Tuesday, April 29, 2008

American Idol Top 5 Perform
These Diamonds Not Flawless

Watercooler buzz no doubt tomorrow will center on two things: Who's leaving "Idol" Wednesday night and what the hell was in Paula Abdul's Coke cup Tuesday night? Even though she did not appear inebriated or drugged, for the first time this season she was really making no sense. How so? How about reviewing a performance before it had even occurred! You see, the producers had to squeeze so many performances into the hour show (each contestant sang two selections) that they decided to save time by having the judges only critique each singer after their second song. Then they broke their own rule.

After the Top 5 all sang their first songs, Ryan Seacrest called all 5 finalists out on stage and quickly went to the judges to get an overview of Round 1. But Randy Jackson gave mini critiques to each performer. Following Jackson's lead, Paula started to critique Jason's TWO songs (remember he had only sung one at that point). Randy mumbled to her, "just on the first song, just on the first one," and Paula looked even more stupid and disoriented when she blurted out, "OMIGOD, I thought you sang twice." You could tell Ryan was getting flak through his earpiece as this was going on, and he said to her, "Just once. But Paula, you're seeing the future, baby, you're seeing the future. He's coming back." Paula: "This is hard!"

Simon Cowell tried to get things back on track by repeatedly asking Abdul, "But who is your favorite? Who is your favorite?" while Randy was telling her "Pick a person." It was ridiculous. You can see this mess at the end of the Syesha Mercado video of "Hello Again."

Of course, the Internet forum boards are crazy with theories on the Paula business this morning. Some are saying it's proof that "Idol" is rigged (ya mean ya didn't know that yet?) and that the producers tell the judges in advance what to say about each contestant. Others are saying that the judges took notes on the dress rehearsal performances, which they don't even have to attend. It's been written in many places that Cowell watches tapes of the dress rehearsals in his trailer and doesn't even pay attention to the telecast performances, especially because with all the noise in the studio he can barely hear them anyway. Last week Simon loved that because the show airs live America got to see it when Brooke stumbled on her lyrics then stopped and restarted her song. This week we love that because the show airs live Paula stumbled on her prewritten appraisals and reviewed a performance that hadn't even occurred yet.

Neil Diamond mentored the Top 5 this week and they all sang two selections from his impressively large catalog. We actually hated the tone of the whole show. Trying to fit 10 performances into 60 minutes was way too much. The show felt rushed and uncomfortable. Instead of feeling entertained, we felt like we were in a race and couldn't catch our breath. It was very unsettling.

Jason Castro performed
"Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn." We wish we could say that he was phoning in the performances, but there wasn't enough enthusiasm to believe he even dialed the phone. Castro seemed even more bored performing than we were watching him. At least people singing karaoke in a bar seem to care what the crowd thinks about them. Jason acts as if he doesn't. Case in point, when he was rehearsing with Diamond, he not only forgot his lyrics, he brought the wrong lyrics for the song he was singing. What a stoner. After his second performance his excuse for his lousy singing was he had started choking right before he went on and it screwed him up. Uh-huh. If he isn't kicked off tonight it really will be a travesty, especially when he should have been given the boot last week. How can those silly girls keep voting him back just because of his dreadlocks and blue eyes? Even Sanjaya Malakar was gone by now last year.

After Castro's first performance Randy had said, "It was just OK. Better than last week, just OK." After his second performance, Jackson said, "Dude, look check it out man ... that was just another OK whatever performance for me. Definitely not the best." Paula said after Round 1, "Jason, the first song I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. Your second song, um, I felt like your usual charm was missing for me. It kinda left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel that you're not fighting hard enough to get into the Top 4." After Jason actually performed song two she said, "I felt you took kind of the same liberty on both songs, now. And I feel like it's safe, and you need to get outside your comfort zone. Come on! Come on! Fight. Fight." After Round 1 Simon told Jason he was forgettable. After Round 2, Cowell said, "Oh Jason, come on, we don't recognize you at the moment. For the last two weeks, this is not the Jason we put into the competition. There was no attempt to make the arrangement your own. You struggled through both songs, they were both, in my opinion, forgettable and I think you're going to look back at tonight and go, 'I don't know who this person is.' " (we do, a L-O-S-E-R)

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Forever in Blue Jeans":

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "September Morn":

David Cook selected two of Diamond's more obscure entries, "I'm Alive" and the even more obscure "All I Really Need Is You." Although the judges greatly preferred his second song to the first, we thought they were both just OK. Unless the studio versions are very much better than what we saw last night, we won't be dialing them up much on our iPod. Which is not to say they were bad, we've just seen David Cook shine so fiercely in the past few weeks (and before) that, for us, these performances paled by comparison. Perhaps this week for him it did come down to song choice and we were less than thrilled with his.

For Round 1, Randy told him, "Very good, in the zone, very strong, doing your thing." After Round 2, he said, "You rocked the house again tonight ... blazing! blazing! blazing!" After her Jason blunder, Paula tried to say that she had mixed up David's notes with Jason's, with this attempted lousy save, "You know what, it's your notes, David, you were fantastic (although the notes she had just read were negative, what an idiot!) and it was a song that wasn't known." After the second song, she told him, "David I'm so proud of you. You not only picked two songs that are less familiar than Neil Diamond's hits, you are the only one that was able to pull that off. I feel like I'm already looking at the American Idol." Simon pronounced Round 1 "just above average" and said after Round 2, "I thought the first song was OK, I thought the second song was brilliant. You actually made it feel like that song was written this year, and that was the point I was trying to make to Jason. You changed the arrangement, you made it work for you. That was smart. Well done."

Watch video of David Cook singing "I'm Alive":

Watch video of David Cook singing "All I Really Need Is You":

Brooke White, surprisingly chose "I'm a Believer," and, not so surprisingly, "I Am ... I Said." She accompanied herself on guitar for the former and piano on the latter. Her second song worked fairly well. The best that could be said about her first is that at least she was having a good time -- even if we weren't. For us, her performance of "I'm a Believer," originally written by Diamond for The Monkees, was reminiscent of Brooke's Top 10 performance of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," wearing her yellow banana dress. It was pretty much a disaster and looked like something from a kid's party. We imagine that's what nanny Brooke is like with the twins she used to take care of. We were waiting for Barney to come onstage next. Maybe Brooke's just not meant to sing happy songs professionally. However, her take on "I Am ... I Said" was earnest and heartfelt. We wished she hadn't taken Diamond's suggestion to change "New York" to "Arizona" in the song to "make it her own." It not only didn't make it her own, it sounded awkward and stupid with the rest of the lyrics, which say:
Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home
New York's home, but it ain't mine no more

Arizona and L.A. are hardly between two shores. Oh, well. He was the mentor. Otherwise her second performance, though not her best of the season, returned her to the mode which she does do best. That she is at the bottom of DialIdol.com this week is wrong. No one was worse than Jason. In fact, Brooke was no worse than David Archuleta. She and David should be tied for the second position in the Bottom 2.

On the first go-round, Randy told Brooke, "Better than last week. Still a little karaoke for me." After her second song, he told her, "Nice job." Paula, who didn't comment on Brooke during Round 1, decided to make up for it by acting like she was back on drugs with her appraisal during Round 2. We saw Simon whisper something to Paula just before she spoke and suspect he told her to say this, because it made absolutely no sense and he loves planting non sequiturs in the head of his favorite thimblebrain just before she speaks. Paula said, "Brooke, I think that what you just did, as opposed to the first song, I felt like you did have fun, but it was right after 'American Idol Gives Back' (?????? HUH ?????? ) and there was that whole video with 'I'm a Believer' (yeah, so, what did that have to do with anything?), but this, when you come back here with this song, it does show your vulnerability, it is how you connect with the audience. Everyone loves who you are and that works. Works, works works." Aspirin please. Simon initially called her first song "a nightmare." After song two, he said, "Brooke, I really, really hated the first song, because it was sort of like a girls' night out at a karaoke bar, wasn't it? But this, this is the Brooke we like, sitting behind the piano, singing a very good song. It wasn't incredible, but it was a million times better than the first song. Well done."

Watch video of Brooke White singing "I'm a Believer":

Watch video of Brooke White singing "I Am ... I Said":

We're pretty sure that David Archuleta's now infamous dad, Jeff, is fairly quaking in his boots, as his prodigy -- or as Paula amusingly called him "savant" -- son slips from "the one to beat," to the Bottom 3, as David Cook and now Syesha Mercado race ahead of him. And, we think, it's probably all Daddy Dearest's fault. The past two weeks Archuleta has been shaking up the arrangements of the songs he's sung, -- a la David Cook -- a deed, we're sure, that can be attributed to daddy, who fancies himself a musician. Only thing is, it hasn't been working. His first song, "Sweet Caroline" was so messed up, it was barely recognizable and nowhere as good as the original. Archuleta's second song, stolen straight from the Kristy Lee Cook patriotic playbook, was "America," and even this was manipulated, with David singing "let freedom ring" at the end, which doesn't exist in the Neil Diamond lyrics. If you believe DialIdol's stats though, it not only didn't rally the troops, it didn't even rally the country's Conservatives behind little Davy this week. Truth be told you could hear a better version of the song at Disney World. Ha! Back off Daddy Dearest.

Of course, Randy who totally pimps Archuleta every week, good or bad, said after Round 1, "Da bomb. Brilliant" Later, he told him, "You are definitely in the zone right now. Another good performance, baby." After Round 2, Paula told him, "This was the absolute perfect song for you to sing. David, your voice is so on point. I just want to see that joy, and that spirit, and that prodigy and that little (idiot?) savant I used to see. I love you, I love you. You were brilliant. Have fun. Simon told David after Round 1, "I thought it was amateurish." After Round 2, almost repeating word for word what he had told Kristy Lee Cook weeks earlier after she sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," Cowell said, "Well, David, that was a smart choice of song. I've got to hand it to you, that was clever. It ticked all boxes, didn't it? ... it was absolutely the right choice."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Sweet Caroline":

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "America":

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was Syesha Mercado, who is blossoming into a consummate performer after dragging her feet for the better part of the competition. She not only has come into her own, she arguably had the two best performances of the evening, beginning with the tender and evocative "Hello Again," which was followed by her expressive and rousing, get-on-your-feet-and-clap-your- hands rendition of "Thank the Lord for the Night Time." Although we had never heard the latter, after the show we listened to Diamond's version and, believe it or not, Mercado's version kills Neil's version. No wonder Diamond was so enthusiastic about Syesha in the video. Voters at DialIdol.com, where she sits in the No. 1 position, apparently agreed with us. It's an astounding accomplishment, especially at this point in the competition. In all honesty, we thought she'd be eliminated this week. If she is, well, the producers will outright prove the competition is rigged. A final note: Syesha looked stunning last night. The lady seems to get more beautiful every week.

After her first performance, Randy told her, "You [sic] definitely kind of in the zone, too. I thought it was strong. It was very nice vocals. It was strong, it wasn't amazing, but it was strong." Later, he said, "I think you [sic] finally realizing who you are. I think we've been saying it all along. That is also in the zone. I mean, that could have been in some play, it could have been on Broadway, it's still that carry over for me and I like you in this. This is where I like you." Paula said, "I didn't get to say anything on the first song you sang (well, you should have been lucid), so I want to say quickly, first song: I thought that that vulnerable side, as I always say, that touch to your voice, is always beautiful and that's your magic. Having said that, on your second song, it shows a whole different side and that's your performance theater theatrical place, and then when you're pop singing you could be a toss-up between Corinne Bailey Rae and Minnie Ripperton. You've got that softness in your voice." After Round 1, Simon told Syesha "I thought it was old-fashioned." After Round 2, he said, "I think what you demonstrated there again Syesha is that you are a very good actress/singer. I think, however, you may be in trouble tonight." This had all the earmarks of the producers having Simon say that because they planned to eliminate her, especially when Syesha asked him why, and he answered, "I'll tell you why. Because there's only five of you left, so it was a calculated guess. I don't think you had a really memorable second song, like some of the others tonight." Who? Like Jason? Give us a break. That was a total BS setup to eliminate her and then say, "See? Simon predicted it." Hopefully, the DialIdol.com results will force the producers to do the right thing. Especially once they realize that Syesha's a marketable commodity -- way more so than Jason and/or Brooke. Usually their noses for $$$$ lead the way, so hopefully Syesha is safe.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Hello Again":

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Thank the Lord for the Night Time":

Best: Syesha Mercado
Worst: Jason Castro
Bottom Two: Jason and Brooke/David Archulta (tie)

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