The awesome Caffiend, who spoiled The Next Great American band for us last fall attended the dress rehearsal for tonight’s Top 12 performance show. Here’s what she got:
Videos! Click the song link – a big thanks to lawrence for the videos…
- Syesha Mercado – …Got to Get You Into My Life – iTunes Downloads: Vocal Video
- Chikezie – “She’s a Woman” iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Ramiele Malubay – “In My Life iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Jason Castro – …If I Fell iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Carly Smithson – …Come Together iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- David Cook – …Eleanor Rigby iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Brooke White : …Let it Be iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- David Hernandez – “I Saw Her Standing There” iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Amanda Overmyer – “You Can’t Do That” iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Michael Johns – …Across the Universe iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
- Kristy Lee Cook – …Eight Days a Week iTunes Downloads: Vocal Video
- David Archuleta – “We Can Work it Out” iTunes Downloads – Vocal Video
She’s got more here.
Let me say, right off the bat, that I love the Beatles. I’ve been a fan since I was 5 years old. As far as I’m concerned, pop music begins and ends with Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. As you might imagine, I anticipated this week’s Beatles theme with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I love these songs, I love hearing them, but not so much when they’re butchered. And as Idol fans are aware, anything can happen on the big Idol stage.
Happily, the kids are alright. Beatles night is NOT a trainwreck as some have predicted. There are several fine performances and a few surprises.
Most wonderfully, it appears that we have a REAL race on our hands. Front-runners suddenly seem fallible, and contestants who’d been counted out are back in the race.
This is really good stuff.
More after the jump…
The new set is…shiny. It’s blue and silver and a bit cold looking–kind of space-agey, as if American Idol met the Jetsons. The opening is brand-new too, featuring modern-looking CGI. According to Caffeind, who attended rehearsal tonight, the set fits into the old studio–it just looks bigger.
There’s also more seating–due to a standing room only section around the judges, they are calling “the mosh pit.” Oh if only it were. Instead of kids bashing each other on the noggin’, however, the pit is filled with attractive, overly-excited youngsters. Randy Minor and the band is situated in the rafters, high in a mezzanine.
Ryan Seacrest is so excited tonight. I swear, it’s like Pauler slipped him a few uppers from her stash. His banter with Simon Cowell takes on a particularly cantankerous tone. Maybe the new set is emitting strange toxic fumes. Simon still can’t remember the contestants’ names. There is, indeed, something in the air tonight.
Ryan introduces the Top 12. They walk out from behind big space-age doors that open to the back stage.Ryan shoos the kids away before he introduces the Beatles theme–specifically the Lennon/McCartney songbook–with a well put together clip show featuring John Lennon and Paul McCartney from their teen years in the 50’s to the Beatles’ end in the early 70’s.
One more word about these songs: I have special memories attached to each and every one of them, and have probably heard each one thousands of times. I immediately caught every botched lyric, noticed every change and missed note. And I found myself drawn to the more heartfelt performances than not.
The kids re-introduce themselves in their pre-performance video packages. We also learn more about their musical backgrounds.
Syesha Mercado – …Got to Get You Into My Life – Syesha claims to love the big stage, but it doesn’t seem to love her. She performs the Earth Wind and Fire arrangement of this song, and it’s really boring. When she’s not belting, Syesha’s voice is soft, and she does this weird phrasing thing, pausing at odd times. Her approach is not working. Unfortunately, going first plus a forgettable performance could mean the boot for Syesha. Randy says, “Nice arrangement…the Earth, Wind and Fire arrangement, yes? It started a little rough for me…by the middle of it you got into it and started having fun with it…it was alright for me.” Paula says, “You know you’re a good singer, it started off-pitch…but midway through you found your zone…” Simon, “I thought it was a great choice of song…You looked very very nervous…I thought you were much better than you were last week.”
Chikezie – …She a Woman – Pre-performance chat: Chikezie tells Ryan that he was sure he was going home last week. So did I. I wanted him to go home, but I take it back. Chikezie’s performance of this little McCartney gem from Help is audacious. What? A banjo? A fiddle? a tambourine? What the hell? Chikezie starts off acoustic blues style and then moves into an all out balls-to-the-walls rock/soul/funk rave-up. I was NOT expecting that, and I love it. Go Chikezie! Randy, “I was thoroughly entertained….who know…I loved the arrangement…Chikezie smashed it!” Paula can barely get a straight word out, then says, “I’ve been waiting for this.” Simon says, “I’m really surprised that I have to agree with these two…You took control over the stage…I thought you were terrific.” Afterward, Ryan gets all crazy on Chikezie’s ass! Those uppers must be kicking in!
Ramiele Malubay – …In My Life – Ramile dedicates the song to her close friends who have left the show already. Unless she steps it up, she’s going to be joining them soon. She’s got a pretty voice, but does nothing with this song except sing it prettily.Zzz. The hand-waving in the “mosh pit” cracks me up. Tiny Ramiele seems to be shrinking even more as the competition progresses. Randy says, “It was kind of pretty, but kind of pretty boring…it just kind of laid there for me.” Paula says, “You look lovely tonight…It was pretty safe…you are an amazing singer…you need to take advantage of that.” Simon says, “I was bored to tears throughout the entire song…dreary song choice, it did absolutely nothing for you…it was forgettable…I expect a lot better from you…you’re better than that.” Randy refuses to say that she’s done enough for this week. Paula says she deserves to stay. I think Ramiele’s fan base will save her for another week.
Jason Castro – …If I Fell – Jason plays acoustic guitar, and does some really cool little twisty things with his phrasing. I imagine women everywhere falling in love with him as he sings. He’s very sweet and engaging on stage. Having said that, I wish Jason had chosen a more challenging song with more emotional heft. “You’ve Got to Hide You Love Away” would have been an interesting pick. Don’t get me wrong, I still love his unique vocals, but there isn’t much there, there. Randy says, “I didn’t love it…sometimes with a melody that classic…you need to sing it with just more of a heartfelt thing…the switches in the melody kind of threw me…I found myself tuning out.” Randy is baked. The switches in the melody are pure Jason, and are what kept the song from becoming a snoozefest. Paula says, “I disagree with Randy, I feel your heart..it’s such a special connection…” Simon says, “Tonight, it was all a little student in the bedroom at midnight. I thought the song was quite boring. You’ve got to choose brilliant songs that suit your style.”
Pre-performance talk with Carly – She overuses the word “brilliant”. Yeah, we get it. You’re from across the pond. She and Amanda Overmyer are roommates.
Carly Smithson – …Come Together – In her video package, Carly says she’s been singing “Come Together” in the bars every weekend. “Come Together” is not a pre-Sgt Peppers Beatle’s song, but I’m assuming she, and a couple other contestants got special dispensation for songs that they really wanted to sing. There is no denying it, Carly has powerful pipes. I’m amazed at the strength of her vocals in her higher register. Her stage presence is confident. I don’t love this song, but I don’t love the Beatles’ version either. Randy says, “You were strong, you were confident…stellar performance.” Paula says, “I felt like I was already watching a star…You are amazing.” Simon says, “Week after week so far, I think you have chosen the wrong song, until now…this reminds me six years ago…exactly the same week, Kelly Clarkson.” Of course, Carly is thrilled to finally get some major props from Simon. But seriously, how is this performance so much better than her others? Carly has been consistently good. Is this some sort of strategy to keep the buzz around her interesting?
Cut to Ryan, having an animated conversation with Simon. What the hell was that about?
David Cook – …Eleanor Rigby – David decided not to play guitar this week, because, “The song is so powerful, playing guitar would be overkill.” I don’t know. I think the guitar would have grounded him. With this song, conveying the meaning of the lyrics in the performance is really important, and I don’t think he quite cut it. David, you’re singing about sad, lonely people, please stop smiling. His vocals fill up the big stage, and he has enormous stage presence, but I guess I’m just not feeling the post-grunge version of “Eleanor Rigby.” He flubs a lyric, but covers up well. I didn’t dig the Screamy McScreamerton glory note at the end, either. Randy says, “It was rockin’.” Paula says, “I’ve been telling everyone you are the dark horse…you are a thoroughbred.” Simon says, “I thought it was brilliant…if this show remains a talent competition, rather than a popularity competition, you actually could win this entire show.” Simon pimps David C!
Brooke White : …Let it Be – Brooke’s performance of “Let it Be” is beautiful and heartfelt, wonky notes aside. In fact, the wonkiness gives her interpretation a very raw feel. There isn’t much to say except that I really appreciate Brooke’s gorgeous simplicity. She’s so moved herself, that she cries after her performance. I’m remembering why I loved this song from the moment I heard it as a child. Randy says, “I don’t know if it’s your strongest performance, I love the fact that you have all this conviction…you gave a very heartfelt performance.” Paula says, “This is your niche Brooke.” Simon says, “I thought it was again, one of the best performances of the night…brilliant choice of song…it’s believable.”
David Hernandez – …I Saw Her Standing There – Prior to Idol, David worked in a “pizza shop” wink wink. He became familiar with Beatles’ music when he took a course on them in college. So, armed with knowledge, he chooses “I Saw Her Standing There”? WTF? Unless David is the victim of some producer shenanigans, he’s got to be kidding. I’m totally not buying this shiz. This is a horrible song choice for him in every single way. His performance is ridiculous and over the top. Save the stripper moves for the bar, OK? Plus, he messes up the words. Yikes. David could be in trouble this week. Randy says, “It was a little too overdone…I was kind of lost from the jump…there was too much going on.” Paula says, “You know I love your voice…you kind of over did it a little.” Simon says, “David. No. No. No. I thought is was corny verging on desperate, it was all a little bit rabbit in the headlights.”
Amanda Overmyer – You Cant Do That – Ooh. Amanda’s hair looks so pretty! She says this is the first time she’s heard her song. Not surprising, “You Can’t Do That” is another obscure little gem. It’s one of my favorite early Beatles’s tunes. There’s lots of soul in the original, perfectly suitable to Amanda’s bluesy rock style. The song is one of Lennon’s typically cynical takes on romance, and Amanda brings a unique female perspective to it. She gets a million points from me FOR NOT changing the gender. Amanda’s message to her significant other? “Screw me over, and I’ll cut you.” She’s awesome. She’s not swallowed up by the big stage. But, I can’t imagine anything swallowing up Amanda. She has to stay in this competition. Randy says, “That is the true mark of great songs, you took a Beatles song….and rocked it out.” Paula says, “You are a star up there…I’m blown away.” Simon says, “I didn’t think it was as good as last week…you were slurring a lot of the words… but I think it’s a good thing you are in this competition, you are a breath of fresh air.”
Michael Johns – …Across the Universe – Michael gets it. No showboating here. He stands at the mic and sings. His interpretation is plaintive and moving. Now I remember why I liked Michael in the first place. His rough-hewn vocals add a beautiful edge to the song. I know he’ll get back to “performing” after this, but I’m glad we got a chance to see this softer side of Michael. He’s not phoning it in–the song obviously means a lot to him. Randy says, “I thought it was good, I was waiting for something big to happen…it was a little sleepy.” NO Randy. Paula says, “I disagree with you again…It takes an inner strength and an inner quiet confidence…to stand at the center of the stage and…” She loses her thought and Michael finishes for her, “Sing”. Ha. “…But sing brilliantly, ” Paula finishes. Simon says, “I’m going to agree with Randy…now is the point where you have to let yourself go a little bit…I’m still a big fan of yours…I’m frustrated still that we haven’t heard what you’re capable of doing.” Ah, Simon. I disagree. I think Michael finally brought it tonight.
Kristy Lee Cook – …Eight Days a Week – Did I ever, in my lifetime, need to hear a country version of “Eight Days a Week”? No. No, I did not. However, this performance isn’t a trainwreck. It’s just sort of…pointless. Despite a wonky last note, Kristy actually sounds better than she has the entire competition. If she wanted to go country with the Beatles, there were certainly better choices. But, who knows, maybe they weren’t on the list. Randy says, “I liked the arrangement and the idea of the song…it’s just vocally you were trying to force some runs into it…I’m kind of torn with this one.” Paula is uncharacteristically blunt, “I didn’t enjoy it…I didn’t get it.” Simon says, “I thought it was horrendous…you sounded like Dolly Parton on helium…it was a very brave, but foolish thing to do…that song doesn’t work in that style.” Whoa Kristy! Time to break out the hot pants! And for those of you who think Kristy is going home this week, I have two words: Haley Scarnato.
David Archuleta – …We Can Work it Out – In his video package, David admits to being nervous about this week’s performance. He’s not familiar with the Beatles, and he’s picked what he thinks is a difficult song to sing. Within the first 30 seconds of the performance, he botches the lyrics. Just drops them. He loses his nerve. He’s shaky. He forgets more lyrics. You can sense the wheels turning in his head. Oh dear, the Boy Wonder stumbles. Circuit overload! It’s like the poor kid is cracking at the seams. I’m not surprised. David always seemed fragile to me, both physically and emotionally. I get the sense he’s been raised like a hot house flower–take him out of his element, and he has a tough time. I think David could be in trouble as the pressure mounts. I feel kinda sorry for him. Seriously, the bottom age for this competition should be 18. Randy says, “This week was not your vibe…it sounded very forced.” Paula says, “This wasn’t your best week…forgetting the lyrics gets a little tough.” Simon says, “That was a mess, you stumbled over the lyrics, it was just all over the place…it was your weakest performance so far.” To say the least. It’s tough to maintain a front-runner status week in and week out. Only someone seasoned, mature and tough is equipped to handle the pressure from the heightened expectations.
My personal favs tonight: Chikezie, Micheal, Brooke, Amanda
The worst: David H, David A, and Kristy Lee.
Who will go home: Syesha or David H.