No matter how
the performances are
Lloyd Webber may be
the best "American Idol"
Notes after the jump. ...
Laudatory video about Webber, who seems to like reality competitions. He's done something like this in England, he says, and of course he did a guest shot on "Grease: You're the One That I Want." Ryan asks Randy about this as a category. He says it could be the toughest week of the season. Ryan asks Paula about it. She gives an extended non-answer. RS brings up the Broadway-as-bad vocal issue with Simon, who says the people still have to sound distinctive.
Syesha Mercado first. Song: "One Rock and Roll Too Many" from "Starlight Expres." Webber is clearly hands-on, asking her to sing it a couple of different ways, and telling her which way is better. Thinks she could bring the house down. She sounds fairly good -- kind of as if she's trying to bring a "Chicago" vibe to it. But her voice still lacks richness -- gets thin and reedy, especially when she tries to belt. But this is the best I have heard her in some time. B. Randy says this is her element, and she could be a huge Broadway star. Paula says this is her happy place. Simon calls it very sexy. Paula seems unable to shut up.
By the way, the New York Times has discovered that the studio audience at "Idol" is manipulated, and there's a lot of coaching of the people nearest the stage. As has been mentioned here many times, and should be obvious to anyone watching the show. But if you're interested in the details, they are here.
Jason Castro. Says he recognized the Webber songs but has never seen any of the shows. Or something. The answer has a lot of "uh" in it. He gets "Memory." Well, tell me the fix isn't in on that one. Webber finds him singing it is odd, and notes that it's sung by an old cat. Castro says he didn't know it was done by a cat. Castro sings. Oh, Betty Buckley, where are you? How about here:
Dreadful dreadful Castro. F. Randy says "wow" and not in a good way. Then calls it "a little bit of a train wreck" and "not your thing, dude," and "too much melody." Paula thinks it was "a very wise choice" and "it sounds like a pop ballad." Recalls Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." Oh, mercy, talk about a train wreck. Simon says it felt like the longest two minutes of Castro's life, and it was like a song he was forced to sell at a family wedding. "It's not your style of music," says Simon, as Paula continues to try to defend it. Ryan also leaps to JC's defense, asking if people should still vote for him because he was just stuck in a tough week. Feh.
I have played the "Cats" video above to try to wipe out the sound of JC. And can now move on.
Could that be Betty Buckley with RS? Please tell me she didn't have to listen.
Brooke White. "You Must Love Me" from the movie version of "Evita." Webber doesn't think she has a clue what she's singing about but is pleased with her response to his coaching. Two lines in she muffs the words and has to start over. She seems to be working very hard on pronunciation and enunciation -- uncomfortably so. While she does rise to the occasion here and there, it's more of a diction lesson than a song. C minus for performance, knocked to a D plus for botching words. Randy says it wasn't great, but praises her for listening to ALW about believing what you're singing. Paula has a long pause and says "you must never start and stop" before praises BW for not overacting and just being herself. Simon says it was so dramatic at the beginning, but that threw BW so much that she became tense, and it was quite uncomfortable to watch. Rescue Ryan gives her a chance to explain her error; she says "I lost the lyric." Prompted by Ryan, Simon says she was brave to stop and start over. Randy agrees that she should have stopped, but Paula seems to think BW should have made up words or hummed or something until she remembered the words.
(A later note: Brooke said that this was the first time she had started a song over. The bride disagreed, and a check of the record finds that she started over -- although not as dramatically as tonight -- when she sang "Every Breath You Take." Not that any of the judges remembered that.)
David Archuleta. Girls invited onstage to hug him before his video. "Think of Me" from "Phantom." Webber curious to hear a boy sing it. Worries about DA keeping his eyes close all the time during a song. I guess he's singing it all right, but it just sounds like some A/C love song -- and not an especially distinguished one. Nor is this one of DA's best performances. But he keeps his eyes open most of the time. C plus. Randy again says DA can sing anything and says "this boy's the one to beat." Paula thinks it was perfect. Simon thought it was pleasant but one of his weakest performances.
Carly Smithson. "All I Ask of You" from "Phantom." ALW cuts her off quickly and says it's not the song for her. Suggests her second choice: "Jesus Christ Superstar." She says it's more her vibe and personality. She's loving it and the band is giving her everything. Botches a lyric but keeps rolling. A little shrill in spots. B plus, although the band itself pushes her up from a possible B. Randy says it's no surprise that the bigger voices are doing best tonight; calls it "definitely good." Paula calls it "so unexpected," questions her range but "I love what you did in the chorus." Simon notes "shouty" parts but calls it one of her favorite performances of the night. The bandleader hands CS a "Simon Loves Me (This Week)" T-shirt. How ... unspontaneous.
David Cook to close. "Music of the Night" from "Phantom." ALW calls it the sexiest song he ever wrote. Pushes DC to sing it passionately to ALW -- which DC admits is a little strange. Tricky start. This is not the DC voice we've heard most of the time. And they're not giving it his usual broody-rock current. Big strings. And he gets a little lost in the orchestration. But you know this is the week where he says to the audience "I can be as lovable as that other David." And it's a very gentle performance. No chills, but nice. B. Randy again brings up the "you can sing anything" again and calls it another molten-hot lava ball. Paula says it proves how well-rounded he is as a performer and calls it "fantastic." Simon says he made the most of the song but he prefers the grittier DC.
Recap. JC is even more of a nightmare; I'm seeing his twitches more.
But ALW is one of the best mentors I've ever seen on "Idol." The right combination of ideas, detail -- and the contestants were willing to listen to him. And now on to the "Dancing" results.