Tuesday, April 1, 2008

American Idol Top 9 Perform/
David Cook Rushed to Hospital

NOTE: TMZ reported late last night that David Cook was taken to the hospital (not by ambulance) after Tuesday's show. He was suffering from heart palpitations and high blood pressure, believed to be due to a setback in his brother's illness. Cook began complaining that he did not feel well, but after his performance he reassured people he was OK. He ultimately realized he needed medical help. He is now back in his hotel, but his medical problem has not yet been resolved. One "Idol" executive told TMZ, "David's blood pressure was far too high."

Cook was examined by medics at the show, then taken to the hospital and treated by a private doctor. The doctor gave Cook medication to bring his blood pressure down and he will monitored again Tuesday.

The "Idol" executive says the stress and anxiety from being on "Idol" and dealing with his brother's illness -- his brother has cancer and suffered a setback within the past week -- had really put David, who normally has high blood pressure, on the ropes.

The site also says that Cook has been completely stressed out during the entire season. During one of the first shows, David broke down and said he couldn't perform that night -- and changed his mind at the last minute.


It is April 1, and not even "American Idol" was immune from April Fool's jokes. First there was the phony list of spoilers for tonight's show that was validated by no less that EW.com's Popwatch. It had ludicrous information, such as Jason Castro singing "I Will Always Love You." But because it was presented on EW.com, even we repeated the list to our friends. April Fool! Then there was the blog listing we found that purported that Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest had such a severe falling out last night that Cowell had demanded Seacrest's immediate resignation. It even accused Cowell of yelling at Seacrest to "just come out of the closet you * homo." Could it be true? Uh, no, we decided as soon as we reached this paragraph:

"Last night the producers were frantically searching for a temporary replacement for Ryan until they can permanently replace him either later in the season or next year. Four names were being tossed around as potential temporary replacements - Mikalah Gordon, Matt Rogers (from Season 3), Sanjaya Malakar or Antonella Barba. Other presenters will be considered, but we're likely to see a former Idol contestant as the producers are so short on time to find a replacement for tonight."

OK, thanks. Don't we feel like a jerk? Then there was Ryan Seacrest opening the program by telling us that the show was being preempted by a celebrity edition of "Moment of Truth" starring Simon Cowell. Enough already! Is it April 2nd yet?

The show welcomed its first guest mentor of the season, country singer Dolly Parton. The contestants all sang songs that Parton either wrote or sang. It was a mixed evening: a couple of hot performances, but also a lot of mediocrity. Even the best singers have done better in the recent past, including David Cook.

Brooke White opened the show with her version of "Jolene." It might have sounded better had we not just heard a piece of Parton's haunting rendition of the song during the video clip that introduced her. Sadly, it made Brooke's version pale by comparison. She also sang it way too uptempo with a smile on her face for most of the song, which has lyrics such as: "He talks about you in his sleep/There's nothing I can do to keep/
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene." Obviously, there's nothing happy about those words, but smile Brooke did, as if she were singing about a day in the park. Perhaps it would have been more acceptable just listening to it rather than watching her perform it. As it was, we've seen (and heard) Brooke do a lot better.

Randy Jackson said that the music definitely suited her voice, that she could make an album out of it, but that it wasn't a stellar performance for him. There were some pitch problems and she sometimes rushed the music a little bit. Paula Abdul pretty much babbled her critique. She began by praising Brooke for her consistency, then rambled into "You are who you are ... You have an emotional connection with each song that you pick. And I think that's what record companies and executive want." Meanwhile Simon Cowell was providing funny running background commentary to what Paula was saying. She ended with, "You are Brooke White (Simon, "Yes she is"), excellent and wonderful." Simon then totally disagreed with Abdul's appraisal, saying that he thought "what was lacking on that song was any emotion. It looked like you were busking your way through the song. ... It wasn't one of your better performances ... I wasn't that crazy about it." And not only did Brooke (as usual) interrupt him with her commentary to his critique, Cowell also was cut off by the segment-ending music.

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Jolene"

As "Idol" has been doing most of the season, they used a Coke segment prior to David Cook's performance to deflect controversies that have cropped up about the show, in this case Cook's use of arrangements by other artists that have brought him great praise. He paid kudos to Doxology, White Snake and Chris Cornell, then, in answer to Ryan's question, said that the arrangement he was doing on "Little Sparrow" was his own. In the video segment, Parton said it was one of her favorite songs and praised David on his voice. We certainly liked it and thought he did a fine job. Was it as momentous as some of his prior songs? No. But it was still one of the better performances of the evening and proved that Cook can score points even when he's not rocking out. Plus, Cook is getting better looking every week. The show's stylists have obviously had a positive influence on his appearance. His now monochrome-colored hair was attractively cut and tousled. Where previously he looked as if he was sporting a comb-over to cover baldness, his hair now looks fuller (were extensions added? Who knows.) And instead of that raggy soul patch under his bottom lip, he now has a slightly unshaven sexy look and rocks a light moustache and goatee.

Randy told him, "You're a rocker but you've been showing that you've got this unbelievable range. I liked how you went into the false[tto] there. You made your own arrangement which was very cool, and once again another hot, consistent performance." Paula first praised David on his haircut, then said, "I've never heard a guy do that song and it was fantastic hearing you do that ... It shows how well-rounded you are as an artist." Simon, who, with the exception of two of the night's singers, was in a hyper-critical mood, threw Cook a crumb, "I'm not going to say it was as good as last week because it wasn't, but if you can make a song about sparrows good, which actually you did, congratulations." Simon obviously is not a bird-lover. A couple of weeks ago he crapped on Carly's "Blackbird" and now on Cook's "Little Sparrow." Oh, well.

Watch video of David Cook singing "Little Sparrow"

Ramiele Malubay gave perhaps her final (forgettable) performance on the show. She did a bit better than she has in the past few weeks, showing a little of her personality, but it was definitely the weakest performance of the evening. She tried to be bouncy and cute with her version of "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind," but came off more as a scared rabbit. We have no doubt that she won't escape the Bottom 3 this week and will probably beat even Kristy Lee out the door, but in all honesty she's been no better (and perhaps worse) than Kristy Lee has the past two weeks and at this point deserves the boot. That she hasn't appeared in the Bottom 3 previously is nothing short of a miracle, and we can't help but wonder if Hawaii's not insubstantial vote has been instrumental in saving her thus far. It's worked in the past for Camile Velasco and Jasmine Trias, keeping the Season 3 finalists on the show far longer than they deserved to be.

Randy told her, "It was alright. You showed some signs of strength right there and conviction. I thought it was a pretty good performance. I would say 6½ out of 10." Paula disagreed and told Ramiele, "I'm very proud of you because I was a little worried that you weren't going to connect. But I think that you really had a great minute and 30 seconds and you really connected with the audience and you were having fun." Well, not quite, Paula. Simon, cutting to the chase, said, "Look, we're not going to remember this in 10 year's time are we? It was cute. You sang it quite well. But overall, I thought it was forgettable, and I thought it was very reminiscent of something you would see and hear on a cruise ship, if you want my honest opinion." And, you know, he was right.

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay singing "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind"

Though we thought Country Week would be a breakout genre for Jason Castro, he also had another weak showing, though it was still much better than his lame performance of Sting's "Fragile" last Tuesday. He chose "Travelin' Thru," Parton's Oscar-nominated song from the transgender film "Transamerica." Castro gave a pleasant, laid-back performance, pitchy in spots, but not totally unsatisfying. It's just there are much better singers left in the competition than Jason, and it will be a struggle for him to even reach sixth place, despite his baby blues and dreds. He again placed dangerously close to the bottom in DialIdol's voting this week and should be making a return appearance in the Bottom 3 (though we think it was a toss-up between him and Brooke as to who belongs there more).

Randy said it started a little bit rough for him, but that by the middle of the song Jason had "picked it up" and worked it out. Paula called it one of Jason's strongest performances (how could she say that after "Hallelujah"?) and that he seemed comfortable, that his voice sounded strong and rich and that he was confident. She said, "It was great. I loved it." Er, OK. In total contrast, Simon said, "This is the point where I lose my season pass to Dollywood because I didn't like that at all. It sounded like the same song as before (which one? Ramiele's? It wasn't anything like it????). I didn't think you sang it particularly well. I don't think this kind of music suits you well. If this had been the first time I'd seen you or heard you, I wouldn't get it. Sorry." But then, we didn't get Simon much this week. Sorry. Randy was probably the closest to the real truth on this one.

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Travelin' Thru"

Although many will disagree with us on this, our favorite performance of the evening belonged to Carly Smithson. We absolutely adored her arrangement and interpretation of "Here You Come Again," singing it gently and poignantly for the most part, but hitting a couple of money notes. Even Parton said that the song, which she didn't write, was far better suited for Carly's voice than her own. We don't care what anyone says, for our money Smithson is one of the top singers in this competition. We're not sure if we'd buy a CD by Brooke or Syesha, but we guarantee you that we'll own the next one that Carly puts out. The tone of her voice is just amazing. Yes, we know, a lot of people can't get past the tats on her right arm, and for that reason we wish she'd cover up on performance nights, but it is what it is and she is what she is. And we think that is wonderful.

Randy proffered the praise, "I do believe that that will probably be one of the better performances of the night. Nice job." Paula jumped in with, "Carly, that was glorious. You are such an amazing talent. You are beautiful, that voice of yours -- oh my god! And you look great!" Simon wasn't nearly as enthusiastic. "I thought it was good. I don't think it was great." Then he nastily dug into her appearance with, "I also think that you've got to have a word with whoever's dressing you at the moment ... I think at this stage, without being rude, you've got to start looking more like a star and I'm not seeing that progression at the moment." Well, check out some of the other performers. For god's sake, Brooke looked like a banana two weeks ago in that horrible dress and was dressed very ordinarily this week. Ramiele dresses like a 12-year-old most weeks. Why aren't you picking on anyone else? It's become patently obvious that Simon is always overly harsh with and doesn't like Carly. Probably because he doesn't want to see her anywhere near his precious Brooke in the finals. Boo! Hiss!

Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "Here You Come Again"

Yes, we know you all love David Archuleta, but, sorry, we still don't get him. Did he give a good performance? Yes. Was it the best of the evening? No. But the judges and those folks calling into DialIdol are all hearing something we're missing. No way would we buy this kid's album. The performance was mechanical and exuded no real depth or emotion for us. Yes, we know Dolly thinks he really gets it and it almost made her cry ('cept she didn't want to lose her false eyelashes). Us? Sorry, not moved at all. Call it our Season 7 blindspot. But the staff did make David's earpiece look a lot less distracting this week and that was a plus. Still, if Daddy Jeff is such a rampant stage father, how come he didn't invest a little money in his sonny boy's overbite? The kid needs braces in the worst way, and everytime those girls scream we think they need glasses.

Randy, screwing Carly, said, "David Archuleta is back tonight and I stand corrected. That was the best performance of the night right there." Wrong-O! Paula, who we think either wants to molest or adopt David, gushed, "You have an amazing tone in your voice, you're strong, you have a beautiful aura about you. You're just glorious." Eeech! Simon, squarely back in Archuleta's corner, told him, "I had issues with your choice of song last week. This week, absolutely on the money." Sorry, not convinced.

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Appalachian Memories"

We have to admit, we knew if Kristy Lee Cook made it to Country Week she'd do OK. Not great, but OK, and that's exactly how she did. In fact, her "Coat of Many Colors" was certainly better than Ramiele's performance, and perhaps even better than Jason's and Brooke's. But we'd classify all of them in the Bottom 4 of the night. Brooke, no doubt, will come out of this unscathed. The others will probably comprise the Bottom 3, which would be a fair call. At this point, which one of them leaves isn't much of an issue, as none has a snowball's chance of winning the competition. They've already secured their spots on the tour and that's their real prize. It's worth noting that Kristy Lee looked really nice last night, something that will help garner her some extra votes.

Randy said, "Country music is definitely your wheelhouse, and I think you gave a very nice performance ... This is kind of the Kristy Lee week." Paula told her, "You look stunning tonight (usually the kiss of death, but probably not in this case) ... You just gave a beautiful performance. I think this was your best performance." Simon's appraisal was pretty accurate: "I totally disagree. I thought last week was your best performance, and I thought this was pleasant but forgettable."

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "Coat of Many Colors"

We're sure our opinion of the next act will also be at odds with our readers. (Maybe we're just as bitchy as Simon is this week). We thought Syesha Mercado was one of the top three acts of the night. Her sensitive, powerful and emotional arrangement, which combined both Dolly Parton's and Whitney Houston's versions of "I Will Always Love You" harked back to her performance of "Yesterday" a couple of weeks ago. So we were really annoyed when Randy and Simon bashed her. Is she Whitney Houston? No! But, you know, Brooke White wasn't Dolly Parton, either. In fact, she wasn't nearly as good as Syesha but the two women received approximately the same level of critique. Mercado's performance, including the next-to-last (money) note, was absolutely stunning. It might not have been perfect but it certainly was as good a performance as David Archuleta's, which was highly praised. Where so many others shouldn't, Syesha proved she had the goods to take on a Whitney Houston song.

Randy started the Syesha bashing with, "You took on the biggest tiger of the night, and I think you did pretty good. It's still hard for me to hear anyone else sing that song. It was alright." Huh! Just alright? Give us a break. Paula started with Syesha's appearance, never a good sign. "You look beautiful. That color's gorgeous on you." Then, in another one of her I-don't-really-want-to-say-what-I-think-if-I-really-didn't-love-it critiques, Paula said, "Let's talk about your voice. Your voice [has] like a velvety tone. That's it for you and I just think you're growing and growing and growing and you're connecting with the audience so much more and I love it." Uh-huh, thanks for the support, Paula. Simon said, "I almost wish you hadn't got it [the song] in a strange way because the first part was good, the second part, as I had a feeling, unfortunately paled by comparison to the Whitney version, so, therefore, I don't even know if it helped you that much. It was a good; it wasn't a fantastic version of the song."

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "I Will Always Love You"

Michael Johns received the prized "pimp" spot this week for his bluesy version of "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right." We thought it was really strong, one of his best performances, but we didn't love it quite as much as everyone else obviously did. (Although we liked it a lot better on second listen). The singing in some spots was brilliant and no one can deny his stage presence. After this week, many will consider Johns to be at his best as a blues singer. Personally, we preferred his performance of Queen last week. And so it goes.

Randy began the accolades with, "You keep on bringing it up every week a notch, dude. That was a blazing hot performance. Nice job." Paula added, "You're a star, a rock star, a blues star, soul and you look gorgeous." Simon put it simply with, "I think this is the best I have heard you sing throughout the competition."

Watch video of Michael Johns singing "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right"

Top 3: Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Syesha Mercado

Bottom 3: Ramiele Malubay, Kristy Lee Cook, Jason Castro/Brooke White (tie)

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