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- David Archuleta – Paula Abdul chose: …And So It Goes by Billy Joel
- Syesha Mercado – Randy Jackson chose: …If I Aint Got You by Alicia Keys
- David Cook – Simon Cowell chose: …The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
- David Archuleta – David chose: …With You by Chris Brown
- Syesha Mercado -Syesha chose: …Fever by Peggy Lee
- David Cook – David chose: …Dare You to Move by Switchfoot
- David Archuleta – The producers chose: …Longer by Dan Fogelberg
- Syesha Mercado – The producers chose: …Hit Me Up by Gia Farrell
- David Cook – The producers chose: …I Dont Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith
Although the Final 3 all seem to be in this to win, they look tired. Very tired. And cranky, like those fun days of chest bumps and pointy poses are long gone. Now it’s just a slog, and it’s not very entertaining to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to find the three of them scowling through their group number tonight.
But why even bother watching tonight? The die is cast. Thanks to some heavy heavy pimping of David Cook and some not so heavy pimping of David Archuletta, and the proverbial throwing under the bus of Syesha Mercado, the Davids will be advancing to the finals of American Idol.
Is it over yet? I ask, because I’m tempted to skip the rest. I want to remember these kids when they were at their best. Particularly David Cook, who seems to have his best moments behind him. Not that he sucks now–the bar was set high–I just wish the kids were peaking at this moment instead of 3 weeks ago.
And those stupid song choices..OMG. Just. STUPID…stupid…stupid.
Here we go.
David Archuleta – “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel – Paula Abdul chose this song for David. She babbles on about showcasing his amazing vocals and exploiting the beautiful timbre in his voice, blah blah whatever. But it’s true. The song has a lovely arrangement. Spare strings accompany David, and drop out to allow his vocals to shine. He wisely sticks to singing the melody for the most part, and the result is very pure and pretty. It’s all a little too sweet. The song is about heartbreak and it’s missing the emotional heft a more mature voice could bring. Randy’s all “Paula chose a dope song for you…you can sing anything dude…the Billy Joel thing works well on you…you’re in the zone…you’re in it to win it baby!” Paula says it’s a “pure and stunning” performance and that David is really a storyteller tonight. Simon downplays the performance, for reasons only he knows, “It was very good, no surprises a bit predictable, it wasn’t outstanding.”
Syesha Mercado – “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys – Randy Jackson picked this song for Syesha and, “I had a feeling she loved Alicia as much as I did.” So, Randy didn’t get the memo that she already performed this song on ABC’s failed reality show, The One? Right. Syesha is all glamed up in a pretty sequined gown, with her hair swept to the side. She looks great, but she sounds…OK. It’s kind of a straight copy of the original–Alicia Keys, only not. The vocal is decent, but nothing special. Randy tells Syesha she did an amazing job, and that he’s so happy she’s peaking at the right time in the competition, “standing at #3”. It’s basically Randy giving Syesha her last compliment before the bus backs up to run her over. Paula diplomatically avoids criticism by mentioning how hard it is to sing a song by a well known artist. Then she tells her she looks gorgeous. Simon says she sang it very well, but then goes on to say that he wished Randy had chosen something where “you weren’t going to just try to sing it like the original.” Really pointless to criticize the song choice at this point, don’t you think? Simon adds, “You look gorgeous by the way.” A few kind words before the slaughter.
David Cook – “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – David looks less than thrilled in his hometown visit clip when he reads Simon Cowell’s text message announcing his song choice. Simon thinks it’s one of the great songs of all time. It’s probably one of the few pop songs he remembers. Simon says he wanted David to “do something different.” David’s been hopscotching over genres all season, how much more does he have to do? Gah, I hate this song. The melody drones on and on without much of a hook. Not a great candidate for the Idol chop and serve. As David begins singing, the camera cuts to his Mom standing in the audience, gazing lovingly at her son. Oh, look, David’s dad is in the audience too. It’s the David with the nice, normal parents! David makes the decision not to rock-out Roberta Flack and it’s a good one. He changes up the melody in some interesting ways and builds the song slowly to a strong, finish. I’m not hatin’ on the song so much at the moment. Randy says he’s loved David since Day One. He loved the high note at the end, but wishes “Simon didn’t pick something as predictable as this older kind of song for you.” Is this pissing match between Simon and Randy some kind of scripted sh*t? I wish they’d cut it out. Paula says, “It’s one of my favorite songs, and you’re my second favorite person who sings it.” Simon says that he thinks it was one of his best performances to date. A little self-serving much? And then the pimping begins, “This is what makes you brilliant, because you take risks, it’s original. Round one goes to Cook and Cowell.”
My assessment: David Cook takes the round. While David Archuleta had a very good performance and technically the better vocal, I appreciate Cookie’s grown-up, changed-up, emotional interpretation of his song. David Archuleta is a close second. Then there’s a big ole’ honkin’ gap til we get to Syesha Mercado in third place.
David Archuleta – “With You” by Chris Brown – David tells Ryan he thought he’d try something more “youthful” this week. Choosing the sexy Chris Brown number was an interesting risk for David to take, and the results are certainly, uhm, interesting. Actually, I’m being nice. The results are really awkward and horrible. David is clearly uncomfortable as he sings such ill-fitting lines as “Hey little Mama, Hot little figure, Yes you’re a winner…” He points unconvincingly at the girls in the mosh pit. The whole deal embarrasses him so much, that he stumbles over the next few lines. This ain’t pretty to watch. The performance reinforces the feeling I have that David’s future lies singing adult contemporary ballads rather than the sort of sexually charged upbeat stuff found on Top 40 radio these days. Things pick up a bit in the chorus where he’s on safer lyrical ground, but man, this performance is one hot damn mess. Nice try Archie. But NO NO NO. Experiment: Failed. Randy applauds the effort but says he doesn’t believe it. Paula says she thinks he did a great job. Simon could have been brutal, but resorts to pulling out one of his lame metaphors, “It’s sort of like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger…it’s not really you.”
Syesha Mercado – “Fever” by Peggy Lee – Syesha explains that she chose this song because she liked the “vibe” and that it gave her the chance to work with a chair. Peggy Lee didn’t need no stinking chair. I actually thought this song could be a great opportunity for Syesha to showcase the parts of her voice that really work. There’s no need to push or belt this song. A slow, sexy smolder would have done the job. I’m thinking the dress, a single spotlight, Syesha coyly vamping it up. Instead, she chooses to do a hokey routine with a flipping chair and it totally distracts from her vocals, which are pretty good. But I think Syesha is not counting on her vocals to win her votes here. And I’m also thinking she’s got Broadway agents in mind more than record label executives. Randy says, “You sang it amazingly well, great performance.” Paula says, “Out of all the songs you chose to sing, I’m surprised you picked this song…I’m not sure it shows me who Syesha is as an artist.” Simon says, “Syesha, I think you will probably regret that decision tomorrow, because you had a chance to prove that you are contemporary recording artist with your own choice of song…instead you did a quite lame cabaret performance.” The bus is revved up and in reverse gear.
David Cook – “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot – Ryan looks silly straddling Syesha’s chair as he looks up at David sitting on a stool. David says he chose the song because it seemed like the appropriate song for the appropriate moment. Yo David, the moment may be appropriate, but those horrible bum notes you hit in the middle of the song, not so much! I was feeling pretty good as David strummed the melodic opening chords to this number, and then…YOWCH! I can actually forgive a few crappy notes if a song moves me, but this arrangement goes nowhere. Like “Baba O’Riley” last week, the song ends before it really gets going. OMG, a “Cougers 4 Cook” sign just flashed up on my screen, and I want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. OK, I’ve recovered. Y’all know I’m a Cooktard (tm awesome peeps) and I’ve been happily living in the land of Cooktardistan (tm awesome peeps) ever since David hit the stage with “Happy Together” in the Top 24. Hell, I’m one of the early adopters! But, dude, what’s with these lame song arrangements lately? Oddly David seems to do much better when the song choices are narrow. It’s like he gets confused when the field is open. Randy says, “Great song choice…it wasn’t your best tonight, a little pitchy…” David nods in agreement. Paula says the song was just beginning to unwind when it ended, and she wanted more. Paula making sense! Simon says, “I don’t think it’s the best melodic song in the world, and I think all three of you had an OK middle round, we got one more round to go.” David walks off, looking disappointed.
My assessment: Syesha had the best vocal, but her routine was amateurish. Cookie was mediocre and Archie was embarrassingly bad. Stick to the ballads, ballad boy.
Ryan says, “Now we are moving on to songs the producers thought would
advance the two Davids and throw Syesha under the bus. Whatever. They wouldn’t know a good song if it smacked them in the head test the contestants and show off their range.” Archie is up first.
David Archuleta – “Longer” – Dan Fogelberg – This sort of wretched, drippy, cliche riddled song is…right up Archie’s alley. But for some reason, he can’t muster up much enthusiasm here. David, who seems happy to be sitting down, paints by the numbers–Squint, Sing a line, Breathe. Repeat. Do the patented Archie Arm Reach. A few runs on the bridge bring David alive for a bit, then it’s over. Archie’s on autopilot. Maybe Papagate has worn the poor boy out. Actually, all the kids seem tired this week. Randy says, “An interesting song choice for you…” Randy, why even talk about the song choice? The producers picked it. “..It doesn’t matter, you were in the zone vocally…another hot one from YOU.” Paula’s critique is by rote, too, “It was a lovely performance…I expect nothing else from you.” Simon spends 2/3rds of his time ranting about the crappy song choice. Again. POINTLESS! Stick to critiquing the contestant within the context of the song choice, and then smack Nigel upside the head once the cameras are turned off. Wait, on second thought, that would be some mighty awesome TV. After Simon finishes nattering on about 90 year olds–none of which has anything to do with David, but leaving a bad impression with the viewing audience anyway–he says, “I do think you’ve done enough to get into the finals next week.”
Syesha Mercado – “Hit Me Up” by Gia Farrell – I think I hear something. It’s a dull roar in the distance. Yes, I definitely hear it. Now I see it! It’s coming. That big ole bus with Syesha’s name on it is visible in the distance. Oh look, Syesha is wearing black and white. Those big ole black tire tracks will match nicely after they’re left on her back. To be honest, I never heard of this song, “Hit Me Up” or the singer, Gia Farrell. The song via You Tube sounded upbeat and contemporary enough. Maybe Syesha could prove her mettle as a recording artist here, I thought. But the unfamiliarity of the song is her undoing. It’s got no melody, and only sort of a beat. It’s a big ball of blah handed to Syesha by producers gunning for a David and David finale. Syesha puts on her game face. She dances around for a bit, her vocals are decent, but it’s all a moot point right now. That Bus. It’s backing up as we speak. Randy says, “It was just OK for me, it was just alright.” Paula says, “It’s a movie about penguins” and then the judges, ignore Syesha to go on about penguins, all the more to make her look ridiculous. Then, Paula stupidly says, “You did the song very well…as much as I liked it, it’s not the type of song that defines you as Syesha.” Holy Sh*t. I’m throwing things at my TV. SHE DIDN’T PICK THE SONG. STFU!!111! Then she takes on the uncharacteristic role of bad guy, “I don’t think you did enough to get into the finals of American Idol.” I don’t know how she does it, but Syesha manages to keep her composure while the wheels of the bus begin to crawl up her back. Simon says, “It was better than the second song, that’s for sure. If I’m being honest with you, you had your best moment last week with the Sam Cooke song. I don’t think anything this week would have topped it.” It’s not like they would have allowed anything she would have done to top that, anyway. Really, TPTB should have just skipped the Final 3 and gone on to the finals. Give everyone a rest! Then Simon goes on to criticize the “song about penguins” again. It’s just so stupid and so obvious what they are doing here. To her credit, Syesha is gracious as the big bus finishes it’s job. You made it all the way to third place Syesha! Congratulations!
David Cook – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith – BARF. There’s been chatter all season from the judges about the contestants making their performances relevant, while the producers keep saddling them with crappy themes and crappy song choices like this Diane Warren snoozefest. Oh look, there she is sitting out in the audience. KEEP YOUR GRUBBY PAWS OFF COOKIE’S ALBUM. Blargh. Having had that little hissy-fit, I must say David makes the most out of what he’s been given. He gets the violins of pimpage, as the string section is seated around him on the stage. He’s all decked out in a natty black suit coat. And actually, this is his personal best of the night. Strong vocals, right in his range, the strings give the song an anthem like quality, and Cookie manages to hit the sweet spot in the chorus. Very very good. Although his best moments in this competition appear to be behind him, this is good enough to advance him to the next round. Paula is giving him a standing O. Randy says, “It was OK for me. Very predictable.” “EXCUSE ME, ” says Paula, in an exchange that sounds suspiciously scripted, “..See ya in the finals! That’s what I predict!” Simon says, “David, one of the great songs of all time, and I have to tell you, DAVID COOK WINS THE NIGHT.” David looks relieved, but not particularly excited. Oh yeah, Simon has just sealed the deal, baby.
And it looks like David Cook has just been anointed the Chosen One.
My assessment: Cookie wins the round, and the night.