Notes after the jump. ...
Seacrest says three of the top four have been number one in a given week. I'm thinking the Davids and Syesha (whom Dialidol had at number one last week). Would cringe if it was Castro. Intro of the judges. Intro of the contestants.
Tape re the Rock Hall. Mentions Alan Freed's connection to Cleveland. Hey, Akron, too! Overview of the history of rock. Tres skimpy. Gets to the rock hall. (By the way, this is all B roll done by the rock hall for "American Idol's" use.) Two songs by each. Judge comments after each performance. "All clear?" Seacrest says.
David Cook starts with "Hungry Like the Wolf." I've been getting to like DC but this is not a great performance. The doo-doos in particular are overdone, and the band -- often intrusive -- seems buried in this mix. Almost as if they're underplaying him to keep the show close. C plus. Randy calls it an OK choice and a solid performance but wants a "mad hot" performance. Paula says "HLTW" has left her with a big appetite. So spontaneous! Simon says it was good but a little bit copycat.
Syesha Mercado. "Proud Mary" "by Tina Turner." With Ike, please. And Creedence of course before that, but she's working the Ike & Tina version. Starting ... easy. Finishing ... rough. Big support from the band. But she's a little too polished. Perfect enunciation. Not a lot of grit. Very -- you've heard this before -- Broadway. But good vocal. I'd give her a B minus. Randy calls this the third week in a row that Syesha is in the zone. Paula says she looks like a star, with "magnetic voice and presence." Simon thought it was just "a bad shrieky version," a "bad impersonation of Tina Turner."
Jason Castro. "There is a few songs on the list that I knew." Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." Oh, this is unfortunate. Oh, my goodness. I didn't think he could get any worse. I was wrong. I can't even grade this. The horror! The horror! Randy says "that was a really karaoke Bob" and "nothing special." And that's freakin' kind. Paula says she has never seen him perform more to the audience but "I wasn't crazy about the performance, or the song, actually" and then she goes into some crap about how genuine he is. Simon calls it "utterly atrocious. ... as bad as I have ever heard." Compares it to a first-round audition. Randy, having been circumspect in his comments, is supporting Simon, while Paula tries to get them to move on. Ryan tells Paula to build JC's confidence for the next song. She obliges.
David Archuleta. "Stand By Me." He knows the song but apparently hasn't done it in public. To his dog, but not in public. Pleasant but not thrilling. C plus. Randy says at least there's one guy who always hits the stage wanting to win the whole thing, calls it "hot mad vocals." Paula says he is way beyond his years and "you're seasoned already." Seasoned maybe, but not spicy. Simon says DA could have whistled and still been better than JC; DA, he says, was well placed. But he calls it the best performance so far.
DC, round two. "Baba O'Riley." We're back to moody DC at the beginning, but it works. Well, not on the "don't cry." And he opts not to go for the fast part. C plus again. Randy says it's more like the DC he's grown to love, and "be you." Paula says she wants more, and she's "really humbled to sit here and watch your soul." OK. Simon just says "welcome back, David Cook."
Syesha again. "A Change Is Gonna Come." Here's where she has to make the argument that she deserves to stay more than JC. She's close to making it, too. Her phrasing is iffy, and the range is not great but she starts and finishes big. C plus, but the kind of C plus that ideally mobilizes "Idol" voters.* Randy did not love it as much as her first song and she was trying for things that weren't there. (But she did need to try, to get to top 3.) Paula, eyes glistening with tears, stands and applauds her and calls it "a superstar performance." Syesha tears up, too. Simon says he has to be fair, and "I'm going to agree with Paula."
*I keep going back and forth about whether the producers want JC off or not. Their shrugging off Paula's wackiness a week ago because it was something people talked about -- suggests that they'd like people to be talking about JC. On the other hand, the defense of Syesha -- including Ryan accusing Randy of buzzkill -- is epic, and says the show wants her instead of JC.
Speaking of JC, it's "Mister Tambourine Man." IN WHICH HE FORGETS THE WORDS. I have always thought the worst version of this song was the one on an episode of "F Troop." This is close. Dull, monotonous. More tuneful than his first song, but HE FORGOT THE WORDS. Randy asks what JC thought; JC admits he lost some lines. Randy says JC is not in the zone tonight. Paula again struggles for her positivity, saying the song "didn't blow me away but you blow me away." Simon says, "Pack your suitcase."
DA to close. "Love Me Tender." Which he had to do some research about. Molasses slow. But capable and he keeps it simple. Maybe the best performance of the night. B. Randy calls it great. Paula calls it one of her favorite performances from DA, and "I felt your heart," which I guess is better than watching his soul. Simon says he crushed the competition.
So what have we got? Well, there's no doubt that JC should go home, and the show certainly gave him an ample failure showcase. But it's going to come down to how much his fans backlash against the judges' comments. If I were Syesha, I would still be worried. And Ryan is lobbying for votes, saying this was the week that Tamyra Gray and Chris Daughtry went bye bye.