Saturday, March 29, 2008

More Idol Videos

Watch Part 1 video of Chikezie interview on "American Idol Extra"

Watch Part 2 video of Chikezie interview on "American Idol Extra"

Watch video of Kellie Pickler performing "Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You" at the Grand Ole Opry:

Watch video of Kellie Pickler performing "Things that Never Cross a Man’s Mind" at the Grand Ole Opry:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 10 Results Show

Bottom Three:
Chikezie ("If Only for One Night")
Syesha Mercado ("If I Were Your Woman")
Jason Castro ("Fragile")

Eliminated: Chikezie

Watch video of Chikezie elimination journey:

When Ryan Seacrest introduced the Top 10, he coyly stopped by Jason Castro and then between Chikezie and Syesha Mercado. This is the third time in as many weeks that we've noticed a "tell" on the results show, either indicating the Bottom 3 or the contestant who was about to be eliminated. Last week, Amanda Overmyer was the only girl missing in the medley chain as the girls stood onstage to sing "Here, There and Everywhere," showcasing one after another. Amanda only appeared later on the left rear side of the couch as they finished the song. Her "solo" came after that, she sang: "And in the end the love you take ... ." Watch video.

The week before, the Top 12 were each individually shown in fast succession during a video segment on the "Horton Hears a Who" premiere. The last contestant was David Hernandez but, as they got to him, the film dissolved into a digitized blur and you never saw his face (at about 1 min 10 sec. into the video) Watch it. Interesting. Are the producers intentionally playing games to tip us off before the actual results are announced?

Back to last night. Next was the the group medley, Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From." We must admit, this season's contestants sound great together compared to contestants from seasons past, when some of the medleys were actually painful to listen to.

Watch video of Top 10 group medley, "Right Back Where We Started From":

We also saw footage of how the finalists go into the studio each week and record full-length versions of their shortened show performances that are for sale on iTunes.

Watch video of finalists recording in the studio:

The eliminations began and Chikezie, the first contestant onstage, was told to take a stool. Uh-oh. Next cames Brooke, who, of course, was safe and then Carly, who dispelled the pregnancy rumors that began swirling earlier this week. We had deja vu of Katharine McPhee needing to do the same thing two years ago after wearing loose-fitting tops a few weeks in a row. Carly was told to head for the couch, the stage safety zone.

The week's Ford commercial was sung to "I Want You to Want Me," with graphics of the contestants on T-shirts, posters and CD Cases becoming animated. Cute, but it's still just a commercial.

Watch video of the Ford commercial, "I Want You to Want Me":

David Archuleta joined Ryan and said maybe Simon Cowell thought his performance was theme park-like because he was having so much fun he got a bit carried away. Uh, no, David, that wouldn't be the reason. He also said that he didn't understand why Simon didn't think he chose his own song. Uh, that would be because your father did, David. Anyway, he was safe, as we all knew he would be. David Cook, too (a no-brainer). Ryan told Cook he spoke with Chris Cornell, who loved David's version of Chris' version of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Got it? Ryan told Syesha Mercado that Randy and Paula loved her the night before, but America didn't, and she's in the Bottom 3. Michael Johns, however, found safety on the couch.

It was then time for more fluff, the stupid caller Q&A's, though we have to admit when they are directed at Simon he usually makes them funny. One caller asked Simon what she would have to do to get Ryan's job. He told her, "The good news is, you don't need a lot of talent. So there's a chance for everyone." Another caller asked Cowell if he thought he's the best-looking person on the show and why. Simon told her, "It's not what I say, it's what other people say." Paula banged her head against the judges' table on that one.

We also learned that if she could do a duet with anyone, Brooke would pick John Mayer, that Chikezie is "very single," and, once, again that David Archuleta chose his own song Tuesday night. Hmmm, why do they think they need to keep telling us that over and over again?

Watch video of caller Q&A:

Next up was Season 2 third-place finisher Kimberley Locke, first introduced in a video where she talked about her post-"Idol" life, including her single "Eighth World Wonder," the restaurant she opened, Croton Creek steakhouse and wine bar, in Croton Falls, N.Y., and how she's lost 40 pounds in the past year. She sang her new single, "Fall," a pleasant, if rapidly forgettable, song. But compared to her Idol days, she looked spectacular. The dress Locke wore on the show, designed by Bravo "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano (see photo above), is being auctioned off for charity here.

Watch video of Kimberley Locke singing "Fall":

Of course, there was the obligatory pimping of the upcoming "Idol Gives Back," begathon, focusing on how last year's contributions benefitted people in the United States. The guest list now includes Robin Williams, Celine Dion, Forest Whitaker, Billy Crystal, Dane Cook, Kiefer Sutherland, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Jennifer Connolly, Elliott Yamin, Fantasia, Amy Adams, Bono, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Fergie, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Annie Lennox, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Maroon 5, Heart and Gloria Estefan.

Tickets are currently on sale to the general public. The event will tape at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, April 6. For more information, click here.

Watch video of "Idol Gives Back" pimping:

Back to the results and Ramiele Malubay, who was, surprisingly, safe. At that point we were surer than sure that Kristy Lee Cook, too, would be safe and slacker Jason Castro would be joining Syesha and Chikezie in the Bottom 3. We were right. Jason told Ryan he expected something because he hadn't been out onstage this late before and that he was prepared for it. Well, duh, if you're coming out as the last two contestants it's a 50-50 chance you're in the Bottom 3. That's not exactly rocket science, Stoner Boy. But Ryan let him off the hook entirely too quickly, much to our annoyance. Syesha, too, was declared safe and Chikezie sang his way out beautifully.

Next week it's country music as the Top 9 sing the songs of guest mentor Dolly Parton.

And we're predicting right now that Kristy Lee Cook will be eliminated next Wednesday.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Idol Top 10 Perform:
Birthday Bliss

Well, aren't we pleasantly red in the face! We laughed and made jokes all season every time Ryan Seacrest intoned the words that this was the most talented group of contestants EVAH, because they seemed just like every other group of contestants EVAH. But we must sheepishly admit that there wasn't a bad performance on last night's show, on which each of the Top 10 sang a song chosen from the year of his or her birth.

Sure, there were stronger performances and weaker performances, but not a true clunker among them. Not even from perpetually awful Kristy Lee Cook, whose savvy choice of an über patriotic song will not only keep her from being eliminated (once again), but, we predict, also keep her out of the Bottom 3. Dang, she even sang it well and showed some emotion for a change. Obviously someone has taught this girl how to play the game since last week. Not that we're crazy about the ploy. It's certainly not the reason she should stay in the contest. But it's a tactic Kristy Lee has used before. Take a look at the video for the title song "Devoted" from her independently released CD. It plays off the same patriotic principle. But what does it also say about her that a Confederate flag is prominantly featured on a back wall (about 50 seconds in), a detail that was digitally erased from the "official" video on the Web site selling her CD? Patriotic or racist? Or nothing at all? You be the judge.

Starting off the evening was probably not the optimum position for Ramiele Malubay to find herself in, partially because the viewing audience tends to forget you after 90 minutes and partially because it was one of those weaker performances last night. Not that Ramiele wasn't trying hard to counter the negative reviews she's received ever since her stunning rendition of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" on Week 1 gave her front-runner status. Since that time she's been in a downward spiral. Last night she probably was trying too hard with Heart's "Alone." Because Carly Smithson sang it earlier (and better) this season, and because everyone still has Carrie Underwood's amazing version burned into their brains, it was a poor song choice. She was pitchy throughout and by the end of the song her power vocals turned into screaming. She might have done better with Whitney's Houston's "Didn't We Almost Have It All," a song title that might sadly prove prophetic for her tonight when she'll almost certainly land in the Bottom 3 and possibly get eliminated.

Randy Jackson, who seemed to be cranky about most of the performances Tuesday night, said the it wasn't the right song and was a little too big for Ramiele. He also noted that it was a little pitchy and all over the place. Paula Abdul revealed that Ramiele was having trouble with her voice this week, saying, "I'm really glad America's heard you sing and how big your voice is. People don't know you barely have a voice right now ... I give you a tremendous amount of credit ... for doing what you did because you're really sick." She added that she hoped Ramiele would stay in the competition because "you're a very big talent in a little small package." Surprisingly, Simon Cowell said, "I didn't think it was as bad as Randy said," and that the first part of the song was OK. "In the middle it all got a bit shrieky and shouty (we agree). He predicted that, "After what you sang last week, which I thought was appalling and you managed to survive, then you're gonna get through on that performance. No question about it." He could be right.

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "Alone":

Also giving a lackluster performance and deserving Bottom 3 status was Jason Castro, who chose to accompany himself on acoustic guitar for Sting's "Fragile." Although not terrible, the whole thing was so casual and forgettable that it reminded us of sitting in a coffee house chatting with friends while someone played guitar and sang in the background. And that's what it was -- background noise. We were bored. Castro can coast by on his cute looks, dreds, baby blues and stoner affect for only so long. Sooner or later he'll have to produce another winner like his "Hallelujah," or he'll find himself gone.

Randy said the song was one of his favorites and a good choice, but that Jason didn't do anything different with it vocally. "I'm still waiting to see that jump-out vocal performance," Jackson said. Paula told Castro he was staying true to who he was, but "I don't think we saw anything different that makes us go 'Wow, Jason did something different.' " Simon told Jason that he's had two bad weeks and needs to start taking the competition a bit more seriously. "That was the equivalent of someone busking outside the subway station," he said, adding, "The way that you played the guitar on the track was clumsy. Everything about it was too laid back, too much in your own world ... you're not gonna win if you keep doing that week after week."

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Fragile":

Syesha Mercado upped her game last week with a poignant version of "Yesterday," and tried to keep the ball rolling with the Stephanie Mills version of "If I Were Your Woman." Compared to the first two performers, the vocals seemed spot-on and stunning, including the money notes, although there was nothing about the performance overall that got us excited. And that is Syesha's main challenge. She has this great instrument, comes across warmly in videos, but, like Kady Malloy, usually fails to connect emotionally with the audience. For us, she is reminiscent of LaToya London from Season 3. But the performance was probably strong enough to keep her safe from Bottom 3 status.

Randy said, "I think this is the best I've ever heard you sing ... the best you've ever sounded," excitedly adding, "I think it was stellar, I think it was unbelievable, I'm shocked, I'm loving it, yes! Yes! We've got another competitor in the competition ... Blazing hot!" Uh, but did you like it, Randy? Paula said, "This is going to be the moment that everyone remembers where Syesha flipped it and became the dark horse who's going to sail on through. You were fantastic ... It was brilliant." Um, but did you like it, Paula? Simon said, "It was definitely the best so far," but tempered it with, "I think there is a limit on your vocal and I think that song stretched it." Frankly, we did't think the performance was quite as memorable as Randy and Paula did. Strong, yes, but not an "Idol" moment. That came for two other performers later in the evening.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "If I Were Your Woman":

Poor Chikezie. He's had two strong weeks. Now, when he tried to flip the music back to his real comfort zone, R&B crooning, he got a bit trashed by the judges and very trashed by the voters. He did a lovely, touching rendition of Luther Vandross' "If Only for One Night," and played to the mosh-pit girls like a pro, but apparently America would rather see him turn "I've Just Seen a Face" into a country song than listen to him croon to their hearts and souls. Personally, we think Chikezie was born to do this type of music. But we seem to be in a majority of one. He'll no doubt fall into the Bottom 3 and is in serious danger of hearing another R&B crooner, Ruben Studdard, sing him home with the series' exit song.

Randy said the performance was very old school and that he didn't love it. It wasn't hip and cool and wasn't the vibe he loves. "It was just alright for me." Paula disagreed, saying it was a good throwback and that she thought Chikezie did a great job and did amazing with the texture of his vocals. "You're a really great singer," she said. Simon said, "I think you sang it well. Having said that, I thought the performance actually was very cheesy."

Watch video of Chikezie singing "If Only for One Night":

Next up was Brooke White, perhaps the most telegenic contestant the show has ever had. Last week, she stumbled badly with "Here Comes the Sun," dressed like a banana. This week, she returned to her strength, accompanying herself on piano and employing her stunningly clear vocals on The Police's "Every Breath You Take," a creepy stalker-ish song. We like her Carly Simon-ish (one more "ish" and we'll turn into Danny Noriega) voice and the performance was strong, down to her restart after she hit a bad note at the beginning of the song. In fact, this misstep endeared her to the judges even more. (Wow, who knew it could be good to be bad?) And, unlike Jason Castro, when Brooke performs acoustically, it sounds more like a fine concert performance than a coffee-house affair. Still, there is something about Brooke that we don't buy 100%. She plays the "Idol" game so well, and seems so sincere, that it almost plays fake to us. But we just can't quite put a finger on it.

Randy thought the front part of the song was pretty good and liked that Brooke restarted it when she realized the first note was wrong. But he didn't like the band coming in or the arrangement during the middle of the song. "I was waiting for something else different to happen. I almost would have loved it if you would have just stayed without the band and made it more interesting on your own. It was just okay for me." Paula said, "I enjoyed this performance so much more than last week's," and called Brooke consistent. Simon said, "I totally agree with Randy, which is if you'd have just stayed you on the piano that actually would have sounded much more cool. The minute it picked up tempo and the band joined in it made it very old-fashioned," adding, "But, better than last week."

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Every Breath You Take":

Because Michael Johns had told at the Top 12 party that he couldn't wait for this theme week and, in answer to another question, that he couldn't wait to sing another Queen song, this time with the band, we did a little research, put 2+2 together and correctly predicted in advance to our household that he would sing "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions," the only Queen song that made the Billboard 100 the year Michaels was born, 1978. And this week was worth the wait. For Johns, it was his defining moment on the series. What he'd fail to deliver previously onstage -- getting and holding the audience in the palm of his hand -- he accomplished brilliantly last night. It's a great anthem song that people relate to anyway, and although pitchy in spots, he sang it strongly and with great command. The applause was thunderous and neverending. One of those "moments" when Randy tries to critique but has to wait for the applause to die down.

Randy said, "Finally, you believe in yourself and you use that big old voice you got ... That was the best performance, for me, since you've been on this show." Paula added, "For any time that any one of us have every said you haven't found your right song, well we can shut our mouths on this one. This is your ... shining moment and I'm so proud of you ... It was fantastic." And for Simon, "This is the first time with you I saw star potential, because you just got it right ... You look like a front person, you were confident, you performed well. For me, it was the only memorable performance of the night so far." Ah, but more was to come.

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions":

As most of our readers know, we are also a fan of Carly Smithson, love the tone of her voice and will go out and buy her sophomore CD unheard. We know we'll like it. Unlike others, we have no problem looking past the tattoos and her oddly shaped mouth and teeth to get to her true asset. We were excited to see that she was going to sing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," another favoite of ours. And we weren't disappointed. She did a beautiful job, accompanied by the "Idol" backup singers, on the song. We loved everything except the final overdramatic, overplayed on-her-knees note, which actually ruined an otherwise wonderful performance. The judges, however, didn't agree with us.

Randy said, "I didn't love it. I liked it ... I didn't like the note at the end (agreed!), it went a little sharp (and overdramatic!). I think that wasn't quite the right song for you, it was just okay for me." Paula told her, "What I so admire about you is you probably can take every song I'm not crazy about ... and make me go buy it. I loved what you did at the end (ugh!) because that's showing me that you're ... willing to go and stretch yourself into areas that you haven't shown us." For Simon, "Something didn't quite work, and I think it was because you were so tense and almost uptight during the performance that I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I was going to." He added, "I think parts of the song you sang very well, but ... something didn't quite work there ... I think you've got to just lighten up a little bit." We sensed no tension at all from Carly during the performance and did't quite get what Simon meant.

Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart":

If DialIdol is accurate, David Archuleta deservedly got knocked off of his No. 1 perch in the rankings for the first time for his rendition of Australian John Farnham's "You're the Voice." It was a decidely strange choice and one we're sure David didn't make for himself. We smell a rat here, either his father, or perhaps even the producers, as this was a song that David Foster has also recorded, and we'd bet our bottom dollar that Foster is salivating to add Archuleta to his stable of singers. Archuleta sang the up-tempo tune OK, but as Simon so correctly pointed out, it sounded like something you'd hear being sung at Disney World. And there definitely was no connection with the audience on this one. It's also noteworthy that even though others are using earpieces during the competition, it sticks out like a sore thumb on Archuleta, to the point of distracting attention away from his singing.

Randy said it was a strange song choice but proved that David can sing whatever he wanted. "It was still very nice. I don't know the song, but very nice." Paula, gushing over the kid whose head she'd like to pluck off and squeeze, said, "I think all of us were kind of trying to figure that out ... David you can sing the phone book and we'd fall in love with it." Simon, much more in tune with our feeling, said, "I'm going to be honest with you, and this is not going to make me very popular, I actually didn't like the performance at all. I thought it was actually reminiscent of a theme park performance ... It's one of those ghastly songs you sing when you've got like animated creatures with you and everyone joins in together. That's what it reminds me of. I don't think that is you at all, and I'd be amazed if you chose the song yourself because it's not you." Amen, brother.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "You're the Voice":

The surprise of the evening was Kristy Lee Cook, not because the performance was great (though it was certainly decent and much better than her previous efforts), but because her song choice guaranteed her another week in the competition. When we saw the spoiler that said she would be singing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," we groaned. We groaned because we could already envision the flapping American flag on the screen behind her and, surprise! there it was as soon as she started. She also exhibited a passion for the first time as she sang. Why all she needed were the Bush twins backing her up on the vocals. It was sickening and brilliant all at once. Although Kristy Lee did prove that she can be a decent singer with the right song. So far, it's been limited to "Amazing Grace" and this one. But if she makes it to country week, she could shine.

Randy called it a great song choice and said that other than some little pitchy spots in the middle he thought it was a very nice performance. Paula called it a very poignant and respectful song and a very good choice, but added, "I've seen better performances from you (when?!!!), but your voice is sounding much stronger. Watch the pitch problems, but you're growing." Simon cannily said what we were all thinking, "You're best performance by a mile, I think. That was the most clever song choice I have heard in years ... Overall, a good performance and that's going to keep you in the competition."

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "God Bless the USA":

Up to this point, we were feeling a bit badly for Michael Johns, thinking that he had had his moment and it hadn't rated the "pimp" spot. That was until David Cook took the stage. This guy never fails to keep amazing us. His take on the Chris Cornell version of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was brilliant. Sadly for Cornell, a lot better than his. When we saw the spoilers, we listened to the Cornell version and thought that it was funereal and even depressing. Whether it was the shortened length, the arrangement, Cook's voice or a combination of the three, David transformed it into something truly magical. It will definitely make the record books as one of the show's truly inspired "moments." Right up there with Clay's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Fantasia's "Summertime." Who ever thought Cook could outdo his version of Lionel Richie's "Hello"? We can't wait to hear what's coming next, and literally can't wait to hear the full studio version of "Billie Jean."

Randy told David, "I think you're probably the most original, the most bold contestant we've ever had ... You might be the one to win the whole lot ... Molten hot." Paula, giving Cook a standing O, said "I'm blown away. I can't sit down. I've got to tell you how smart you are, how brave you are and how willing you are to stretch the boundaries. And you do it right to the edge without going over. I think you're brilliant and I think you can [win]." We held our breath until Simon said, "David, that was brave. It could have either been insane or amazing, and I have to tell you, it was amazing." Yea! Right on!

Watch video of the AMAZING David Cook singing "Billie Jean":

Top 3 2: David Cook, David Cook, David Cook, Michael Johns

Bottom 3: Ramiele Malubay, Jason Castro, Chikezie

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 11 Results Show

Bottom Three:
Carly Smithson ("Blackbird")
Kristy Lee Cook ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away")
Amanda Overmyer ("Back in the U.S.S.R.")

Amanda Overmyer

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer elimination:

At the top of the show, Ryan Seacrest announced this season's mentors: Dolly Parton (who just released her latest CD, "Backwoods Barbie"), Mariah Carey (whose next CD, "E=MC2," releases on April 15), Andrew Lloyd Webber (currently appearing on the BBC 1 show 'I'd Do Anything,' in which he is conducting a search for stars to take on the leads in a new production of "Oliver") and Neil Diamond (whose new album, "Home Before Dark," releases on May 6). Are you beginning to see a trend here? Got a new CD or something else to promote? Dial 1-555-IDOL-PRODUCERS.

Still, we have to give credit to "Idol's" producers for checking out our exclusive poll that ran from the middle of last season until January 2008, where we asked our readers to vote on whose songbook they wanted to see featured with that person mentoring on the show. The producers apparently weren't able to get your most popular choice, Carole King, but they were able to snag two other of your most popular choices to appear.

Here are your results:

Musically, the show gets off to an inauspicious beginning with audio problems during the Top 11 Beatles medley. First the audio starts fading while Jason Castro and David Cook sing their section of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Next Ramiele Malubay joins Brooke White for "Here, There and Everywhere," but only Brooke's microphone is working. We're beginning to think it's going to be a very long hour (and, in fact, it was. The show ran over to 62 minutes. Who knew there was that much fluffy filler in the world?)

Watch video of Top 11 Beatles Medley:

Part of the fluffy filler included not only the week's Ford commercial by the Top 11, but also a video of the making of the week's Ford commercial. Does Ford have to pay double for the ad time this week?

Watch video of Top 11 Ford commercial "Should I Stay or Should I Go":

And just when you think it can't get any fluffier -- or stupider -- we come to this year's lamest segment, the viewer call-in Q&A. Someone needs to tell the producers that this segment is even worse than last season's "Man/Woman/Child on the Street" interviews by Ryan Seacrest. Those were dazzlingly entertaining by comparison! Simon Cowell was asked why he spends so much on cars and so little on clothes, a question Cowell called "rude." Simon and Paula Abdul were asked if they would considering filming a sequel to their kiss scene from Season 2 (He says "yes," because Paula is a good kisser. Paula never got to answer). Ramiele was asked what the last song she downloaded to her iPod was (R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt") and Michael Johns was asked if his "Idol" experience has been everything he thought it would be (yes, and more. It's been very stressful). Wow! How illuminating.

Watch video of stupid viewer call-in Q&A.

We are treated to shown clips of Kellie Pickler's progression from roller-skating waitress at Sonic to post-"Idol" breast-augmented country singer. Ryan introduces the video with a snide double-entendre about how everything in her life has gotten bigger. Kellie then sings "Red High Heels," a seemingly odd choice as it was her very first release from "Small Town Girl." Currently touring with Rascal Flatts, Pickler reveals that she is working on her "sophomore" album. She looks slim, stylish, young and pretty and about a million times better than she did during her Season 6 appearance (bottom picture in blue dress). The "Idol" producers most love Kellie. Even though she finished in sixth place during Season 5, she has rated two post-"Idol" appearances, whereas Katharine McPhee, that season's runner-up, was snubbed by the show until last week.

Watch video of Kellie Pickler performing "Red High Heels":

And finally, just prior to the elimination, the show does its weekly pimp spot for this year's "Idol Gives Back" on April 9. This week it's a clip of Elliott Yamin and Fantasia in Angola distributing mosquito nets. Elliott gets all verklempt when a woman names her newborn for him. OK, it was touching and we verklempt, too. Sue us! We've also learned, though Ryan strangely didn't announce it, that Ellen DeGeneres will again be cohosting the show this year. DeGeneres will host from the Kodak Theatre with Seacrest hosting from the "Idol" stage.

The updated list of performers includes Maroon 5, Heart, Gloria Estefan, Boyz II Men, The Clark Brothers, Bono, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Fergie, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Annie Lennox, John Legend and Snoop Dogg, with many more to come. This year's event will raise awareness and funds to benefit six charities: the Children’s Defense Fund, The Global Fund, Make It Right, Malaria No More, Save The Children and the Children’s Health Fund.

Watch Elliott Yamin, Fantasia in Angola video:

Next week, the Top 10 finalists perform songs from the year they were born. On Wednesday night, Season 2 finalist Kimberley Locke will perform her new single, "Fall."

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Idol Top 11 Perform:
Don't Let Me Down

Lesson learned we hope. The next time the producers of "Idol" get the brilliant idea to repeat a theme two weeks in a row because a) The public loved week one (true, but that's wasn't the real reason) or b) They paid a friggin' fortune for the artist's songbook (much more the real reason), they need to remember this trite expression: Leave well enough alone. Ryan Seacrest may have called it a spinoff, saying that last week it was Lennon-McCartney, this week it's The Beatles, but let's call a Liverpudlian a Liverpudlian.

And whereas the performances last week -- with a few exceptions -- sparkled, this week they fell flat. There was almost a weird Sgt. Pepper-ish carnival-like atmosphere going on onstage, from the outfits costumes (especially the ladies') to the odd arrangements to the slight smugness the contestants seemed to have acquired since last they performed. The judges' critiquing period became more of a dialogue between the reviewer and the reviewee, with most of the singers answering back or explaining themselves (mainly to Simon) immediately. Although some of the contestant-to-judge comments had a bit of a Danny Noriega *snap* to them (ahem, Amanda), the singers smartly chose not to cross the line into nastiness or rudeness. Overall, the two-hour show was the worst in weeks.

First up was Amanda Overmyer, who said she chose because "Back in the U.S.S.R." because it's upbeat. Thankfully, she lost last week's "Beetlejuice" black-and-white stripped pants, looking more like a rocker in jeans and a snap-button vest. Somewhere in the past couple of weeks she has found her confidence, and unlike some of her competitors, she badly needed it. No more are her shoulders slumped and eyes downcast, looking so uncomfortable onstage that it was painful for viewers to watch. She's found her 'tude. Her raspiness suited the song well, but she was definitely pitchy and still has a lot of trouble with melody. We were conflicted about the performance. She's previously sung much better than this but her new-found cockiness makes her onstage presence more enjoyable than it's ever been. But was it good to keep her in the competition? We say her odds of being eliminated tonight are at least 50-50.

Randy Jackson called it a perfect song choice but thought it was pitchy at the beginning and gave it a 7 out of 10. Paula Abdul also said the beginning "was a little sketchy" and also mentioned Amanda's pitchiness and pointed out that her timing was off -- she was a little ahead of the beat. She also told Amanda that she'd love to see her do a vulnerable ballad at some point. Simon Cowell, saying it was what it was, called it predictable and a bit of a mess in parts, adding, "I think you've got to, at least one week, do what David [Cook] did a couple weeks ago with the Lionel Richie song, and actually do something which is a bit of a surprise. Otherwise, you are in danger of becoming a little bit boring." Amanda said, "ballads are boring," then added that she has a minute and a half to show the audience what they would see if they bought a ticket to see her. She wants them to say, "Hey, that chick looks like fun, I wanna go see that show!" The audience went wild, Amanda raised her arms triumphantly and screamed "Yeah!" Simon, laughing, answered "Amanda, your tickets aren't on sale yet, right? So we might be jumping the gun a little bit here," which led to her response, "Even if I need to sell out a local bar in Lafayette, that's all I'm saying." It was the beginning of a very tiresome trend.

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer singing "Back is the U.S.S.R.":

After last week's fiasco, if we were a bettor, we would have said that Kristy Lee Cook coming back like gangbusters because she wants to stay in the competition was a sure thing. Good thing we kept our money in our pocket. Though not nearly the disaster that her countrified "Eight Days a Week" was, her "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was tepid and immediately forgettable. Except for the money note she hit at the end, her performance had all the excitement and charisma of a three-day-old dead fish. We're sure it didn't help that, as she told us in her video, she picked the song on the basis of its title. (She hadn't heard it before.) Although her dress had a very low V-cut neckline, she kept the "girls" mostly hidden. Paula thought she never looked prettier; we thought the sparkly black dress with sheer long sleeves was horribly matronly. Paired with black cowboy boots it looked like something you'd wear to a Grand Ole Opry funeral. Who dressed this girl? But her outfit was the least of her problems. She ought to go home. She needs to go home. But will she go home? We won't bet on that, either.

Randy said the arrangement was interesting (we thought not), but that the whole song should have been a little bit more emotional, adding that it felt a little boring and a little safe. Paula agreed that it was a little safe and advised that sometimes it's better to stick to the song's original melody. She like the final high note and said, "If you could take those liberties a little more it'd be a little more interesting." Simon was deliciously cruel (sorry!), with "I think you need something like hypnosis or something, because the problem is that you're not a good performer." He then went on to compare her to "musical wallpaper" ("You notice it, but you can't remember it") and told her, "You're making no impact, apart from when you were terrible last week." (ouch!) She answered him, "Hey! Some people liked it." Answering a question by Ryan, Kristy Lee finished by saying, "hopefully I'm here next week because (turning to Simon and pointing), I can blow you out of your socks and you know it!" Uh-huh. This led to a lot of guffawing, "Whoas" by Randy and redness on both Simon's and Kristy's faces. Ryan, trying to give Kristy's call-in numbers, cracked up and said, "It's hot, turn on the air." We're not even going to touch that comment.

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away":

We hate even commenting on David Archuleta because we're so far from the mainstream on him. The more Simon idolizes and reveres him, the more we detest him. He's even beginning to look weird to us now, so much younger than his 16 years. They followed a shot of him with a shot of Michael Johns, and the age contrast was startling. Johns looked old enough to be Archuleta's father. Totally creeped us out. Archuleta did a very respectable version of Paul McCartney's "The Long and Winding Road." He didn't appear nervous like last week, forgot no lyrics. It was mellow and on pitch, and, well, boring. We wound up listening and playing with the dog rather than looking at the TV screen. Though he sings a song technically very well, he demonstrates no connection with the lyrics. Archuleta could never do "I Who Have Nothing" the way Jordin Sparks did, because he focuses on how to sing a song perfectly, not on what the lyrics are saying. Scoring him, he would get 9 on technique and 2 on emotional connection to the lyrics. Why is it that the judges never comment on that?

Randy said that David "brought the hotness back to his game," but added that he could have sung a couple runs. "So you played it a little safe. Take the liberties on joints like that. Very nice, though." Paula said, "This probably, for me, is the most exciting and wonderful performance because the purity of who you are and what your sound is is very identifiable (English translation please). And the fact that you can rise above adversity, come back strong. That challenge doesn't build character, it reveals character, and you're wonderful." Ugh! If Randy and Paula gave David his robe and sceptre, Simon placed the crown on his head with, "Last week was a complete mess. This week, I thought you were amazing ... that was a master class."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "The Long and Winding Road":

Michael Johns is a conundrum for us. There is so much good about him, but something continues to misfire every week. He was much improved this week on his connection with the audience and sang relatively well, but picked a song -- "A Day in the Life" -- that was impossible to sing in his allotted time. He tried to pick out the best pieces and meld them together. It started out OK and even the middle worked, but, for us, it all fell apart in the end and trashed the better parts of his performance. Simon has been right, week after week, telling Johns that he still hasn't found the right song to give him a "moment" on the show. At this rate, he'll be lucky to finish 7th or 8th.

Randy thought it wasn't one of Johns best performances, and (surprise!) said "I still don't think you've chosen the right song ... You can just sing and let your voice do your thing, but you haven't found that vehicle to do that yet. It wasn't one of your good ones, baby." Paula tried to excuse the flaws in Johns' performance with the earpiece that many of the contestants were using for the first time this week. She then found out that he wasn't wearing one, and quickly backpedalled with, "Now there's no excuse, you're a phenomenal performer but you've got to raise the game." Simon, never at a loss for criticism, said, "The long and short if it was, it was a mess," adding "You didn't hit the right notes, the song went all over the place." He advised Johns that "You've got to start sorting yourself out. If you want to do well in this competition, you have got to nail the song ... That was not good enough." Uh-oh. Will Johns be in the Bottom 3 this week? Well, he might have saved himself by telling Ryan that the song was dedicated to a friend of his who died last year, and it was the friend's favorite song.

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "A Day in the Life":

Brooke White has so much charisma, the camera doesn't just adore her, it makes love to her. So what does it matter it her performance is kind of sucky. And it was. Though playfully sucky and because of the aforementioned charisma really hard to hate too much. If you think about, she's far from the best singer in the competition, but then again, Madonna isn't a great singer, either. Both of them skate by, quite successfully, largely on their charisma. Dressed like a human banana, with pretty happy yellow lighting behind her, she sang "Here Comes the Sun," not accompanying herself on either piano or guitar. She did a little swaying and dancing. It was all like watching a silly grown-up in kindergarten. She readily agreed with the judges that it wasn't her best performance and that she would have preferred to sing "Let It Be" again, because she knew she couldn't top the reception she got for that number last week.

Randy said, "That performance was really awkward for me," and that Brooke never really connected to the song. "You were kind of moving awkward there ... It was not hot." Paula commented, "What was hot for me is that you can't help but smile when you watch you and listen to you sing (very true)." She also said the song showed the low notes of Brooke's voice and those low notes showed a different side of Brooke. But, Paula added, "It could have been a little more challenging." Simon cracked us up with "I just knew ... that you'd be dressed in yellow and the lighting would be yellow. I thought the performance was terrible. From the horrible dancing to the absolute lack of conviction ... It was wet. (huh?) It was forgettable. That's what it's all about: song choice." But it won't hurt Brooke. Not one bit. Partially because she has this disingenuous way of deflecting the judge's criticism by constantly interrupting them and turning it into a discussion. It might appear genuine, but it's beginning to carry the stink of premeditation. Like David Archuleta, right now she's absolutely untouchable.

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Here Comes the Sun":

We've liked David Cook since the beginning of the competition and he's by far our favorite performer. This week Simon called his performance smug and perhaps that is true. Cook needs to be careful with that (Chris Daughtry fell prey to it as well), but honestly, he has reason to be smug. For us, he's far and above the rest of the crowd. Although it will be hard to ever top his performance of "Hello" two weeks back, he again scored with his creative rendition of "Day Tripper," even employing a Voxbox to alter his voice near the end of the song. It was a clever, if unnecessary, stunt. Certainly better than Chikezie's use of the harmonica (more on that later). We feel confident that Cook will make it to the final 5 and perhaps even the final 3. We actually don't want him to win because, like Chris Daughtry, he'll make a much better album if left alone creativity, and TPTB like to interfere too much with the winner's CD. So we're hoping for a second or third place finish for David.

Randy told Cook that he kept it interesting and that listening to him was "like going to another song at a David Cook concert." Jackson added that he didn't know if it was Cook's best performance, but it was another solid performance. Paula paid him the ultimate compliment with, "There's really not much else anyone can say because you're ready to go sell records." She also remarked that he used the voice box in a very cool way and that GEICO commercials were next. (er, think he'd rather be recording than doing GEICO commercials, but the commercials probably pay better.) Simon said, "I don't think that was as good as you thought it was. You looked a bit smug throughout." He also told Cook that, "You've lost your element of surprise a little bit," calling the performance a bit predictable and saying that he didn't like that version. No, Simon, we think you just don't like anyone being more smug than you are. When Ryan asked David what he thought about Simon's criticism, Cook smartly sidestepped any wise-cracking and answered, "As Simon said, it's an opinion" and that he listens to everything the judges say and tries to work on it.

Watch video of David Cook singing "Day Tripper":

Although many people don't care for her, for our money Carly Smithson has never given a bad vocal performance. We loved her arrangement and vocals on "Blackbird," one of the evening's top three performances. We did have issues with that incredibly ugly blouse with the red rose ruffle neckline. Wearing more makeup again and with the tattoos, the combined effect of adding in the rose ruffle made her look like, well, a clown. It was very distracting trying to listen to her while having to look at that stylist's nightmare.

Randy called it another great performance and said it was very controlled. He proclaimed it "cooliosis!" Paula told Carly that she had an amazing tone to her voice and that the arrangement was beautiful. We kind of cringed when she added, You stand right in there with a capital F, for fantastic." We wondered where that one was going for a second. Simon, who has been hating on Carly on and off for weeks, said, "I thought the song was indulgent. I didn't like the song at all." Carly then cut off his critique with her explanation of why she chose the song, saying she related to the lyrics because they reminded her of all the contestants who have been struggling to make it in the recording industry, getting beaten down but forging ahead anyway. Simon answered, "Carly, well now you've made me feel very uncomfortable, because I now think that you're all broken birds." She explained, "No, we're not anymore, but we were." "You're now free?" he asked. "Yeah, I'm able to sing," she said. "OK," he answered. Oh Puleeze, no more, we begged.

Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "Blackbird":

The only time Jason Castro should open his mouth is to sing. And last night he should have kept it closed even for that. With his stoner speech and apparent lack of intellect, he's beginning to make Kellie Pickler (tonight's guest performer, BTW), look smart. It would be like a meeting of the nonminds if the two of them chat after the show. Combined together they're not smarter than a fifth grader. Castro chose "Michelle," then told us that he didn't know "ma belle" was French. He thought it was "my bell." Uh-huh. Enuf said. His rendition was almost comical. It started out OK, but as the song progressed it became sing-songy and ridiculous. It's hard to imagine that just a couple of weeks ago he sang "Hallelujah" so hauntingly.

Randy said it was "I don't know if I really, really got it. It was just alright for me. I didn't feel like you were really connected with it." Paula added, "I feel like you get a little disconnected when you're away from your guitar. It was a little uncomfortable for me. It was an intimate song that became more like a polka." Simon, saying he didn't think it was such a good idea to do The beatles two weeks in a row (ya think?), added "This is all getting a little bit strange. Where you're lucky is this is a TV show and not a radio show, because your face sold that. What you have, Jason, and I like you a lot, is that you're very charming and you're not obnoxious. And it's your kind of goofiness that makes it work. Because if I just listening to that French-English version of the song on the radio, it would be [turning his hand as if it were on a dial] off."

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Michelle":

Well, finally! We've loved Syesha Mercado since hearing her sing Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" during Hollywood week, but she has failed to really impress ever since. She took falling into the Bottom 3 last week as a challenge to up her game, and up it she did. The potential to blow a song as well-known and frequently covered as "Yesterday" was huge. And yet, she pulled it off, giving an emotionally touching performance, mostly subdued and underplayed with a few money notes. It probably didn't hurt that she brought out the "girls" for this performance. Her dress absolutely accentuated her assets, but it was a beautiful dress and she looked the prettiest we've ever seen her look. She was hot all around.

Randy said that she took some liberties, worked on the melody and changed some things around a little bit. "In my estimation, very, very good performance tonight," he concluded. Paula said that it was great to see how Syesha let herself be very vulnerable and that "The only thing I would work on is connecting more with your eyes and really connecting with the audience. Other than that, you've got a beautiful instrument." Simon helped her with, "I thought that was probably your best performance so far. It wasn't incredible, but you chose the best song. You chose the song Brooke should have sung ... I thought you sold the song very, very well. I think that song and that performance should keep you in this competition." Yea!

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Yesterday":

Another long-time favorite of ours who faltered terribly at the beginning of the competition is Chikezie. But the past few weeks he has been a wonderful surprise, showing creative versatility with his song choices and arrangements. Whereas Kristy Lee Cook was a disaster trying to turn "Eight Day a Week" into a country song, Chikezie's country version of "I've Just Seen a Face" was a ridiculously pleasant success that started out slow then built up speed. Except for the harmonica playing. Oh, yes, that. You see, Chikezie never played the harmonica before this week, but feeling pressured to perform instrumentally like some of the other contestants, he tried to do a Taylor Hicks on his song. It not only didn't work well, it almost ruined it. Gimmicks should be left in the dressing room unless they both add something to the song and can be pulled off successfully. Chikezie's harmonica playing did neither. Dressed nattily in jeans and a brown jacket, we didn't miss that the shirt under the jacket was the same orange as the suit that Simon hated. Good thing Cowell didn't notice it.

Randy said, "It sounded like it could make a good country song. I liked it when it went to the fast part. The slow part I didn't quite get, but you need all that up-tempo stuff to use all that energy you got, so I like that. The harmonica was a very weird strange arrangement." Paula said, "I disagree. I think you're showing who you are." She said when he sang it was pure, on pitch and beautiful, and then he showed a whole different side of himself. Simon felt "It started off okay and then you played the harmonica which was, literally atrocious, and then it turned into "Achy Breaky Heart" at the end ... I actually thought it was ... gimmicky." Yes, it was.

Watch video of Chikezie singing "I've Just Seen a Face":

Last up, in what no longer can rightly be called the "pimp" spot -- because the performances more often suck than don't -- was Ramiele Malubay, whose light was shining brightly at the beginning of the season but has been slowly dimming ever since. Fortunately she is very cute, or she might have been gone by now. Which is really a shame, as she has proved on more than one occasion that she has an incredible vocal instrument. She really didn't impress much "I Should Have Known Better," not a great song for a solo. It sounds much better sung by a group. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't anything to care much about. The only thing we remembered about the performance this morning was that she looked cute in the hat. And she won't win the competition on that.

Randy said he wasn't jumping up and down, that she showed that confidence he knows is in there, that is was just alright. Paula proclaimed it "Definitely better than last week (actually we liked her better last week). There is something about your voice when you sing ballads that allows you to really show your range. I want very much for you to get back in that zone ... and show people what you got and pick the right song." Simon added, "I like you a lot. You've got a fantastic personality. You're lots of fun. The track sounded terrible. It sounded very amateurish, the whole thing." He also said she chose a mediocre song that didn't show the best of her ability, "so it is what it is."

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "I Should Have Known Better":

Top 3 performances: David Cook, Syesha Mercado, Carly Smithson
Bottom 3 performances: Kristy Lee Cook, Amanda Overmyer, Ramiele Malubay

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© 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 12 Results Show

Bottom Three:
Syesha Mercado
("Got to Get You Into My Life")
Kristy Lee Cook ("Eight Days a Week")
David Hernandez ("I Saw Her Standing There")

David Hernandez

Watch video of the David Hernandez elimination:

Also on the elimination show, the Top 12 medley tribute to Lennon-McCartney songs.

Watch video of the Top 12 Lennon-McCartney medley:

There was a way overdone plug from Jim Carrey for Fox's "Horton Hears a Who." It began with Carrey in the audience dressed in an elephant suit and continued throughout the show, including him sitting on the bleachers with the 12 finalists regretting that he had "done the REO Speedwagon thing." *ugh* It's bad enough we have to sit through these hyper-extended results shows because Fox has no programming due to the writers' strike and "Idol's" producers are too greedy to refuse every dollar or minute of airtime they can grab. But how many of these unfunny Fox cross-promotional pieces of crap of we going to have to watch before the season finale in May?

This week's Ford commercial was done to the song "The Distance," and featured a political campaign scenario. After all, for the first time in years, the presidential race is the hottest thing other than "Idol."

Watch video of the Top 12 Ford commercial set to "The Distance":

There was the totally useless and stupid home-viewer question segment, where Ryan Seacrest selects from a group of prescreened viewers who get to ask their queries *live* on the air. Who cares? Not us. Just another piece of fluff filler. Dumb questions: To Jason Castro, "If Jason could be any 'American Idol' judge, which would he want to be?" Dumb answers, Jason in stoner mode sounding like Goofy, "g-ha, g-ha, that's kinda a hard one, um, but, I think ... maybe I'm the most unlike Paula, I guess, because she's a girl ... maybe wear some of like Randy's shoes with a nice V-neck like Simon. I dunno." Oh, puleeeeze! On their Web site, The Vote for the Worst folks are encouraging their followers to try to get on as a plant. Now, at least that would be entertaining.

Watch video of the viewer question-and-answer segment:

After being ignored all last year by the series that thrust her into our faces, Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee returned as a guest performer. In keeping with the Lennon-McCartney theme, she sang "Something," accompanied on piano by her musical pimp David Foster, who was already drooling over her during Season 5. If we were Kat Pee's fiance we'd check out what was going on between those two. We already know Kat Pee prefers older men, and Foster is even older than her fiance. Plus, they shared some interesting glances and smiles as she sang. Foster plugged his appearances on "Access Hollywood" (apparently plugs are the only reason anyone shows up on "Idol" these days), where he says he will "fine tune" Simon's opinions. Uh-huh. We saw your expertise when you were a judge on "Celebrity Duets," David, and weren't impressed. So feh. Foster also told us that he and Kat Pee are *surprise* working on an album together, and he declared her magnificent. Frankly, she sang better during Season 5. Kat Pee's performance Wednesday night made Ramiele's Tuesday night gig look exciting. Talk about a B-O-R-I-N-G and emotionless version of the George Harrison song!

Watch video of Katherine McPhee singing "Something" accompanied by David Foster:

And Ruben Studdard got yet another chance to prove why he won Season 2 with Season 7's new exit sing, a cover of Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home," which was played as the video montage of David Hernandez's "journey" was shown. Personally, we preferred the Graham Colton exit song,"Best Days," that was used during the semifinal eliminations.

Finally, Ryan Seacrest told us that due to all the phone calls and text messages the producers received, the contestants will again sing selections from the Lennon-McCartney songbook next week. Do they really expect us to swallow that as the reason we're sitting through Lennon-McCartney again? Not that we don't love The Beatles' songs -- we own every album they ever made -- but the producers must have paid a fortune to Sony for the rights and are either getting their money's worth out of it or fulfilling some contractual agreement. It had nothing to do with us, folks. Of that we're sure. Hopefully, Kristy Lee Cook will find a new way to butcher Lennon-McCartney and finally leave our lives. After all, too many Cooks have spoiled the "Idol" broth. David's the only one we need!

And, in case you missed it, watch video of Danny Noriega on "Ellen":

American Idol Top 12 Perform
Love, Love Them Do

So this is Christmas Lennon/McCartney week, featuring the "Idol" Top 12 on a new stage with new opening credits and even a brand new *ugh* mosh pit, where the kiddies can rock and sway their arms out of sync with the music. Did we really need that "improvement," Nigel? Overall the gang took on The Beatles' tunes with gusto. There were a couple of amazing performances, a couple of impressive ones, a handful of mediocre ones and two really awful ones (three, if you count David Archuleta, which, apparently, the voting audience at DialIdol didn't).

Most surprisingly, there was Ryan Seacrest acting as if he were on speed at times, or at least drinking from Paula Abdul's Coke cup. His behavior after Chikezie's performance was, well, you had to see it.

Syesha Mercado was up first. Not a good sign. Last week, Asia'h Epperson and Luke Menard were up first. We all know where they aren't now. Her Earth, Wind and Fire-like rendition of "Got to Get You Into My Life" began a bit unsteady, with Mercado's confidence and performance improving as the song went on. By the end it was pretty decent, but would anyone remember it after 2 hours and 11 more performers. Apparently not. Even though she was far from the worst of the night, she is dead last according to DialIdol. But they've been so wrong or noncommittal all season (i.e. 11 of last night's performers could end up in second to 12th position according to them), they've become all but useless. We predict, in spite of what they say, that Syesha will go on to sing another week.

Randy Jackson liked the arrangement but said Syesha started out a little rough and had some pitch problems, but by the middle she go into it and started having fun with it. Paula Abdul pretty much parroted everything that Randy said. Simon Cowell actually was more supportive of the performance, pronouncing it "better than alright," and saying, "I thought it was a great choice of song. I just think you looked very, very nervous. You've got to get past that. I thought you were much better than you were last week." Of course, Syesha was in the pimp spot last week, a spot apparently no longer saved for the night's best singer (at least the last few weeks). And, unfortunately, the girl before her who sang first and landed the pimp spot the previous week was Asia'h, so we'll keep our fingers crossed that Syesha doesn't get undeservedly booted -- or even place in the bottom three -- tonight.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Got to Get You Into My Life"

We've liked Chikezie since his audition, and for the most part, what he has done since. Not everybody feels that way about him, but at least he has learned to lock his lip with the judges. Last night he gave what we thought was one of the best two performances of the evening, changing up "She's a Woman" and totally owning it. The beginning was weird banjo twangy, then funked out and became complete rocking fun. His voice was strong and confident, including a falsetto.

Randy said he was thoroughly entertained and loved the arrangement, telling Chikezie he smashed it. Paula reiterated what she had told Ryan earlier in the show, "Those who take a risk, the greater the reward if they can change it up," saying Chikezie started it with a "O Brother Where Art Thou?" type of vibe and turning it into into a rock vibe. She told him, "I've been waiting for this." Simon said, "I'm really surprised that I actually agree with these two." He said he loved that Chikezie took control over the stage, that it was a unique version of the song and that he thought he was terrific. We did, too.

Watch video of Chizekie singing "She's a Woman"

We really like "In My Life," the touching song that Ramiele Malubay chose to sing for, she said, her friends who have already left the show (Read: Danny). She did nothing amazing to change up the song and it was perhaps not her best performance, but her voice was sweet and tender and the melody line was kept very simple.

The judges hated it, giving her a triple dose of "boring, boring, boring." Randy called it pretty and also kind of pretty boring, saying he kept waiting some something special to happen but it just kind of laid there. Paula said it was pretty safe and that even though it's a very simple, beautiful song, she felt that Ramiele held back could have gone further with it. Simon was "bored to tears throughout the entire song. From the awful standing on the stairs to the walking in the middle with a dreary song choice which did absolutely nothing for you. It was forgettable, boring, and I expect a lot better from you because you're better than that." Yikes. It was a case where we felt the criticism was overkill for a not outstanding but respectable performance.

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "In My Life"

We knew it was going to be hard -- if not impossible -- for Jason Castro to beat, or even his match last week's performance of "Hallelujah," and we were right. Which is not to say that he didn't do a nice job accompanying himself on guitar for "If I Fell," but he just soared last week. We weren't overly fond of him at the beginning of the competition, but he grows on us each week. When he sings (not when he talks) Castro exudes a charisma that television embraces, and it makes up for what he, at times, lacks in vocal skills.

Randy liked but didn't love it and preferred Jason hadn't switched up the melody because it "just kind of threw me a little bit." Paula disagreed (shocking Simon), saying that " ... you don't do all the riffs and the runs. And you don't have to because you have an emotional connection with the songs you pick, and that's what I think America connects with." She is right. Simon said that last week Jason was incredible, but that Tuesday "it was all a little 'student in a bedroom at midnight.' " He then called it quite boring but said it was definitely good enough for Jason to stay another week.

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "If I Fell"

Carly Smithson is a contestant we originally disliked sight unseen because of the Season 7 "ringer" controversy, but her voice just cannot be denied. She, like her roommate Amanda, has softened her look as the weeks have progressed, and if not beautiful, she appears more attractive than she did when the competition began. However, we wish the show's stylists would force her to wear a bra. With her tendency to bob up and down as she sings, she is too endowed to go onstage without one. Instead of looking at her face, one tends to watch her bobbling boobs. She picked a great song for her voice, "Come Together" (we thought it would have been great for Amanda, as well), and she nailed it with a to date unheard huskiness in her vocals.

Randy said she was strong, confident and sounded amazing, adding "There wasn't a note out of tune. Stellar performance!" "I felt like I was already watching a star," said Paula. "I couldn't wait until you got into the Top 12 so you could start showing who you are as a performer. You're amazing!" We held our breath to see if Simon, who has been beating on Carly a bit lately, would agree. He said, "Week after week I think that you have chosen the wrong song, until now ... This reminds me six years ago, exactly the same week, Kelly Clarkson." Wow! Except later in the show, while critiquing someone else, he wanted to use Carly as a comparison and turned to Paula and Randy and said, "What is the name of the Irish girl?" OMG.

Watch video of Carly Smithson "Come Together"

Next was our favorite performer -- and performance -- of the evening. It belonged to David Cook, who is quickly becoming David Archuleta's most serious contender (perhaps with Brooke White) for the title. He decided to sing "Eleanor Rigby" without his guitar because, he said, it would be overkill. His version was amazing. Tender to begin then building to a rock out ending. There was no question that he owned the stage on this one. And we normally don't get gaga over the contestants' outfits, but we absolutely were smitten with the jacket David C was wearing. His clothes looked great. Now if only someone would fix his comb-over hair.

Randy pointed out a little pitch problem in the first part (we didn't hear it), then said, "But, dude, once you hit that chorus it was rocking. Let go! You got this, come on! Do this, you got this!" Paula said, "I've been telling everyone you are the dark horse. This is proving there's more than one horse in this race." She said that David C is fantastic each week. We were ecstatic that Simon agreed. "David, I thought it was brilliant," adding "If this show remains a talent competition rather than a popularity competition, you actually could win this entire show." Yea!

Watch video of David Cook singing "Eleanor Rigby"

Brooke White had a tough act to follow, but handled it with aplomb. She sang "Let It Be," accompanying herself on piano. We thought it was an impressive version, but didn't get as crazy about it as the judges. To date, Brooke has picked songs that perfectly suited her voice, but has shown little versatility. In that sense she has expanded her horizons no more than Amanda. The thing she has that Amanda doesn't is amazing stage presence. The camera loves her and she works it with everything she's got, right down to the emotional tear dripping from her eye as got critiqued by the judges. And America is loving her for it. Maybe even Simon, as well. According to TMZ, their "mole" at lat week's show said that Simon told her after the show, "I'm glad and not surprised you made it this far. Keep it up, I got your back." Hmmmm. And his critiques seem to back that up.

Randy said, "I don't know if it's your strongest performance but I tell you what I like about you ... This is kind of like a dream come true for you. I love the fact that you have all of this conviction ... and you gave a very heartfelt performance." Paula said that Brooke's niche is picking songs where America can feel her heart and that she makes an emotional connection that make people fall in love with her. Simon lauded her with, "I thought, Brooke, it was again one of the best performances of the night. I thought it was a brilliant choice of song. I think you've done it three weeks running now and actually it's believable. There's a difference between karaoke, which we've seen tonight, and actually making it believable and showcasing your talent. Three weeks running, great!" Ahem, a bit much we felt.

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Let It Be"

Up to this point, the show was rolling along pretty well. But here's where it hit a brick wall: with David Hernandez killing (not slaying) "I Saw Her Standing There." It was overarranged and undersung and just lacked any personality. The harder David tried, the more his performance suffered. He was also jumping all over the stage trying to be animated, but in the end it didn't help. Usually his strong vocals save him. Where were they Tuesday night? His performance died. And laid there. Like a mess. In front of America.

Randy called it a little too overdone and said David H was trying to do too much with it and that David had lost Randy from the jump. Paula started with, "You know I love your voice," uh-oh we said, then added, "I feel like you kind of overdid it a little bit. And I think you needed to scale back." She also said there were too many runs. Simon didn't equivocate: "No, no, no. I thought it was corny verging on desperate." He also said "It was all a little bit rabbit in the headlights," which started a discussion of whether it should have been deer in the headlights between him and Randy (who cares, we got the point). Simon added that he thought it just wasn't very cool and that he didn't think it was a particularly strong performance. Yup, he's right.

Watch video of David Hernandez "I Saw Her Standing There"

Amanda Overmyer, while not at her stunning best, reversed the flow of bad vibes surprising us with a decently sung "You Can't Do That." We were a bit concerned when she said she had never heard the song before this week (we keep forgetting how young these contestants are) and that she was going to put her own Amanda spin on it. She turned the song very bluesy and, we thought, her retooling of it to her vocal specialty worked out very well. She has redeemed herself the past couple of weeks and we're glad.

Randy said Amanda took a Beatles song and brought it to a southern bar and rocked it out, adding that he loved it and thought it was cool. Paula called her star and said, "I'm blown away by you." Simon didn't like it as much as her Joan Jett performance last week and said he only understood about 30% of what she sang. (We understood everything perfectly). He said, "It was like you were slurring a lot of the words and it all got a little bit shouty." But he also said, "I think it's a good thing that you're in this competition because you are like a breath of fresh air when you come on."

Randy said she took a Beatles song and brought it to a Southern bar. Paula noted that Amanda was smiling and having fun. She is blown away by her. Simon didn't think it was as good as last week, and understood only about 30% of what she sang. He thought it was shouty. But he does like that Amanda is in the competition because she's a breath of fresh air.

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer singing "You Can't Do That"

Michael Johns seems to have the whole package -- good vocals, good looks, good stage presence -- yet there's still something missing. It's as if he doesn't connect emotionally with the audience. He sang the touching "Across the Universe," yet we felt nothing. Technically, it was a good performance, but it touched us not in the least. Perhaps when Johns sings rock he can get past this flaw more easily, but when he sings a song such as "Across the Universe" if becomes more readily apparent what is missing from his performances.

Randy said it was good, but that he was waiting for something big to happen, so when it didn't he found the performance "a little sleepy." Paula disagreeing with Randy (and us), said it was a brilliant performance because of Johns' quiet confidence and the way he connected with the audience. Guess we weren't plugged in to that connection. Simon said, "I'm going to agree with Randy," adding it was a bit monotonous, though solid. "It was good, but now is the point where you've got to let yourself go a little bit," Cowell said. "I'm frustrated still that we haven't heard what you're capable of doing."

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "Across the Universe"

The prize for Worst Performance of the Week belongs solely to Kristy Lee Cook, who took Simon Cowell's critique last week that she should stick to country music SO literally, that she decided to turn "Eight Days a Week" into a country song. Disaster would be putting it kindly. John Lennon was not only spinning in his grave, he could probably hear the moans across America. That Kristy Lee should have gone long before this week is a given. That she'll go this week is not, much to our dismay and consternation.

Randy was on the fence (we sat on a picket) over the performance, saying there were some parts he liked, including the arrangement (Ugh!). However, he didn't like the runs in the vocal, concluding with half of me liked it, half of me didn't. (All of us HATED it) When Paula tells you, "I didn't enjoy it and I'll tell you why," you know you're in BIG trouble. We agreed with her (OMG!) when she said, "I just feel like what we say like 'go for the country thing' too much to heart.' You've got to be able to kind of infuse your own thing. I didn't get it." Simon, in spite of Kristy Lee's hopes that he would like the risk she took, said, "I thought it was horrendous. You sounded like Dolly Parton on helium," (*tee hee*). He added, "It was a very brave but probably foolish thing to do because that song just doesn't work in that style. It was like being at some sort of ghastly country fair or something with a couple of banjo players and you." Ahem, brother.

(Don't) Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "Eight Days a Week"

The surprise of the evening came from David Archuleta. Why? Did we actually like him? No, because he actually sucked! At this point in the competition, if you forget the lyrics, if should be grounds for elimination. And forget them he did. And not just once. His rendition of the Stevie Wonder version of "We Can Work It Out," was also his weakest vocal to date. Could it be that he's not so great when he hasn't sung a song a million times already in the past? Could be. But no doubt the tongue lashing from the judges (instead of his usual tongue bath) brought out his fans in force. DialIdol places him No. 1 (what a joke!), with no possibility of elimination or even placing lower than No. 1. America, open your ears and your minds. There are better competitors than this kid. It's supposed to be a talent, not a popularity, contest.

Randy said, "This week, it was not on point. This kind of vibe is not your vibe for me. It felt very forced and it just really didn't quite work." Paula agreed, with "You know what, this wasn't your best week ... Forgetting the lyrics, it gets a little tough. You can never let it show on your face." Simon, keeping it real, said, "That was a mess. You stumbled over the lyrics in the beginning ... It was just all over the place and at this point in the competition, I expect incredible performances. It wasn't. It was your weakest performance so far."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "We Can Work It Out"

The Top Three: David Cook (1), Chikezie (2), Carly Smithson (3)
The Middle: Brooke White (4), Jason Castro (5), Michael Johns (6), Amanda Overmyer (7), Sysesha Mercado (8), Ramiele Maluby (9)
The Bottom Three: David Archuleta (10), David Hernandez (11), Kristy Lee Cook (12)

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