The leadoff performers, Ace and Kellie, bolstered my belief that American Idol should stay away from Stevie Wonder songs. Thankfully Ace didn't attempt to sing unnecessary falsetto notes, but I had to agree with Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell: It just wasn't the best vocal performance. Naturally Paula Abdul dissented. Eyeing Ace like he was the last chocolate chip in the Keebler tree house, she thought he "entertained everyone." Kellie professed little prior knowledge of Stevie, and then talked about her false eyelashes looking like tarantulas, something clearly less scary than calamari.
Honestly, I was expecting better from both Elliott and Mandisa. I actually thought Elliott did a better job the last time he attempted a Stevie song, but it was great to see his genuine emotion over meeting his idol. Mandisa was good, just not her usual diva-goddess self. But at least I felt a bit better about contestants doing Stevie songs... until Bucky and Melissa hit the stage. Melissa looked hot, but her dress couldn't make up for lyrical mistakes and flat notes. Bucky handled "Superstition" better than I thought he could, but the hair was absurd. Bucky, a little advice: Next time Ryan Seacrest offers to "update" your image, run for your life. Run, Bucky, run!
The ante was upped substantially by Lisa and Katharine. They both picked perfect songs for their voices and sang beautifully. I agreed with Randy I loved the way Lisa finished her number. I figured Taylor would do Stevie justice, and his "Livin' for the City" didn't disappoint. When Taylor tones down the shtick and just lets his voice shine through, he's so much more enjoyable. Paris was really good, but then she got overly cute answering Seacrest's questions in song. OK, we get it, you can sing.
Chris closed yet another show in great style, but I kind of wished he'd done something other than his usual rock routine. Though I laughed at Kevin when he back-talked Simon, his performance of "Part-time Lover" single-handedly wiped the slate clear of all the good singers. And I went right back to hoping that no future Idol wannabe attempts Stevie Wonder ever again.