Click Song Link for Video!
- Michael Johns – …Dream On by Aerosmith
- Syesha Mercado – …I Believe by Fantasia
- Jason Castro – …Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo
- Kristy Lee Cook – …Anyway by Martina McBride
- David Cook – …Innocent by Our Lady Peace
- Carly Smithson – …The Show Must Go On by Queen
- David Archuleta – …Angels by Robbie Williams
- Brooke White – …Youve Got A Friend by James Taylor/Carole King
Thanks, Lawrence, for the video…
I suppose this is going to be a tradition in Idol-land. Gearing up for the big Idol Gives Back telecast will have the contestants singing songs of “Inspiration”. It became clear to me last night why this is such a bad idea. Nearly every Idol chose their song for a sentimental reason, rather than considering the bigger questions of strategy and suitability. The wind-up was a night of mostly uninspired performances. The best of night was Jason Castro who brought it, just when he needed it. His rendition of the lovely “Over the Rainbow” was the performance of the evening.
Michael Johns – …Dream On by Aerosmith – Actually, I think the judges were harsh on Michael–particularly Randy who seemed almost agitated as he criticized his song choice. Granted, last week’s bluesy “It’s All Wrong, But it’s Alright” put Michael in what appears to be his perfect element–blue eyed soul. That performance was a Eureka! moment for the judges–Michael! We’ve found your box! Now stay in it! Unfair. Michael’s performance of “Dream On” is powerful. Even those final high notes were fine. When Randy tells him it’s the wrong song, Michael becomes exasperated. “How could I NOT pick this song? With the orchestra here? With me living my dream in America!” Paula says. Paula liked it. Simon did too, but like Randy, he didn’t like the song choice. Thing is, if Michael were playing to win, he would have chosen another R&B number to perform this week, and it would have earned him higher marks from the judges. Kinda sucks for Michael, but that’s the Idol game. PS. I don’t mind the ascot. It suits him.
Syesha Mercado – …I Believe by Fantasia – Gah. Only Fantasia can sing this song. Fantasia’s raw emotional delivery manages to transcend every treacly sentiment that bogs down this cliche ridden song. Fantasia is a very special talent. Syesha is not. Oh, she tries. She tricks-out the song with every glory note she can muster, including a dog-howling high note to finish. In the end, Syesha’s performance doesn’t have even a pinky’s worth of the emotion that Fanty’s has. Sorry. Sing an iconic song? You are going to be compared to the original. The judges declare it a technically good performance, but I don’t think so. Listening to it again, her melisma-fest at the end is way pitchy. Both Randy and Simon compare her unfavorably to Fantasia, but Paula says this was Syesha’s night to shine. Despite being #2 in the line-up–which is often the death-spot for contestants–I don’t think Syesha is going anywhere. She’s the last remaining African American, and the only R&B singer that remains. She’s got a voting bloc to herself. I think she’ll be around for at least a few more weeks.
Jason Castro – …Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo – Jason is the only contestant who truly chose wisely this week. He needed a good performance, and he pulled one out. The Hawaiinized arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” he chose to sing is a cult classic at this point. It’s a perfect song choice for Jason, because it allows him to do what he does best–wrap his gorgeous phrasing around a beautiful, classic song, without distractions. It’s just Jason and his ukulele and some lovely backing strings that don’t overpower. I got chills listening to that. Randy, who basically said, on Larry King Live Monday night, that Jason was a mediocre bar singer with a guitar, is completely turned around, “Jason Castro is back in the hunt. That is the hottest so far there…that was blazing molten hot!” He says it sounds like “A record!”–even though, Randy said on LKL that he’d never sign him. I’m beginning to think Randy might be a little psychotic. Paula calls his voice “definitive” which is the wrong use of that word, but I take her point. Simon calls it fantastic. Jason is back in the race. Yay.
Kristy Lee Cook – …Anyway by Martina McBride – To Kristy Lee, this song is a big FU to the haters out there. She’s going to sing her song whether we like it or not. Judging by tonight’s performance, she’s not going anywhere. She did enough to keep her country music loving base happy, plus encourage some casual viewers to pick up the phone. All sparkly in a gold tank top, her performance is solid, if not spectacular. The song itself is a country music show stopper. One thing about Kristy Lee–she often chooses her songs well, which is half the battle. Randy thought the song was “really good for you.” So are you going to sign her now Randy? Paula says it was her best by far. Simon says, “I thought you were very, very good indeed.” I got to hand it to her, she lands in the Bottom 3 nearly every week, and somehow always dodges that bullet. This week she may even wind up safe on the couches.
David Cook – …Innocent by Our Lady Peace – David is my pick to win this whole shebang. But tonight wasn’t one of his better performances. I have no idea what went on behind the scenes–maybe the desire to help out a favorite band, or sing a song that’s close to his heart–despite the fact that’s it’s obscure and doesn’t quite fit his vocals. When a contestant chooses an unfamiliar song to sing, they need to turn in a spectacular performance to make it work If not, the audience tunes out–they aren’t going to work that hard to get it. David struggles on the low notes at the beginning of the song, and sounds strained as he switches up quickly to a higher note. Things improve by the chorus, but by now, the audience is lost, I’m afraid. By the time the song ends and he holds up his hand to reveal “Give Back” written on it…well too late for that gesture to have any effect. David faces the judges with a look on his face that says, “I know I effed up.” Randy says it wasn’t one of his strongest weeks. Paula really liked it, but Simon says it’s “a teensy weensy bit pompous.” David has been the most consistent out of this whole crew. He’s allowed one bad performance. And he can afford it. His fanbase will see him through this week.
Carly Smithson – …The Show Must Go On by Queen – I love Carly’s lower register. She’s all velvety smooth there. When she hits the high notes, though, she sounds strained and overblown. She’s painful to listen to in spots. There’s lots of vocal showboating, but no emotional connect with the audience. Carly has never defined her musical style in this competition. What’s going to ultimately kill her (and that may be as soon as Thursday night) is her inability to connect to the viewing audience. She comes across as cold, haughty and desperate. Man, all those hard knocks–have they made Carly bitter? Maybe. These are not attributes that are going to help Carly succeed in the popularity contest that is American Idol. I honestly could not remember a thing about this performance minutes after I heard it. The song was pitchy and “just ok” for Randy. Paula gives her first negative critique of the night when she says she didn’t feel connected to the song. Simon says she oversang it, lost control of the song, and sounded angry. Simon thinks she’s in trouble this week, and I agree.
David Archuleta – …Angels by Robbie Williams – Heh. David talks about “Angels” as if he just came across it, rather than it being part of his vocal repertoire since elementary school. Which it is. He’s sung “inspirational” songs nearly every week–this is old hat for David. And I’m guessing there is many more where “Angels” came from. As always, David’s vocals are very pretty, very nice, but very bland. His performances aren’t memorable. He’s a kid with a great voice, but no charisma. Randy is totally excited by David’s vocal runs. And as we all know by now, Randy Jackson has never met a vocal run he didn’t like. Needless hyperbole sets in as Randy tells David it was his “hottest performance the whole season!” Paula says, “Fantastic!” Simon thinks it’s the best song choice of the night so far, but found his vocal a bit nasally.
Brooke White – …Youve Got A Friend by James Taylor/Carole King – This song is not one of the more dynamic songs from the Carole King catalog. James Taylor, a wonderful singer, puts me to sleep when he sings it. So, I figured there really wasn’t much hope for Brooke when I heard the pick. She really needed to choose something a little more dramatic in order to pop, otherwise, she pales in comparison to her competition. Her performance is nice, but a little dull, and a little sad. If she’d brightened it up instead of singing it like a dirge, she might have pulled it off. Randy thought it was just “OK”. Paula loves the song, she thought it was a perfect way to close the evening. Simon describes it as a pleasant walk in the park, but not original. Lucky Brooke, this week, she’s saved by the pimp spot.