Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Only Sure Thing:
David Archuleta

Not that he's our cup of tea, but to look at DialIdol this morning, the rest of the guys can go home ... no one is even close to The Chosen One, er, David Archuleta. Why The Chosen One, well Simon Cowell has already predicted him the winner on Tuesday’s "Extra." Describing why he thinks Archuleta is optimum Idol, Cowell said, "He's cute. He's likeable. [He has] a big voice. He's the one to beat." He also said this about Chikezie: "He's never going to win unless the other 18 [er, that would be 19, Simon] resign."

Truth be told, he has a nice voice, but there is something about him that rubs us the wrong way, plus we can't stand that sound he makes every time he intakes a breath and you hear it in the microphone.

Of course Archuleta should sing "Imagine" with a fair amount of ease, he been performing it professionally at least since age 11.

In fact you can watch a video of him singing it at age 11:

What puzzles us is the rest of the DialIdol lineup. Last night, it made some semblance of sense (except for Michael Johns). It actually was fairly respresentative of how well -- or poorly -- each contestant sang. If memory serves, last night's order was:

1. David Archuleta
2. Michael Johns
3. David Hernandez
4. David Cook
5. Chikezie Eze
6. Luke Menard
7. Jason Yeager
8. Jason Castro
9. Danny Noriega
10. Robbie Carrico

It was a bit skewed in our opinion, but not unreasonable (our ranking, best to worst is: David Cook, David Hernandez, David Archuleta, Chikezie Eze, Luke Menard, Jason Yeager, Michael Johns, Jason Castro, Rob Carrico, Danny Noriega). But something happened overnight as the voting moved to the West Coast and, then, Hawaii (ah, the little island spoiler). Suddenly, and inexplicably, Yeager and Carrico were in the No. 2 and 3 positions respectively. No way! It was as if anyone the judges critiqued badly was getting a crapload a fan votes to keep them in. Now it looks as if Luke Menard might be sent packing tomorrow night, sadly after he gave a solid, and much improved, performance. Guess good looks will only buy you so much time. The final DialIdol order reads:

1. David Archuleta
2. Jason Yeager
3. Robbie Carrico
4. David Cook
5. David Hernandez
6. Michael Johns
7. Jason Castro
8. Chikezie Eze
9. Danny Noriega
10. Luke Menard

The only guys that have held the same positions throughout the voting were Archuleta, Cook and Noriega. It seems a safe bet that Noriega is leaving. But who will accompany him? Menard? Eze? Castro? We're betting that Castro is safe.

This week the contestants are singing songs from the '70s (and next week from the '80s, or so we hear). Overall, they fared better with this decade than with the '60s. Each contestant also had to tell us something we didn't know about them in their video intro. We normally glaze over through these videos. Really don't care that much that Michael Johns is a jock or that David Cook is a "word nerd," but we guess the rest of the world does.

First up was Michael Johns. What we don't know about him: he loves playing tennis. We had relistened to the audio only of last week's performance and decided he had a decent voice and presentation. What turns us off about him is his air of self-assurance, which comes across, to us at least, as verging on arrogance. So we were surprised by his weak performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." Perhaps he was trying to imitate Lindsay Buckingham, but the vibrato in his voice was really annoying. Randy Jackson called it a nice way to start off, but that it started a little slow for him and that he was waiting for Johns to let go. Paula Abdul called him consistent and a seasoned performer and said it was a great way to start the show (er, no, it wasn't). For our money, Simon Cowell was spot on when he said it was by far Johns weakest performance of the whole competition, adding "It was what I call coasting along ... There was no moment. It was a very weak choice of song for you."

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "Go Your Own Way":

Last week, we were far less impressed than the judges with Jason Castro 's performance, so we weren't surprised that he was even weaker this week. After an incredibly stupid video that told us he hates doing inteviews (good luck with superstardom, dude), he sang Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" ... and wasn't. Once again, he used his guitar, making it increasingly obvious that he is leaning on it because his voice ain't all that and a bag of chips. Randy told him the vocals weren't that great (they weren't last week, either) and that it sounded kinda karaoke. Paula told Randy, "I don't think it was as bad as you heard," (er, yeah, it was), that Jason made a clever song choice, that she liked the way he interpreted it, but that he should lose the guitar next week and "Allow yourself to be more vulnerable as an artist." Thankfully, Simon told him the song was horrible and schmaltzy (Simon knows a Yiddish word!?!), that it didn't suit Jason's voice and that the vocals were very weak.

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "I Just Want To Be Your Everything":

We learned (well, we didn't, we knew it already) that Luke Menard is a member of the a cappella group Take 6. We were pleasantly surprised -- even if America wasn't -- to see him come back strongly with a good rendition of a tough song, Queen's "Killer Queen." If was certainly one of the hardest, if not the most difficult, song selections of the evening. Luke sang it well and was much more animated than last week. It should have guaranteed him a pass to next week, but, according to those DialIdol numbers, probably won't. Perhaps because he has yet to win Simon over. Randy acknowledged the song's degree of difficulty and told Luke he liked him better this week. Paula agreed, telling Luke he picked the perfect song and that it was a great week for him. Simon, in one of those moments he's having this season when he seems to hearing something different than the rest of us, said, "I'm going to judge that performance and I think it was a mistake." Cowell said with a song like that, you are always going to be judged with the original and that the singer of that song (Freddie Mercury) had charisma and personality and Luke didn't, making him suffer by comparison. He also called it "a bit theatrical and verging on the whiny." But how did you really feel, Simon?

Watch video of Luke Menard singing "Killer Queen":

We discovered that Robbie Carrico likes to drag race, and don't doubt that his video segment added to his allure with both guys and gals. Unfortunately, his singing this week didn't. We were excited to hear the opening chords of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded," but the performance was more like an anemic lizard. It just lacked pizzazz and was, well, boring. He's proving what the judges are saying about him not being a true rocker, regardless of his saying that there are all different kinds of rock and apparently he's just not within Simon's vision of what a rocker should be. Nope, sorry, Robbie, you're more of a boy-band singer, and would probably do better sticking to that genre. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Randy told him "I don't know if the rock thing is really, really your thing," and although Robbie did a pretty good job with the song, Jackson was waiting for a "wow" moment that never came. Paula said that in some ways he played it a little safe and that he has to up the ante. Sounding as if he just wanted to be contrary to whatever the other two were saying Tuesday night, Simon told Carrico, "I thought the vocal was okay tonight."

Watch video of Robbie Carrico singing "Hot Blooded":

Danny Noriega used to be in a punk rock band when he was in the 9th grade (was that last week?). Are you really surprised that even then Danny was doing anything he could to bring attention to himself. His personality grates more with each passing week, and judging from the DialIdol results, more than just "some people weren't liking it." The difference between him and Sanjaya, is that the latter was seen as vulnerable in the beginning. endearing him to young girls and adults who wanted to mother him. Danny showed some of that vulnerability during the judging segment Tuesday night, but then, *snap*, he's right back to being flamboyantly sassy. Unfortunately, his singing was the worst of the evening. Perhaps, as the judges noted, he was trying too hard with The Carpenters "Superstar," but he was hitting bad notes all over the place. Randy told him there were problems with the vocal and he should have sped the song up a bit. He also said, "I felt like you were thinking while you were singing ... and not just letting yourself sing." Paula agreed, saying he shouldn't overthink it and just perform. Simon, too, focused on that point, saying Danny was overconcentrating, but, on the plus side he also told him he was better than last week, stands out in a crowd (ya think?), is interesting and looks terrific on camera.

Watch video of Danny Noriega singing "Superstar":

David Hernandez was into -- and pretty good at -- gymnastics when he was young. He might have been stiff and nervous last week, but this week's performance of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" sizzled. One of the best of the evening as far as we're concerned (although we did have a sense of deja vu after seeing it performed -- twice -- on "Dance War"). Randy excitedly exclaimed that this is the David Hernandez that we fell in love with and telling us "That was hot right there." Paula loved his pure voice and said it pierces the heart and that every note was right in the pocket. She also said his personality really came out this week. Simon thought it was the best vocal of the night so far and gave him kudos for treating criticism as a challenge instead of sulking and rising to it. He then paid him the ultimate compliment, "I'm quite happy to hold my hand up and say I am a fan."

We are wondering if Vote for the Worst's allegations that David H. is gay and worked as a gay stripper will hurt (or help?) him in the competition. They write: "An interesting rumor has just surfaced that David Hernandez was a stripper in Phoenix before his time on American Idol. Obviously we're not 100% sure, but here's what we've found so far. After rumors were posted around the internet that David has a steady boyfriend of 2-3 years and that he stripped at Dick's Cabaret, we found pictures of David working at Burn, a gay nightclub that just recently closed in Phoenix. Obviously you don't wear the club's logo if you don't work there. So although we haven't found any pictures of him stripping just yet, we're still on the hunt, and the pictures we found are leading us in the right direction. We'll keep you updated." (Click on the link to see "the pictures").

Watch video of David Hernandez singing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone":

Jason Yeager tells us he is a self-taught musician (and some might say a self-taught singer). Although last night's performance of The Dobbie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" was roundly trashed by the judges, we kinda liked it. We liked it A LOT better than his rendition of "Moon River." We even thought this week his voice sounded a bit like Steve Winwood's. We liked its tone, we liked his enthusiasm, we liked the performances. The judges felt otherwise. Randy told Jason, "I don't think you did yourself any justice with that song," and called it very pitchy and karaoke, saying "I didn't really get it." Paula, fumbling over herself trying to kindly criticize Jason, finally said, "It's a song that has not many notes in it that doesn't show your vocal range," and that Jason should pick singer's songs. Simon, never at a loss of words to put someone down, told Jason that last week he was boring and this week he was awkward and ordinary. He also hated what he called, "that horrific ending," saying "It was like you were drunk at a party" (ah, the Taylor Hicks' critique) and Jason was "a quite good singer who can't perform very well, so I'm very disappointed." Worse yet for Yeager, Ryan Seacrest had to engage him in that pointless post-performance banter which went on and on, leading Simon to say, they needed Oscar music to cut the finalists off. Hey, it wasn't Jason's fault.

Watch video of Jason Yeager singing "Long Train Runnin' ":

We learned from Chikezie that his name is Nigerian, what it means -- something well-created by God -- and how to pronounce it, but he knows it'll always be mispronounced, so he just goes with the flow. He, too, gave a much improved and enjoyable performance this week, singing Donny Hathaway's "I Believe to My Soul." Like Elliott Yamin, he introduced us to Hathaway's daughter, one of the show's backup singers. Everything about the performance reminded us of why we loved Chikezie going into the semifinals. Things were going swimmingly, that is, until he opened his Big Mouth -- again! -- to Simon. Man, he needs a leash on his lips. Randy told America, Chikezie is back and this is the guy we fell in love with, adding "That was blazing, you were having fun, you were singing at ease, at will, you didn't care what was going on. That was hot." Paula called it brilliant fun. Simon, again about to screw up Chikezie's name, said, "I'm gonna call you Chi," then paid him homage with "You look better. You sounded better. I thought it was a very clever choice of song. It was a million times better than last week." Then Simon asked if Chikezie hadn't agreed with Cowell's criticism after watching last week's show back. Chikezie went into a good-hearted rant about his orange suit and how he didn't agree with Simon at all about it. Simon asked him, "Would you wear it again?" and Chikezie answered, "I wore it on TV, I can't wear it twice, you can't do a replay, only you do that!" The audience went wild and Chikezie immediately started backpedalling with, "Oooh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry ..." Funny for us Chikezie, lethal for you? The DialIdol numbers look real scary this morning.

Watch video of Chikezie singing "I Believe to My Soul":

David Cook reveals that he's a "word nerd." He loves doing word puzzles, crosswords and word searches, he's a vocab guy, i.e. the guy's not only got a voice, but a brain as well. Yes, we still hate his hair (but love that accompanied himself on guitar), but he rocked the house Tuesday night with "All Right Now" by Free. It was our favorite performance of the night (he, in fact, sounds better than Free does on our iPod), and David C. proved he's the true male rocker of Season 7. Michael Johns and Rob Carrico pale by comparison. He's the real deal (even flipping him guitar pick out to the crowd after the performance), and not afraid to admit he's a vocab guy, to boot. Randy agreed, saying "To me you're our real rocker from the boys this year. I actually really, really liked that." Paula called him the real deal and said it was very smart, very fun. Simon, of course, didn't totally agree, saying it was solid and sort of believable, but adding that his intro video didn't help him any -- "tennis, drag racing, to crosswords, it's boring." (Did he think Jason Castro's incoherent one helped him?). He then told David C. he didn't have a lot of charisma. David C stupidly cut Simon off, and told him, "Fortunately, I don't have to win you over with my charisma, I've got to win these people over." Simon's smile literally morphed into a look of shock at the comment.

Cowell then tersely answered, "David, I think I know, by now, the rules of this competition." He went on to say that it was his opinion, and that he didn't think the film helped David C. Randy and Paula tried to deflate the moment, but it was tense. Hopefully, David C. doesn't come to regret his mouth, even if his sentiment was correct.

Watch video of David Cook singing "All Right Now":

Last up was David Archuleta, who revealed what the rest of the world has known for months, that when he was 11, he got to meet, and sing for, Kelly Clarkson and the other Season 1 Idols.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing for Kelly Clarkson:

We suppose that probably gives him the automatic right to inherit the throne. No point going into our opinion of his rendering of John Lennon's "Imagine." You either love or hate David A., and we're on the side of the devil on this one. Even though his voice doesn't come close to the purity of David A's, we actually preferred Blake Lewis' performance of the same song last season. We felt it had more understanding of the lyrics. But, so it goes. David's tongue bath by the judges included these comments: Randy: "That's one of the best vocals I've ever heard on this show. You're singing with such maturity way beyond your years... You were born to do exactly what you're doing there. That was brilliant." Paula: "David, you are ridiculous. I want to squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rear-view mirror ... That was one of the most moving performances I have ever heard. You're destined for superstardom."; Simon: "Right now, you're the one to beat and there are nineteen very miserable contestants sitting here tonight ... after that."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Imagine":


From JoesPlace. More than likely accurate, considering the source.

1. Carly Smithson – "Crazy on You" by Heart
2. Syesha Mercado – "Me and Mr. Jones" (changed from Mrs. to Mr.) by Billy Paul
3. Brooke White – "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon
4. Ramiele Malubay – "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston
5. Kristy Lee Cook – "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt
6. Amanda Overmyer – "Carry on My Wayward Son" by Kansas
7. Alaina Whitaker – "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by Olivia Newton-John
8. Alexandrea Lushington – "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago
9. Kady Malloy – "Magic Man" by Heart
10. Asia’h Epperson – "All by Myself" by Celine Dion

Which brings up some questions: Why have last week's and this week's performance shows been pretaped instead of airing live? Also, we've heard that the contestants have been given a paltry selection of approximately 50 songs each of the two weeks (so much for "you've got a whole decade to pick from," Simon). Some believe the reason the contestants are receiving such a short list of choices is that the deal with iTunes to carry the contestants' recordings dictated that they select songs that would be cheap and easy to clear.

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