First contestant opens with a bang

The first American Idol hopeful up in last night’s show was Stephanie Edwards, whose vocals — a bit Anita Baker, a lot Pointer Sisters — gave the show more momentum off the top than any of the men the night before. Idol, which is its own world, with its own logic and laws, writes its own history on the hoof, and the story being sold was that the women are the real talents of this year’s competition.

Amy Krebs gets called for being insipid by Simon — at Idol, it’s the equivalent of fining drunks at an English soccer game; Leslie Hunt manages to move as awkwardly as she sings, and considering the singers that didn’t make it this far, she’s probably been promoted well past her competence.

Sabrina Sloan’s version of I Never Loved A Man raises what has to be called the Aretha factor. Aretha Franklin, the gold standard of Idol’s melismatic, pyrotechnical style, was a lot of things but she was never predictable; Sabrina’s performance, like too many that Idol has seen over the years, sounds like Salisbury steak next to Aretha’s rib-eye — processed to a textureless sheen.


Antonella Barba was tuneless enough to justify being sent home tonight, which it’s likely that Idol would welcome considering the Girls Gone Wild-type party pictures of a topless, girl-groping, potty-sitting Antonella that got past Idol’s researchers and surfaced this week on a Philadelphia website.

The judges do their best to pave the way for her exit. The women on top story loses oxygen with Nicole Tranquillo, who rode her song like a rodeo clown, and Haley Scarnato, whose quivering vibrato will probably be her downfall. The Aretha factor returns to save it with Melinda Doolittle and Lakisha Jones who, at least right now, could only lose if she spends the next two months singing Herman’s Hermits songs with her head in a bucket of Velveeta.

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