Top 4: Performances

FFing through all (well, most) of the filler tonight.

David Cook, who is not my type physically but who definitely looks better the more facial hair he has, treats us all to “Hungry Like the Wolf,” which, rather infamously, is the song that Diane Downs was listening to while she shot her three children. So I don’t know how great of a choice that was. It’s a serviceable version, no bells or whistles, failing to bear the imprimatur of David Cook in the way that his much better performances have. Meh.

The transformation of Syesha Mercado‘s hair — from gorgeous and natural to glossy and weaved — is complete, folks. I’m all for showcasing a variety of coiffures, and if I were on this show you can bet I’d be begging for hair extensions (ick, I hope they didn’t just cut and dye the ones they stuck on Kat McPhee and Haley Scarnato in years past), but eh, I don’t know. Syesha’s natural hair made her unique. She sings “Proud Mary” for her first number, wearing a sensational silver minidress and strutting her stuff onstage, and I can’t really rag on her for the theatricality of it all, because hey, it’s “Proud Mary,” and this is pretty much how it’s done. But the thing about Syesha is that she hasn’t really learned to sing and dance at the same time, so her vocals suffer — bland, empty, screechy. Randy and Simon lick it up, but Simon, like me, is unimpressed.

Why, Jason Castro, why? “I Shot the Sheriff?” Seriously?

Wrapping it up with “Stand By Me” is David Archuleta. I love this song — and I love the movie — and David does a nice job. It’s hilarious how when his eyelids start to flutter, you can read Must! Keep! Eyes! Open! written all over his little scrunched-up face. Well, I liked this just fine. Archuleta just isn’t my cup of tea. He’s this season’s Clay Aiken for me — like Clay, I think he has a truly gifted, one-in-a-million voice, but I’m just never going to be interested in listening to anything he records. Eh. Oh well.

For Round Two, David Cook is giving us “Baba O’Riley” which I have to admit — I’ve never heard before. So I don’t really know if he’s doing anything unique or special to it, but I like it. I almost like everyone tonight. It must be the Benadryl I took an hour ago. Too tired to digest all these performances. I may have to review them later. Whatever. David Cook. He’s fine, the song’s fine, they’re all fine. I kind of hope he wins, though again, I’m never going to listen to anything he records, at least not if he goes down the DaughtryHinderBack route that Sony would inevitably demand of him.

Syesha comes out in a stunning cantaloupe-colored gown, and she’s singing “Change is Gonna Come.” The beginning is typical see! Syesha! act! with the dramatic faces and whatnot. And oh, her eyelids, they are glittery. But then the strangest thing happens. Somehow, at some point, Syesha actually finds an emotional connection with the song. A deep one. She drops the bullshit and just runs with it, letting whatever she’s feeling guide her, and she’s singing freely from her soul, and it’s actually really beautiful, even though I’m still not crazy about the tinny timbre of her voice. And then she ruins it by tacking on a completely unnecessary run of melisma at the end. It’s jarring, and it immediately takes both me and Syesha right out of the beautifully sad world she’d created with most of the song. Ah, the spell, she is broken, and just like that, Syesha is gone and Syesha! is back, stupid smile and all.

But there’s one more Three Faces of Eve moment before the end of the night. During the judging, she completely breaks down. We’re not talking fakety-fake smile-through-the-tears crying; we’re talking real, ugly-faced crying. It’s fantastic, because I’ve spent the last few weeks really disliking Syesha because of her determination to make us all believe that she is a singing Cylon. The moment doesn’t last long, of course; Ryan tries to comfort her onstage, and sensing that this is her cue, Syesha! overtakes Syesha again, spouting some crap about how she researched the song and found out that it was about the civil rights movement and that’s where all the feeling came from. Now, I know that Syesha has a sad backstory, and I respect her just like I respect David Cook for not using it during the Top 12 (even though I hear she exploited it for all it was worth during auditions, and I’ve FFed through half the interview segments this season, so really, what do I know?), but seriously, girl — you can get up there and just say that you were drawing on personal things in your life. You don’t have to read us your diary or anything like that, but still — these brief glances into your surprisingly present humanity are wonderful, especially since you might actually wind up winning this whole thing. At least now that I’ve seen evidence of an internal struggle going on inside her, I dislike her a whole lot less.

After that, Jason Castro sings “Tambourine Man” for what seems like a grand total of six seconds. He blanks on the words. Whatever. It’s Jason, which means it’s Jack Johnson, which means that if you like that sort of thing, this was great. Simon, I think, tells Jason to “unpack [his] suitcase,” and I don’t know if that means that he thinks Jason is safe and should unpack the suitcase that he’d packed in preparation to leave this week, or if it was just Simon screwing up his words again and meaning that Jason should pack his suitcase to go home. Or maybe he said “I’d pack your suitcase.” Not that I really think Jason cares either way.

Archuleta wraps it up with a slowed-down version of “Love Me Tender” (yes, slower than the original, actually), and I don’t really remember anything about it, which probably means that the vocals were great, but that little David was boring. I do remember Randy Jackson slobbering all over it, and I remember seeing Carly Smithson in the audience at some point, the camera pointedly focusing on her non-tattooed arm.

So to recap: Cook being unpredictable by being predictable by being unpredictably boring, but then being awesome; Syesha shimmying across the stage but leaving her vocals on the other side, and then going all man vs. machine, but at least looking stunning the entire way throughout; Jason wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into, and Archuleta still having the best voice in the competition, but still failing to make me care.

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May 2008
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What the kids are sayin’



"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."



"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."



"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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