Tells two Idols she can’t help them
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Introducing last night’s Gwen Stefani episode of Idol, host Ryan Seacrest explained to the audience that the remaining ten Idol contestants are allowed to perform songs that influenced Stefani and her band No Doubt, which is good, because the next two hours would be hell if we had to listen to versions of Hollaback Girl and Don’t Speak all night.
Stefani tells the camera that the bands she loves aren’t known for their “big singing and amazing voice,” which is a nice thing to let us know, and utterly at odds with the Idol ethos. She also looks like she’s had her nose done, but that’s got nothing to do with anything – I’m just saying, is all.
Coaching LaKisha on a Donna Summer’s Last Dance, she says that “I should be asking her for advice,” which is flattering – and true. What LaKisha doesn’t have is Stefani’s abundant personality, which has little to do with singing ability, though it might ultimately be the cause of the downfall we’ve all begun to anticipate.
Chris Sligh does Everything She Does Is Magic, pulls off a decent enough Sting impression, and does little to lift the evening out of its hyperkaraoke rut. Gina Glocksen is contestant closest to Stefani in terms of image and vocal ability, and she chooses to do I’ll Stand By You, a latter day Pretenders ballad that’s a long way from Kid or Brass In Pocket. It’s clear that the Pretenders have influenced Stefani, but so have The Smiths, and this was like choosing a tune from a Morrissey solo album instead of How Soon Is Now. It was also dull.
Sanjaya is the first contestant to actually take on a song Stefani actually sang, which he sings in a sort of topknot fauxhawk that’ll be all over the internet today. His actual performance is immaterial, as we all know by now, and while I’m at it I think I’ll just skip over Haley Scarnato as well.
There’s more Police with Phil Stacey, and more big tent karaoke, and more Donna Summer from Melinda Doolittle, whom Stefani also admits that she had nothing to teach. It was a very predictable Idol less than halfway through, right down to Melinda’s performance which was up to its usual high standards.
Blake does The Cure and spares us the beatbox, which is the best thing he’s done so far. Simon calls him the “frontrunning guy,” which is, in case you aren’t English, called damning with faint praise. Jordin Sparks does the first No Doubt song of the night; she was only 11 when it came out, which would explain why she sings it with an easy familiarity no other performer could probably manage.
Chris Richardson closes the night with Don’t Speak, undersells the chorus big time, and underlines why a decent voice doesn’t always sell a song that, like much of the music Stefani says influenced her, doesn’t have much life beyond its original performance.