The cast is dwindling fast, and so is the quality. I have a feeling that there will be some debate around the ‘net tomorrow about the theme weeks. There comes a point in every season where people start to question the wisdom of throwing diverse and crazy themes at the contestants. Let’s face it: Neil Diamond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mariah Carey, and Dolly Parton do not often get played on the same radio station. Some might complain that the crazy diversity means a different contestant will tank every week, and others will struggle to get through. Give them songs in their wheelhouse, and they’d be stars.
That debate happens every year. Personally, I like the creativity that musical diversity brings about. I like seeing how the odd pairings can work in a contestant’s favor. I’m sympathetic to the argument, though it’s an impossible one to fix.
The thing that is beginning to bother me in the judges’ comments is the shift in the show from being a vocal competition to being a musical arrangement competition. David Cook is really really good and deserves to win it all this year. The further this thing goes, the more obvious it becomes that he’s the only one who should win. Anyone else would be a joke to the show. But the show is currently playing to his strengths. The judges love to hear him rearrange things or borrow major rearrangements from other acts, and then they complain that the other contestants haven’t rearranged a song enough. There’s a difference between “making a song your own” and “rearranging the whole song.” The latter will be the venue of more mature artists with musical inclinations. The American Idol doesn’t necessarily have to be a songwriter and orchestral conductor. Obviously, such things would help, but I don’t think that’s in the show’s mandate. The judges are starting to slip it in there.
If I wanted that, I’d start a letter writing campaign to bring back ROCK STAR this summer to CBS. There‘s a show that shone with musical rearrangements.
In any case, it was Neil Diamond night and each contestant sang two songs. Their first song performances ranged from the hideous to the merely OK. The second songs were all #1 hit singles, by comparison.
The most uncomfortable moment of the show was when Paula attempted to critique songs she hadn’t heard yet. Whether she took notes in dress rehearsal or merely got her notes confused between people (as she suggested), the world may never know.
Jason Castro - Started with “Forever In Blue Jeans” and nearly put everyone to sleep, save Paula, who can dance to anything. It wasn’t bad or hideously off-key or anything. It was just capital-B Boring. We’ve seen this song and dance from him before and it’s no longer impressive.
His second song was “September Morn,” which felt much more comfortable for his voice, though his lack of guitar made him appear uncomfortable. He still doesn’t have enough to justify continuing on in this competition.
Tangent: Is it just me, or does Neil Diamond look and sound like Agent Smith from The Matrix?
David Cook – He’s a smart cookie. He picked two lesser-known songs and rocked them both. The first, “I’m Alive,” showed vocal similarities to Diamond. The second, “All I Really Need Is You” really came alive. The song sounded exactly like something you’d hear on the radio today. He’s got that familiar popular husky moody voice that adult contemporary stations love to sell to soccer moms. We’ve said it before with previous performances, but I think this is the song that best exemplifies the song that could go from Idol to Top 10 radio hit overnight.
Tangent: With that unfortunately low camera angle, the drummer starts to look like Gary Coleman.
Brooke White – Crashed and burned with “I’m A Believer.” I think it’s just too soon since Shrek. It’s not the right song for her. It wasn’t believable. I’m sure she likes the song and thought she had fun with it, but it was uncomfortable to watch her try to be that upbeat. It reminded me of a children’s birthday performer. Not good at all. The song is too fast and too loud and goes against all her best qualities.
Thankfully, her second song, “I Am I Said” was right in her wheelhouse. (I think it was Randy who used the “wheelhouse” analogy too many times tonight, but it fits here once more.) She sounded great behind the piano. She was believable. It was 10x better.
On the other hand, her logic needs work. She wrote an early lyric on the palm of her hand so she wouldn’t forget it. She was playing the piano. When would she see her palm? Plus, isn’t that the kind of thing the judges bounce contestants for during their initial try-outs?!?
Tangent: Ryan is singing song titles an awful lot this season, isn’t he?
David Archuleta – I’m over him. He’s Disney Radio. He’s precocious. He’s just not believable to me. Occasionally, he hits a strong note and carries a tune, but it all seems over his head. And that right hand never stops reaching out. The lips never stop getting licked. The longer he’s here, the more he grates on me. Sadly, it’s something I’ll have to live with. I don’t see any way this kid isn’t in the finals, with the teenage vote what it is.
He also picked the two most obvious songs from the Diamond catalogue. One shouldn’t try to do “Sweet Caroline” as an IDOL song. It’s a cheesy night club song. It’s a wedding song. It’s a singalong thing that nobody takes seriously. And he’s trying to turn it into a vocal powerhouse? I don’t get it.
The second song, “America,” is the most obvious choice, but another song that’s not that great for IDOL, unless you’re a better actor/performer (more on that in a second) than David. Plus, his voice cracked in the middle of the song and nobody called him on it. UGH Still, I think it was a much better performance than the first song.
I imagine Kristy Lee Cook is at home, mad that she didn’t get to sing this one.
Syesha Mercado is doomed. She’s great. She might be the best pure singer left in the competition. No, she is. She might have won this in an earlier season. Nobody can sing as clearly or as cleanly as she does. And what does she get for it? America never votes for her, and the judges have decided to confuse “performance” with “Broadway.” If anyone else did what she did on stage, they’d praise them for selling the song. With Syesha, they’ve already decided she’s Broadway-bound. To her credit, Syesha seems happy enough to go to the Great White Way tomorrow. Based on voting patterns, she might have to.
She started with “Hello Again,” which had the best vocal of the night. Then, she went to “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” the performance song with a strong vocal and a big stage show that invoked the Supremes, complete with three backup singers on stage. I liked them both. Completely different songs, strong performances and vocals on both. She’s doomed.
Overall, from best to worst: Syesha, David C., David A., Brooke (because that first song was so atrocious), and Jason bringing up the far rear. If there was any justice, Jason would go home and Brooke would be safe. I’m thinking we’ll actually see that happen. I’m betting on Carly’s voters going to Syesha to prop her up. I think Carly’s fans are vocalist fans.
De Blieck Out!