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‘Duets’ Episode 4 Recap: Party Down?

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

After taking a week off from "Duets" to attend and cover the Bonnaroo festival last week, I can't say I missed the struggling show much...but I decided to give it another go this week and see if it had improved while I was away seeing original "Duets" coach Lionel Richie perform his party song. I was a little dismayed to find out, after the fact, that Alexis Foster, a contestant that I thought had some real potential, was the show's first elimination last week--another example of how the voting system on this show, which is controlled by the coaches instead of the public, is extremely and logic-defyingly flawed. But, since I hadn't gotten too emotionally invested in any of contestants so far, I got over this setback soon enough, and I settled in to watch the remaining seven "amateurs" and their superstar mentors perform some other "Party Songs." And I hoped there'd be some reason to celebrate this week.

Oh, the things I do for you, Kelly Clarkson.

Anyway, here's how this week's "Duets" episode attempted to get the TV party started.

KELLY CLARKSON'S DUETS:

Jason Farol, "Satisfaction" - After landing at the bottom of the leaderboard every week and nearly going home last week, Kelly's cute underdog attempted some moves like Jagger on this swaggery Stones song. Jason was adorable, but he was not very Mick-like...and then Kelly of course sang circles around him, even if she messed up the lyrics at one point. (That's another problem with this show: The pros ALWAYS outsing the contestants, and they end up shooting their teams in the proverbial foot and making their protégés look like chumps.) Jason's biggest disadvantage on this show, specifically, is that he has to sing with, and be upstaged by, someone as awesome as Kelly frickin' Clarkson every week. So, did I get satisfaction from this performance? Sort of. But I might have been more impressed by Jason if he'd being dueting with, say, Robin Thicke.

Jordan Meredith, "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" - I love Kelly Clarkson, and I love Joan Jett even more (I also love the original version of this song by glam band the Arrows), but I didn't love this. I liked it, though; Jordan has definitely improved since her shaky first "Duets" performance that landed her alongside Jason in the bottom two. She just hasn't improved enough to hold her own alongside Kelly.

JOHN LEGEND'S DUETS:

Bridget Carrington, "Last Dance" - I'm not sure if John did his girl any favors by having her take on a classic by a mighty diva like the late, great Donna Summer. Bridget simply seemed set up to fail with a song selection like that. She did okay with the booty-call closing-time club anthem, sure--but her vocals were nowhere near a Summery level, and she wasn't quite able to tap into the Donna nostalgia that's at such a high right now. She and John did exhibit what seemed to be some real dance-floor chemistry onstage, but the song's overall sense of disco-dynamite fun was missing. I was beginning to think this might indeed be Bridget's last dance on "Duets."

Meleana Brown, "Since U Been Gone" - John probably didn't do his other contestant any favors either, by having her sing a Kelly Clarkson song. Gutsy move! And maybe a stupid one! I thought Meleana did a pretty good job with it, especially under such nerve-wracking conditions, even though she disappointingly missed the song's biggest money note by a mile. But I have to wonder, when Meleana ended up in the bottom two this week, if it was because vengeful Kelly had given her a low score. Don't mess with Kelly's signature song!

JENNIFER NETTLES' DUETS:

J Rome, "P.Y.T." - If there's any recently departed pop star other than Donna Summer whose songs are more difficult to make one's own, it's Michael Jackson, of course. (Just ask Anoop Desai from "American Idol" Season 8.) J Rome had the voice to do it--he's always been one of the series' strongest singers, and he's topped the leaderboard each week--but this performance was more like a really, really good MJ impersonation. The dance moves, the single glove, the rakishly titled fedora, even the musical arrangement...there was just nothing ORIGINAL about this number. J's voice even took on an odd Jacksonesque yelp that I hadn't heard from him before. Kelly called J out about this, but somehow he ended up in the top spot anyway. I don't really get why J keeps getting the highest scores week after week...unless that's all a byproduct of the show's aforementioned flawed voting system, which allows the biased judges to skew and even sabotage the competition.

John Glosson, "Life Is A Highway" - I've always thought that John's voice was similar to Rascal Flatts singer Gary LeVox's, so I understood why Jennifer picked the Flatts' version of Tom Cochran's '80s rock classic. John is probably the best singer on this show, even though ballads are more his forte, and this was another solid Glosson performance. He should win this competition, since he's the only contestant who really consistently holds his own alongside his pro partner.

ROBIN THICKE'S DUET:

Olivia Chisholm, "Let's Stay Together" - After losing Alexis last week, Robin was left with only Olivia--a definitely a disadvantage, since she's pretty much the weakest singer of the remaining seven, and it could also be argued that Robin is actually the show's vocally weakest pro. I've always found the blend of Robin and Olivia's thin, whispery voices totally underwhelming, and while Olivia looks more like a pop star than anyone else on this show, she just doesn't radiate that certain star quality onstage; performance-wise, she always falls flat. And my opinion of this not-so-dynamic duo didn't change this week. Neither singer was equipped to handle a soulful classic by the legendary likes of evangelical belter Al Green, and this duet simply bored me; it felt like it went on for 10 minutes. I really do wonder just how long Robin and Olivia will stay together on this show.

Ultimately, it came down to a bottom two of Olivia Chisholm and Meleana Brown, and then came the one part of the show I actually like: the a cappella singoff, during which the contestants performed solo, with their voices front and center, no bells and whistles. I totally thought Meleana easily won this week's singoff, but the judges thought otherwise, and they bizarrely sent Meleana home instead. I suppose Meleana should be delighted that she even got to be on the show for a couple weeks--she was a last-minute replacement for Johnny Gray, who left suddenly in week two under mysterious circumstances--but I still don't think this was her time to go. I suspect that many viewers probably agree with me, and that they would have voted Olivia off instead, if it had been up to them.

Oh well. This show isn't getting any better, but I suppose it's not getting any worse. So see you next week. Maybe.

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