Reality Rocks - Archive

Idol’s Top 6: The World Wide Webber

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

As I mentioned in my previous blog about this season's mentors, I've had a lot of doubts about music theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber overseeing one of the show's theme nights. Yes, ALW was right at home on Grease: You're The One That I Want, NBC's 2007 search for a new Danny and Sandy...but that show was all about Broadway.

However, on American Idol, one of the harsher critiques a finalist can face--almost as harsh as being likened to a karaoke/cruise ship/hotel lounge/pageant singer--is "You belong on Broadway." That is Simonspeak for saying, "Sure, you can sing...but there's nothing about you that's cool, hip, or relevant to the modern pop market."

So I had to wonder how cool, hip, or relevant the remaining six Idol contestants would seem performing songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber--egad, the man behind Cats and Phantom Of The Opera! David Cook might've worked wonders with Lionel Richie's "Hello" once, but Broadway Week was going to be a major challenge even for him.

As Ryan Seacrest put it, the finalists were about to venture waaaaay out of their comfort zones. This was in fact probably going to be more uncomfortable for these singers than sitting in those hard bottom-three stools. And it was, I feared, probably going to be just as uncomfortable for the viewers at home.

So Syesha Mercado went first, brave girl that she is, singing "One Rock 'N' Roll Too Many." A feisty little minx (to quote Simon Cowell's memorable season 5 description of Kellie Pickler), rocking a little red dress and Josephine Baker hairdo, Sy jazzed it up and did a sassy, almost Fantasia-esque job with this number. It made me reminisce about that time when Fantasia did a '40s-retro version of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" way back in season 3, even. I started to think all my worrying about tonight's show was in vain, after watching this Broadway baby perform. Though I did get a little uncomfortable when Simon told Sy she was "sexy." Ew...

Jason Castro sang next...and uh-oh, he chose to do "Memory" from Cats, possibly the cheesiest selection in the Webber songbook. What was the dude thinking? Well, at least no one could accuse Jason of being unwilling to take a risk. Oooh boy, his was either going to be very, very good or very, very, VERY bad. Well, I'm happy to report that at least the latter was not the case. No, it was not amazing, but Jason pulled it off pretty much. I personally LOATHE this song, but I think Jason did have a genuine moment here. He got out of his hackeysackin' stoner Jack Johnson mode and really went for it, and I have to admire him for that. Just call him Jason Cats-ro now! (Sorry for the pun, couldn't resist.) Randy didn't dig it, but hey, he's the guy always saying "dawg," so of COURSE he wasn't going to dig a song from Cats. Right?

Brooke White followed with another song from the Great (Brooke) White Way, "You Must Love Me" from Evita. Well, I'm not so sure if I must love her after this. Sure, she sang it well and really committed to it (after a disproportionate amount of coaching and handholding from ALW, who wasn't impressed with her during rehearsals at first). But she screwed up the song at the beginning and had to start over, and that's the second time she's done that this season (the other time was when she did the Police's "Every Breath You Take"). But I'll give Brooke credit for one thing: She kept quiet and listened to the judges' criticism this time, instead of talking over them incessantly like she usually does. So in that way, Brooke did improve tonight.

David Archuleta, a boy who--like Spamalot star Clay Aiken--seems to have Broadway in his very DNA, sang fourth, belting out Phantom's "Think Of Me." (But first he was besieged by Ashley Ferl wannabes who clearly think of him quite a bit, all rushing the stage right on cue and smothering him in hugs.) Sigh. It was another typical performance by Archie. If you're fan, you probably dug it, but let's face it, if you're a fan then you'd probably dig it if he went onstage and picked his nose. If you're not a fan (like, um, me), you were probably laughing over how Webber pointed out David's annoying habit of singing with half-closed peepers. (Not since New York from Flavor Of Love has a reality star had such difficulty staying wide-eyed.) But how come ALW didn't point out Li'l David's gasping, lip-licking, or nervous giggling, huh?

OK, I'm mean. Paula and Randy loved David. Simon did not. I agreed with Simon. Moving on...

Fifth was Carly Smithson, who originally planned to sing "All I Ask From You" from Phantom before AWB recommended she sing the title song from Jesus Christ Superstar instead. Carly was wise to listen to Andrew; man, if she'd had this guy advising her back when she was on MCA, maybe her career would have gone in a whole other direction and she wouldn't have to resort to competing on national TV for a new record deal now. Carly really killed tonight. Seriously, I am SO not a fan of her normally, but she really rocked this evening. Jesus Christ, she was a superstar! (Again, sorry for the pun.) Andrew Lloyd Webber is a wise, wise man indeed.

Frontrunning rocker David Cook snagged the coveted final slot of the night, doing "Music Of The Night" from Phantom, a song AWB declared was the sexiest song he ever penned. (A sexy song for a sexy man--hey, makes sense to me!) After an awkward rehearsal moment when David was forced to gaze longingly into Andrew's eyes while pretending ALW was a hot 17-year-old love interest (come on, there must have been some female crew member who would have been happy to stand in for Andrew for that task; heck, they could have called me), David closed the show.

I don't really know how I feel about David C's performance, to be honest. I mean, he sang it wonderfully. He could sing anything wonderfully; he's got a fabulous voice. And it was nice to see him in non-growly alt-rock mode, I guess. But it just didn't...well, ROCK. I wish he'd done something from Jesus Christ Superstar too. Oh well. I agree with Simon ("This is not the side of you I like"), but yes, David made the most of the song. He rocked it as much as he possibly could, given the circumstances.

All right, so now it's prediction time. With only six singers left, I have a 50/50 chance of picking the bottom three, right? I like them odds. Well, I definitely think Brooke is at risk tonight. In fact, I think Brooke will be the one for whom the curtain will fall tomorrow night. As for the other two, I'll go with Syesha (not because she wasn't good--she totally was--but because she's been there so many times before) and Jason (because his odd song choice will not sit well with some viewers). Carly was unusually good tonight, and the Davids are never in the bottom three, so I think they'll be safe this week.

Tune in tomorrow to see if I'm right!

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