Reality Check: Underwhelming Final 4 on 'American Idol'

There's no doubt about it: The Idols were collectively underwhelming on Tuesday night's show.

Whether that was because Barry Gibb was too easy on them — he seems to be more from the Paula school of criticism than Paula — or because it's simply impossible to sound good while covering songs made famous by men with falsetto voices doesn't much matter.

The fact is: We were down to the wire and the wire almost seemed to be breaking.

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While Jordin got raves for her version of "To Love Somebody" after Melinda, Blake and LaKisha delivered lackluster and, at times, downright bizarre first performances, I wasn't as impressed as everyone else — certainly not as much as Gibb, who was positively rhapsodic over her rendition.

Although I agreed with the judges that her vocals were the best of the night, it was sort of like being called the sanest person in a mental institution. It was a compliment, but only because they were being graded on a curve.

And her grade went down significantly on her second performance, which allowed Randy and Simon to use some of their favorite criticisms — Randy by using the word "pitchy" and Simon by deeming the performance old-fashioned.

Melinda, meanwhile, recovered from "Love You Inside Out" (more memorable for how much she shook her head from side to side while singing than for any actual notes she hit) with "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," where she delivered her trademark soaring vocals.

But Blake wandered into the danger zone for essentially the first time since the competition began. His beat boxing was sounding especially tired, and the weeks of round-the-clock rehearsals and lack of sleep along with the recent dye job conspired to make him look pale, exhausted and like he was wearing a wig.

And although LaKisha got the night's most famous song, "Staying Alive," her choppy performance didn't seem to garner a lot of fans. Then her voice cracked at the end of "Run to Me."

In my opinion, the most impressive performance of the night came from Paula, who made more fully formed points than she ever has while wearing a classy version of the "Staying Alive" white suit.

Final four, it's time to step it up. You don't want to be shown up by "Forever Your Girl," do you?

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.

"American Idol" airs on FOX, which is owned by News Corp., the parent company of

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