Thursday, May 22, 2008

What I've Learned From American Idol, Season 7

It's over. The stage is empty, the confetti has stopped falling, and the mixture of tears and guyliner that's formed a sticky residue on the floor of the Nokia Theatre will soon be buffed away. Yes, Season 7 of "American Idol" has come to a close.

At this point, I'd like to share five important lessons I've learned over the course of this year's competition. It's necessary for me to do this now, while I have a bit of free time. Because even though the show's over, the next phase in any true "Idol" devotee's life cycle is only just beginning — trolling the internet nonstop for killer seats to the tour.

So before I head back to eBay, let me reflect on what I've learned. Lesson #1:

Like a bad haircut, sometimes things that have gone frighteningly awry can be salvaged.

After the depressing debacle that was Season 6, I had feared that my favorite show was lost forever, and that I'd now have to spend my midweek evenings watching HGTV, or even worse, reading. (Shudder.) But "Idol" surprised us by rising from the ashes of a disappointing season characterized by an uninspiring, and largely talentless contestant base (Melinda Doolittle excluded.) This year, the 19E powers-that-be made damn sure we would not be introduced to Sanjaya II in Season 7. And that brings me to Lesson #2:

Ringers aren't necessarily a bad thing, especially when they come in nice, tight Australian packages.

You can tell me that all those contestants with past record deals just randomly decided to show up at the "Idol" cattle call auditions this year. And then I'll tell you that Ryan Seacrest actually applies his own self-tanner. Both claims are simply not plausible. More likely, there were phone calls made, their presence was specifically requested, and they were "cast" for the show. And while the idea of an amateur performer being transformed by "Idol" and reaching the heights of superstardom is certainly an appealing concept, if the inclusion of a few pros makes for a more entertaining show, does it really matter? I mean, would you rather be listening to Carly Smithson or Haley Scarnato? And would you rather be looking at Chris Sligh or Michael Johns? (Sorry Chris. But you know what I mean.) Sure, I'm happy that a guy who'd never had a major label deal and who was working as a Midwestern bartender won in the end — it's definitely much more satisfying this way. But I certainly enjoyed having the pros along for the ride.

There were two people, however, whose presence I most decidedly did not enjoy this "Idol" season. Allow me to explain in Lesson #3:

It's time for Paula and Randy to steal Kristy Lee's old horse and ride off into the sunset.

We all know what a "gift" Paula is, even if she doubts that we do. And Randy and the dawg pound have served us well over the years. But it's time for the first two judges' chairs to be filled by music industry professionals actually capable of offering valid opinions, as opposed to meaningless, incessantly repeated catchphrases or incoherent rambling. And I think I've come up with the perfect replacements — one needs to look no further than '70s supergroup Fleetwood Mac. Think about it. Stevie Nicks could fulfill the much-needed "supportive female" role on the panel, but somehow you just know she wouldn't sugarcoat her critiques. As a bonus, whenever she'd get up to dance, she'd do her patented twirl and repeatedly hit Simon in the face with the awesome black lace cape she'd wear every week. And with Lindsey Buckingham in the other chair, challenging Simon to see who could leave more shirt buttons undone, we'd have a sullen, tortured genius who would interrupt his carefully thought-out comments to shoot alternately lustful/angry looks at the judge next to him. Seriously, Nigel, it's not a bad idea. Stevie and Lindsey's chemistry could rival Simon and Ryan's. Fun for everyone!

Of course, if my suggestions don't work out, 19E could seek guidance on other options from the subject of Lesson #4:

Forget Mike Myers and his whole guru bit. Jason Castro should start a career as a spiritual advisor.

By the time Jason's "Idol" run was over, I was convinced of one thing — the dreadlocked wonder has found the secret to happiness in life. Sure, it's probably a chemically induced contentment, but it's contentment nonetheless. I mean, how awesome must it be to go through your day openly yawning whenever you feel like it, and never, ever getting stressed out? Who does that? Dude is going to live to 101. Watching Jason's calm, happy-go-lucky reaction to everything that came his way on the show was positively inspiring. He simply must share his wisdom. A nation of prospective followers is ready to commit to the Castro mantra: "I was thinking Bob Marley!"

At the moment though, I'm not in need of Jason's services, because happiness has come my way in the form of last night's "Idol" finale. Lesson #5:

Sometimes, the best person really does win! Yay!

Before the finale last night, I was a little disappointed with David Cook after watching him on the red carpet pre-show. Because… Kimberly Caldwell… really, Cookie? I mean, I'll admit her hair looks great now, but seriously, maybe think about aiming higher. You should be dating the likes of Carrie Underwood now. At a minimum, make sure whoever you shack up with knows the difference between "there" and "their." Otherwise, it might get pretty difficult sharing those crossword puzzles of yours, Word Nerd. (Yeah. I'm jealous. Shut-up.)

Naturally, my frustration dissipated once David strapped on his guitar for a little "Sharp Dressed Man" action. And by the time he had shed his last tear of the season, and gracefully accepted the "Idol" title, I was faced with an unfamiliar feeling… contestant… I… supported… actually… won…? When does that EVER happen? At the end of most "Idol" season finales, I'm left feeling resentful and wondering how long it'll be before my contestant of choice is the celebrity host at a casino bingo night. I can't even imagine what it'll be like to have my favorite plastered in every magazine and backed by major label support.

I do hope that David Archuleta, with his pristine voice and general adorableness, will get the same type of support, and have a huge career as well. And, if I'm lucky, he might just end up as part of my family someday. Because my sister-in-law, a huge Archuleta fan, has expressed an interest in freezing David in time, so that one day, he can marry her 4-month-old daughter. (I'll keep you posted on how that works out.)

Regardless of my genuine fondness for little Elmo, there's no doubt that America really did make the right choice last night. Because in seven seasons of competition, there has never been a winner who has the type of potential that David Cook does: The potential to not only be a great singer and performer, but to be a truly important artist who makes music that really matters.

So dream big, Cookie, dream big. You've earned it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

American Idol Top 3 Recap – Two Men and a Random Lady

In the annals of "American Idol" history, there's a long list of distinguished, and not-so-distinguished, third place finishers. And if all goes as expected tomorrow night, Syesha Mercado will find herself ending up smack dab in the middle. She's displayed stronger vocal skills than Nikki, Jasmine, and Baby V., but hasn't come close to approaching the mad talent of K. Lo, Melinda, and my precious, precious Elliott. Still, the eternally sequined Syesha's showing tonight was strong enough to prove that after all these weeks, it wasn't quite so bizarre that she was still here. Well-played Syesha. Well-played indeed.

Let's take a look at things round by round, shall we?

Round 1, Judges' Choice:

Archuleta came out swinging (or, perhaps more accurately, bashfully swiping) and delivered the best performance of the night by a mile. Lil' D's version of "And So It Goes" was achingly beautiful, and surprisingly free of the overdone runs that have hurt his performances in the past. The relief of having Evil Stage Dad off his back for a few minutes clearly showed. Dude should stay away more often. David, can you spell "e-m-a-n-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n?"

But Elmo wasn't the only one bringing the heat early on. Syesha also came through with her strongest vocal of the evening here. Although I was apprehensive about her ability to handle an Alicia Keys song, Syesha's version of "If I Ain't Got You" was surprisingly solid and rather well done.

Speaking of apprehension, that's the exact word that came to mind (along with "shock" and "horror") when I heard that Simon was making David Cook sing "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," aka The. Biggest. Chick. Song. Ever. I mean, how can you rock out on a song that includes the phrase "ever I saw?" But Cookie worked it, and although I wasn't loving the falsetto, the power note at the end brought it home nicely. Maybe next week, they'll make him do "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love." Hmm. Possible duet for the double Davids? Could be a tender moment…

Round 2, Contestants' Choice:

Elmo did a bad, bad thing. Because adorable, soft, fuzzy creatures should never sing anything that includes the lyrics "my boo" and "hey little mama." The sight of the little guy awkwardly making his way through "With You" was more disturbing than the sight of the gel-covered ridge that's inexplicably formed in the middle of Seacrest's head. Let's never speak of it again.

Thankfully, Syesha helped erase the memory with a charismatic take on "Fever," which, despite being a little shrieky in places, was for the most part quite good. However, I could have done without her use of the chair — props in general are hella lame. Although a snake would have been pretty cool.

Speaking of coolness, I have to give a shout out to the woman holding the "Cougars 4 Cook" sign in the audience tonight — right on, sister! Although I am far, FAR, too young to be considered a cougar, I wholeheartedly support the cause. And Cookie showed the ladies what they're fighting for with a totally rockin' performance of "Dare You To Move," pasty guns on full display. David the Elder earned a Round 2 victory on the strength of his vocals here, but he deserved it on the merits of his sleeve length alone.

Round 3, Producers' Choice:

For his final performance of the evening, Lil' D banished all those dirty, nasty words from his head, safely buttoned his baby blue shirt up to his chin, and delivered a lovely version of "Longer." Syesha followed, looking gorgeous, but sounding pitchy on "Hit Me Up." And Cookie closed the show, enjoying the benefit of rawk star lighting while overcoming a mess of an arrangement on "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing." Despite the unpleasant cacophony of violins and guitars, David sold it well enough to take Round 3. Although I must say, after the performance, my faith in humanity and Simon Cowell was shaken when he described the sappy tune as "one of the great songs of all time." Huh? Simon, let me guess — "Do I Make You Proud" is positively Dylan-esque, yes?

Let's hope that the Davids get some better material to work with next week when the new "Idol" coronation song is revealed. Okay, that's highly unlikely. Short of that, let's at least hope that Archuleta learned his lesson tonight and isn't going to spring "Gold Digger" on us as a special finale surprise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

American Idol Top 4 Recap - The Hottie vs. The Tottie

Tonight's "American Idol" was all about the sexy and the sweetie — and, oh yeah, those other two people who are still here.

Maybe that's being a little harsh on Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado, but seriously folks, can we just move it along and get to what will likely be the most intensely contested "Idol" finale in history? Inquiring (and "Idol"-obsessed) minds want to know — which end of the fangirly voting spectrum will prove victorious — Archuletta-loving teenyboppers or Cookie-eating cougars?
Thankfully, while the wait continues, we at least got the benefit of a super-cool theme to distract us — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 most influential rock songs. Even Ry-Ry was feeling it, ending tonight's taped video intro by declaring "Long live rock." Of course, in his heart, he really meant "Long live oxygen facials." But I digress.

I think talking about David Cook might, quite possibly, put me back on track. That's because during tonight's performance of "Hungry Like The Wolf," Cookie stalked the stage like the sexy beast he is. Between the extra-growly vocals and the dialed up facial hair, not to mention the fact that he chose a Duran Duran song, just… yeah. Let’s just say I spent the better part of the 8th grade repeatedly scrawling Simon Le Bon's name on my notebooks. And I think I'll spend the better part of tomorrow morning inking David's name all over that presentation sitting on my desk at work.

Nevertheless, I'll admit that despite the stellar vocals and, uh, other qualities displayed during both this performance and his second song, "Baba O'Riley," Cookie wasn't at his best tonight. Can't quite put my finger on what was off, although, believe me, I'd like to. (Sorry. That was uncalled for. I am now getting up to wash my mouth out with soap before I move on to discussing David Archuletta. Thank you.)

Yes, adorable little David A. deserves this gesture of respect because Elmo WAS OFF THE HOOK tonight. Wow. Evil Stage Dad should go and buy himself a really expensive new hat this weekend, because he did a bang-up job picking out those two songs. "Stand By Me" and "Love Me Tender" suited David's voice perfectly, and he more than sold them, delivering his most heartfelt and natural performances to date. The tone and clarity of the little guy's voice were really something to behold tonight. Although conspiracy theorists no doubt noticed that while David's falsetto went a little wonky at the end of "Love Me Tender," the dress rehearsal clip shown during the video recaps at the end of the show had him nailing it. Hmm… Nigel, let's keep this fight clean, shall we, ol' chap? I really don't think the boy needs your help.

On the other hand, two people sorely in need of help tonight are Syesha and Jason. The former opened with an adequate, but lackluster version of "Proud Mary," and finished with an adequate, but lackluster version of "A Change is Gonna Come." The latter offered up his take on "I Shot the Sheriff" and invoked the wrath of Simon like we've never seen. Settle down, dude. I mean, sure, it wasn't great, but Cowell took it like a personal offense. Maybe Jason was chatting up his woman before the show, who knows. Of course, true to character, Castro appeared totally unfazed by the harshness of his words — you gotta love the kid for that. And to his credit, he rebounded with a version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" that, if only he hadn't forgotten those oh-so-pesky lyrics, had the potential to be really lovely.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter who goes home this week, unless "Idol" wants to stick it to us and pull a Daughtry-like early boot shocker. But I don't think that's going to happen. Syesha or Jason will go home, someone will cry and someone will get high, and we'll be one week closer to a spectacular showdown. Let's get ready to RUMBLE…

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol Top 5 Recap - I'm Bored... I Said

It was Neil Diamond night on "Idol," and no, my wish for this week's show did not come true. The contestants did not enter the rehearsal space to find Will Ferrell in a black wig and unbuttoned shirt, spewing venom and talking about killing drifters. Instead, they got the real Neil Diamond — sweet, supportive, and decidedly non-crazy.

Although the impressively wrinkle-free Diamond offered them kind words of encouragement, the top five, for the most part, let the D-man down. You know it's an off night on "Idol" when… I can't believe I'm about to say this… okay, deep breath… Syesha Mercado gives the best performances of the show.

Yes, I have to admit that, much to my chagrin, I really did enjoy Syesha the most tonight. Her "Hello Again" got a little shouty in places — she still needs to work on her subtlety — but overall, her voice sounded lovely. And "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" was the most upbeat and engaging number of the evening. Of course, my appreciation for both performances was diminished by the fact that for the second week in a row, Syesha showed up without shoes. My better half summed up the situation in one word: "Inappropriate." I'm really surprised the judges haven't commented on this bizarre little trend of hers. I'm even more surprised that Simon hasn't taken it as an opportunity to make a joke about Ryan stealing them for himself.

But it was clearly a night of surprises. The rushed pace of the show forced a restructuring of the usual sing, then face-the-judges formula, throwing everyone's timing off, most notably Paula's. Ah, poor Paula. What could the producers have possibly been thinking? Requiring Paula to offer her opinion on five performances at once was a disaster-in-the-making — even on a good night, the woman can barely manage a coherent critique of a single contestant. Was everyone just so distracted by the presence of Kendra and Bridget from "The Girls Next Door" that the show totally went to hell? And when did Rita Wilson take Holly's place? Did anyone get Hef's approval on that? I think he's only into blondes these days.

Okay, back to business — the business of Jason Castro, whose stock I'm selling after tonight. Sure, Jason's vocals on "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn" were pleasant enough, but just… zzz. Total snoozer. He himself seemed half asleep and completely disengaged during both songs. And that's coming from someone who openly admits to loving his much-maligned take on "Memory" last week.

Both performances though, shined in comparison to Brooke White's spiritless version of "I'm a Believer." Brookie was clearly just going through the motions here — and the fake, manic smiling she exhibited throughout the song was totally disturbing. Second time out though — much, much better. Brooke was back at the piano, where she clearly belongs, with an excellent performance of "I Am… I Said." Although I do think the utterly distracting fabulousness of her hair probably played a factor in my high score here. Seriously, that is some amazing hair. Respect.

Someone who I certainly have no shortage of respect for (both for his talent and his general hotness) is David Cook. However, I had a hard time keeping a straight face watching him tonight, because that bit from "The Soup" kept popping into my head. If you didn't see it last week, all you need to know is that it involved Joel McHale, as Andrew Lloyd Webber, commanding David: "Now… ravish me with your voice!" Maybe, just maybe, if I'm good, Ryan will utter those words to him at the finale.

I guess it could have been the giggles, or it could have been the disappointing limpness of his hair, but the patented David Cook mojo just wasn't that strong for me tonight. Now, his vocals on both "I'm Alive" and "All I Really Need is You" were technically excellent. So I can't explain why both performances were just a'ight for me. Maybe it was the disappointing song choice. Earlier in the day, a fangirly friend and I had been all atwitter at the prospect of a Cookie-crooned "Girl, You'll Be a Woman, Soon." (Yes, we're both twelve.) Who knows what happened. I blame Syesha.

A boy who is never to blame for anything, because he is a sweet, little, fluffy bunny, is David Archuletta. Tonight, although I was happy to see David depart from his usual dreary ballads and do an upbeat song, "Sweet Caroline" was a little rough, especially with all the weird runs. "America" was much better — his voice was clear and beautiful throughout — but I felt that this week, more than any other, David really showed his age. He came off like the freakishly talented soloist at a high school choir concert. Maybe it's because I had to sing "America" in chorus at every level of my schooling — and that's no fun when you're an alto and are stuck singing "TO-DAAAY…. TO-DAAAY" while the stupid sopranos get to sing the cool parts — but little David just seemed, I don't know, extra little tonight. Of course, he's still gonna make it to the finale. The imminent Elmo/Cookie showdown will not be denied.

Predictions: I think, despite her, gulp, excellent showing tonight, Syesha's time is up. Hopefully she won't be upset enough to break out the baby cry.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

American Idol Top 6 Recap - The Music of the A'ight

Tonight's Andrew Lloyd Webber theme presented a challenge for a wise-ass "Idol" recapper like myself. Pretty much the only thing that made me giggle throughout the show was the diminutive composer's pronunciation of the word "sensual" (sen-soo-ul). Oh, and Paula talking about David Cook's "beautiful instrument." (Bad Paula! Down!) Other than that, musical theatre night was not conducive to the funny. But let's give it a whirl anyway, folks.

Clad in a slinky red dress bizarrely paired with bare feet, Syesha started things off with her rendition of "One Rock n' Roll Too Many." I'll admit that she worked it — it was a very good performance from an acting perspective. But the vocals? Still not doing it for me, especially the last few notes. I just don't think Syesha's ever going to win me over. (Somehow, I doubt that she cares.)

I will say though, that Syesha was miles better than Brooke, who incurred as much of a wrath as Paula is able to muster up these days by asking the band to start over at the beginning of her song. Throughout "You Must Love Me," her voice quavered and sounded oddly forced. I completely agreed with Simon's use of the word "uncomfortable" in describing the performance — because that's exactly how I felt watching it. Brookie, what's the deal? You used to be one of my favorites. When the season first started, it seemed as if sunshine sprang from your fingertips. Get it back, please. Bambi and the other forest creatures are starting to get worried.

Someone who probably scares Bambi and company a bit is Carly, what with the tattoos and all. But no matter. She was the polar opposite of Brooke tonight, appearing 100% at ease delivering a natural, rockin' version of "Jesus Christ Superstar." She also continued her impressive trend of looking better and better each week, sporting a cute paisley dress that suited her perfectly. Sure, I think Carly will always be the poor man's Kelly Clarkson, but that's okay. As long as she promises to never again sing that appalling "I'm Gonna Blow Your Mind" song from her old record contract days, Carly and I are cool. (If you haven't seen the video for this online, don't look for it. I beg you — spare yourself.)

I'd wager that the judges wished they could have been spared from witnessing Jason's performance of "Memory" — with Randy going so far as to deem it a "train wreck." However, I quickly forgave Jason for being totally clueless about the song that I practiced so incessantly on the piano throughout the 6th grade, and ended up really liking his performance. Seated on a stool in an ill-fitting tan suit, Jason delivered a breathy, tender, intimate vocal on Webber's classic. Sure, he had no idea what he was singing about, or maybe even where he was — who knows what he does before the show. But for me, it absolutely worked. Second most impressive showing of the night.

And who was number one this evening, you may ask? Well, it's three cheers and a big squeeze for Elmo! Little David Archuletta's pitch-perfect, gorgeous version of "Think of Me" was, in my opinion, his best performance since "Imagine." I think Simon must have gotten into Jason's stash pre-show — that's the only possible way to explain how he could have described it as "forgettable" and deemed it one of his weakest performances. Either that, or Simon's just doing a crappy job of trying to throw us off the scent of the inevitable David/David finale that's without question coming our way.

Speaking of the elder David, for once, Cookie stayed tried and true and stuck with the original arrangement of "The Music of the Night," save for the rocker note he threw in at the end. Although Randy was practically salivating, employing his rarely-used "molten hot lava bomb" accolade — I can't say I was as enthusiastic. I mean, David did a stellar job of selling the performance. His eyes were positively mesmerizing, and I'd be lying if I didn't say there was definitely swooning coming from the general direction of my couch. But tonight, the vocals were just not matching the sexy. Maybe if he'd rocked the Phantom mask, it would have made a difference. Who knows.

Predictions? Hmm. With the show now 100%-Kristy-Lee-free, this process gets a little harder. But I think short of the little creatures sending the signal throughout the forest to vote like there's no tomorrow, the lovely Brooke may be in trouble.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

American Idol Top 7 Recap - I Hate Myself for Loving You

There’s always a moment each “Idol” season when I boldly announce, to no one in particular, that I’m never watching this freaking show again. This is of course, due to an unjust early elimination that has left me completely infuriated. The memories still haunt me… Season 4… Constantine’s gone, yet Savol inexplicably lives on for another week… Season 5… Elliott’s cut out of the finale in favor of Boobs McSchreechy… Season 6… well, I really didn’t care when any of that lot got eliminated… but Michael Johns? My smoldering Aussie? He had finally begun to fulfill his potential, only to be ripped away from us faster than a wax strip between Seacrest’s eyebrows.

However, despite my outrage, the show has a pull over me that I’m helpless to resist. It’s like pop culture crack. So, of course, like a total sap, I’m back watching tonight.

Mariah Carey is this week’s guest-coach-looking-to-promote-a-new-single. Luckily, during her session with the Idols, Mimi’s strayed from her usual rule of thumb and is only sporting moderate cleavage, so as not to make lil’ David Archuletta turn six shades of crimson. She proves to be a polite, mannered, but not especially enthusiastic guest coach. I could almost hear the divalicious Ms. Carey add “ok, am I done here yet?” after providing her comments on each contestant. I also suspect the Idols were instructed to stay at least 6 feet away from her at all times, unless given permission to come in for a perfunctory hug. As a bonus though, it did look like they were at least permitted direct eye contact, albeit briefly.

Even with Carey’s presence and her impressive catalog of songs to draw on, for the most part Mariah night was just meh, with a little bit of magnificent thrown in.

Bringing the meh big time tonight were Carly, Syesha, and Brooke. Sporting a navy dress with plunging neckline and impeccable makeup and hair, Carly looked quite lovely. Her take on “Without You” was refreshingly restrained, but didn’t make much of an emotional impact. And Brooke pretty much had the same problem with “Hero,” which disintegrated as she rushed through the ending. Props to her though for working Mariah’s “Vision of Love”-era hair — Brookie looked spectacularly gorgeous this evening. Also looking great was Syesha, wearing a gold dress the “Idol” stylists stole off Hollywood Barbie. Yes, I’ll admit she looked amazing, but the vocals… not so much. Syesha’s version of “Vanishing” started off quite strong, but soon veered off course into Shrillville, before reaching its final destination in Schreech City.

So, in terms of the girls — and I literally can’t believe I’m about to write this —Kristy Lee offered the best vocals tonight. I was able to overlook the weird, painful wincing thing she had going on at the beginning of “Forever,” and went on to actually rather enjoy the performance. Gah. What’s next for me? Pickler?

Let’s move on to things that don’t make me shudder and talk about the boys’ performances. Lil’ Elmo Archuletta no doubt set legions of little girls all atwitter tonight with his pleather pants and perfectly gelled ‘do. A perfectly controlled version of “When You Believe” complemented his look, although I was slightly disturbed when it appeared that he briefly attempted a growl at one point. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge Archie fan — but soulful growl + little David = just not right.

100% right was Jason Castro’s showing tonight — Dread Boy has absolutely brought it two weeks in a row now. It’s so rare to see an “Idol” contestant genuinely connecting with a song’s lyrics and effectively expressing that to an audience. But Jason is proving that he has mastered the skill. His unique arrangement of “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” accompanied only by bongos and acoustic guitars, was the second best performance of the night.

Which brings us to the magnificent… Mr. David Cook. At this point in the competition, Cookie seems misplaced. It’s like he’s a professional musical guest booked for results night who accidentally wandered onto the set during Tuesday’s show. This week, he very convincingly turned the upbeat, extremely poppy “Always Be My Baby” into a power ballad, and made it seem as if that’s the way the song should have sounded all along.

It didn’t surprise me though, that Mr. RealityShowChick, in the words of young Danny Noriega, “wasn’t LIKING it.” That’s probably because, between David breathily crooning “you’ll always be my baby” directly into the camera at the song’s close, and then being moved to tears after hearing the judges’ praise, my level of fangirliness visibly reached a new level. But don’t worry sweetie, you’re not in for another “Idol” crush (see Maroulis, Constantine and Yamin, Elliott, above.) I only appreciate David for his artistry.

Much the same way I appreciated Michael Johns.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

American Idol Top 8 Recap - Okay, I Give In!

I admit it. All those “inspirational” songs tonight must have gotten to me. Because I'm teetering on the edge, ready to abandon a sworn allegiance to my precious Season 5 and start buying that "best talent ever" line the show has been shoving down our throats for weeks. 
In support of its annoying, oft-repeated claim, "Idol" brought out the big biceps, I mean guns, right off the bat tonight. Yes, Michael Johns is growing on me like a super-hot Australian fungus. With his deliciously raspy take on Aerosmith's "Dream On," replete with very convincing falsetto, I now believe this guy is a rock star, even if an unusually argumentative Randy did think it was just "all right." (Does anyone else think there is a subtle difference in meaning between "all right" and "a'ight" in Randy-speak? Because "all right" sounds quite a bit more negative to me. Discuss.) Regardless, the thunder from down under has been getting stronger every week, and for me, this was his best vocal yet. Although I'm trying to overlook the trend of disturbing neckwear that seems to be happening here. Let's just not think about that, shall we?
Something else I generally prefer not to think about is Syesha Mercado, but yeah, she's still here. During her pre-performance clip, she tells us that for her, "giving back is music." Although I bet if you asked her on a different day, giving back would be acting, modeling, or making that unbearable baby cry sound. This week, she's following up a song made famous by Whitney Houston with one made famous (relatively speaking anyway) by Fantasia. And while Syesha has some vocal talent — I thought her rendition of "Yesterday" was very solid — she’s no ‘tasia. Why any contestant would choose a former “Idol” winner’s coronation song is mind-boggling to me — he or she will always suffer by comparison. (Although it might be interesting to see David Cook’s take on the Taylor Hicks classic “Do I Make You Proud.”) While there was nothing offensive about Syesha’s performance of "I Believe" tonight, to quote the ever-descriptive Mr. Jackson, it was just "okay."
Much, much better than okay was everyone's favorite awkward interviewee, Jason Castro. Lately, I’ve been getting a little sleepy during Jason’s performances — to me, his vocals just haven’t been all that stirring. And tonight, when he announced his song choice of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," I shuddered, still haunted by memories of Katherine McPhee draping herself across the floor in Season 5. But after hearing just a few notes of Jason and his ukulele, smiling and adorable with his dreads pulled back from his face, I was utterly transfixed. I get it now. This kid is an artist who knows how to have a true emotional impact on an audience. For me, this was his strongest performance. Even Randy was moved enough to call it "blazing molten hot." Yes, Randy, I dare say we got a hot one tonight. A hot one indeed.
Up next, Kristy Lee Cook did her best to add to the hotness of the evening by busting (hee) out a gold-sequined tank top, white pants, and glittery eye shadow. As the polar opposite of Carly and her Spanx, Simon of course says she "look(s) like a star." Her rendition of Martina McBride's "Anyway" was pretty good — for Kristy, I mean. I'll admit that the ending could be described as powerful, if one were feeling generous, which I am. I do think Kristy's improved quite a bit over the last several shows though. As long as she doesn't write any stupid little notes claiming ownership of one of the bottom three stools this week, I might actually be starting to like her. Although I'll totally deny it if anyone calls me on it.
Now, David Cook is someone who I'm so open about liking, I can admit without embarrassment that I buy his recordings on iTunes. (Yes, I'm one of those people. Check your own iPod playlist before you judge us.) Tonight, the "Idol" stylists continued to perfect their "I'm a rock star and I just rolled out of bed" hair miracle on my boy — from the head up, he looked fine. The intense gelling and flat-ironing process must have taken more time than usual though, because after that, the stylists apparently went on break and never came back. And poor Cookie ended up in that monstrosity of a giant-pocketed white jacket. To make matters worse, his rendition of "Innocent" by Our Lady Peace was less than stellar, although I disagreed with Simon's assessment that it was "a bit pompous." I thought the performance was heartfelt, it just wasn't at the same level of awesomeness as his previous weeks’ efforts. But I'm confident we will once again find our world officially rocked next week. Ow!
Ahem. The show must go on, as Carly Smithson tells us next. Generally, the opening notes of the poignant Queen tune are enough to get me all weepy, but Carly didn’t do the song justice tonight. She hit all of the big notes, but the vocal theatrics in between were all over the place — very uncharacteristic for her. And the hideous gold belt and striped tank top left over from Pat Benatar’s 1981 tour wardrobe were not doing her any favors. I simply adore Carly’s personality though — she’s the only one of the female contestants I’d actually like to hang out with. Telling Simon, after he said she “oversang” tonight, that she screwed up when she saw his face? Priceless. Possibly the best retort ever by an “Idol” contestant back to a judge. Carly, pour me a beer, let’s chat for a while. So, what’s the deal with your husband’s face tattoo?
Someone who will never get a tattoo is my favorite lil’ muppet, David Archuletta. (Elmo sing good!) Given the inspirational theme of this week’s show, I was a little concerned about what David might pick — I feared an “Up with People” type number was coming our way. But luckily, he chose a beautiful song — Robbie Williams’ “Angels” — and delivered a mature, lovely performance at the piano. (Simon’s comment that he was a bit nasally was way off.) Basically, I think we all just need to accept it — the kid is so adorable and talented that resistance is futile. Although, am I the only one who thinks David’s speaking voice sounds remarkably like Martin Short’s old SNL character, the Pat Sajak-obsessed Ed Grimley? Regardless, sign me up for the Elmo fan club. Just don’t let in that kid from the audience with the disturbing “Lick Those Lips” sign. Yecch.
Closing things out on this fine, fine night of “Idol” competition was Brooke White, dressed in a hideous pink and red dress, but doing a great song — Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” Accompanied by just a center-stage pianist, Brooke was good, but not great. However, she definitely emoted better than she did last week on “Jolene.” I’m guessing she can relate more to singing about friendship than she can to singing about man-stealing ho’s. Paula, who, with her dramatic updo and strapless gown, was apparently dressed for the Crazee Ball that she’d be attending after the show, commented that Brooke was “very definitive,” whatever that means. And although Simon discounted the performance by saying it was like a “pleasant walk in the park,” Brooke didn’t do her normal “it’s okay, it’s okay” routine in response. I really hate when she does that — it’s like I can hear her telling her nanny charges, “it’s okay children, the scary man with the bad haircut won’t hurt you.” Of course, when her “Idol” experience is over, I fully expect the sweet, lovely, talented Brooke to become the world’s most successful children’s performer.
Prediction: Bottom three will be Brooke, Syesha, and Kristy, with Brooke possibly leaving in a shockingly early boot. Raffi and The Wiggles better watch out, they’ve got some competition headed their way.