(Last night, when I left the blog, there was a complete post re "American Idol." Woke up this morning, and the last three contestants' notes were gone. No idea how that happened, except that I had problems several times last night when saving revisions. Am summarizing below this AM, although I can't be sure the grades will be the same.)
In-progress notes after the jump ...
"There's been a lot of buildup to this moment," says Ryan. "Say hello to ... our new set." As my friend Phil Blanchard once said in summing up "Star Trek: The Motion Picture,"
"It's a really big ship." Although the lights overhead remind me more of "Close Encounters."
It also seems designed to (a) create false enthusiasm even closer to the stage or (b) surround the judges with hostile fans.
Judges introduced. Top 12 introduced. Looks like some new hair, apparently. After a few waves, they are dismissed so Ryan can explain "the drill is the same." And he offers the special, endlessly promoted theme: the Lennon-McCartney songbook. Video about John and Paul, telling the audience they were really, really good. Ryan quizzes judges about the importance of Lennon-McCartney. Randy says they'll last forever. Paula says their songs are full of melody, gulping between every other word. Simon says the difficulty of the songs depends on which songs you choose -- with a "duh."
Syesha Mercado goes first. Video reintroduces her to the audience, for everyone who has waited for the top 12 to start watching. Song: "Got To Get You Into My Life." Bad bad start. Someone obviously aware of the Earth, Wind and Fire version. Some improvement as she goes along. C. Randy praises arrangement, notes the EWF connection, says it started rough but she finally had fun with it; concludes that it was all right. Paula says Syesha knows she is a good singer, that she started off-pitch but she sounded great from midway through to the end. Simon thought it was a great choice of song, but that she looked nervous; still, he thought it was better than last week. Ryan lets her talk about how great the stage is. Break.
Chikezie in a "My Three Sons" sweater vest. Talks about how LAX baggage handlers dealt with Paula. Says he could have seen himself losing last week because "Danny (Noriega) is such a lovable guy." And says it without laughing. Video about his life. Song: "She's a Woman." With a hoedown backing at first, leading into full-band rock out. His voice is a little reedy, but I like the approach. B. Randy says "I was thoroughly entertained. ... I loved the arrangement. ... Who knew you had the falsetto?" Paula congratulates herself for an earlier comment and loved it. Simon also loved it. "You actually have changed within a week," he says. "I thought you were terrific." Ryan encourages Chikezie to romp around the stage, and joins in to the point that Ryan is out of breath while reading the phone numbers.
Ramiele Malubay. Song: "In My Life." Singing it for all her friends who are no longer on the show. Which would include Noriega. Very easy-listening ballad. Feels slower than the original. Dull. C minus. Randy says "it was kind of pretty but also kind of pretty boring for me." Paula starts with her hidden dagger: "You look lovely tonight." Then calls it safe, and says "you could have gone in more melodic directions." Simon says "I was bored to tears throughout the entire song." Ramiele makes a mock-pouty face. Ryan tries to save her by asking Simon if it was the song or her that was boring, but Simon says it was both. Paula belatedly tries to offer support for Ramiele. Break.
Jason Castro. Video. Song: "If I Fell." Accompanying self on guitar. The more I'm hearing tonight, the better Chikezie seems. This makes me want to hear the original. A lot. Funny face at the end. [Belated update, since I forgot to include a grade last night. Basically another C. Thanks, Gus.] Randy asks if he's chillin', then says he liked it but didn't love it; one of his favorite songs of all, and Jason needed "more of a heartfelt thing." Paula disagrees. "I do feel your heart," she says, and "you have an emotional connection with the songs that you pick." Simon jabs Paula; says last week Jason was incredible and this was all student-in-a-bedroom-at-midnight. Thought the song was boring. Paula tries to defend him, but Simon is unmoved -- although he says it's good enough to stay this week. Which suggests that he thinks someone else of the first four should go home. Ramiele, you think?
Or did Simon hear something in dress rehearsal that's worse than anything the audience has experienced so far tonight? Break.
Ryan chats with Carly Smithson. He mentions the new set again, while conceding the stools are still uncomfortable. Asks about life offstage. Is rooming with Amanda Overmyer. Video. Song: "Come Together," which she sings a lot in a bar, acoustic. Promises to change it up a bit. Not so far. Gets a little soulful when she gets to the "toe jam football" section. Brings it up some, then down again. So, by changing it up, does she mean that she's heard Aerosmith? B minus. Randy asks her if that felt amazing; says it was "stellar performance." Paula said she felt she was already watching a star. Hey, didn't MCA Records think that, too, some years back? Simon thinks she chose the song well, and that this reminds him of Kelly Clarkson's breakthrough performance. (From looking at a Clarkson song list, I'm guessing that he's referring when she sang "Respect.")
David Cook. Video. Song: "Eleanor Rigby." Will not play guitar with it, and says a B plus effort won't cut it. Ryan and Simon banter. Cook sings. This is "Eleanor Rigby" as done by Daughtry on an off night. C minus. Randy says Cook can definitely rock out, but says there was a pitch problem at first but soon enough he was rockin'. Paula says this is proving there is more than one horse in the race, and Cook is a thoroughbred. Randy jokes with Paula that, if Cook is a thoroughbred, what is Simon? Simon says Cook was brilliant and, in a talent competition as opposed to a popularity competition, Cook could win. Clearly the judges are uneasy with all the Archuleta-has-it-won talk.
Hey, I like the song in the Coke commercial. Here's the band on YouTube:
And speaking of promos, Rilo Kiley (of fine music and "Canterbury's Law" ads) is coming to Cleveland!
Brooke White. Video. Song: "Let It Be." Accompanying self on piano. I like her voice, but this is a song that any reasonably competent singer should be able to hit out of the park. And as she tries to get more intense, she drifts away from singing. Nor is there anything all that interesting here. C. Randy loves her conviction and her giving "a very heartfelt performance." Paula says this is her niche -- picking songs where America can feel her heart. I thought America was feeling Jason Castro's heart. America must have two free hands. Simon also impressed. And Brooke is getting even more votes with her (seemingly genuine) emotion at the moment. Ryan fetches Brooke's shoes. Randy and Simon give him grief.
Ryan says the finale will be at the Nokia Theater. David Hernandez, from the home of Jordin Sparks, he says in his video. Took a college class on Beatles songs. Song: "I Saw Her Standing There." The show must be running short, because Ryan seems to be adding comments between the videos and the songs. Oh, this is not good. Strangled vocal, no range, no power. D. Randy says he has a big voice but this was a little too overdone, he tried to do too much with it. Paula says "you know I love your voice" but "you kind of overdid it a little bit." Simon says "no no no ... corny verging on desperate." Calls it too much "rabbit in the headlights," prompting Randy to say it's deer in the headlights. Simon pulls out his new issue of Field & Stream ... All right, I made up that part. We're 80 minutes into the show, and I'm losing interest.
After a break, Amanda Overmyer. Ryan asks her about life behind the scenes. I am wondering if she will be able to sing with all the stuff around her neck. Video. Song: "You Can't Do That," which she did not know before this week. Promises to rock it up. Which she does. And sounds better than she has in a while, although her lack of range is showing again. C plus. Randy says "that is the true mark of great songs" -- taking a Beatles song to a Southern bar. "I loved it, I thought it was cool." Paula says she is a star up there. ...
(at this point, going into my morning-after recap.)
Simon didn't think it was as good as a week ago, Paula and he argue, but he thinks she's a breath of fresh air in the competition.
Michael Johns. Video. Song: "Across the Universe." C. Randy and Paula disagree over how good he is. (Paula, needless to say, thinks MJ was better than Randy did.) Simon agrees with Randy. Simon has forgotten the name of "the Irish girl" (Carly).
Kristy Lee Cook. Song: "Eight Days a Week," country style. Possibly interesting idea, if the Kentucky Headhunters were doing it. With KLC, it's competent singing rushing along against a backdrop of fiddles and such. Just not interesting. C minus. Randy not thrilled, "half of me likes it, half of me didn't like it." Paula, in a rare moment of candor, admits that she didn't like it -- and doesn't even soften the blow with an opening compliment about KLC's looks. Simon hated it, "Dolly Parton on helium." The other judges say that's too harsh. Ryan argues with Simon about whether the performance is Simon's fault, for pushing KLC toward country.
Archuleta to close. Doesn't know Beatles songs, but knows "We Can Work It Out" via Stevie Wonder. Performance is one of his worst. Forgets the lyrics a couple of times. One nice Stevie-ish riff. But this is a C at best, and since DA's closing and the presumptive favorite, that's a terrible mark. Randy unenthralled, saying "this kind of vibe is not your vibe." Paula says it wasn't his best week but adds that DA is still the front-runner. Simon calls it a mess.
Recap and so on, show's over. Chikezie tops my card. DH at the bottom but I could see lots of other people going home instead. Not overall a grand night, especially considering some of what we heard a week ago.
I hope that this time the copy saves.