A little late getting started tonight but I should catch up with some fast-forwarding during commercials. Comments on tonight's show after the jump ...
(A monster night for David Archuleta. He topped my scorecard a week ago, and again tonight. Earlier today, I was talking to a buddy and we agreed that Archuleta is on track to the final two, and he made that even clearer tonight. And now, my in-progress comments.)
Guys night again. Michael Johns to open, David Archuleta to close. Intro of the judges. Randy hopes the nerves are gone, and that the guys are going to bring it hard tonight. Paula thinks it will be better than last week. Gee, I hope so. Simon says the guys need to be better.
'70s theme. Johns plays tennis. (It's things you didn't know night.) Song: "Go Your Own Way." He sounds a little froggy. Very strained in spots. Shouting instead of singing. I've heard that his wife was born in Akron, but that's not getting him points from me for this performance. Lackluster, with a little improvement at the end. But still a C minus. Randy says "nice way to start it off" but not Johns's best. "You didn't quite go there." Paula thought it was a great way to start the show. She thinks he's charismatic and "a seasoned performer." (Is that code for a ringer?) Simon says it was OK, but his worst performance and a weak choice of song. Prompted by Ryan, Michael says it's been his dream to sing a Fleetwood Mac song. I guess the man has been keeping him down up to now.
Jason Castro. He really hates doing interviews. "I make a lot of stupid faces because I don't know what I'm sayin'." He'd rather sing. I am thinking of Jeff Spicoli for some reason. Song: "I Just Want To Give You Everything." He's a mellow guy, playing his guitar. The acoustic style helps the song, but it's a little sleepy. C. Randy thinks that "with the guitar, it's all cool ... but the vocals weren't that great." Calls it kind of karaoke. Paula rushes to his defense. Calls it a clever song choice, but "I would like next week ... to see you without the guitar and allow yourself to be more vulnerable as an artist." Simon thought it too schmaltzy and that the vocals were weak, and he looked uncomfortable. Refers to all the songs to choose from -- not mentioning that it's "all the songs to choose from that the show has licensed and offered to the singers as choices."
Luke Menard. He's in an acapella group. Song: "Killer Queen." He's got the voice for it, if a little reedy at points where Mr. Mercury would blast you. Technically OK, and he's zooming through the words, but no goosebumps. It's a replica. C plus. Randy is impressed based on "degree of difficulty." Couple of pitch problems, he says. Paula thinks "it was really great for you vocally." Simon thinks the performance was a mistake. "You're always going to be judged with the original," and he doesn't have the charisma and personality of Freddie M. Also, Simon said it was "verging on whiny." Then there was some bickering, but I am tried of writing about that.
Robbie Carrico, without the bandana. Ryan brings up "the authenticity factor" (per Simon). Robbie insists that he has to be himself and "there are so many different levels of rock." And Robbie drag-races. Song: "Hot Blooded." Well, he's marginally more rocking than on "One" last week, but there's still a wan quality to his performance. (The band also seems to be underplaying.) Bo Bice could eat his lunch. Randy says "I don't know if the rock thing is really really your thing. ... It doesn't have enough unnh." (I think Michael Johns has had the same problem.) Randy thought it was just OK. Paula -- again -- leaps to the defense, but then says "you played it a little bit safe this week." But Randy brings in that "rock is like an attitude." Robbie doesn't seem happy about this. Simon says Robbie doesn't need to get worried about his comments since "it's just an opinion." And Simon thought the vocal was OK.
Danny Noriega. He used to be in a punk-rock band in ninth grade. I thought he was going to say something else, but everyone in America has probably thought of that already. Song: "Superstar (Groupie)." I want Danny to write letters of apology to Bonnie Bramlett, Karen Carpenter, Luther Vandross. Horrible start, no kick, more bad spots. F. No, D minus. No, F. Randy thinks Danny was thinking too much and he should "just let it go." Paula says he has "amazing vocal skill" but echoes the no-overthinking notion. Simon says that this was better than last week, but also agrees with Randy. But he thinks Danny is interesting and looks terrific on camera. Danny agrees that last week was bad.
David Hernandez. He was a gymnast. Song: "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." He's playing the camera well, and the band is giving him a little more to work with. But the song doesn't work as well without the Temptations' group vocal, especially when he tries to get big on "was a rolling stone." But real presence. Maybe the best so far. C plus/B minus. Randy says "this is the David Hernandez we fell in love with." Paula says his voice "pierces right through the heart" and "your personality really came out." Simon calls it "the best vocal of the night so far." Simon also likes that David treats criticism as a challenge instead of sulking.
Jason Yeager. He's a multi-instrumentalist, including piano. Song: "Long Train Runnin'." Good start, but it doesn't quite get out of sounding like a good imitation, and not a very powerful one at that. C. Randy agonizes, says it "wasn't like a singer's kind of song" and again brings out the karaoke comparison. Paula says "it was fun to see this side of you" but the song didn't show his vocal range; "pick singers' songs." Simon says last week was boring and this week "was awkward and ordinary." Calls the ending ghastly and says Jason is a quite good singer who can't perform very well. Jason is clearly shaken by all the criticism.
Chikezie. His name is Nigerian, and it has been mispronounced since grade school, so he accepts the mispronunciation. Song: "I Believe to My Soul." I'd like it a lot better if he wasn't wearing the polo shirt. But he's kicking it. My favorite version is Son Seals', but this is might even be worth 99 cents on iTunes. B/B plus. Randy says, "Chikezie is back" and this is another guy that we fell in love with. "That was hot, baby." Paula liked his pointing at Simon during the naming part. Simon said he looked better, sounded better, "a million times better than last time." Chikezie still likes his suit from last week but admits that he let Simon get to him. Simon says he's obnoxious and "you just can't help it, can you?" Chikezie also refers to it as a Donny Hathaway song (Ray Charles, doggonit!) and notes that one of Donny's daughters is a backup singer on the show.
David Cook. He's a word nerd, "kind of a geek for vocab." Song (with Cook on guitar): "All Right Now." He's more on game, and looks less like a dweeb than a week ago. He's amped up, too. I hate to say it, but the guys are really back this week. Well, a bunch of them, anyway. Definite B, maybe B plus, probably in a tie with Chikezie on my card. Randy calls him "the real rocker" among the guys. Paula says the band is on fire, too, and that David C is "the real deal." Simon calls it solid and believable, but thinks the word-nerd tape was boring, and that DC doesn't have a lot of charisma. DC mouths a little, saying he doesn't have to win over Simon, he has to win over the audience. Simon smacks him verbally. Paula and Randy defend DC. Ryan gives Simon a chance to gripe more.
David Archuleta. He met the first-season finalists when he was 11, and sang "And I Am Telling You" for them. Eek. Song: "Imagine." God, is that a nervy choice. And I've got goosebumps one line into it. It's a song that became a classic in John Lennon's simplicity, but the acoustic guitar and Archuleta's voice are doing pretty well by it. A. No wonder they had him close. Randy calls it one of the best vocals ever on the show -- but wants to know why he didn't sing the first verse. (David likes the third verse better.) Paula is in tears (all right, we've seen that before) and -- I don't get this -- wants to dangle him from her rear-view mirror. Simon calls it "very, very risky" but it worked -- and Archuleta is the one to beat. And at the end, he still has the grace to be surprised and pleased by all the praise.