With "Idol Gives Back" tomorrow, tonight's theme is inspirational songs. In-progress notes after the jump. ...
I'm a little behind so tonight's post is mostly going to be about the songs and the judges' comments.
Michael Johns first. "Dream On" by Aerosmith. It's in his wheelhouse but I always though there was an undercurrent of irony in the song that is not part of MJ's description of it. He is kicking on the vocal, although I still think of his best as being good bar-band stuff. But tonight it's very good bar-band. B. Randy says this is one of the important weeks on the show because the contestants are saying who they really are. As for MJ, it was an OK song choice but he thought he heard pitch problems and doesn't see MJ as an Aerosmith type singer. MJ argues about how his dreams have come true. Randy argues back that it's about singing not dreams. Paula, needless to say, disagrees with Randy; she says he sounds as good as he looks. The way the shot is framed, though, Paula looks nearly naked. The dress is not containing her well. Simon thought it was a very good performance but didn't like him impersonating a rock star -- thinks he's better when he's more R&B. Paula keeps saying "no way!" Ryan makes a chihuahua reference, apparently about Paula's bursting from her dress.
Syesha Mercado. They talk about Ramiele, who was one of Syesha's roommates. "I Believe" by Fantasia. To echo Randy, all the songs to choose from, and she picks one by a former "Idol" winner -- and one known for her power and grit? Starts weak; the keyboard is overpowering her. Big help from a choir on the chorus, but she gets lost in it at times, too. And she goes screechy when she reaches for a big note. If MJ is a bar-band singer, Syesha is working the Ramada lounge. C plus. Randy says Syesha took on another tiger but he didn't find the special connection Fantasia had to the song; it was just OK. She questions Randy. Paula can't wait to jump in. Paula says not many people can take on a song like that but that Syesha made it all her own and this is one of her most shining nights. Simon thought she sang it very well technically but it lacked that "big, big wave of emotion" that came with Fantasia. He wants to know what Syesha is all about. Paula is arguing again as the music wells up.
Jason Castro. Iz's Hawaiian version of "Over the Rainbow." The much heard, much used in soundtracks version, which I still happen to love. JC accompanies himself on ukelele and even messes up the words the same way as the version he's copying. But he's bland when the previous take had emotional resonance. It feels interminable in his rendition. C minus. Randy says JC is back in the hunt and that was blazing hot. I think Randy is worried about having had two fights already. Paula loved it, of course. Simon thought it was fantastic.
Kristy Lee Cook. "Anyway" by Martina McBride. She shouldn't close her eyes when she sings. It looks more sleepy than intense. And this is a pretty boring performance ... anyway. Very blah on the verse, then a big note, then blah on the verse, then a big note, then the choir comes in -- because if you're going to sell inspirational songs on iTunes, there had better be a choir. C minus. Randy loved it in spite of some pitch moments. Paula snipes at him about the pitch moments, then says this was her best performance by far. Simon brings up the showing who you are as an artist, and says KLC was "very, very good indeed." And she looked like a star tonight, and she is appealing to her audience. Paula adds that she sang unbelievably; Simon balks at unbelievably, settles for "good."
David Cook. "Innocent" by Our Lady of Peace, a favorite band of Cook's. It's OK but he is also getting lost in the backing vocals. Paula is standing and dancing as he sings. Didn't like the song much. C. As Randy speaks, Paula is waving and bouncing. Randy thinks it fell short of what DC has done before. Paula insists that he is the whole package. Simon did not like the performance, and that it was "a teensy weensy bit pompous." Paula is snapping at Simon -- he finally tells her to "calm down" -- but Simon says it wasn't as good as the last couple of weeks. Ryan prompts Paula to bring up that DC has written "give back" on his hand.
Carly Smithson. "The Show Must Go On" by Queen. Big string section. The instrumental backing is making it tough for the singers to break through, and then she has backing vocals to contend with. She pushes through, but it's not a goosebumps performance by any stretch. Another C. What is wrong tonight? Randy thought it started out well, pitchy in the middle, just OK overall. Paula agrees a little bit; says CS's voice is pretty perfect but Paula didn't feel engaged. Simon says she looks good -- and it's a Paula move since he goes on say she lost control of the song and the performance felt angry, because the wrong song was chosen. CS admits she looked at Simon during the song and lost something -- but adds that it's her fault. Paula tells her that zillions of people are connected to her. But wasn't Paula NOT connected?
David Archuleta. "Angels." He's at the piano. If there is anyone tonight I would expect to knock the "inspirational songs" category out of the park, it's DA. But the start is only so-so. Of course, he has a big moment, but it's brief. He keeps it surprisingly simple. But I'm still not wowed. B minus. Randy says it's the DA that he loves and this song has DA's hottest moment of all season. Paula says it's fantastic. Simon says it was the best song choice of the night so far, great pop song but not his best vocal so far. Then admits he's nitpicking because DA will sail through to the next round.
Brooke White to close. "You've Got a Friend," notes people know the James Taylor version but she was inspired by Carole King's. You can hear in her vocal that she knows the CK version backward and forward -- maybe too well. It's a surprisingly downbeat performance to close the show. Nice, of course. BW is fundamentally nice. But still no wow. For a night that's supposed to inspire, I am un-. C plus. Brooke's emotional when she's done. Randy thought it was just OK "but I wasn't mad at you." Paula calls it one of her favorite songs growing up and a perfect way to close the evening, and "I love you." Simon calls it a pleasant walk in the park, "nice."
I'm out before the recap.