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.