melvalentine.gifLast night, American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle blew the roof off My Funny Valentine, infusing it with a power, charm, and style all her own, and delivering a flawless vocal performance that easily ranks in my personal Top 10 Idol performances of all time. Simon put it quite succinctly: “That was incredible.” (The look you see is the look of utter surprise – followed by joy – on Melinda’s ever humble face.)

I seriously doubt Melinda is putting on some kind of act here. I believe the humility and almost self-effacing demeanor we see every week is sincere, and it, like Simon says, is refreshing. In a competition that exposes us to singers who think they’re the best thing since sliced bread, Melinda is that singer who doesn’t pack much in the looks department but makes up for it with sheer vocal brilliance.

Melinda and Lakisha Jones – whose Midnight Train to Georgia was also a spectacle for the senses, both audio and visual, since her outfit made her look like a giant pomegranate – are the ladies to beat for sheer talent. In my idea of a perfect world, Melinda and Lakisha would duke it out in the finals, with only Stephanie Edwards, Chris Robinson, or possibly even Phil Stacy, serving to ruin that perfect final. Sundance Head, Sanjaya Malakar, Chris Sligh, Brandon Rogers, and Sabrina Sloan have personality and a decent vocal, but that’s pretty much about it. Rounding out my Top 12 predictions are Gina Glocksen and Antonella Barba (the former because she’s a passable belter and America loves a belter, and the latter because she’s infamous).

If this competition weren’t also about packaging and looks, I would say either Melinda Doolittle or Lakisha Jones deserves to be American Idol. They are that dream: talent trumps looks and packaging; success can come if you have style, talent, and substance.

I’m looking forward to hearing Melinda’s next performance.