Melinda Doolittle judges the ‘American Idol’ Top 5 for HitFix

Season 6 favorite Melinda Doolittle is one of the experts in HitFix’s Fantasy American Idol game and throughout the competition, she’ll be providing analysis on this season’s contenders.


I promise that I started off watching Idol in a good mood tonight. I was excited about the contestants getting to do two songs and show different sides of their craft. Then the show started and my mood changed. It wasn”t the fault of the contestants, though. It was the judging panel that literally made me rewind my television to make sure I was listening to the same song they were critiquing. I”m fully aware that the sound in the studio is different from what we hear on our television, but it”s hard for me to believe that it”s the complete opposite of what we”re hearing. So…I decided to write what I wish the judges would have said. Don”t get me wrong; all of the contestants are very talented. I”m just thinking about how constructive criticism has helped me in the long run. Here we go…


James Durbin – “Closer to the Edge”

James, you”re an entertainer – pure and simple. The pyro-technics were cool. The song was cool. However, the pitch was all over the place. Once you get control over that, you”ll be a force to be reckoned with. So, now that you”ve given special attention to everything going on around you, focus on harnessing that power you have.


Jacob Lusk – “No Air”

It”s a risk to do a duet as a solo and you”ve now done it twice this season. This time, I don”t think it worked as well. There were definite pitch problems, but not just for you. Some of the background vocals were off, so I”m sure that wasn”t helping. However, there was a pretty large section where I felt like you lost the key the song was in. I”m not sure if it was a sound issue or you just got lost in the song, but that shouldn”t happen at this stage in the game. Having said that…it still wasn”t my biggest issue. My biggest issue is that you said this was the kind of song you would want to release and I just don”t buy it. Overall, it just didn”t feel like “you”. 


Lauren Alaina – “Flat on the Floor”

This was the perfect song choice. It showed you having a great time and gave you a chance to add a little sass to your performance. It had personality for days. I think, however, it would have been great to take Sheryl Crow”s advice and stand center stage while delivering that song for one simple reason…breath control. This song doesn”t have a lot of breathing room, so you have to ration your breath and that”s hard to do when you”re worried about working the stage. Still a great performance, though. My favorite Lauren performance so far.


Scotty McCreery – “Gone”

This was just pure fun. I agree with Randy – this is the kind of song I would love to hear you do on your own tour someday. There was kind of a reckless abandon with your delivery and your dancing and I think we got to see a new side of Scotty tonight. It was much needed. 


Haley Reinhart – “You and I”

You are a risk taker. From Adele to Lady Gaga, I never know exactly what to expect. I was nervous about not knowing this song at all, but your version made me want to go look it up. With a voice as unique as yours, you have to start thinking outside of the box with song choices. Thanks to Jimmy Iovine, I think you nailed it tonight. My only critique would be…I would have loved for you to stay more “in the moment” between phrases. Sometimes it seems like you”re so connected to the song while you”re singing, but in the little breaks, you kind of let that connection go. However, even with that little note, you are winning the night for me so far.


James Durbin – “Without You”

Like we said to Jacob a few weeks ago, it”s very risky to pick a song that”s ultra emotional for you. I love that you are able to give yourself completely to a song and your tears made me want to cry, but once again, your pitch suffered. When you take a risk like this, you have to be at the point where you control the emotion and it doesn”t control you. 


Jacob Lusk – “Love Hurts”

I loved the beginning of this song. The fact that you can finesse notes that high is unbelievable. I”m also impressed that you can power through some of those high notes, but sometimes they border on a screech. I think part of what makes the notes a bit abrasive, is when they seem to come out of nowhere. There was a part in the middle of the song where you were singing softly and then jumped up to catch the horn part and then went straight back to the soft singing. It”s amazing that you are capable of singing the horn part, but it felt unnecessary. I think those powered notes would pack more punch if there was a purpose behind them. That being said, this was a definite improvement from your first performance tonight.


Lauren Alaina – “Unchained Melody”

My first instinct was to roll my eyes at your song choice, especially since you have performed this for us before, but it worked for you. Your tone was gorgeous. I wasn”t completely feeling the arrangement of the song – it felt a bit disjointed in places, but you sang it well. I also felt like you were really smart with that high note that everyone expects to hear.  In order for the rest of the song to sound good, you had to put it in a key that made that note slightly out of reach. So, you did a little run leading up to it and then just touched on it for a second. Some people may miss it, but I thought it was very clever. Well played, Lauren. 


Scotty McCreery – “You Were Always On My Mind” 

Because your first song tonight was a step forward to me, this song was a little disappointing. It had nothing to do with the song choice or your connection to it, but your pitch was off in quite a few places. I feel like you do best when you just let go and have fun. I know that”s hard to do on a ballad, but if you get to the place where you can achieve that, you”ll be unstoppable.


Haley Reinhart – “House of the Rising Sun”

Absolutely brilliant. Best of the night by far….might I even say one of the best of the season! What more is there to say? (this is said while standing and clapping in awe – at least the judges agreed with me on this one)


***Let me know what you wish the judges would have said or if you totally agreed with them last night.***



Stay in touch with Melinda…Go to MelindaDoolittle.com for tour dates, pics & video, and more (and make sure to ‘Follow‘ and ‘Like‘ her while you’re there)!