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The array of talent is spectacular this season, and quite frankly, they will all probably end up in the industry, somewhere. It has been a truly entertaining ride so far. However, I don't think that any of the contestants have been or will be helped by the judges. Don't get me wrong - I believe that the personalities and the chemistry of the judges are great. I find them to be very entertaining (although Jennifer is disappointingly inarticulate.) But their advice, recommendations and criticisms are let's say...suspect (at the very least inconsistent.) After all, Casey's save performance was no better than Karen's performance the week before. In fact her's was more heart-felt, technically accurate and dead-on pitch-wise. And while Karen was pretty, sweet dispositioned, tasteful and stylish, Casey did do himself a favor by cleaning up just a little. He can to the grunge thing AFTER he becomes a star. Pia sings all ballads and while there have been minor comments about it she has not been seriously challenged about getting "outside the box." She according to the judges, owns her style and sticks to it. Thia on the other hand has a similar style yet was seriously challenged to try something new, then was told that it wasn't her andthey did not recognize her in her preformances when she did change. In fact she was told that she needed to decide who she wanted to be. HUH? You would think that with Pia being one of the older contestants who has tried out before they would push her even harder. (And what is that knock about her sonding like a Broadway-type singer? They said the same thing about Stefano. Hey folks, guess what? Broadway can pay the bills between concert tours, recording sessions and even movies. Ask any number of superstars who sgreat recording artists yet appear on Broadway - even one of your own alums - a la Fantasia Barrino). Naima on the other handworks outs outside and gets criticized for not being consistent style-wise, for being pitchy, and for taking risks even though aside from James and Casey (the early Casey, that is) she is probably the most artistic and entertaining. If the degree of difficulty for her performances was graded on a scale of 1-10 she yould consistently come in at about a 12 compared to the others. Naima may have the richest, deepest and most mature vocals of all the females, perhaps borne out of personal experience. Did I also mention that she is the best dancer amd moves about the stage better than any of her competitors? Unfortunately, despite all of her talent and artistic ability she may have a tough time winning over the public.

Paul's style really reminds me of Kenny Loggins and Rod Stewart, which I truly like, but he is not the most accurate hitting the notes (he in fact is "pitchy" and his voice is pretty weak.) Why then is he not called on it when everyone else has been called pitchy (except for Pia, but that's another story). Haley basically coasted until last night on short skirts and flirting. Her performance was interesting, but her pitch wasn't great. It seems that Steven was more interested in the sexy than the song, which in some ways may her a disservice. Too much flirtation could come across as pandering and get in the way of people seeing her performances. Somefans may not appreciate that. Sex does sell, but you have to be careful who you ar selling it to. And for all the comparison being made to Bette Midler (and I think I even heard a reference to Janis Joplin), I seem to get more honky tonk blues singer from her. They both have (or had) big power-packed dynamic voices and stage presences- Haley's is too small for that. By the way, her longer dress was gorgeous and completely complementary. I really showed off her figure and made her look elegant. It shows that you don't have to look either like an old lady or look trashy to look good. She looked as much a "star" as they have been casting Pia from the beginning. Lauren looked great for a change and sounded good. For the past several weeks she has gotten away with excuses for so-so performances and the judges have not called her for it. She kind of reminded of the kid who complains of a stomach ache to get out of school. However, He is no younger than Thia, who has been brave enough to give it her all every week with no excuses. I must say, however she looked completely glamourous and it seemed to help her confidence and her performance. So it may not be as easy to hide next week if her performance does not measure up to this week. Scotty has sounded better and better each week (and I am not a country fan.) Again, he is not forced to change his style. He deserves to go on to be a huge country star, but for this competition he is pretty narrow and limited. In fact I was pretty disappointed to hear him say that he was not familiar with the music of Stevie Wonder (but he wasn't the only one.) James is a little wild and crazy. But he does have variety and he is entertaining. What the judges call hitting the notes, however is really screaming and tends to be pitchy as well.

Jacob has been challenged to change and hold back the horses. That will be a tall order coming from a gospel background, but he has really tried hard the past couple of weeks even though it has gone almost unrecognized by the judges. Randy's comment about when to hit the high notes was kind of nit-picky because it's up to the artist to interpret the song. Besides, what do you expect when you change someone's style? But the advice to Jacob to "keep down the drama" was good. Stefano is the most pitch-accurate of all the males. But I don't get the comments about closing his eyes being so problematic since every single contestant does the same thing...close their eyes when reaching for the high notes. If the producer had not mentioned it during their rehersal last weekI wonder if Jennifer would have even picked up on that? Finally, Pia is beautiful, photogenic, and sounds good. And while she is the most tonally accurate of the women she too has more of a tendency to scream at the top rather than to project to hit the high notes. If you really listen to Celine Dion (since the judges insist on making the comparison) or others lie Deniece Williams, Mariah Carey, or Minnie Ripperton, all of whom have (or had) much greater ranges they ascend to the notes with technique and style. They don't scream and use brute force. She should take a page out of their books.

That said, Pia will probably be your winner this season. She doesn't sound the best, doesn't have the best range, she is not the most diverse, and is not necessarily the most entertaining (in fact, she's pretty stiff boring). She may be a bit too polished and homogenized. She may do well as an opening act in Las Vegas. But the name of the show is American Idol, so if that works for her, so be it. But the judges have really taken themselves out of the process by not giving any real criticism. She drank the Kool-Aide about her beauty and similarity to Celine Dion from the judges like Casey bought into his "sexy." Otherwise, it appears that most of the contestants could have basically the same scores from the judges. They have made themselves irrelevant especially now that their one save is gone. So, it may not be as much about talent and art as it is about what the public (that is, the majority of the voters) wants to see. And if the public sees her as great no matter how she performs that's who they will choose. Meanwhile guessing who will be voted between now and the end seems to be more like an exercise in rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Just remember, there may be a big difference between and "idol" and a "star." Her staying power will determine which one she really is.

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