In-progress notes from tonight. ABC and CW fall lineups in previous posts.
I'm about six minutes late getting started but I should catch up during the commercials. Ryan calls this the closest race the show has ever seen. Closer than Clay-Ruben? I think not. Intro of the judges. Top three introduced. Hometown visits noted.
David Archuleta, judges' choice: "And So It Goes" by Billy Joel, chosen by Paula Abdul. Paula makes clear that she picked it because he'll sound real good. David starts acappella, then joined by strings. Caressing every syllable, but it seems more about the notes than what the song's about. And even though this is one of those performances meant to make "Idol" fans melt, I'll take Billy's version. C. Randy says Paula chose a dope song for DA, and DA is in the zone, "in it to win it, baby." Paula thought it was pure and stunning, which of course is what she expected when she gave him the song. Simon calls it good but "a bit predictable. ... I don't think it was OUTstanding."
Syesha. Randy Jackson picked her song: Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You." Randy says Syesha is young, hot, talented and probably likes Alicia as much as Randy does. Hand-wavers go amok and she sings -- Vegasy, pretty, but not going to make me forget Alicia. Very A/C. C plus. Randy could see her heart beamin' and smilin'. Paula says she looks absolutely stunning. Simon says she sang it very well but he wished Randy had chosen a song where Syesha wouldn't sound so close to the original; Randy interjects that she made changes.
David Cook. Simon says: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack. (Could we get a little respect for Ewan MacColl?) Simon thinks it's a tough song and he wanted to give DC a challenge that he could handle. DC promptly proves why he is smarter (and more talented) than Blake Lewis a year ago. He respects the song, and adjusts his vocal to it in large measure, instead of turning the song inside out to suit his style. Best vocal so far. B. Randy loves DC but wanted him to rock. Paula says it's now one of her two favorite versions of the song (and I don't think MacColl's is the other). Simon is very pleased with his choice and the performance.
Contestant choices. DA picked "With You" by Chris Brown. DA is so constantly nervous in the chat. In performance, he seems to gasp for breath, and the song just sounds wrong coming from him. He's made it mush. But I guess, to quote Howlin' Wolf, the little girls understand. For me, though, another C at best. Randy applauds DA's trying the song but doesn't think it was the right choice. Paula of course thinks it's perfect for him and he was good. Simon thought it was like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger.
Syesha picked "Fever" by Peggy Lee. (Little Willie John! Please!) Jazzy, but a little off kilter. She's shrieky on the high parts, more theatrical than vocal in other parts. C. Randy calls it a very interesting song choice but thought she did it amazingly well. Paula again tells her how lovely she looks and says she was surprised by the song choice and that "I'm not sure it shows me who Syesha is as an artist." Simon thinks she will regret it, for a "lame, cabaret" performance when she should be showing she's contemporary.
David Cook. "Dare You to Move" by Switchfoot. Cook seems relaxed and happy during the chat. Onstage, with guitar, and playing it. This time he's reminding people of what they liked about his sound before. Good tactic: gears shifted by Simon's choice, then revitalizing his base. I don't know the original version, but he's OK. B minus. Randy calls it a great song choice but performance-wise it was a little pitchy. Paula liked it but felt that, because of show cutdowns, she wanted more. Simon thinks it was all right, and that everyone had "an OK middle round."
Producers' songs. DA gets "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg. Totally in his wheelhouse. But I'm bored. Bored, I say! DA is playing to his fans, but a little of this goes a long way -- and this is too long. C again. Blah. Randy says DA can sing the phone book and he's in the zone. Paula thought it was lovely. Simon says he sang the song very well but the song and the lyrics were "gooey." Still, Simon expects DA to be in the finals.
Syesha. "Hit Me Up" (Gia Farrell). Clearly the producers want her to reclaim the contemporary level. But she's still got that shrieky thing. C plus. Randy considers it Rihanna-esque but just OK. Paula tells Randy it's from the "Happy Feet" soundtrack. Discussion of penguins ensues. But Paula doesn't know if it's good enough to get in the finals. Simon says it was better than the second song but that she had her best moment last week, and this was "a little bit forgettable."
DC to close. Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Well, there's something to close the deal with. But it's a weird arrangement, he's going a bit fast and the string section is odd. This is one of my favorite pieces of cheese, so I was fully prepared to be sold, but not ... quite ... Wait, big finish -- nope, still not there. A mess. C minus, but I still think he had the best night of the final three. Randy says it was OK for him, but very predictable. Paula is crying and noting that Diane Warren is in the house, and saying "see ya in the finals." Simon says DC wins the night.
DC may yet win the whole thing, and nothing I saw tonight made me think we won't have the long expected DC/DA final. I would have given Syesha the edge over DA for the night, but I also thought Kimberly Locke was best on final three night in season two, and it didn't matter at that point. Syesha needed something amazing to close the deal, and I don't think she had it.