Monday, January 26, 2009

It's Coming! Savant for Season 8!

We're excited to announce that Idol Savant will be returning soon — with an all-new look, and the same great recaps you've come to expect.  Be sure to visit us when we crank back up with a recap of the February 17 (Top 36 finalists) show.

Our Web address for the Season 8 is slightly different this year, so please visit and bookmark our new page

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Lazy Man’s Finale Recap, & Goodbye Season 7

Chadboulet is Season 7 recap-weary (i.e. lazy), and no doubt you are weary, too. Especially after tonight's heartstring-stretching marathon mega-show. So I offer only some short random comments about tonight’s 2-hour finale. I thought the show actually lived up to its hype — there seemed to be more entertainment and much less filler than I expected, even for a finale show, n'est pas? And if you didn’t already have a high tolerance (or love) for cheese with a capital C, you wouldn’t be here in the first place, right? Cook took the crown, and all is right with the world tonight, except perhaps in the Archuleta household, where wire hangers are still rumored to be in great supply.

High points (in no particular order):
  • Syesha & Seal
  • Donna Summer (still got it goin’ on)
  • Carly & Michael tearing up the classic “The Letter”
  • Michael Johns in general
  • David Cook with ZZ Top
  • Brooke, with living legend Graham Nash
  • Gladys Knight with 3 very short pips, 2 of which are talented [L to R: 5'6'', 5'6" & 5'8"]
  • Carrie Underwood - personality and brains be damned - the girl can sing
  • George Michael, accompanied by Abdul tears
  • Both Davids (respectively) in Risky Business themed Guitar Hero commercials
  • Renaldo Lapuz & USC marching band/cheerleaders
  • Joel McHale in the audience
  • Ryan dancing
  • Simon's admission of error and apology to Cook for calling last night in favor of Archuleta

Low Points
  • Craptastic self-hype-believing Disney product The Jonas Brothers, who make David Archuleta look like Tom Waits
  • Traditional white-clad group song cornfest, Get Ready (dig it, brothers & sisters!)
  • David/David duet
  • Shameless, worthless, time-sucking, intelligence-insulting Mike Myers movie plug. Please write 19 Entertainment and bitch about this.
  • The very presence of David Hernandez
  • Biker nurse chick's earbleed inducements
  • Over-proliferation of mosh-pit hand-waving

Nothing to write home about

  • Jason Castro’s Hallelujah reprise
  • Jordan Sparks (sorry)
  • Jimmy Kimmel
  • Bryan Adams (give me Ryan Adams)
  • One Republic, with DA
  • Mikelah Gordon/Matt Rogers
  • Terry Hatcher in the audience
  • Ford hybrid SUVs
  • Carrie Underwood Nintendo commercial

I want to thank everyone who has supported this humble one-man parade by revisiting the site weekly, and sometimes even commenting, which I always find encouraging. Savant’s opinions are no better than yours, just a little more conspicuous and assertive. American Idol blogging is my wheelhouse (thank you Randy Jackson), and I love hearing from all of you who have the fine taste to read and revisit this blog. Rejoin us in February 2009 for the Season 8 semifinal recaps, which should be at least as good as reading the phone book.

[cue marching band, please]

I am your brother
Your best friend forever
Recapping the shows
The music that you love
Brothers til the end of time
Together or not
You’re always in my heart
You hurt your feelings
And you will rain on mine
I love you brother

(repeat ad nauseum)

À Bientôt…


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finale Part 1 - Dueling Davids: A voting bloc battle to the finish

As if tonight’s first finale installment didn’t already promise to be cheesetastic enough, the producers saw fit to saddle the program with a lame boxing metaphor theme, complete with the authentic “ready to rumble” intro by…you know, that rumble guy, as well as a crapload of other cheesey fight visuals. Each David literally came out swinging. Well, Cook did; Archuleta managed a wimpy swat or two. The unsurprising David-David finale has been anticipated for many weeks (after all, neither was ever in the bottom 3); yet oddly, it appears difficult to say who has the ultimate edge. Why? Because at this point it is not about the performances; it’s all about the voting blocs. Everyone’s mind was made up before tonight, right? Tonight’s triumph will not be achieved by one David vocal performance or another, but instead by an ‘Archie’s Angels' or a ‘Cookies’ voting mandate…and just who has has their finger on that particular pulse? Simon says that hating your opponent will be the key to winning, which is followed by Archie’s hilarious comment “This guy’s awesome” hatefully directed at his opponent. The pre-show coin toss went to L’il Dave, who chose to go second. Oh, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been hanging around the studio like a lost puppy for the last several weeks and no one has had the nerve to ask him to leave. So they let him stick his tuppence in.

The blow-by-blow, yo:
Round 1 - Clive Davis Choice
Clive raised his selection game a bit this year and handed David Cook U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. DC managed to Bono up the first verse quite well, before kicking up into a more distinctly Cook mode for the remainder of the song. David Cook is nothing if not an amazingly comfortable and natural stage performer. He ended with what Randy called a “scooped up” note, or maybe he said a “scooby-do.” Either way, DC took care of business, and all three judges thought he aced it. David responded with his signature happy/smug overconfident geeky “I love all the little people who got me here” graciousness. Autographs will be signed after the show.

Clive’s song gift for Archie was also well chosen, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, perhaps one of Sir Elton John's best and biggest pop anthems of all time. The song teems with Archuleta-brand emotion and builds to a sort of double-barreled chorus with soaring angelic background swells and stuff. These are the tools & trappings of a David A knockout, and he certainly went to the mat, coming as close to removing his gloves as he ever has (wow - a metaphorical triple-play). Randy gave birth to a couple of barnyard animals, Paula called it ‘beautiful’ and ‘stunning,’ and Simon said it was arguably Archuleta’s best performance so far (ever?). Self-appointed referree Cowell declares that Round One goes to The Arch, who was moved to tears which seemed to say “you love me more than my daddy, and that is more confusing than having 8 mothers.”

Round 2 - Song Contest Choice
A decision was made to allow the contestants to choose from 10 (or perhaps all 20) of the songs submitted in American Idol’s “Coronation Song” contest, and furthermore to allow them to impose his own arrangement upon said choice. This saved us from the painfully intolerable schmaltzfest that usually defines this round, for the most part. Having said that, we are grateful that the producers wisely chose to position this round in the middle, not at the end of the show.

David Cook chose a little ditty called Dream Big, and fortunately veiled it with his signature rock-esquity, thus masking the inherent cheese factor offered up by the lyrics. We aren’t really hearing all those words in the mix, but we know they are extolling the virtues of faith and perservance to achieve one’s Idol dreams, not to mention the new Mustang at the end of the rainbow. It boils down to a fairly listenable veneer of arena-rock-iness over a base of forgettable songwriting mediocrity, topped with an unnaturally creepy smile from DC when it's all over with. Randy was suitably excited by all this. Paula offered a classic Paula-ism “With a song in your heart and a guitar in your hands…” which she has been saving up, I think. Simon employed the boxing theme with a clever “lightweight” comment and declared it a ‘6.5 out of 10.’

Li’l Dave chose one called It’s A Small Moment After All — no, sorry. I think it was actually called In This Moment. Um, yeah, I know - it is definitely one of those. Well, he brought all his Archie-ness to the table, and probably made the songwriter very proud. Randy nearly soiled himself at the molten hotness of this performance, and I swear, heads will roll if he uses the ‘phonebook’ thing one more time, ever again. That expression is hereby retired, so says I. ‘David Archuleta can sing Barbara Walters’ autobiography and make it sound good.” How ‘bout that one? In fact, I’d love to hear that. Same goes for “in da zone’ and every other Randyism, come to think of it. Simon felt DA chose the right song, and handed him Round 2, leaving Randy to stew in his own ineffectualness.

Round 3 - Contestant’s Choice
David Cook, a song in his heart and acoustic guitar in hand, takes to the mat with his own choice - Collective Soul’s The World I Know. The song is upbeat, but sort of a rock/ballad hybrid. RJ says ‘nice job;’ Paula said he was standing in his truth, and he better watch out cuz that stuff is slippery (ok, I added that second part). Simon felt that David made a critical strategic error with his song choice -- that he should have reprised one of his best from shows past, like Billie Jean. From a strategy standpoint, I have to agree with Cowell. This is your ding-dang last dance, dude. It might have been wise to chose a proven house rocker and just tear the place up, to seal the deal. Cook seemed to take the post-critique defensive stance that he was choosing integrity over cold-hearted strategizing. OK, but still. Cook was overwhelmed with emotion — you know, the end-of-the-season I-better-not-lose-after-all-this-crap kind, bringing him to dramatic tears. He's keeping it real, people. Was it these lyrics that did him in?:
So I walk up on high /And I step to the edge /To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself /As the years roll down. /'Cause its the world I know.

David Archulta reprised his Nobel Peace Prize-winning performance of Imagine. Good choice, but personally, I prefer the more cynical Lennon material — but whatever. Take his little hand and join him, and the world…will live as one.
Okay, what is going on here? The judges cannot stop themselves from throwing themselves at the feet of Li’l David. Randy called him “better than Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey” (or something to that effect), Paula called him “pretty much better than Jesus,” and in Winston Churchill style, Simon proclaimed “what we have just witnessed is one of the greatest final performances of the last 2 centuries.”

Conspiracy theories. Debate amongst yourselves:
1. Producers inexplicably decided to change favorites at the last minute, from Cook (indicated many times in judge interviews) to Archuleta. Judges were instructed to heap love on Arch and declare him American Idol to influence votes in his favor.
2. Producers actually still favor Cook; instructed judges to overpraise Archuleta to cause compensatory Cook voting backlash.
3. Daddy Jeff Archuleta possesses compromised photos of each of the judges, which he shared with them just before the show.
4. Producers realize that the Idol title is no longer all that, and that their favorite, David Cook, will fare better commercially with the additional credibility granted him by not actually garnering the title, a la Daughtry.
5. Archuleta is better than Cook.

Ruben Studdard sings us out in person (!) tonight with Celebrate Me Home. Confession: Chadboulet loves Ruben better than both Davids put together. Ruben could sing Microsoft Word For Dummies and make it sound good.

Who should win? Who will win? Comments encouraged…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Final 3: Chief David Cooks; Others Wash Bottles

It is the Night of Threes. Three contestants remain; three songs are to be sung, each choice from one of three sources: the contestant, one judge, and the producers. All week, media pundits have over-discussed the implications of David Archuleta’s evil stage dad’s ouster from the Idol backstage. Here in the Savant Spin Zone, all the punditry we can offer is the appropriate anagram for “David Archculeta”… Dad: "Ah! Lucrative!" With only one more week left in the season, there are some very important questions to be answered. Questions like “Will Syesha lose this week simply by default, or by continuing her season-long streak of sub-mediocrity?” Or “How cleverly will the judges be able to hide their David vs David finale agenda?” And “Have I ragged on Randy Jackson enough in Season 7?” Hmm. No, I don’t think I have.

Round One: Judge’s Choice
Paula chose a lesser-known Billy Joel tune for David A, And So It Goes. One feels certain that this is just the right sort of vehicle for Li'l Dave, because it allows him to show his always-impressive vocal chops, and also because melodically it sounds like it was lifted from a Disney movie soundtrack. Lyrically however it is quite a mature song, which poses the usual paradox with a 17-year boy at the helm. Randy and Paula lapped it all up with warm and fuzzy in-da-zone magic love. Simon speaks the pedestrian yet painful truth — that it was good, yet predictable & not outstanding. He is careful though, to stop short of dissing his boy out of the finale.

Randy, Randy, Randy. How could you have spoon-fed Syesha the same medicine that has virtually done her in throughout the last several weeks -- an iconic diva hit like Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You? Or was this another Agenda-driven move? 4-me, this was as predictable as it gets: mediocrity served with a side order of pitchiness. Paula fell back on her standard M.O. when she hates a performance — complimenting the looks. “It’s difficult to try to live up to Alicia Keys, dear. Um, but you look STUNNING!” So it would not seem that Mercato was too swiftly sent down the river, Cowell did the same. “Randy shouldn’t have made such a sucky choice for you. Did I mention that you look GORGEOUS!?”

David Cook’s journey tonight begins with a video showing him on a local Kansas City talk show, accepting a text message from Simon informing him he will have to sing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but Simon is smarter than all that, and he could already hear the Cook'ed version in his head. And Cowell was spot on correct. There may have been a dodgy moment or two at the start, but then…the guitar, bass & drums kicked in, and the vocals started to soar, and it was all uphill from there. At the risk of hyperbolizing, this could actually have been David Cook’s best performance of the season. The only thing that could have won me over more is if Cook bore a closer resemblance to Katharine McPhee. And boy, did Jackson get this one wrong. Randy wanted him to ROCK, you see (dissing Simon’s song choice). But you don’t need to have a ‘rock’ song to ROCK, you molten hot idiot. We remind ourselves that this is a man who toured with Journey, major purveyors of schlocky 70s rock power ballads.

Round Two: Contestants’ Choice
Li’l Dave admits it was a struggle to learn Chris Brown’s With You, presumably because daddy was not there to shout the lyrics in his ear. Interestingly, the phrase “hearts all over the world tonight” pops up in each and every song David has sung over the course of the season. Okay, not really. Randy & Paula moderately gush over the performance, while Simon offers that the song’s precocious lyrics made it “like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger.” Ouch, that’s cold, in a Simon sort of way. Watch out Cowell; daddy knows where you live …

Syesha’s choice was Peggy Lee’s (also Elvis’) hit Fever which has been done 3 or 4 times before on Idol, perhaps most recently by Paris Bennett in Season 5 and Nick Pedro in Season 6. And while it nearly guarantees a steamy, sultry sort of party, it is still a probable step backwards towards cabaretville, illustrating Syesha’s uncanny knack for dunderheaded song selections. The performance wasn’t bad, and by that I mean ‘on pitch,’ but the judges really roll out the Ouster Agenda on this one, hinting that she had undone herself with a regrettable choice. At this stage of the season, the judges understandably have dollar signs in their eyes, and are trying to determine how many shares of Syesha they would like to purchase in Idol Futures; and however entertaining, sixties torch songs just may not cut it in the current dying pop music market. Perhaps this is a good time to offer up Syesha Mercado’s name anagram Yes—chose drama (alt choice: A homey actress). You heard them here first.

David Cook’s personal choice was Switchfoot’s Dare You To Move, for which he once again chose to whip out the electric axe. An audience sign informs us that “Cougars Like Cook,” which I assume has nothing to do with John Mellencamp. This one was just okay. Randy spends a few minutes blowing his own horn: ‘I’ve actually heard of Switchfoot; the songwriter and producer are old frat mates of mine,” I dated Switchfoot’s sister, etc., before summarily dissing the performance. Paula didn’t like the fact that the song had to end. Simon called it okay, before catching himself and not putting foot in mouth to equate it to amateur night at a Portugeuse wedding or something, thus causing Syesha to return next week. But Cook retains solid footing.

Round 3 - Producers’ Choice
The producers chose the Dan Fogelberg chestnut Longer for Li’l Dave, which proves again to be the type of sapfest best suited for Archuleta’s vocal prowess. As David seems to be everyone’s favorite criticism target of late, I am quick to remind that he does in fact possess perhaps the most contemporary pop musical phrasing ability and vocabulary (i.e. chops) of the lot. In fact, he couldn’t 'sing it straight' if he tried, which may be an advantage with this lame song. So in the ArchuD2 realm, I rate this one a success. Randy was all “can sing da phonebook; crazy hot lava; in da zone;” and a remarkably lucid Paula Abdul called it “very lovely.” Simon spent 3 minutes waxing over what a ghastly song it was, and a horrid selection to boot, before retreating back to The Agenda, making it clear that he expects and intends to see David in the finale.

Syesha is called upon to sing Hit Me Up from "Happy Feet." I’m not saying that I loved it, but it had the sort of funky energy that may have put her in good stead had she chosen songs of this ilk all season long, instead of carting out one diva-wanna-be power ballad joint after another. This one was ‘just ok’ for Randy. Paula quickly remembered The Agenda, and essentially told Syesha to pack her bags, and Simon of course followed suit, pointing out that it was a song about penguins after all, who tend to waddle back home.

The producers did David C a solid by choosing Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, granting him an eloquent Beatle-esque string quartet and allowing him to cart out his best trick — the slow-build to a rockerish big crescendo. Another triumph for David Cook, whose name does not render any good anagrams. But when his middle name ‘Michael’ is added to the mix, we get Die, lava mood chick, which sounds cooler than the other options “Macho vocal kiddie” and “MIDI choked a vocal.” Paula tells him “see you in the finals,” and Simon comes just short of placing the tiara on Cook's head.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Final Four Sing "The Greatest Songs"; Jason Bobs

Do I need an excuse to run this photo?

It’s getting late in the season, and one could argue that American Idol is losing whatever manner of ‘edge’ it had in earlier weeks, when the contestants were not one big happy family hanging out together taping Ford commercials, but instead were out for each other’s throats. Ryan attempts to draw us into the Final Four show tonight with the melodramatic declaration “Anything can happen. Nobody is safe. Nothing is guaranteed — but alas, it’s a live show, and Ryan doesn’t know at this point just how dead wrong he can be. Stay with me and you’ll see what I mean. Tonight’s theme is ‘songs from the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Most Influential Songs” list, which theoretically leaves our contestants pretty wide open for some judicious and interesting song choices (two each). Paula (although blinded by bangs) has located a rare window of lucidity tonight, and Daddy Archuleta, smiling widely with thumb high in the air, is ready to see how it all shakes down…and I guess we are too…

Round One
David Cook got the curious notion to tackle Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf. Not “A” wolf, mind you — but THE wolf. Okay, I was there in the eighties, and there were some good songs, as I remember — and this one barely qualifies. But he chose to sing the dang thing; so there he is doing his throaty best to wolf it up, but not especially Cooking it up, if you will. It was enough like a mediocre copy of the original to make me want to hear Duran Duran again, and that’s not a good sign. This whole state of affairs somehow increased Paula’s appetite, but otherwise did not advance the Cook agenda. Simon went out on a limb (!) to allow that it was good enough to get DC through to next week. Well… hold on with that Master Plan, Simon — there’s another song coming.

‘Uptown Syesha,’ the one with long straight hair and silver lamé dress, is here now. She’s excited about the upcoming tour — not for the thrill of performing in large venues all over the country or for hanging with her top 10 contestant buddies, but, uh…to “meet her fans.” Well, okay. Go ahead & get acquainted with them before you reach your Mariah Carey non-contact hug phase. She was uncertain about doing Proud Mary, but she looked into the mirror [why am I not surprised?] and said “Syesha…[she calls her mirror Syesha]…just do it,” borrowing shamelessly from the Nike ad campaign. The performance was actually okay, and seemed to be a hit in da house. Simon called it a bad Tina Turner impersonation, I say it was a good Tina Turner impersonation.

Kill it before it grows

Shot The Sheriff, and I’m pretty sure it was in self defense, the sheriff having been called into action after hearing Jason’s dress rehearsal for this song. And boy, did this song get Castroted. The only justice that could be exacted at this point is for Ziggy Marley to appear on stage tomorrow night with a pair of scissors for a formal de-dreading ceremony. Simon called it “utterly atrocious — a first-round audition massacre.” I call it “jerk sauce.” Or maybe “one toke over the line.” Ryan tries to soothe Jason’s goofy sensitive soul, knowing that the only thing he has in common with Bob Marley is that…he is history.

David Archuleta is here now, in his Jonathan Livingston Seagull t-shirt, to take the edge off the Jason thing. And off everything else, too. Ryan, please don’t interview him. Make the little boy stop talking! Okay, Davey - Ben E. King’s timeless Stand By Me is indeed a good choice. It is somewhat over-covered (BMI ranks it as the 4th most covered song of the 20th century), but hey — I don’t think I’ve heard it in the last 6 months or so. Everyone from Muhammad Ali to John Lennon to U2 to Green Day has performed it. But I digress. The arrangement was quietly soulful and somewhat hypnotic, and results in another small victory for L’il Dave. A needed break from his downward Disneybound spiral. Archuleta Fan Club President Randy Jackson shouted “hot mad" something or other; and after semi-trashing it, Cowell owned up to it being the best performance of the night so far.

Round Two
One thing I like about Mr. Cook is that he is smart. All that Scrabble can make a guy savvy, you know…knowing which tiles to drop on the triple letter squares, and exactly where to place “daughtry,” on the board, etc. Oops, sorry — that’s a proper noun, ain’t it? For whatever his flaws, his competitive edge has much to do with the fact that he is playing this show. Sure, it’s playing him, too. But he IS playing it, with all his might, and usually playing it better than the rest of them. He scores some points with me for choosing the Who’s classic Baba O’Reilly (aka “Teenage Wasteland”). Back with electric guitar, Cook regained some command, although the 1.5 minute limit forced him to stop cold just when the song began to really heat up. Still in all, redemptive & satisfactory. The judges breathe their little sighs of relief. Oh, I finally figured it out — "AC" stands for "Archuleta/Cook."

Sam Cooke’s moving A Change is Gonna Come was another good choice for Syesha (appearing this time in a gold evening gown). Unfortunately, she Mercado’ed up the joint with another overreaching & bordering-on-screechy performance. If you liked it, I would submit to you that it is a wonderful song, and that fact accounts for most of what you liked about it. God, I hate it when I do this, but I actually agreed with Randy. Sam Cooke proved that the song can stand tall when you keep it simple & beautiful. You did not need to Whitney-fy this one, girlfriend. Yes, I know you were moved to tears by whatever you read about it last night on Wikipedia, but this would have been 10 times better if you had just toned it down. If I'm not mistaken, the house PA is in good working order, so sit back and let it do its thing. And good lord, you did not win an Oscar and you are not standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; the grandiose after-speech was unnecessary. Paula and Simon loved this one, but I’m in RJ's zone for once.

Now, I’m as much of an early-period Bob Dylan fan as anyone. But you know, the zeitgeist of Mr. Tambourine Man is lost now, at least on me. And although it contains some of simplest lyrics Dylan every composed, Jason managed to find himself substituting and entire line with “duh de duh de duh de duh” — um, not a brilliant ad lib, JC. It was a pitiable enough mess to make me wonder if Paula could even salvage it, and worry that Jason would have some sort of bad trip flashback on stage. But even she could not see the colors. I prefer the Shatner version myself. Simon says: pack your bags, Jason — it's been a long time coming, but we all now know a change is gonna come.

I have to admit I was rolling my eyes when David A said he chose Elvis’ Love Me Tender (as well as covering my ears so I wouldn’t have to hear him speak). But, in classic Archuleta fashion, he actually did bring something new to it, including what almost appeared to be energy and competitive spirit. Don't know what Daddy whispered in his ear before the show, but David actually appeared to be fighting to win this thing. In spite of a somewhat dodgy falsetto end note, it was A-OK. Randy drooled; Paula felt his heart - she really did. Simon told him that he crushed the competition.

If Jason doesn't go home, the sky that we look upon will tumble and fall, and the mountains will crumble to the sea. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Songs Sung Blah - Top 5 Render Diamond, In The Rough

And the Hair & Make-up Grammy goes to…

Neil Diamond is not an aging rock star. Oh, he's aging all right, but he was never really a rocker — though he once opened for The Who, and did perform at the Scorsese-filmed Last Waltz farewell Band concert. He's actually more of an old-school [Brill Building] writer of hit pop songs who dabbled briefly in the rock 'n roll idiom before morphing into an Elvis-style arena performer. The difference between tonight's Idol mentor and someone like, say, Tom Jones in that regard, is that when Neil took the stage in Vegas, he was performing songs he had penned himself. As a Brooklynite of Russian/Polish extraction, he did not fit into the 60s/70s acoustic singer/songwriter mold — he forged one of his own. But Diamond got more than a few things right — statistically, he's one of the most popular & successful singer/songwriters of all time. Younger Idol fans might be more familiar with the Smash Mouth cover of I'm a Believer, or Urge Overkill's Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Then there was Saving Silverman, a movie in which the two main characters played in an ND tribute band. And who can forget the sappy Heartlight, from ET?

Um, did I mention that Neil is a gazillionaire?

Musical anthropologists still struggle to interpret the meaning of this ancient photograph.

The extensive Diamond song catalog varies widely in style and is painted in fairly neutral colors, meaning that the musical malleability quotient is potentially high, which could help our Final 5 contestants as they each attempt to put their personal stamp on TWO of Neil's songs. His new album drops next Tuesday and a summer tour is planned, neither of which has anything to do with why he's here this week, of course. Ah, Idol Serendipity strikes again.

Ryan says there’s no time to waste tonight, so we begin…

Jason had to begin the first verse of Forever In Blue Jeans in his uncomfortable lower register so he could handle the octave-up modulation to the second verse. Like Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom and Paul McCartney's Listen To What The Man Said, I have no clue what the hell this catchy little song is about. But even by Castro standards, this performance was way under-laid-back and phoned-in. Facial expressions that presumably communicated an earnest investment in the song instead telegraphed Jason’s painful struggle to remember the lyrics and seemingly minimal interest in being on stage. On the plus side, this performance contained zero trans fats.

David C joined Ryan in his own intro, a contrived cute comedy routine that well showcased the smugness of each of them. Even with a plugged-in electric guitar in hand, David did nothing to kick tonight’s show into 2nd gear (or is that 1st?) with the would-be exciting I’m Alive. More-affected-than-usual vocals sealed the boring deal. I’m afraid this performance was over-Cooked.

Brooke, showing more energy than perhaps we’ve ever seen from her this season, sang the infectious I’m A Believer, acoustic guitar in hand. "Girls Night Out at the karaoke bar." (Thank you, Simon.) Unlike the rest of us, she seemed to have fun with it.

David A actually managed to shake me out of my stupor with an upbeat and somewhat original arrangement of Sweet Caroline. Later in the show, Simon would refer to this one as “amatuerish,” but once again I'll give L'il Dave props for a technically great (if pedestrian) vocal performance.

A wavy-haired, softer looking Syesha brought a Natalie Cole vibe to Hello Again. Oh, but doesn’t our girl love to wail on those big notes? Actually, she kept her wail in check a bit more this week, so I’m having one of those rare “pleased with Syesha” moments. Very nice job, I thought.

Due to time restrictions, an unsettling twist was added to the show tonight — the judges got to speak only now, for the first time this evening. Randy was all ‘yo, in da zone, 4me,” Paula thought she was on Dancing With The Stars, and Simon hated everything and everybody. So I guess it’s time for…

Jason made sounds come out of his mouth, which vaguely resembled singing, and I believe they even included the lyrics to September Morn, but Chadboulet actually sang September Morn better in the shower this morning, with his cat singing harmony (also better); and if Neil had been there, he would have gotten goosebumps. But that would have been creepy. But perhaps not as creepy as Jason’s performance. Buh-bye, Jason.

All I Really Need Is You was a song much better suited to David C's voice than his Round One entry. Like a classic grunge ballad, it started slow & crecendo’ed into a big bold second part, and then slow boiled back down to a groovy mellow ending. Simon thought it to be brilliant. I was not quite as sold, but it was in the Cook Zone, and he ain’t goin’ nowhere.

I guess Brooke was wise to take Diamond’s suggestion to change “New York” to “Arizona” in I Am, I Said — but did he consider the next line, about being torn between 2 shores? What? The shores of L.A., and Tuscon? Regardless, piano-bound Brooke was a little more successful in putting her particular brand of drama into the song, rather than into say…stopping and restarting it. As Cowell commented, it was a million times better than her first, but still not quite all that. You Must Love Me, part 2, I say, but does that include voting? Sorry, this schtick's beginning to wear thin, smiles and all.

Every night is 'Inspiration Night' when David A is in the house, and tonight’s theme-du-semaine was America. Tearing a page out of Kristi Lee Cook’s playbook, Archuleta bravely chose to go with a patriotic crowd-pleaser. By the time I woke back up from my nap, I could hear the final strains of “Let freedom ring.” I only wish I was there when the plate was passed. “Smart. Clever.” Simon is on the mark again, but why were the rest of us zapping over to VH1 to check out Miss Rap Supreme?

Syesha’s second outing of the night was no better — a gimmicky Thank The Lord For the Night Time, which effectively negated the ground she gained with her first number. “Corrine Bailey Rae,” Paula? Really? Uh, I'll have whatever she’s having. Then again, Paula also called Syesha "Brooke," and thought this was her third song of the night. Simon made one of his classic efforts to ensure Syesha’s departure by declaring that she 'may be in trouble.' Syesha responded in kind with an smarmy & unwise “Yeah? We’ll see.” I’m guessing she heard Jason sing tonight.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Don’t Cry For Me, Archuleta - Final 6 Get In Touch With Their Inner Broadway

When the Brits appreciate one of their cleverest own, they sure love to pile on the honorific titles, don’t they? Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Right Honorable Lord Lloyd-Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber. Tonight’s Idol mentor [ALW], the Baron of Bombast and Grand Pooh-bah of Musical Fabulousness did not, despite popular opinion, compose his entire musical catalog for Celine Dion’s Vegas act. No, classically-trained Lloyd-Webber’s province is musical thee-a-tuh, where dramatic inspiration flourishes and continues to spread his illustrious oeuvres to the wide world, while conjuring occasional nebulous spikes of semi-familiarity even among culturally clueless Americans like ourselves. Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, Evita, and Phantom of the Opera are among his compositional triumphs. What does all this mean for our Final 6? For the most part, it means ignoring Sir Andrew’s ridiculous protestations that his songs cannot be taken out of their original contexts… Lloyd-Webber turns out to be a passive-aggressive mentor nightmare. Let’s just try to listen and learn…

Syesha Mercado is happy to finally find herself in an Idol theme which virtually sanctions her particular musical bent, and looks pretty fabulous tonight in a slinky red dress. Sir Andrew thought that Syesha would possibly bring the house down with One Rock & Roll Too Many; and while she didn’t so much, she brought enough attitude and sexy swagger to the stage to keep her in the game for another week. But am I the only one noticing the consistent pitch problems? The cleavage card worked well on Randy & Simon, who thought she “sounded” great tonight.

Jason Castro notched the wardrobe up this week, with an off-white suit that looked like one Don Johnson might typically wear out to “Surf & Turf Night” at Benihana’s. The song was one of Sir Andy’s best known - Memory, from Cats. ALW was worried. Jason was worried. Simon wondered if Mum & Dad made him get up and sing this. Uh, no, Simon, you and the producers did, remember? I don’t happen to have the same problem all three judges do allowing Jason to step outside his prescribed genre box (Randy: “not Jack Johnson enough 4-me-4-u”). Not his best, and may put him in the bottom three…and may never get him cast in the next Guys & Dolls revival, but he did his dreaded thing, dawggies. It helps that Memories is a beautiful song.

Live television is a wonderful thing. It’s truly one of the reasons I’m here. It's also one of the reasons why
Brooke “Dharma” White will go down in Idol history, with a somewhat mind-blowing lyrical snafu as she began You Must Love Me (from Evita), and an unprecdented nod to the band to 'take it from the top' (after a painful 3 second dead silence). I don’t know if Brooke got over the gaffe, but I never quite did. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the control room. Oddly, I found it one of her most emotionally invested performances of the season. Paula was creepily unforgiving of The Mistake. The tension was as palpable and uncomfortable as…well, as it is everytime David Archeleta opens his mouth to answer one of Ryan’s questions. On the plus side, Brooke had 100% post-song charm retention. So…we love her. Don’t we, everyone? Don’t we?

L'il Dave: Eyes Wide Open

Oh, and speaking of L’il Dave, Mr. A will now sing a song that Sir Andrew does not approve the selection of because it was not written for David Archeleta. What?! “Well, if you’re going to be a complete twit and choose Think Of Me, please open your bloody eyes when you sing” (or something to that effect), said Sir Lord Andy. I gained some respect for David here for following his own arrangement muse, thereby taking the song in a decidedly more contemporary pop direction. I also think the vocal was nearly flawless. Randy said it was “da bomb,” which is an expression that I think people used to use back in the mid-1990s, to sound cool or something. Paula did her Ron Wood impression. Simon gave David a half write-off, saying it was forgettable but…he is safe. Whew, I was worried there for a second.

A very upbeat, smiley Carly Smithson looked fetching tonight in a flattering (i.e. tattoo-covering) dress, and a shimmery soft hair look. Okay, I just can’t do fashion commentary. Sir Andy ORDERED Carly to sing the theme from Jesus Christ Superstar, and — you know how the English like to push the bloody Irish around. “Sing it, Irish Eyes, or it’s back to your bleedin’ potato farm,” he shouted. "And bring me another Guiness while yer at it." I had hoped Carly would have opted for some much-needed vulnerability tonight, and wanted her to go with I Don’t Know How To Love Him — one of Lloyd-Webber’s prettier melodies. I’m somewhat surprised the song didn’t show up at all tonight. Anyway, She-Of-The-Big-Voice convincingly stomped her way through this thing, but…I’m not ‘out my chair,’ as Mr. Cowell likes to say (although her scary inky hubby was). Shouty…yes. Not her best…um-hm. The song is of a certain early 70s rock style that now sounds sort of dated, and it honestly wasn’t that great a song in the first place, people - Jesus or no Jesus. So bollocks to the bellow — choose a good song the next time is what I say, Irish Eyes. If there is a next time.

David Cook, looking cleaner & shinier than ever, chose Lloyd-Webber’s self-proclaimed “sexiest song he’s ever written,” Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. I have to give the Last Cook Standing props tonight for NOT trying to demonstrate his rocker chops, but instead going with the flow and singing the song more or less as it was written. Call him anything call him the next American Idol, Chris Daughtry 2.0, the new David Cassidy, a sell-out -- just please stop calling him brave, daring and original. Having said that, I think his decision to just sing it straight was perhaps his bravest move yet, and I kinda liked it, despite the usual lower register problems. Score one for the word nerd.

I think I have finally fallen in with the judges (according to opinions they've expressed in other media outlets) in believing that Season 7 will come down to an all-David finale, 4-me-4-u. And won’t that be all weird and Davidy? If we buy into this particular premise, that means we are about to watch Jason, Syesha, Brooke and Carly drop like flies (probably in that order). Who knows?!! Or could we be headed for say, a Castro Coronation?! Did you exercise your right to power vote tonight?