So, I've spent the last week fantasizing about Danny Noriega being reinstated via the old "Wild Card" policy, or coming back as an alternate after one of the remaining top 12 unexpectedly drops out (a la Nikko Smith replacing Mario Vazquez in season 4). And I'm sure many of my fellow Danimals--and probably Ramiele Malubay--share this dream. But so far, it's yet to be realized. Sigh. TMTH!
Anyway, Nigel Lythgoe had a dream, too: to get his grubby little British mitts on that oh-so-elusive Lennon/McCartney songbook. And unlike my Danny dream, Nigel's came true this fine evening, as the Danny-less top 12 made Idol history with the show's first-ever Beatles Night.
Now, as much as I love the Beatles (um, who DOESN'T love the Beatles? no one, that's who), I confess I was worried about this particular theme. See, the Beatles are pretty much untouchable. To cover a Beatles song is to mess with perfection, fix what ain't broke, etc. Remember that horrific Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band flick from 1978? No? Well, in that celluloid disaster (seriously, it's like the most so-bad-it's-good-no-actually-it's-just-bad movie of all time), the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton ruined about 20 Beatles songs. And in the process, they instantly ruined their once-massive careers. Now, those two artists were both huge, huge stars at the time--so just IMAGINE how ruining a Fab Four classic would ruin all chances for a humble Idol contestant who's still trying to make it! The mind boggles.
But I digress. How unlike me. So first up tonight was Syesha Mercado. As the judges astutely pointed out, she did look nervous, but given everything I wrote in the above paragraph, can you blame the girl? She sang an R&B-flavored take on "Gotta Get You Into My Life," a la Earth, Wind & Fire's version (one of the few musically credible highlights of the aforementioned Sgt. Pepper movie). First, let me pull a Paula and start with the positive...Syesha looked great! But I found it to be an unexciting introduction to such an historic Idol evening. Randy said the same thing he always says--there were "pitch problems" at the beginning, then she worked it out by the end--but in this case, he was correct. Well put, Randy. Syesha was just a'ight.
Next, apparently wearing Blake Lewis's borrowed argyle sweater vest, was Chikezie-who I am trying not to resent for technically stealing Danny's rightful spot in the finals. Besides, Chikezie said Danny was a "lovable guy," which made me like him more...but I liked Chikezie a LOT, LOT more after his performance of a very interesting and leftfield song choice, "She's A Woman." Totally original approach, totally original arrangement, and a totally new fire and fury to his delivery...he was a new man! I didn't think he had it in him. To quote Randy: WHO KNEW? This just shows you how thrillingly unpredictable Idol can be: The contestant I liked least last week, and the week before, and who I predicted would get voted off for weeks in a row, was actually my favorite performance this week. And he was my favorite by a WIDE margin, too. It just goes to show you, nothing in Idol is ever set in stone. Anyone could win this.
Third was America's--and the Philippines'--sweetheart, Ramiele Malubay, dedicating "In My Life" to her friends who've already left Idol. Given how she was sobbing convulsively last week over Danny's departure, it was pretty obvious this song was primarily meant for him. There practically should've been a montage of Danny-&-Ramiele moments running on the jumbo video screen behind her while she sang. It was a sweet sentiment (and certainly one I share)..but maybe it was a little too sweet. What has happened to Ramiele? She seemed cool and edgy when the show began, and now she's almost as pageant-y as Alaina Whitaker. And we all know that acting like Miss Teen USA got Alaina nowhere fast.
Man, it's too bad. From the get-go Ramiele was one of my female faves, but the problem with her now is I don't think she's defined herself enough. Like, I can already easily imagine what a full album from David Cook, Jason Castro, David Archuleta, Chikezie, or Michael Johns would sound like, but Ramiele is still an enigma to me. She's cute in a squish-her-head-and-hang-it-from-the-rearview-mirror sorta way, and she's a total vocal powerhouse...but I fear she may lose ground if she doesn't establish herself more. SOON. Her performance tonight lacked oomph, especially following Chikezie's barnstormer. Again, like I said, this is SUCH an unpredictable show--how could a frontrunner like Ramiele plummet so quickly? But on the bright side, if and when she does get eliminated, she can always reunite with Danny for a duet project: "Ram & Dan"! I can envision their names in lights now. They could be the next Donny & Marie, even.
Next was Jason Castro, the standout contestant from last week, whom Jeff Buckley's heirs and Leonard Cohen will be thanking when their next royalty checks arrive in the mail. Well, Jason's acoustic, falsetto-laced "If I Fell" wasn't nearly as goosepimply as his iTunes-server-melting "Hallelujah," but I dug it nonetheless. Sure, as Simon said, it was a little "student in his bedroom at midnight," but yo, what's wrong with that? I bet there's a lot of Castronomic-studying coeds out there who wouldn't mind Jason serenading them in their dorm rooms.
Fifth was Carly, another contestant I don't think has defined herself well--at least until tonight. Her tattoos and Evanescence eye makeup always screamed "rocker chick," but her 2001 flop album and recent Idol performances (other than the Heart one) said "pop girl." But tonight she made it clear she's a rocker and a roller at her core. Belting out "Come Together"--the song I had previously pegged for Michael Johns--it seemed like her roommate Amanda Overmyer's influence had rubbed off on her. And I mean that in a good way. I mean, she was believably rockin'. It was the first time I didn't find her as lukewarm as a pint of Irish ale. Carly's still not my favorite, but I have to say she killed it on this particular number. (Sidenote: Are we supposed to believe for ONE moment that Simon couldn't remember her name? "Who's the Irish girl?" Puh-leeze. He's a good judge, but he's not so good an actor.)
David Cook, my newly crowned default favorite male in light of Danny's untimely exit, was next, and knowing what magic he can work with a cheesy Lionel Richie ballad, I couldn't wait to see what he'd do with a cheeseless Beatles track. Well, it wasn't worth the wait, not really. Oh, sure, his version of "Eleanor Rigby" was fine--David's a star, and he owns the stage no matter what he sings. And I give him props for trying to do his own thing. But it just wasn't his strongest showing. I still love me some David Cook and hope he makes it to the finale, but I think "Eleanor Rigby" lost something in his translation. Can't he do another Lionel song soon? Maybe "Say You, Say Me"? Or "Three Times A Lady"? He could rock those, I bet.
The lucky number seven contestant was my #1 girl, Brooke White. When I found out she was planning to do "Let It Be," I was afraid. I was very afraid. That's kind of a cliché song to cover, maybe the second-most-cliché choice after "Yesterday." But then she sat down at that piano, back in Carole King mode like she was at her Hollywood Week audition, and I heaved a sigh of relief. As Randy pointed out, it was nice how she didn't mess around with showoffy, wholly unnecessary Celine-style runs, how she kept it sweet and simple. And speaking of sweet, it was endearing to see how emotional she was afterwards. I could really tell she was having a "moment," and I could see how much she wants this. And how much she deserves this.
David Hernandez followed with "I Saw Her Standing There." I've said it before and I'll say it again: SONG SELECTION, SONG SELECTION, SONG SELECTION! Bad, bad choice, David. It reminded me too much of the Tiffany teen-idol version from the '80s--ironic, then, because David H. did so much better during '80s Week, huh? Oh, he sang it well. There's no question that this guy has a strong voice. But overall I found it very cruise-shippy, very hotel-loungey. He should take a lesson from Brooke and keep things simple from now on, if he manages to make it through to next week.
The consistently inconsistent Amanda Overmyer followed with "You Can't Do That." I admired the arse-kicking attitude she brought to it, but I'm beginning to wonder if she knocks back a shot of confidence-boosting Southern Comfort before she performs, because this girl gone wild slurs worse than a drunk sorority pledge from, well, Girls Gone Wild. She may very well be the most diction-challenged reality star since America's Next Top Model's Jael. You know how so many Hollywood Week hopefuls blow it by messing up the lyrics under pressure? Well, it wouldn't matter if Amanda forgot her words, because who would know the difference? She could be singing in Swahili and the viewers at home would be none the wiser. This rock 'n' roll nurse needs some speech therapy, stat. Anyway, it wasn't as bad as "Carry On Wayward Son," but not as redeeming as "I Hate Myself For Loving You." Guess you can say I neither hate nor love Amanda at this point.
Vegemite posterchild Michael Johns was next with "Across The Universe"...and you know, I hate to say this, but I'm getting just a little tired of Michael. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to quit the Aussie Posse just yet. And I sure ain't tired of looking at him. But I'm beginning to think he's a little one-dimensional. His performances from week to week are almost interchangeable. He does his thing, as Randy would say, and he does it well--and of course, he looks mighty good while doing it. But other males like David Cook and Jason Castro seem to have more depth and variety and are beginning to do the unthinkable: distract me from Michael's rugged good looks! I just need to see more from him. And by that, I don't mean seeing more of his pretty face--though that would be OK, too. Oh, and I really wish he'd stop gripping his microphone with his left hand. Must he keep taunting America's female viewers with the glint of his pesky wedding band under the stagelights? Enough!
Kristy Lee Cook was the penultimate performer with a gutsy-on-paper, but disastrous-on-stage, interpretation of "Eight Days A Week." While Chikezie's earlier risk paid off--partly because it was a less familiar song so he had more freedom to muck with it, but mainly because he just flat-out rocked it--Kristy's risk was major misstep right into proverbial horse manure. She should know better than to horse around with Beatles songs like that! And she may be galloping right off this show after that mess.
Uncoincidentally (gasp), Idol producers (gasp) scheduled their golden boy (gasp) David Archuleta last, to (gasp) keep him in foremost in viewers' minds. Um, not sure if that was a good idea. I bet David's hoping the public doesn't remember this particular performance. The poor boy was a bag of frayed nerves (he was gasping neurotically just thinking about tackling a Stevie Wonder-fied "We Can Work It Out") and well, he didn't work it out AT ALL. He even appeared to forget the lyrics in parts (he should've applied the patented Amanda Overmyer Technique and just confidently marble-mouthed his way right through it). How ironic that the guy whose best performance this season was a John Lennon song, "Imagine," was the worst performer on Beatles Night. Oh, it wasn't as bad as, say, George Burns's "Fixing A Hole" in the Sgt. Pepper flick. But it was NOT good.
Prediction time! So who will stay and who will go? Well, David A. has too strong a fanbase to get voted off this early on because of one lousy performance. Ditto for Ramiele. So I think it's going to be either Kristy or David H. Syesha's not totally safe either, because her performance, while not bad at all, was rather forgettable. But since soul music is horribly under-represented this year compared to past seasons (like last year, with Melinda and LaKisha in the top four, or season 3, the year of the almighty Fantasia/Jennifer/LaToya trifecta), Syesha may lock down the R&B vote for a while and stick around much longer than some people expect.
Anyway, tune in tomorrow to see if I'm right! It's going to be a hard day's night for whoever goes home, indeed.
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