Down the Crazy River," and we're back ...
Blake. Ryan asks him about the "girls." Blake says their performances told him he should step up his game. Dedication: His parents. Song: "Virtual Insanity." With some scatting, and a bad hat. I like his singing about half the time, but the other half can be painful. B minus. Randy tries to educate people about Jamiroquai while praising Blake. Paula calls him "unique." Simon disagrees. "I like you ... I thought the first part was completely copycat .. the second part was great" and in the third part "the tuning went." Interruptions, boos. Ryan argues with Simon that Blake wasn't copycatting. Randy chimes in. Simon finally says "I will bow to the god of Paula Abdul. I won't have an opinion." Blake tries to exit, Ryan makes him talk about the scatting.
And then we're in another break. I will spend it bowing to the god of Paula Abdul.
Brandon. Dedicated to his grandmother. "Time After Time." Interesting start. Struggles at the chorus -- too slow. Doesn't sell the big part. C minus. Randy calls it "kind of boring." Brandon says he was trying to put his heart in the song and it didn't need a lot of extra. Paula stays on Brandon's message. Simon agrees with Randy. Paula takes issue. Ryan boosts Brandon, who also mentions that it's his father's birthday (as if the grandma thing isn't going to get enough votes). Simon snarks about the birthday -- "and I love puppies." But come on, Simon, this isn't just a singing competition -- never was.
Chris Richardson. Another grandma dedication. Song: Jason Mraz's "Geek in the Pink." Must be some interesting grandma. I like his style, but he's not sending me until near the end. Still, a decent B. Randy says, "Chris is in it to win it." Paula asks if grandma knows the song. Chris admits she wanted a country song. Simon calls it best performance of the night "by a mile."
Another break. I'm being a curbside prophet. (Hi, Kris!) The break includes more kiss-kiss for Jennifer Hudson.
Sundance. Dedicated to his son. Gets teary during the video. Then sings "Mustang Sally." Going for the soul thing. He's not Wilson. He's not even Small Paul and Drivin' Wheel playing in a biker bar in Phoenix. C. Paula goes standing-O. Randy says, "Wow wow wow. ... You dropped the bomb on it." Paula says "I didn't know you had range like that." Simon says this is the Sundance "that we really really liked" -- but "I still think you can do better." Ryan plays up the dedication to his son. But it's a singing competition, right?
Recap. I am thinking that they're being nicer to Sundance because he had a lot of votes last week -- he's obviously playing to the Taylor Hicks constituency. Ryan says "the guys are back." Paula exults in agreement. Pressed by Ryan, Simon agrees it was better.
No chat with Foxworthy? I guess the umpteen promos were seen as sufficient. No, wait, Ryan closes the show with a plug, an introduction of Foxworthy, some chatting and a sample question. (A trapezoid, by the way, has four sides.) And we're done.