Season 7 Top 7 Performance – Recap

Mariah Carey mentors

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Thanks Lawrence for the video…

Who would’ve thought the boys could hold their own performing in Mariah Carey’s world? Not only did they hold their own, but the best performance of the night went to a singer who should have had a train wreck–David Cook. By now, however, it’s pretty clear that David is in his element when faced with a musical challenge. He’s consistently been able to find a way to put his own twist on songs that are outside of his comfort zone. So, maybe it’s not such a big surprise after all. David Archuleta missed the memo that said Inspiration Week was last week. Actually, every week has been puppies-and-rainbows-and-I-do-believe-I-can-fly week for David. But as Randy would say, those big, meaningful power ballads are right in David’s “wheelhouse”. I don’t expect him to be stepping out of that box any time soon.

The girls had a tougher time. Unlike Jason Castro, who basically eschewed the glory note and did his own thing, that other folkie, Brooke White, tried to stretch the boundaries of her range with mixed results. Syesha Mercado would have been better if she hadn’t tried to stretch her range at the end of her number, but then she probably would have been called out as boring. Carly Smithson, trying too hard to please Simon, didn’t please him at all. Surprisingly, the glory note queen of the girls this week was Kristy Lee Cook who was a bit shaky at the start of the performance, but then pulled it out at the end. She’s not going anywhere, peeps.

After the jump, my contestant-by-contestant recap.

David Archuleta – …When You Believe – David goes first tonight. He’s probably the only contestant at this point who can’t be hurt performing early in the show, so it’s all good. In his pre-performance clip, David tells Mariah he listens to a lot of her music. She advises David to go up into his falsetto. When he actually does this in his performance, it sounds really awkward. Nevertheless, in my book, David is still the nice boy with the nice voice. My biggest problem with him at this point are his song choices. To put it bluntly, his taste in music sucks. It’s exactly how I feel about Clay Aiken. Great voice, horrible songs. And sorry, no matter how much I like a voice, there isn’t ANYBODY on earth I’d want to hear sing the phone book. Argh, I hate that expression. Randy says, “You can sing anything, that was the bomb.” Paula, looking pretty in purple, says David made Mariah proud. Simon tweaked David a little about his song choice, saying, “I would have bet a million dollars on you choosing that song.” But then goes on to say that it was very, very good.

Carly Smithson – …Without You – This song was a hit back in the 70’s by Nilsson and was actually originally written and recorded by the group Badfinger. So, not technically a Mariah Carey song. Carly talks about missing Michael Johns in her sit-down with Ryan. Who doesn’t? It seems like he was the cut-up of the group. Carly looks gorgeous in a long-sleeved low-cut royal blue dress. When Carly and Mariah meet, they pretend it’s for the first time. But actually, that isn’t true. The first 2/3s of the song are really good. I’ve said this before–I love Carly’s lower register–but not so much when she belts. If she stopped trying to be Celine Dion, I’d like her more. Randy didn’t like the beginning of the song–he loves those power notes. He said it was “pretty good.” Paula liked that she showed some vocal restraint at the beginning of the song. So did I. Both Randy and Paula like her performance. But daddy-Simon is still not pleased, even when Carly picked his song choice. He was direct “Did you pull it off? I don’t think you did. I think you are over-thinking everything, I still think you’re wound up, I think you were holding yourself back in the end too much. I thought it was an OK version.” To hell with Simon. Quit trying to please him Carly! Sadly, though, this could be the end of the line for her.

Syesha Mercado – …Vanishing – Despite what Simon says, I think it was wise for Syesha to pick a relatively unknown Mariah song. It freed her to sing it Mariah-style while avoiding the inevitable comparisons. She’s stuck in a hard place. If she doesn’t glory note, she gets called out on it. If she does glory note, she gets called out on that because she’s not very good–she always over-sings.   Tonight, the first part of the song is pretty, but the ending not so much. Her vocal limitations are really obvious in that upper register. Not only does she sound strained, but she goes flat when she hits those upper reaches. Randy gives her props for singing a difficult song. Paula says she was wise for picking an unknown song and that, “Tonight was unbelievably magical for you.” Simon says she was technically good–a backhanded compliment. And that at this stage of the game, she needed to pick a well-known song. Simon’s just disappointed he can’t say that she doesn’t compare to Mariah.

Simon says that David Archuleta has set the bar. Has anyone else noticed the look of expectation and apprehension on the contesants’ faces when it’s Simon’s turn to critique? And then the sweet relief if he likes their performances…

Brooke White – …Hero – Brooke tells Ryan that she missed her sister’s wedding. Eep. That’s a big sacrifice to make for this competition. The girls all dress up for Mariah night. Brooke looks pretty in a v-necked dress, and her hair is a mass of shiny curls. She’s like a vision sitting at the piano. Unfortunately, Brooke takes Mariah’s advice to go for the big note. Brooke’s attempt to Mariah-up the song sets her off track. She sounds lovely in the first verse, putting her own spin on the song. She loses it at the bridge when she attempts to up the ante, beyond the range of her voice. At that point, she loses her confidence and never really gets it back. Brooke should have just stuck to doing Brooke and all would have been well. Randy likes that she brought a singer/songwriter vibe to the song, but didn’t like the song after the bridge either. Paula says Brooke is authentic and brave, then advises her not to speed up when she gets nervous. Simon is like Paula tonight, rambling on about hamburgers and buns. What? He says her performance is like a hamburger without the meat–a pretty useless critique. Randy chimes in that it’s the condiments that are missing. And then Paula asks “Where’s the beef?” A pop culture reference most of the audience isn’t old enough to remember. Whatever.

Kristy Lee Cook – …Forever – Whoa. Kristy Lee gave Mariah goose bumps. That Kristy is one tough cookie. She’s climbed out of B3 hell to become one of the dark horses of this competition. I would not be surprised to see Kristy make the Top 3–a momentum she’s created with smart choices and a steely determination. Got to admire her for that, I must admit. Her performance is good in the right places. She’s got some warbly spots, but when she hits the money notes she sounds pure and confident. It’s got just enough of a country twang to please her base and keep the comparisons to Mariah at bay. She’s the best of the girls this week. Randy says, “You really stepped it up in the end.” Paula calls her a very smart girl. “Kristy Lee Cook, Oh my God, I’m blown away, ” says Paula. Simon says, “You managed with what you could, it was a little whiny at times, it just wasn’t great.” I think Simon is determined that Kristy not succeed. Kristy is determined to win. I’d put my money on Kristy.

David Cook – …Always Be My Baby – Leave it to David Cook to turn Mariah’s bouncy pop ditty into an emo anthem. I’m not sure where he’s taking it during the first verse. It feels a little like a misstep, but then the strings kick in on the chorus and the song builds momentum, and I get goosebumps. He grabs the song by the throat during the second verse, and doesn’t let go. At this point, I’m mesmerized. His performance is tender, passionate and thrilling. Unbelievable. The judges go ape sh*t. Randy gives him a standing O. He says David is ready to make an album. Paula says the song could be in a movie soundtrack right now. Simon says, “David, it was like coming out of karaoke hell…” The audience starts booing. David looks perplexed. But then Simon finishes, “into a breath of fresh air…” and the audience erupts into applause. Simon continues, “That was original, it was daring, and that’s the sign of a great potential artist, someone who takes risks. Congratulations.” David’s terminally ill brother is in the audience to witness this great performance. Standing center stage with Ryan, David begins to tear up. This is a “moment, ” for sure. David has proven himself to be a talented, versatile, consistent performer. I think he deserves to win it all.

Jason Castro – …I Dont Wanna Cry – Mariah actually gives Jason some really good pointers, including a perfect song arrangement. He stays authentic, bringing an acoustic Spanish flavor to his performance. This isn’t one of his best vocals. He’s breathy and the band threatens to drown him out in spots, but his phrasing as always, is exquisite. Jason’s emotional interpretation trumps the bumpy spots in the song. Randy doesn’t like it at all. He says he feels like he’s at a luau, with some guy playing guitar in the distance. Jason finds this very funny. Paula says she’d love to be at that luau, listening all night long. “You are amazing, ” Paula says. When Simon says he’s going to have to agree with…Paula, she nearly falls out of her chair. To be honest, I nearly do too. Simon doesn’t think it was the best vocal, but appreciates that Jason stuck to an identifiable style. “It was a cool version, ” says Simon. Really, I was expecting the singing-in-the-street-in-your-bedroom critique from Simon.

At this point, Simon says he thinks the guys won the night. Actually, nobody bombed on Mariah night, a night that could have easily been a train wreck. Good for the Top 7. Still, I would have loved to have heard Michael Johns perform “Visions of Love”. Ah, well.

About mj santilli 34285 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!