Jordin Sparks

Tuesday Night's Idol: Mighty Melinda

05/16/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT

Tuesday Night's Idol: Mighty Melinda
Michael Becker/American idol/Getty
PEOPLE critic Tom Gliatto hopes to see dueling divas in the finale.

Episode 37

We were finally done with superstar mentors and the distractions – however good for the planet – of fund-raising with the help of celebrity guests. What we got last night was an unvarnished musical workout from the three finalists, each of them singing three songs over the course of one live hour. I'm surprised they weren't given separate resting stools and a water boy.

Jordin, Blake and Melinda were all remarkably consistent throughout the show. There was not a single wince-inducing moment. In fact, all of them are stronger than last season's champ, Taylor Hicks. But were they equals? Not quite ...

First place
Melinda had the edge in all three rounds, and the judges more or less said the same. At the end, after she'd delivered a knockout reprise of a song from earlier in the season, "I'm a Woman," Simon told her, "If I'm going to award a place in the final to the person who's consistently delivered week after week, it's you." As usual, she smiled a lot and said a very sweet thank you. Has anyone tried to study a strand of her hair for a DNA trace of diva temperament? She doesn't seem to have it – she could be on the next season of Heroes! It's remarkable!

Second place
Blake can really drive me crazy – what is that thing he does with his jaw at the end of a note? It looks as if he weren't singing but saying "aaaaaah" to his dentist. But he had a great time doing a sharp-paced cover of Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone." Savvy – not just slick – and hopping with energy.

Third place
That leaves poor Jordin, who's often my favorite. Technically, she didn't do anything wrong, and her soft, high vibrato was especially pretty on her first number, "Wishing on a Star." But her version of Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money" wasn't very hard charging and certainly not convincing. She ambled around the stage like someone checking out cars at a dealership parking lot. Is she getting tired? She's still a kid, after all...

So, how will it go, then? I'd still prefer to see Melinda and Jordin in the finale.

For more from last night, see AOL's Idol coverage.

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