This week is Idol Gives Back
week. So it probably wouldn't hurt if the finalists donate generously during tomorrow night's telethon, just to better boost their karma so they don't get ousted on Thursday's specially scheduled elimination night. Just a suggestion...
Anyway, because it's all about charity this AmIdol week, tonight the eight remaining contenders were supposed to sing "inspirational" songs. I honestly cringed at the thought of this, anticipating "You're The Voice" times eight. But luckily for me and my fellow viewers, the term "inspirational" is a relative one, so tonight wasn't an entire hour of "We Are The World"-style singalongs and hokey choir-assisted revamps of "I Believe I Can Fly." Phew!
For instance, Aussie rocker Michael Johns was inspired by Aerosmith
. Wow! He chose to sing "Dream On," which he felt properly expressed the rock 'n' roll fantasy that he's chased all the way across the equator for so many years. While I preferred him being inspired Dolly Parton last week, I liked him doing the Steve Tyler thing this week, too. So I really don't understand why Randy had such an objection to Michael's song selection--like what did he mean, "of all
the songs to choose?" What SHOULD Michael have chosen, huh? I mean, it's not like Michael was inspired by "Love In A Elevator" or "Dude Looks Like A Lady." This was an appropriate
Aerosmith song. And to reiterate what Paula said tonight...enough with the "pitch problems" critique, Randy--that term is getting old. Plus Michael didn't have any pitch problems tonight. He was good, dawg
Syesha Mercado took on Whitney Houston last week, which was a risk that paid off. I don't know if she'll be still be safe this week with "Believe," the winning anthem of season 3 champ Fantasia, which she did this
week. See, I couldn't help but think of that magic finale moment from a few years ago, when a sobbing Fantasia belted out this song of triumph, celebratory confetti raining down on her. And I felt none
of that magic tonight as Syesha sang "Believe." It's not that she sang the song badly
. Syesha is obviously a capable singer. But she set herself up for failure by doing a ballad so inextricably linked in Idol
viewers' hearts and minds with one of the most charismatic and unique AmIdol
contestants EVER. Sure, Syesha is prettier than Fantasia--Fantasia is no conventional beauty like the button-cute Mercado--but unlike
Fanny, Sy lacks what Simon calls the "X Factor." So I agree with Randy in this instance--Fantasia is
one of the all-time best Idols, and given her rough life as a poor single mom, she had a real connection to the rags-to-riches story behind the lyrics to "Believe." Syesha simply didn't have that same connection. I just didn't "believe" her.
I was worried that Jason Castro would run into similar difficulties when he took on "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," a staple famously sung by past Idols Kimberley Locke and
Katharine McPhee. It was a signature song for both of those ladies, but you know what? Now it's Jason's
song. Period. Taking the Idols-can-now-play-instruments policy to a whole new ambitious level, Jason did the ukulele
-strumming, Hawaiian arrangement of the song as popularized by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, and it was right up there with his "Hallelujah" performance from a few weeks ago. (Jason really shines doing inspirational songs, obviously.) I predict this is going to be another iTunes smash hit, and that "Israel Kamakawiwo'ole" will be way up in Internet searches tomorrow (if web surfers are able to spell his name right, that is). Jason's at NO risk of being in the bottom three this
week. Tonight's show might as well have been called "Jason Gives Back," because he was back on top of his game in a big way.
Kristy Lee Cook was next, with Ryan Seacrest introducing her via the show's running joke about her always being in the bottom three. Man, KLC is becoming the Nikki McKibbin of this season: always in the bottom, but always scraping through by the skin of her pearly Rembrandt-polished teeth. She was OK tonight, same old Kristy--sparkly top, not so sparkly performance. But she sang a song with the word "God" in it (Martina McBride's "Anyway"), so she'll probably be safe this week, like she was that one
week when she sang "God Bless The USA."
David Cook followed, covering a band I really, really DO. NOT. LIKE
. It was "Innocent" by Our Lady Peace, a song so bland not even Fantasia would be able to spice it up. Dang, I kind of feel like David The C has lost his rock 'n' roll mojo lately. I don't know if it's his more cleanly shaven face, his kind of dorky new haircut, his health scare from last week, or simply this lame OLP song he did. But something was missing
tonight. I do think the lyric about cancer might have been a personal connection for him (his brother is suffering from that disease, sadly), and I did like how he wrote "Give Back" in Sharpie on his hand. (Very much like Chris Martin of Coldplay, who's always scrawling "Make Trade Fair" all over himself.) But this was not David Cook at his most cookin'. The only person who seemed "inspired" here was Paula, who was up on her dancing feet making goo-goo eyes at David thoughout the entire song. (Uh-oh. Be careful, Paula! Didn't you learn anything from that whole Corey Clark incident?)
Carly Smithson was next with another
Queen song (WHY???? LET FREDDIE MERCURY REST IN PEACE!!!), "The Show Must Go On." Because apparently the show must go on even after you've lost your $2 million MCA record deal, according to Carly. Right? Well, sorta. First of all, Carly (and the other finalists) should stay the heck away from Queen, but if they must
pull a page from the Mercury songbook, there are far more inspirational Queen song choices, like "We Are The Champions," "Don't Stop Me Now," or especially "Under Pressure." But instead Carly picked this blowhard number and (over)sang the bejeezus out of it, totally showing off, all the while her eyes bugging out like her Spanx were on too tight. Simon was right: She looked and sounded angry
, which was totally
not in spirit with this week's feelgood theme. I dunno, maybe she's still angry about getting dropped by MCA. Guess I can't blame her. Well, she might be angry Thursday night, too, when she's in the bottom three again...
David "You're The Voice" Archuleta was next with "Angels"--a song more famous in America because of Jessica Simpson's cover, although U.K. pop legend Robbie Williams (one of the few men who can capably cover Queen, come to think of it) recorded the definitive version. Well, David's interpretation was better than Jessica's, but nowhere near as good as Robbie's. (If you look up "X Factor" in the dictionary, you'll probably see a photo of Robbie Williams next to that entry.) I do prefer Archie when he's at his piano; it sort of tones down that whole Star Search
-y, stage-parented, theater-schooly aspect about him that I loathe so much, and it makes him seem more credible and mature. But it figures that just when Li'l David delivers a performance that doesn't totally annoy me, the judges say he wasn't at his best. Oh well. There's no pleasing everyone, I guess.
Brooke White capped off the night with "You've Got A Friend," the Carole King classic from her immortal Tapestry
album. A warm 'n' friendly song, just like the good-vibey Brooke herself, it was an, um, inspired
choice--especially given the fact that Brooke was compared to Carole during Hollywood Week. When she warbled it to the camera, making direct eye contact with the lens, it was obvious she was really feeling the lyrics (unlike, say, when Syesha coasted through "Believe"). I just wish
Brooke had sat at the piano for this number; it was kind of weird that she didn't, but maybe she didn't want to get compared to Carole too
much. At least she didn't seem uncomfortable standing instrument-less in front of the mic this time, like she did when she danced so very awkwardly during "Here Comes The Sun" on Beatles Night.
OK, so now it's elimination prediction time. I believe that the three remaining contestants who have yet to take a seat on those hard and unyielding bottom-three stools (Davids Cook and Archuleta, and Michael Johns) have still secured places for themselves on that much comfier couch for yet another week. Brooke was also solid enough to redeem herself after last week's bottom-three scare, and Jason gave the best performance of the evening, so there's no way he's headed home.
So who is in trouble? I predict it'll be Syesha, for her pale Fantasia impression; Carly, for her poor anger management skills; and Kristy, just because it's a practically a time-honored Idol tradition for her to be in the bottom by now. But I also think Kristy will shockingly survive another week, and Carly will probably make it through unscathed. Which leaves...Syesha.
(Sorry, Sy. I knew Fantasia. Fantasia was a friend of mine. You, miss, are no Fantasia...)
You'll all have to wait until THURSDAY this time to see if I'm right, but tune in to Fox on Wednesday for the star-studded Idol Gives Back
charity special, and in the meantime check out my Idol Gives Back
backstage blog HERE