“American Idol” And The Sound Of Many Broken Wings Flapping

noah | March 19, 2008 9:30 am

American Idol was pretty rough last night, wasn’t it? Somehow the producers got it in their heads that what the public really wanted to see was another night of the contestants giving the Beatles catalog another go, to the point where they reportedly switched up the whole show with only a few hours to spare and made everyone pick new songs at the last minute. Unsurprisingly, this led to two things: a show that ran the gamut from “not bad” to “awful” to “do I really have to put up with another 10 weeks of this?”; and lots of complaints from the judges about song choice, which should show you how much info Randy, Simon, and Paula are given about the hoops that the contestants are forced through. Rankings and reactions after the jump.

1. Carly Smithson. She performed a pretty, understated version of “Blackbird,” and Simon dinged her on song choice–until she said that part of her reason for picking that song was because so many of her fellow singers were blackbirds with broken wings who had been trying to fly and had finally made it to the Idol stage and don’t you feel bad now, Simon Cowell. Her adorable rosette-and-glitter top, which worked even though it looked like something that Angela would have made on Project Runway two seasons ago, was my second-favorite aspect of the whole night. (The best part? The Wayne’s World-like segment when the three judges were forced to toast the evening with their Coke cups, which was marked by everyone smiling somewhat grimly.)

2. Chikezie. Honestly, the only thing that was really bad about his “I’ve Just Seen A Face” was that harmonica “solo,” which sounded like it was being played by a four-year-old discovering a toy version of the instrument for the first time ever. And as expected, the guy from the Clark Brothers, who contributed dobro to the performance, didn’t rate a shout-out–or even a shot of his face.

3. Jason Castro. Aw, he learned French for “Michelle.” Not to mention that he further cemented his cameo in the next Harold & Kumar movie with his intro video. Points off for the weird hand gestures during his chanson en Francais, though–he looked like he was swatting the words away.

[Beatles-rock-stature-sized gap here.]

4./5. Brooke White/Amanda Overmeyer. I’m putting these two together not because of their performances–which diverged stylistically, but came together on their awkwardness and overall mediocrity–but because of their shared attitude, which seems to follow this framework: “There is no way I’m going to win this thing unless that David kid forgets the lyrics from now until May, so I might as well just have fun being on TV every week.” This was epitomized by Amanda’s exchange with Simon where she said that she wanted her performances to be a preview for concert audiences, and when he pointed out that her tickets–presumably to the Idol tour, which only brings along the top 10–weren’t on sale yet, she replied that she’d be OK with selling out a bar in her hometown. At the rate the music industry is going, she’s probably got her head on the straightest out of everyone left.

[Heather Mills divorce settlement-sized gap here.]

6. Ramiele Malubay. She closed the show, yet her performance of “I Should Have Known Better” was utterly forgettable, and she’d likely be a top candidate for heading home if she hadn’t gone last. Where better to stick her than the middle of the pack?

7. Syesha Mercado. Did the world really need to know what a screwed-and-chopped remix of Whitney Houston’s take on “Yesterday” might sound like? Syesha wasn’t as awful as the people below her on this list, but she did commit the cardinal sin of making it all about her, instead of incorporating some lyric-interpretation. Somehow Simon loved this particular song choice, which leads me to believe that his tolerance for subtlety isn’t all that high.

8. David Archuleta. Sure, he didn’t forget the lyrics this time. (So much for that bit of Fox synergy.) But Simon’s comment that David’s performance was a “master class” was the clearest indication that he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing at home, namely the lip-licking every time he took a breath. (I tried tallying them up but lost count around lick No. 7.) And surely I’m not the only one who thought it was kind of weird that the judges slammed a bunch of the contestants for being one-note while praising David for going back to the old, tired ballad well–especially since the kid’s “long and winding road” would seem to have every twist and turn plotted out by his parents.

9. David Cook. David apparently performed the Whitesnake version of “Day Tripper,” although it was all Puddle Of Mudd to my ears. The strengths of that song lie in the harmonies on the chorus and its dancey beat, and his arrangement obliterated the latter and muffled the former just enough that his stupid talkbox solo became the focal point. It’ll definitely do well with the active rock crowd, but the page in my notebook devoted to Cook’s performance is just a lot of exclamation points and all-caps “UGH”s.

10. Michael Johns. His atrocious, all-over-the-place version of “A Day In The Life” made the version performed on last year’s Idol finale seem absolutely virtuostic. But he dedicated the song–which was roundly panned by the judges as well–to his dead friend, so there’s no way he’s going home this week.

11. Kristy Lee Cook. What more can be said about Kristy Lee Cook at this point? Here’s something: The producers obviously felt bad over her previous disasters and tried to show their remorse by dressing her in sparkly clothes and letting her flash pictures of her dog to the American public.

WHO’S GOING HOME: It has to be Kristy Lee, right? Putting her in sequins and making everyone “aww” over her pooch can’t hide the fact that she has no ability to stay in her lower register and is utterly boring.

PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 6/10. Paula actually made a couple of good points… until she tried to explain away Michael’s awkwardness by saying that he had monitors in his ears and working with them for the first time was something that many performers tripped up on. Which would have been a good point! Except he wasn’t wearing them.

[Photo: rickey.org]

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