Kris Allen, who in his unassuming way is as shrewd a performer as Adam Lambert, sang Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money" on acoustic guitar and made it sound like Tracy Chapman. Thumbs up from all four judges! "You took a real risk," Kara said, "and it paid off big time." Simon called the performance "original" and "fantastic."
Adam Lambert, who doesn't so much sing a song as assume a character and emit perfect music, wore a shiny black suit and sang "If I Can't Have You" from Saturday Night Fever as a throbbing, super-smooth ballad. It was terrific, if totally KD Lang. A smitten Paula, in the words of Ryan, "melted into a pool of Abdul." The other three raved, as well. "You have it major-league going on," said Randy.
The terrifyingly assured 16-year-old Allison Iraheta roared her way through another Donna Summer song, "Hot Stuff." Randy and Kara weren't wowed by the slowed arrangement, but no one faulted her vocals. As Paula remarked, with customary great care, "The word compromise does not even belong in your musical vocabulary."
Danny Gokey sang a big, sultry version on Earth, Wind & Fire's "September." He didn't always seem to have a grip on the beat, but Kara called him "an incredible vocalist." Simon, as usual, had a stinger: "No star power."
The rest had other, more serious problems. In fact, there may be a familiar-looking bottom three. Lil Rounds, who was recovering from complete vocal rest, failed to notch a comeback with Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman." Simon's prediction: It will be "the last shot" for Lil. Matt Giraud -- rescued by the judges' save last week even though Simon said he wouldn't win anyway -- sang a desperately eager-to-please version of "Stayin' Alive." Perhaps he understood the irony implicit in the title. "You can really sing, dude," said Randy. But Simon seemed no more impressed than last week.
Anoop Desai, wearing a bright pink sweater beneath a blaser, was back in Kara's good graces with "Dim All the Nights." She thought he was finally hitting his stride. Simon, on the other hand, said it was his worst performance yet -- "by a mile." -- Tom Gliatto
Tell us: Who had you dancing on disco night? Who deserves to go home?
M Becker/American Idol 2009/Getty