Live posts during the telecast, after the jump....
(One post-telecast note, caught first by the bride: Where were all the women tonight? Eleven were seated early in the show, and 10 at the end. Looked as if Carly Smithson was MIA throughout. And now on to the live post...)
Introductions. Chikezie has dropped the Eze. Chatter with the judges. Ryan says the judges did an excellent job finding the contestants. Of course, the producers and people who sat through far more auditions had nothing to do with it. Recaps from auditions, Hollywood. Break.
'60s music night. David Hernandez starts. Footage from his audition. Up close and personal -- raised by a single mom, broken family, singing "is an escape for me." Replay of the Simon warning that he better be good. Song: "In the Midnight Hour." Gospel style, with slowed-down opening. OK, but he struggles on the last notes. C plus. (I'm not giving overly high marks this early.) Randy thinks he did a really good job except at the end. "The competition's on, baby." Paula says he has "brilliant vocals to rely on." Simon says "it was better than I thought it was going to be" -- terrific start, then not so good after that. Says he should loosen up.
Chikezie. Recap of his attempt in season six (didn't get out of Hollywood round), footage from this season. Song: "More Today Than Yesterday." Very rocky start. lounge-y arrangement. But he picks it up. C overall, B minus for latter half. Randy says he needs to make it "new, fresh, young." Paula gushes in sentence fragments. Simon calls him "Jacuzzi," corrects himself, says he "absolutely hated the whole performance." Chikezie argues with Simon's complaint about the suit -- Simon calls it corny and cheesy. Chikezie is very mouthy, and the judges keep bickering as he post-chats with Ryan.
Colton Berry chats with Ryan. Colton says that from certain angles he looks like Ellen DeGeneres. I think he looks more like the kid on "Two and a Half Men."
David Cook, meanwhile, looks like a refugee from "Office Space." Taped recap: Simon, David and his guitar. Song: "Happy Together," slowed down start before going into the tick-tock rhythm. At least there's some attempt to change up the arrangements on the oldies. Not really successful, but trying. And we're into the dreaded lifting-the-mike-stand period. This is not doing it for me. C minus. Randy thought the start was "a little weird" but he worked it out. Paula also impressed; "you rocked it." Simon thought it was good, except "you shouted the song a little bit in the middle." Randy exults some more over the "rock edge." Huh? Break.
I like the Rilo Kiley song in the "Canterbury's Law" promo.
Jason Yeager. Cute son. Song: "Moon River." Closest arrangement to an oldie we've had so far. Very old pop, going for the older voters. Pleasant but no goosebumps. C. I wouldn't mind hearing him in a hotel lounge, if I had a free-drink coupon. Randy says he had a couple of problems pitch-wise. Paula notes her "sentimental value," since she did her first ballet recital to it. Jason says he did it for his grandmother. Simon calls it "very cruise ship." Arguing between Paula and Simon. Jason plays nice about Simon's criticism.
Robbie Carrico. Actually mentions the "boy-girl group" and "touring with Britney Spears." But he wanted to rock. Song: "One." Not exactly rocking out. Lyric stumble? Tries to amp up but he's still not even in Three Dog Night territory. C. Randy calls it "nice one" and was rocking. "You moved me, baby." Paula calls it "the perfect song" for him and once again refers to him as "authentic." Simon calls it "the only current performance" so far. Simon rightly wonders about his genuineness -- rocker vs. pop singer. Good question.
David Archuleta. Recap. No mention of "Star Search." Song: "Shop Around." Big voice, and got some swing. Better than I would have expected. B. Randy calls it "really brilliant." Paula calls it a "brave and bold choice." Hm? Simon calls it best performance of the night so far. Kid's flipping out. Break.
Danny Noriega. Another season-six retread. Wants to bring his "swagger and attitude." Song: "Jailhouse Rock." Kind of blah. C. Not very graceful onstage. Randy calls it "pretty good .... kinda hot." Paula calls it "almost scalding." I'm sorry, he's a little girly as a performer. Simon calls it "hideous." More arguing.
Luke Menard. Still another season-six guy, and one who didn't get out of the Memphis audition that year. (Does all this recycling mean, oh, the show picked some wrong people last season?) Song: "Everybody's Talking." Nice voice in spots, but a bad wobble at one point. Still, C plus. Randy calls it "very pitchy." Paula says it wasn't the best song choice. Simon calls it "forgettable."
Colton Berry. More Elvis: "Suspicious Minds." It's not that he doesn't have a good voice. It's that he sounds unformed -- not there yet. I am thinking of Peter Gallagher in "The Idolmaker" for some reason, but without Gallagher's intensity. C. Randy says he did a pretty good job. Paula says it's nice to see a different side of him but that it wasn't his best performance. Simon calls it OK, not as bad as the other Elvis song. But in terms of finding a recording artist, he says Colton has no relevance.
Pressed by Ryan, Simon pushes the recording-artist issue more. Clearly this is a big point this year -- to get someone who will sell CDs when the show is over, since that's not been the case with some recent top performers. (I know, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry have done very well. They're the big exceptions of the last few seasons. And Daughtry didn't make it to the finale.)
While we're in a break, here's where I am: Haven't hated anyone so far, but I'm not wowed either. Is that progress?
Garrett Haley chats with Ryan. Discussion of his looking like Leif Garrett or Peter Frampton. From Elida, OH. Song: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." Doing it slow, ballad-y, like Sedaka when he redid it in the '70s. Looks as if he's growing a mustache. Not a bad idea considering his soft looks; not as girly as Noriega, but still. Singing? I'm still in this not-terrible-not-great zone, so he's another C. Randy says he didn't do anything with it, calls it kind of boring. Paula says the consistently slow tempo brought the performance down. Simon says it was boring and that Garrett looked terrified.
Teaser for the first contestant to play an instrument tonight: Jason Castro. After a break, he's there with a guitar. Song: "Daydream." Liked a couple of vocal tricks so ... C plus? Randy notes pitch problems but "all right." Paula says he did blow her away, liked his "minimal, effortless" performance. Simon calls it "in the top 2 performances" of the night. That Jason has just "got it," made it sound current.
Closing the show is Michael Johns, who was a monster of the midway in the audition rounds, and so is expected to blow the doors off as we conclude. Hope so.
Song: "Light My Fire," with a cheesy organ. He goes big, but loses the melody in the process. Not impressed. Another C. Randy says he's like a Michael Hutchens. Paula says an excellent way to end the night. Simon calls him the most consistent contestant -- but didn't like it as much as "Bohemian Rhapsody." He says Michael, too, has "got it." But I think there's a sense of obligation in what they're saying, that the final performance of the night HAS to be considered fabulous.
And so we're nearly done. And how on earth did Archuleta end up at the top of my scorecard? I hope the women are more interesting.