Click the links for video…
- Syesha Mercado – “One Rock & Roll Too Many” from Starlight
- Jason Castro – “Memory” from Cats
- Brooke White – “You Must Love Me” from the film adaption of Evita
- David Archuleta – “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera
- Carly Smithson – “Jesus Christ Superstar”
- David Cook – “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera Simon’s Critique
Although he came across as sort of an asshat in recent interviews, I have to say Andrew Lloyd Webber proved to be a very helpful mentor. A little honesty doesn’t hurt, especially when it helps a contestant’s performance. I also give him kudos for sitting in the audience of the CBS studios while his students performed his songs. That’s called follow-through people.
The Idol stage is filled with a huge orchestra to help the kids do the Broadway thing. This is a tough theme. Performing Andrew Lloyd Webber requires not only vocal skill, but the ability to tell a story through song–a challenge for any singer. Some were up to the task, others were not. The folkies of the group–Jason Castro and Brooke White–suffered the most.
Syesha Mercado seems to be absolutely in her element tonight. Too bad the producers appear to be completely done with her. If they weren’t, her show stopping performance would have ended the show. But as it is, she opens the show with a bang. Hopefully, viewers didn’t forget her, because I think she has one of the best performances of the night. The song itself is pretty lame (One rock and roll too many? Corny!) but the actress Syesha manages to bring it to life with some good choreography and decent singing. In a situation where her vocals aren’t up-front and center, Syesha is able to shine, because she has proven to be primarily an actress who can sing. I think her post Idol career will take her in a theatrical direction. She’s probably really wanted to act all along anyway, kinda like Katharine McPhee from Season 5. Randy thinks she could be a huge Broadway star, and calls it her best performance to date. Simon calls it “very sexy” and says she showed “masses of personality.” He almost calls it “Broadway”, but he would have meant that in a good way.
Jason Castro admits in his pre-performance video that he didn’t know that “Memory” is sung by a cat. At that moment, it’s pretty clear that Jason is in over his head, and what’s more, he knows it. I’m thinking that he picked the most familiar song on the list. He probably heard that one growing up, maybe someone in his family sang it. As ALW explains to Jason that the song is sung by “an old glamour puss” it’s obvious Jason has no idea what he’s talking about. The performance isn’t a trainwreck, as Randy claims later. In fact, listening to it again, it’s really not that bad. Jason looks uncomfortable singing it. He’s trying hard–maybe too hard. He’s a little overwhelmed by the melody, especially in the bridge, but he brings emotion to it. A very different version of “Memory” to be sure, but not awful. Simon says that he looks uncomfortable, and that nobody should vote for him. I think his fans should keep voting for him. The competition would suffer if Jason left it now.
It’s fascinating to watch ALW coach Brooke White. He helps her understand the song and connect to it in the most intimate way. Brooke could have had a huge moment with this song, but instead she has another false start. Half-way through the first lyric, she stops the song and asks to begin again. Wow. Total meltdown. After that she’s kinda thrown off, and as a result, the rest of the performance is strained. Webber must have been very disappointed watching her in the audience. Sadly, accounts from her rehearsal performances say that she was fabulous. The judges spend time–too much time dissecting her break down. Randy thought it was tough vocally. Paula says flat out that she should never stop–make up words if you must. Simon says he thinks she’s going to be disappointed when she watches it back, but he sticks up for her stopping the song. Brooke’s stage fright is killing her here. I think she’s run her course in this competition. It’s time to cut her loose.
ALW is a little taken aback that David Archuleta is singing a song written with a female diva in mind. Of course, we Idol fans aren’t surprised at all. David sang “And I Am Telling You” to Kelly Clarkson when he was only 11 years old. He told Mariah Carey she was one of his favorites. Webber’s main advice to David is to keep his eyes open when he sings. OK, there’s that lip-licking and outstretched hand thingy he’s got going, but baby steps, right? Another step David takes in the right direction is that he’s finally gotten off the puppies and rainbows kick. Nevertheless, to me, he’s still merely the nice boy with the nice voice. I can imagine hearing this at a high school recital. Nothing special. Randy says, “This boys the one to beat!” He likes what he calls the “Stevie” runs. Paula thinks the song is perfect, but Simon isn’t impressed. He says it’s pleasant, but “all a bit forgettable for me.” He adds hastily, “it’s enough to get you through to the next round.” Don’t want to mess up that big David vs David finale the producers are gunning for.
ALW persuaded Carly Smithson to perform “Jesus Christ Superstar” instead of “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera. He says that the ballad is not the song for a girl with “a big chest voice” to sing. This is totally the Vegas version of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. She’s supposed to be asking Jesus. You know Jesus the Big Questions. It needs to be passionate and urgent, and maybe a little angry. I’m not digging this smiley version at all. She’s all strained and shouty on the high notes. It’s all frentic without any substance. Randy thought it wasn’t her best performance, but it was good. Paula loved the chorus. Simon finally tells his little girl he loves her. He probably decided he better before she completely freaks out. But oh look, she’s freaking out anyway, she’s so happy that Daddy is finally praising her. She’s all YAY! and breaks out a shirt that says “Simon Loves Me”. Ok, this seems a little desperate. The fact that her fans bought her the shirt is a mitigating factor here. But still.
Woah, the word-nerd is also a theater geek! Who knew? David Cook always stays a step ahead of the competition. Now, wouldn’t you figure this season’s rocker would pick something from Jesus Christ Superstar for Andrew Lord Webber week? That would have been the obvious pick. But, David isn’t one to be obvious in this competition. He’s in this to win, and part of his strategy has been to keep things fresh. This week he picks “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera and proves he can belt a show tune with the best of them. This is a side of David we haven’t seen yet, and it’s pretty cool. Randy says, “Another molten hot lava bomb tonight!” Uh, ok Randy! Paula says the song proves that he is well-rounded as a performer, and that he has a beautiful instrument. She thinks the performance is fantastic. Simon wishes he had stuck to rock, but appreciates what he did with the song.
There was some pretty big pimping for David Cook tonight. It’s pretty obvious the producers want him in the final. He’s got a lot of momentum right now, and I dare say it’s possible that he could win the whole deal. At any rate, the David vs David final, which seams inevitable right now, won’t be as lopsided as nearly every contest has been other than Season 2. It could be a nail-biter, this one could.