We've got a new opening, a new set, a new choice of songs and even what appeared to be a rejuvenated and relatively lucid Paula Abdul (or was I just tired and not paying attention?) And we went from what many felt was going to be an 11-week coronation of David Archuleta to a competition which may have gotten a whole lot more interesting What a night!
I'm still not sold on that whole "Best top 12 ever" thing, though. While tonight made me feel better about the group as a whole, we need to give it a few weeks to really tell. After all, on this night for season three, I thought it was a great top 12, but by the time we ended up with a final three that included Diana DeGarmo and Jasmine Trias, it didn't seem nearly as good.
As for the much hyped NEW! opening and set--I wasn't exactly blown away. The new graphics made hardly any impression, and the new set inspired me to paraphrase the lyrics of a famous song from another British band, the Who: Meet the new set, same as the old set. Other than putting the band on an upper floor--which seems to take away any chance for the singers to interact with the band but does provide a little more room, was there really much difference in the stage. It didn't seem that much bigger to me. OK, I will say that I like the idea of the mosh pit--it does give everything a more intimate feel. I was also really excited that it looked like they eliminated that platform behind the judges which too many singers used to try to be more intimate with the crowd. Unfortunately, as I'll get to later, that wasn't the case.
As for the theme, you can't find better songs than Beatles songs. And for the most part, the final 12 did them proud. But wouldn't it have been interesting if someone tried "Revolution No. 9"? Or did "A Day in the Life" but included the minute-long piano chord in their performance? OK, maybe not.
Syesha Mercado (Got to Get You Into My Life)--Syesha reminds me of that episode of "The Brady Bunch" in which the whole family sings from some record producers, but the producers really only want Greg because he "fits the suit" that they want their rock star to wear (or at least that's what I remember from more than 25 years ago.) Syesha "fits the suit" for American Idol. She's attractive and she's got a strong voice. And yet... there's something missing. It was evident in her really boring taped piece, which I can't remember anything about except that she's an actress. And it was evident in her performance, which was adequate but nothing special. Her voice was OK, but I thought the arrangement was weird and sort of cabaret-like, as Simon might say. Considering she was the first to sing in a two-hour show, Syesha could be in trouble.
Chikeze (She's A Woman)--That was awesome. Once again, one of the guys puts his own, cool spin on the song and it works very well. I liked the country/folk intro, and I liked the rockin' rest of the song. And he was fun to watch. A couple more performances like that, and he could be a serious contender.
Ramiele Malubay (In My Life)--Sometimes even Simon goes a bit overboard. Look, "In My Life" may not be the most exciting song ever written, but it's also considered one of the great pop songs of all time. It's not boring. And yes, Ramiele didn't do much new with the song, but I thought she did a solid job with it. Once again, though, Ramiele is not doing anything to stand out.
Jason Castro (If I Fell)--So Randy tells Ramiele she needed to change up the melody on the last song, and then when Jason changes up the melody (not all that much to my ears, but to Randy going with a falsetto is changing things up) he tells him he can't change the melody on such a classic song. Oh, these judges, what a tangled web they leave...(You know, I was going to criticize Kady Malloy for a quote I read from her today in which she said that after her first performance, she stopped listening to the judges because "they're only three people's opinions," and everyone's got an opinion. That's just dumb, and maybe when she's a little older than 19, she'll realize how foolish that is. But after you watch this kind of contrdiction from Randy, she doesn't seem quite as dumb.) I thought Jason was pretty good, not as good as last week, but--and I'm shockingly agreeing with Paula--hearfelt and emotional.
Carly Smithson (Come Together)--"Come Together" has always been one of my least favorite Beatles songs, so maybe that colors my opinion on Carly's performance. But I don't really get all the slobbering love from the judges she got tonight--unless they're trying to build up a solid competition to Archuleta to give us some suspense. I thought she was fine, but to compare her to early season one Kelly Clarkson? Please, just stop it. And could Carly wear more sleeveless shirts? Is this some kind of ad for her husband's tattoo business?
David Cook (Eleanor Rigby)--When Ryan mentioned the singer and the song, I thought, "That sounds like a good match," and it was. The first half was good, and then when he opened it up in the chorus, it went to another level. He's really looking like a strong contender, but he still should do something about that hair.
Brooke White (Let It Be)--Back in the season two finale, Randy told Clay Aiken after his first performance that night that he didn't like the song but that "you sang your face off." I'd never heard that phrase before, but presumed it was a music industry term for just putting all you got into a song. Well tonight, Brooke White sang her face off. First, even though she sang the song pretty straight, it sounded like a different song than the original because with the slight country tinge and the raspiness of her voice, she sounded completely different from Paul McCartney. Second, it just seemed so authentic and (I'll use that Paula word again, but it is appropriate) heartfelt. I think it was probably the best performance of the night, and she's a real contender now.
As for Ryan picking up Brooke's shoes and Randy and Simon yelling "they're her shoes," is there some cross-dressing incident in Seacrest's past? What was that all about? And was it related to Simon's reaction after Ryan mentioned leaving a student's room or whatever? Can someone explain these inside jokes? Or am I asking for way too much information that I'll regret?
David Hernandez (I Saw Her Standing There)--I saw a quote from our AI producer Nigel Lythgoe on the Hernandez stripper controversy. His reponse was something along the lines of "He didn't do anything illegal." Well, of course not, Nigel. No one was accusing him of that, and I and most people--except some publications trying to gin up controversy--want to see him kicked off the show for anything other than poor singing. But can you at least tell us what the rules are for getting kicked off the show? Is it just your whim, and what you feel is not appropriate (naked pics on the Internet for Frenchie Davis) for an American Idol and what is (stripper past and, um, naked pictures on the Internet if you're Antonella Barba)? Or is there something written down somewhere? But back to David, who annoyed me from the get-go, but being the first and only singer tonight to get on that platform behind the judges--although he seemed to immediately return to the stage as soon as possible. For new readers, this is a pet peeve of mine--since too many people do it to "fire up the crowd" when, if they were good performers, they should be able to fire up the crowd without running into the audience. And with the "mosh pit," you really shouldn't have to run into the audience--they're right there.
The judges said David tried to do too much with the song, but I personally found it kind of bland and boring. I also couldn't stop thinking about how much the guy talked about the "pizza bistro" he was working at before Idol. Is that a euphemism?
Amanda Overmyer (You Can't Do That)--I think I'm already tiring of Amanda's sound.This was OK, but not memorable (when I looked down at my notes when writing this, I realized that I barely remembered she even performed), and the only thing I really want to talk about is the exchange Paula and Simon had after Amanda's song. Simon told her to stop being disrespectful to him (which she always is by arguing with him about his comments while he's giving them) and then Paula said she wasn't being disrespectful, she was rooting Amanda on when she started yelling in the middle of his remarks. Paula, you are just ridiculous.
Michael Johns (Across the Universe)--Have you noticed that Michael seems to have the exact same movements and mannerisms on every song he does? It's a little strange--maybe Paula can choreograph something new for him. Anyway, this wasn't great, but I enjoyed hearing Michael, after the rockers he's done the last few weeks, slow it down and just sing and I thought he did a really good job. But he's going to have to step it up if he wants to stay as a top contender. He hasn't done anything special since "Bohemian Rhapsody" during Hollywood week.
Kristy Lee Cook (Eight Days A Week)--Wow, that was pretty scary. The tempo on that song was so fast it was giving me heart palpitations and it was just weird. I will give Kristy credit for at least taking a risk. But it is awfully funny to hear Paula tell her "don't take [our advice] too much to heart." So can you tell us, Paula, when your advice is good and when it's not to be taken seriously? I never thought that Simon's advice to go country was all that great anyway. We hear Simon complain about whether rockers are authentic all the time, but apparently you don't have to be authentic to sing country--just wake up one morning, have Simon suggest it and, boom, you're a country singer. It's certainly not working that way for Kristy.
David Archuleta (We Can Work It Out)--Before Simon said it, I wrote it down: "Mess." I speculated last week that the only way David could lose would be a return of his vocal paralysis, but maybe it could be forgetting lyrics. Did he mess up his words just twice, or was there a third time in there too? That might be an Idol record. What a turn of events. The heavy favorite struggles in Beatles Week, two weeks after becoming the heavy favorite by singing a famous John Lennon song. This seems to be working out too well for Fox--did they drug Archuleta before the show so he'd mess up and suspense would return to the show? I think Archuleta is still the heavy favorite, though, because most of his voters are not going to be deterred unless he has about five more performances like this.
Who's bottom three? Kristy Lee Cook, definitely. Probably Syesha Mercado for reasons explained above. And because of the harsh judging she got, Ramiele Malubay is a likely contender too. I would not be surprised if it was Syesha, but I have to go with Kristy. Fingerhut out.
Labels: American Idol