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Four On The Floor: American Idols Attempt To Rock

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

As a proudly self-proclaimed "rock chick," I approached American Idol's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame night this week with a mixture of both delight and dread. My delight stemmed from anticipation over the prospect of seeing resident rocker David Cook storm the stage and Jason Castro do a couple of fitting '60s hippie numbers; my dread had to do with seeing the decidedly non-rockin' other two contestants, namely David Archuleta, do the same. Because let's face it, little David does a lot of things well, but rocking out is so not one of them.

Dang, it really makes me wish that Michael Johns--or heck, even Amanda Overmyer or Carly Smithson--were still in the race this rock 'n' roll week.

But for the time being, I didn't have to worry. Because for the first song of the night, my American Idol dream came true: My favorite contestant covered one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite all-time bands! Yes, perfectly coiffed pretty-boy David Cook crooned "Hungry Like The Wolf" by perfectly coiffed pretty-boys Duran Duran!

Sure, it may have seemed like an odd choice for Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Week--especially since Duran Duran, despite being eligible since 2006, have deplorably been overlooked for Hall Of Fame induction so far. (A situation that seriously needs to be remedied, PRONTO.) But David the C proved, once and for all, that Duran Duran DO rock. (And if you don't believe me, see THIS LINK for more proof.) Plus, since Simon Le Bon isn't exactly the strongest singer in the world (if you've ever seen Simon try to nail the high note in "A View To Kill" in concert, then you know what I mean)--so it was pretty easy for David to sing the bejeezus out of this D2 classic. His "Hungry Like The Wolf" therefore had this recovering Duranie howling, for sure.

I just wish Danny Noriega had made it to this stage of the game, too. Can you imagine how totally awesome his version of "Girls On Film" would have been? Sigh.

Anyway, Syesha Mercado was next, with a very wise choice: Tina Turner's "Proud Mary." I was wondering how Syesha, primarily an R&B diva, would fare on a rock-themed night--but remember, back in the day Tina was considered a rock 'n' roll artist. Syesha pulled a Haley Scarnato move and showed off her Nair-commercial-worthy legs (although this was appropriate tactic in this situation, since she was covering the most famously hot-legged woman in music history), and in her gold mini-dress Sy looked almost as amazing as Beyonce did the night she sang this song with Tina the Queen at this year's Grammys. But even though Syesha's performance had legs, both figuratively and literally, it still wasn't quite at a Beyonce/Tina level. She proved she definitely has enough star power to launch a successful post-Idol career, but she may be launching that career sooner rather than later, because she still might be going home after this.

Jason went third, unsurprisingly singing a song by his own dreadheaded idol, Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff"--which, surprisingly, really was not good. At all. Or, as Simon worded it, it was "utterly atrocious." Bet Jason consiered shooting himself after this disaster. He certainly shot himself in the foot, in the figurative sense. I would have assumed that Jason would've been right in his element doing a reggae classic like this, by a man who's clearly influenced his hairstyle if not his musical style. But Jason was instead awkward, goofy, and even a bit soulless--not to mention vocally anemic.

But I totally dug his stoner/fratboy answer to Simon's (probably rhetorical) "What were you thinking?" question: "I was thinking...BOB MARLEY!!"  

Yeah, dude! I practically expected Jason to crush a beer can on his dread-covered skull to emphasize his point. What a classic doofus moment. It's so crystal-clear why, when the folks at picked JC as their new posterboy, they changed their slogan to "Vote For The Stoned."

Yep, dood, Jason truly does rock. Just not when he's singing Marley songs, unfortunately.

Singing fourth was David Archuleta, doing Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," the song my former fave Josiah Leming mucked up so badly during his do-or-die Hollywood Week audition that he got sent home. Well, I'll give Archie credit: He didn't screw up the song. He remembered all the words, exhibited no cocky attitude, and didn't mysteriously adopt a British accent. But you know what? I'm still not an Archuleta fan. I'd still rather watch Josiah ruin this song than watch Archie go through his impeccably choreographed motions. At least Josiah always seemed like a real person, not some stage-parented kiddie robot. Sorry, but I've just never understood all the hype surrounding David A., and I probably never will. David Archuleta soooo does not rock. Well, he doesn't rock my world, at least.

My preferred David, Mr. Cook, returned to rock on a second song, the Who's iconic anthem "Baba O'Reilly." Wow, that was a pretty ambitious choice--and though Cook did well, I must admit I was a little disappointed. See, few people--not even David Cook--can measure up to a legendary frontman like Roger Daltrey. I dunno, maybe if David had smashed his guitar a la Pete Townshend at the song's climax, he might have won me over a bit more. But hey, he still rocked. Because David Cook always rocks, period. That's what he does.

Syesha was next with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," another fantastic choice for her, the perfect mix of rock 'n' soul.

She belted it out most magnificently, singing straight from her heart and her gut, but her performance reminded me a little too much of her showing on Andrew Lloyd Webber Night. Maybe Broadway really is where Syesha belongs. And I don't mean that as a Cowell-ish insult, by the way.

Actually, Simon Cowell really liked Sy's performance--so much so that his unexpected high praise made Syesha cry. Tonight, it was tears of joy. Will she be shedding tears of sorrow tomorrow, on elimination night? We shall see...

Jason attemped to redeem himself next, doing Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" because, according to his foggy and fuzzy logic, "You can't go wrong with the Bobs." Um, his Marley performance proved he could go very, very wrong with a Bob song...and well, he didn't fare too much better with this other Bob. It was definitely a more suitable song choice for him--Jason usually does well with these strummy, singsongy kind of numbers--but then he messed up the lyrics even more horrifically than Brooke White did a couple weeks ago. And he never recovered. Simon subsequently fixed this Vote For The Stoned mascot with a stony stare and told him to pack his suitcase.

Even Paula Abdul had trouble finding something positive to say. She merely shrugged Jason off with "It is what it is." Ouch, dude.

Last was David A. with a superschmaltzy rendition of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender"--which I did NOT love, tenderly or in any other way. Arch has none of Elvis The Pelvis's dangerously sexy charisma. He is so not The King. But this was an undeniably good song choice for Archie, I admit: The little girls watching him in their Hello Kitty-themed pink bedrooms will gaze all mooney-eyed at their TV sets, fantasize that David is singing this love ballad just for them, and immediately start speed-dialing his voting numbers on their rhinestone-encrusted Sidekicks. So there's no way this kid isn't making it to the finale.

OK, so now it's prediction time. Once again, the Davids are going to be safe...unless, as Ryan Seacrest sternly warned, there's some unimaginable upset like there was when former frontrunners Tamyra Gray and Chris Daughtry stalled in fourth place. But I think Cook and Archi will be OK, I really do. As for the other two...well, based on tonight's performances, there's no question that Jason Castro should leave. He was just a mess this evening. But he does have that devoted fanbase, those girls who'll go into panic-stricken overdrive knowing their boy is at risk and will dial his voting number until their thumbs develop tendonitis and their fingertips bleed.

So my guess is Syesha, who's bottomed out many times before, will finally, unjustly get cut this week. Tune in tomorrow to see if I'm right!

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