“American Idol” Sends Its Audience Over The Rainbow

noah | April 9, 2008 8:00 am

In honor of the three-night, ratings-busting “Idol Gives Back” charitypalooza, last night’s American Idol forced the eight remaining singers to choose selections from the “inspirational” well. What this meant for the singers varied widely–while Jason Castro stretched the term “inspirational” to include “inspired covers of Idol chestnuts,” other hopefuls played a much more straight-and-narrow path. Or chose power ballads. Rankings and reactions after the jump.

1. Jason Castro. Went back to the “unexpected covers” well, singing a sweet ukulele-accompanied version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” that was arranged originally by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and popularized “on the Internet,” as Simon put it. (“Popularized through repeated use in movies and films” would probably be more accurate, but it’s always fun to hear Simon get salty about online culture–especially now that said online culture is demanding that the Idol hopefuls fess up about the inspiration for their arrangements. )

Somehow the judges all refrained from comparing Jason to Katharine McPhee. Restraint!

2. Brooke White. Her performance of “You’ve Got A Friend” was technically fine, and it put her rich voice to good use. But in her after-song judging it seemed like she was starting to lose it, continuing the gabfest that she gave to Ryan last week before she was eliminated. “Her eyes look crazy,” my viewing companion said, and I had to agree.

3. Michael Johns. There were times during his wailing of “Dream On” that he sounded like a dead ringer for debut-album-era Steven Tyler. No, really.

4. Syesha Mercado. Turned in a passable version of Fantasia’s semi-drecky “I Believe,” although I have to question just who is giving the “diva” singers song-choice advice during inspirational-song week–Lakisha Jones pulled the same trick during “Idol Gives Back” week last year, and the judges’ “you can never live up to our season two WINNAH!!!” issues were similar. Syesha’s performance > Lakisha’s, although the army of backup singers definitely lifted the whole thing’s caliber.

5. Kristy Lee Cook. Speaking of people bringing back songs that were performed last year, Kristy Lee somehow didn’t sing “Amazing Grace” this week and instead went for Martina McBride’s “Anyway.” It was a snoozer, but it’ll probably get the “God Bless The USA” demographic voting.

6. David Archuleta. I want to hear David sing “Angels” in 20 years, after his teen-idol fame has faded and he’s reduced to stripping off his skin and muscles in music videos for the sake of getting press. Will the judges ever point out his pitch problems or overall inertness? Probably not, since the producers are so keen on getting him into the winners’ circle that they’re now giving airtime to signs that approvingly note his lip-licking.

7. Carly Smithson. A poor song choice in Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” a performance that ranged from manic to possessed, and the admittance that looking at Simon while she was singing made her nervous would have all added up to the worst performance of the night, had it not been for…

8. David Cook. His favorite band is Our Lady Peace! His performance of their hoary “Innocent” was lacking everything that made his previous performances compelling and had the added bonus of a weak opening 30 seconds, an overpowering choir backup, a leap into the crowd (while wearing a white jacket!) and showing the world that he’d written “Give Back” on his palm in black Sharpie:


Eddie Vedder he ain’t.

WHO’S GOING HOME: The use of the word “angry” in the critique of her performance leads me to believe that Carly’s week has come. At least she can think about the show going on during her exit song.


PAULA ABDUL FALLING-OUT-OF-HER-DRESS SCALE: Whoa, mama! Who squeezed her into that tube? Perhaps whoever was styling everyone this week should have focused less on covering the girls in glitter and more on Paula’s actual chest size.

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