“American Idol” Wanted To Know: Could Their Birds Sing?

rtelfairm | March 12, 2008 9:00 am

While Dear Leader Maura was rushing around last week trying to finalize editorial plans before spending the week in Austin at SXSW, she must have forgotten to take a her meds, leading to the inexplicable decision to ask me to fill-in on American Idol recap duty this week. I wrote back with a simple request: “You never give me your money. Money. That’s what I want.” To which I received a reply that could have only come from a Japanese conceptual artist: “Taxman.” Follow me after the jump, and we’ll remember together our Idols’ magical mystery tour through the Lennon-McCartney catalog.

A few of you have seen my lame attempts at humor (e.g., “Wilco wuz robbed”) in the comments. (Most of those who have just “report as inappropriate”-ed me.) None of you have like stumbled across my own blog — to which I won’t link here, because I think that’s sorta tacky — where I occasionaly write about Amy Winehouse (duh!), American Idol, and other things sorta-music-related. But I hope I’ll be 25% as informative and 10% as funny as Maura is over the next couple of days. Okay, enough of my yapping. Let’s boogie!

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Tuesday’s performances ranged from the sublime to the absurd to the “whaaaa?” But which was which?

1. David Cook. David took a commanding lead with his uber-rocking performance of “Eleanor Rigby,” deciding to once again let his inner Daughtry out (eww) and shining two weeks in a row. Who knew that a compliment from Lionel Richie could be so…career-making? And I clearly wasn’t the only one who saw a rock star on stage Tuesday night; both audience and judges ate that up. As Simon said, “If this show remains a TALENT competition rather than a POPULARITY competition, you actually could WIN this entire show.” And he’s not exaggerating.

2. Chikezie. Chikezie, rocking his greenist-and-grayest-and-whitest argyle sweater, made us think his take on “She’s A Woman” was going to be a bluegrass/Americana snoozer, until he cranked it up about a thousand notches. Performing second on Tuesday, Chikezie got the first deep-throated cheers of the season, and he deserved them. This performance is exactly what the finalists need to do–turn it up and take chances. And Chikeze, in Randy’s words, “smashed it”; even Simon was practically speechless.

3. Carly Smithson. When I heard Carly announce she would be performing “Come Together,” I thought she must have won some sort of tattoo-off against roomie Amanda Overmyer, a more natural fit for the song. But Carly says she performs this song every night with her Irish bar band in an acoustic arrangement she’d be changing up a bit. Not surprisingly, Carly was technically perfect, though I’m concerned that she still may be lacking that “something.” Something such as “the ability to connect with the audience.” Although to her credit she seemed to be trying a little harder on Tuesday, Carly needs to be careful that she doesn’t become this season’s Melinda Doolittle. And though the judges’ incessant hyper-praise may not be helping, even Simon finally granted that she picked the right song, going so far as to bus out the “Kelly Clarkson” comparison. Which of course means that Clive Davis will sign Carly on Wednesday, re-release Ultimate High on Thursday, and trash her for picking bad songs on Friday.

[sales-of-All-The-Right-Reasons-sized gap here]

4. Brooke White. Brooke’s Atkins-unfriendly/Taylor-Swift-lite-via-Alicia-Keys persona is not a personal favorite, but she knows how to make a faux-impassioned performance seem “genuine.” Also, it doesn’t hurt that on a night when the rocking performances buried the slow numbers, Brooke’s “intense” performance of “Let It Be” was the best of the slow. Brooke has benefitted tremendously from the new rule allowing contestants to play instruments; the piano made the song, selling the idea she’s been practicing for this moment for years.

5. Michael Johns. Michael’s take on “Across The Universe” was solid, technically perfect, and even more robotic than Carly’s. Simon noted this early-front-runner disappointed, yet again, with an added unflattering comparison to Carly’s “brilliant” performance. I’ve never been on the Michael bandwagon; I am not upset to see the wheels falling off.

6. Syesha Mercado. Although Conventional Wisdom about AI performance shows is you don’t want to be first, and Syesha’s performance of my Chikezie-predicted “Got To Get You Into My Life” was a little here and a little there at the same time; she should benefit tremendously this week by not performing late in the show, when the bulk of the really craptacular performances arrived. Simon’s semi-pimp remark that Syesha was “much better than last week” — I thought she was actually pretty good last week — will help her survive the multiple train-wrecks yet to come.

7. Jason Castro. Simon really nailed it during his criticism of Jason’s take on “If I Fell In Love With You”. It really was YouTubeluar. Jason’s performance of “Hallelujah” last week was revelatory; this week’s performance of “If I Fell In Love With You” was mehvelatory.

Note to self: “dreadlocks-and-acoustic-guitar” is the new “frosted-tips-and-beatboxing”. Check.

8. David Hernandez. David won’t let Chikezie hog the “I’m The Next Taylor Hicks” spotlight, obviously. David’s performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” was so overdone that even Paula struggled to come up with something to say beyond “overdone”. But Simon’s unfortunate Destiny’s Child shout-out — “No, no, no” — probably means that David is a shoo-in for the Top 4.

[ratio-of-sales-of-Back-To-Black-to-River-sized gap here]

9. Amanda Overmyer. I’ve heard Amanda’s take on “You Can’t Do That” four or five times already, and I’m still trying to get the artist-via-artist-via-artist references right. Janis-via-Aretha-via-Tina? Also, WTF was that?? Sure, it was different, but a “breath of fresh air,” as Simon noted? Or was it the kind of breath Jordin Sparks appeared to be taking on the cover of her album?

10. Ramiele Malubay. Ramiele had the unfortunate luck: 1) to follow a dynamite performance from Chikezie 2) with a down-tempo performance of “In My Life” 3) that was, well, boring. And not just in comparison. Just boring. That’s too bad, because I like Ramiele, in the Paris-Bennett-way, not the I-think-she’s-gonna-win way. When Randy and Simon both peg you as boring, you might be in trouble.

11. David Archuleta. In any “normal” Idol competition week — especially in a season as “strong” as TPTB think this is — David’s forgetting-the-lyrics (TWICE!) would doom him. Throw in the fact that the rest of the performance was less-than-mediocre and he’d be the sure bet to be sent home. Also, the 12-year-old David is so young that he’s never even heard the Beatles’ version of “We Can Work It Out.” But he heard Stevie Wonder sing it once, and he sorta liked it. So why Davis is clearly on his way to the Top 4, at least he had the good fortune to be immediately preceded by the wretched performance from Kristy.

12. Kristy Lee Cook. Kristy Lee tells us she will be singing “Eight Days A Week,” but will be “following Simon’s advice” and “taking a chance” on the arrangement.

Was I actually hearing Lurleen Lumpkin sing “Bagged Me A Homer”? Sadly, no, because even that would have been better. Worst Idol country moment ever? When Paula can only fumble, “Kristy, I didn’t enjoy it”, you’re in trouble, but at least a gracious Ryan tried to save Kristy Lee by deflecting back to Simon: “Didn’t you advise her to go country?” Regardless, probably the worst non-Sanjaya arrangement I’ve ever heard on Idol. Sorry, Kristy Lee.

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WHO’S GOING HOME: This is a tough call, as David A., you know, forgot the lyrics to his song, and Kristy Lee forgot that she was not a Simpsons caricature of a country singer. Amanda and Ramiele should send them both flowers for keeping them safe for another week. However, I suspect David’s “but I’m really cute!” appeal could help him scrape by this week. I’d put my money on Kristy Lee and her WTF? rendition of “Eight Days A Week” FTW.

PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 5/10. After Paula’s nearly-perfect-night-of-craziness last Wednesday, I was most afraid of this category. Fortunately for me, Paula’s craziness on Tuesday was merely “normal” by her admittedly low standards. She started crazy and got crazier, but don’t we just expect that now anyway? Feel free to savage me in the, but keep in mind that I was not authorized to award Paula a “perfect 10” score this week.

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BREAKING: AMERICANS WHO STILL HAVE “MODEMS” IN THEIR “‘PUTERS” SRSLY LURVS THEM SOME DAVID ARCHULETA: America’s 60-year-old grandmothers, their 10-year-old granddaughters, and disillusioned Ron Paul supporters feared on Tuesday night that poor little David Archuleta, after bravely overcoming his fight with Star Search, might lose his chance to be America’s Next Top Idol due to forgetting the words to his song, more than once. America-hating “judge” Simon Cowell called Little David’s performance “a mess” and “your worst performance so far,” but that didn’t stop our nation’s robo-dailers from casting their “votes” for Little David. The polls may now be closed, in both Mississippi and Texas, and on the internets, and here is what America had to say:

1) David Archuleta (“Not predicted to be voted off”) 2) Brooke White 3) Chikezie 4) Carly Smithson 5) Amanda Overmyer 6) David Cook 7) Kristy Lee Cook 8) Jason Castro 9) Michael Johns 10) Ramiele Malubay 11) David Hernandez 12) Syesha Mercado

It may or may not be too bad for David A.’s modem-friendly demographic that no one has a “modem” or even a “computer” anymore. Everyone now votes for their favorite Idols using iPhones and “i hrt crly” “SMS” thingies. Hooray!

[Photo: Rickey.org]