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Idol: Singing Beatles Like There’s No Tomorrow

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

The David Hernandez-less final 11 performed this evening--and just like last week, they sang Beatles numbers. Hey, Nigel Lythgoe's been trying to gain access to the Lennon/McCartney songbook for seven seasons now--did you think he was going to have just ONE night of Beatles tunes and then move on to Country Night or Disco Night or whatever?

Heck no! I actually wouldn't be surprised if Idol milks the Beatles' back catalog all the way through season 9, until there's nothing left to perform but virtually unsingable, backwards-masked selections like "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Because," and "Revolution 9." Or FCC-aggravating choices like "Why Don't We Do It In The Road." And I, of course, look forward to that! Especially if Michael Johns or David Cook is singing the latter...

Ahem. I digress. That happens a lot when I think of Michael Johns or David Cook. Anyway, instead of the show kicking off tonight with my fave guys, it started with my two least-fave girls. Argh!

Mushy-mouthed, skunky-striped barfly belter Amanda Overdone was first, oversinging and overslurring her way through a performance of "Back In The USSR" so unintelligible, she might as well have been singing in Russian for real. It was just a'ight. Honestly, she set the bar so low with her Vote For The Worst-honored, very wayward "Carry On Wayward Son" performance during '70s Week, that now she can pretty much get some praise just so long as she doesn't emerge onstage sporting backcombed Lily Munster hair and zebra rodeo chaps again. Thankfully, she didn't make any fashion faux pas this evening. But vocally, it was just the same old, same old. When she mentioned in her post-performance interview that one of her goals was to sell out a local bar in Lafayette, I thought to myself, "Yep, that's about as far as you'll go." Hey, at least she's realistic. See you in Lafayette, Amanda!

Next was Kristy Lee Cook, desperately trying to ingratiate herself to the uninterested audience by showing them adorable photos of her dog and horse. (Is it too late for her to buy her horse back, by the way?) Don't know if the cutesy slideshow was enough, really. Sure, her performance of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" was a whole lot better than her previous Beatles attempt, "Eight Days A Week" (which was so horrific that I'd prefer to hear it no days a week, thank you very much). This second song definitely lent itself better to the country format, but Kristy's vocals sounded iffy in the lower-register section of the chorus. The end result was simply unimpressive. And I think Kristy knew that, since she hit a whole new low level of ingratiating desperation by practically offering Simon sexual favors. Well, maybe that's not what she meant by "I can blow you out of your socks"--but honestly, that really might be the only way she can save herself at this point. I know that's harsh, but it's probably true...

David Archuleta was next, trying to redeem himself after last week's hot mess. Archie's performance was preceded by a very lengthy and red-faced apology for seemingly thinking he was on another Fox show, Don't Forget The Lyrics, last week, and messing up the words to "We Can Work It Out." Well, this time he worked it out on "The Long And Winding Road." He got all the words right, at least. But as has been the case with all of his performances, I found it safe, safe, safe. It was good, but Simon's transparently fawning praise of "amazing" and "master class" was pushing it, I think.

My man Michael Johns followed, with a song choice even more ambitious than his Hollywood Week "Bohemian Rhapsody" audition: one of my personal favorite Beatles tunes, "A Day In The Life." Well, I bet this was one day in his life he wishes he could do over, because it was NOT so hot. He did his best with it, and it was not as disastrous as the judges claimed, but really, it was just impossible for him to reduce this six-minute epic to the length of a Coca-Cola commercial jingle without having the whole performance seem rushed and all over the place. Oh well. Guess the only real highlight was the "I'd love to turn you on" line, which I'm sure was music to many female viewers' ears. Mine included. I'm just worried that this performance was a turnoff to many other viewers out there.

Brooke White was next. You know, I can't believe when I picked her as my fave female in week 1, it seemed like an off-center, underdoggish choice. Because Brooke is quickly becoming a female frontrunner. I know, I know, tonight was not her finest hour. But let me tell you why I still love me some Brooke White. First, she did "Here Comes The Sun," which was written by George "Dark Horse" Harrison. George was, in my opinion, THE coolest Beatle, and Brooke is, in my opinion, THE coolest female contestant this year. Second, she embodied the sunshiny, hippie spirit of the song, from her sunny-yellow sundress to her ray-of-sunshine smile to her golden curls. I didn't even mind her little midsong "woo!" since it was just a giddy, unscripted impulse. I actually found that ad-lib a bit endearing. And finally, she accepted her (overly) harsh critique with grace. She didn't get huffy or defensive, she just sucked it up and promised to do better next week. And she BETTER still be around next week, people!

So after Idol's coolest girl came the coolest guy, David Cook. I was pleased he did the groovy "Day Tripper" since I'm a fan of the Cheap Trick version--but here was David C., further educating the masses by letting us all know that Whitesnake were around before they had Tawny Kitaen rolling around on their car hoods in the '80s! Well, I'd roll around on David's car hood any time. His performance, inspired by the Whitesnake version of the tune, was fanfriggintastic--and the Peter Frampton talkbox stuff (an Idol first!) was just awesome. Seriously, I don't know how Simon could say with a straight face that David had "lost his element of surprise." Because I know I was pretty damn surprised when David whipped out that talkbox! A talkbox solo? Come on! I've said it before and I'll say it again: JUST GIVE DAVID COOK THE PRIZE NOW.

I would have preferred "Blackbird" for Brooke, but I must say Carly Smithson, who was next, sang that particular song well. I still don't think she's Kelly Clarkson incarnate like Simon and Randy keep raving, but she's pretty good. And when she talked about feeling like a broken-winged bird, my heart sort of went out to her. I imagined what it must have felt like when she was a wee 17-year-old Irish lass coming to America with big dreams, being made big promises by big record labels that she was going to be a big star...only to have it all fall apart in a big way. And now seven years later, she's auditioning for a TV talent show with all the plebes. That's enough to break anyone's spirit. If she'd just come out with that speech at the beginning of the season, instead of conveniently failing to mention her previous $2 million record deal, I would have liked her a lot more. And I think the rest of America would have, too.

One guy whose spirit still seemed intact was mellow, perpetually grinning Jason Castro. He warbled "Michelle," a very sweet little number for a sweet little guy. And I'm sure all the little girlies out there enjoyed hearing him sing in French, the sexy language of love. Ooh la la, indeed. Some of those fangirls are probably considering changing their name to "Michelle" right now. As Simon pointed out, Jason did seem a little goofy and awkward when stripped of his everpresent guitar, but in Jason's case I think the goofiness and awkwardness was part of his charm. There's just something special about this crazy kid. Tonight wasn't his best showing, sure, but he ain't going nowhere yet. Castro still rules.

When I found out Syesha Mercado had chosen to perform "Yesterday" next, my heart stopped. Oh no! The most clichéd and obvious choice in the songbook! Yes, I was afraid for Syesha. I was very afraid. But you know what? She was great! The stripped-down arrangement was a wise choice, as it kept everything from getting too maudlin and schmaltzy, plus it showcased her falsetto nicely. I don't think I'd ever heard her sing so well before. Perhaps she's finally over her cold? Or maybe her near-brush with elimination last week lit a fire under her perky, well-toned tush? Whatever the reason, "Yesterday" was definitely her best performance yet, and now her troubles really may be far away.

Chikezie, last week's most memorable contestant with his fiery Southern-soul rendition of "She's A Woman," was the penultimate singer tonight, hoping to make lightning strike twice. This time he did "I've Just Seen A Face," taking another major risk by playing harmonica, an instrument he's admittedly a novice at. He did the bayou-blues schtick again, and though this week wasn't as good as "She's A Woman," he still proved that this is a style he does very well. The Taylor Hicks-ish harmonica playing wasn't even that bad, despite what Simon said--though I wouldn't advise it again. After all, look what harmonica playing got Taylor Hicks in the end: a cancelled record contract!

You know, there hasn't been a real big African-American male country star since Charley Pride...and I'm thinking Chikezie might be the guy to fill Charley's mighty big boots. We shall see. I hope Chikezie at least sticks around for the inevitable Country Night--if the show ever gets past all these Beatles tunes, that is.

Ramiele Malubay closed the show with "I Should Have Known Better"--a logical choice, because she should have known better than to sing the snoozy "In My Life" last week! On this zippier number, she showed some of the old sass that made America fall in love with her. But I don't know if it was enough. It might be too little, too late.

On a sidenote: Can the wardrobe person on this show PLEASE stop putting the female finalists in these hideous high-waisted pants? Those pants look good on no one, and even I'm beginning to wonder if this is all part of some inside setup to get these girls voted off. (Remember those horrible up-to-the-bust lavender trousers that the ousted Asia's Epperson wore?) I just hope the wardrobe department doesn't start making the guys wear armpit-high grandpa pants, too.

OK, so now it's prediction time. There were few true standout performances this evening, yet also few serious trainwrecks, so this is a toughie call. Michael Johns faltered tonight, but the Aussie Posse is a strong support system, so he's unlikely to go just yet. Brooke White and Jason Castro were also not at their best, but they're such charmers. Amanda Overmyer should go, but unfortunately she has Vote For The Worst on her side. So I'm going to go with my prediction from last week: Kristy. Her cowgirl boots are made for walkin', right off the Idol stage, and I truly believe it's only a matter of time before that's just what they'll do.

Tune in tomorrow, y'all, to see if I'm right!

 

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