Final 3: Performances

Ryan tells us that last summer, three people took a chance and auditioned for an obscure little cable-access show they call American Idol: “A high-schooler…” (David Archuleta grins), “an actress…” (Syesha makes a stupid face), “…and a bartender.” (Cook laughs.) Randy has crazy sideburns tonight, Paula’s hair is looking fierce (if not a bit shellacked), and Simon’s hair still looks like a Brillo pad. And good Lord, after seven years, Randy is still booing Simon. Make it stop, please.

The top three come out, looking polished and divalicious. Syesha still has that awful weave and is wearing — brace yourselves for this — a sparkling gold dress. We cut to Murray City, Utah, where the mayor has THE. MOST. AWESOME. MUSTACHE. EVER. It’s some kind of combination of handlebars and whiskers. It’s inhuman. The mayor is wearing an awful star-spangled jacket to compliment Dadchuleta’s awful newsboy cap.

Archuleta starts us off with Paula’s choice — Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” He begins the song a cappella, and he’s doing a fairly nice job with it in the beginning, but he completely breaks the emotion toward the end. You don’t song the “…and so will you, I soon suppose” line like it’s your biggest, bestest glory note ever, because it’s a very, very sad line. Do you know sadness, David Archuleta? Or has your father rendered you numb to all emotion? Randy and Paula love it; Simon calls it good, but predictable.

Shill for iTunes. The judges are all drunk. Unlike David Archuleta, who got a whole day named for him, Syesha is in the back of a car somewhere in Tampa when she gets a text message telling her that she will be singing Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” as selected by Randy. I am telling you guys, I am just bowled over by the unpredictability of these choices tonight! Yawn. It’s a serviceable job; Syesha can’t resist flashing those Katharine McPhee-esque Love me! grins at the camera. It’s a much-improved version over her attempt to do this performance on “The One,” but it’s completely uninspired. Randy disagrees with me, thinking it was “amazing.” Paula applauds Syesha for tackling Alicia and says that she looks “stunning,” but refrains from commenting on the actual performance. Simon says Syesha sang it well, but he slams Randy’s song choice as unoriginal. Heh.

David Cook is on some local television show or something when he gets his text — Simon’s pick for him is “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” It is a Gaines-ian arrangement, as I predicted a few posts back, but this is Idol, so he gets stirring violins to make it kind of Neil Diamond-ish. The camera keeps cutting to an attractive, middle-aged woman in the audience, who I’m going to assume is David’s mother, unless it’s the head of his fan club or something. David gives a lovely, understated performance, but Randy manages to make the critique have nothing to do with David and everything to do with some little feud he has to do with Simon, saying that he wished David would have rocked it out more. Simon said it was one of David’s best performances, and I have to agree — it was very reminiscent of when Taylor Hicks sang “You Are So Beautiful. Simple, elegant. Ryan says that their stage manager had tears rolling down her eyes, and then they cut to that woman again, so maybe she’s the stage manager? But then Ryan says that David’s mom was crying, too, and David wishes her a happy Mother’s Day, and they cut back to the same woman, so there you have it, and clearly Idol has hired another technical genius to replace Bruce Gowers.

Kiddies’ choice! Archuleta chose “With You” by Chris Brown, which he gasps and wheezes was incredibly difficult for him to learn. He sings one damn note and the mosh pit goes crazy. Isn’t this a song about sex and women and cars? Why does David — and this arrangement — make it sound like something that would appear on Kidz Bop? Oh, and also, he forgets the lyrics. Twice. I have to say…this is pretty bad. He’s just not pulling this off. He tacks on a stupid run at the end, making things even worse. Randy applauds David’s courage but says that David singing lyrics like “my boo” is about as believable as McPhee rapping about not being able to wait to sleep with some guy at a nightclub. Well, he doesn’t say that, but that’s where it is on the scale, really. Simon also finds the different song choice refreshing, but says that it was a bit like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger, or something to that effect. Yeah, just about.



Also? A chair has been placed in the center of the stage for Syesha to “work.” She’s sexing up Rickey Minor again, which is just all kinds of weird, and she actually has a great little sexpot act going on (except when she breaks character to flash that stupid “See how great I am?” smile of hers). Generally, her voice sounds great on this, except for the end when she shrieks up an octave. I don’t know, I thought the song fit her range well, and her acting wasn’t as obnoxious as it usually is, but the response from the judges is tepid at best. Randy and Paula offer lukewarm praise of the “you sang it well” variety; both express surprise that she would pick this song. Simon calls it a “lame cabaret act” and expresses disappointment that Syesha would use her one chance to showcase the type of record she’d like to make to choose a fifty-year-old song. Which, I get that point, but how do we know that that’s not the type of record Syesha would like to make? Actually…do we know what kind of a record Syesha would like to make? (Answer: She will record whatever she is told will win her a Grammy). And why even bother asking, since the record she’ll make will be the record Sony/BMG tells her to make?

Straddling the Syesha Chair, Ryan chats with Cook about his personal choice — Switchfoot’s “Dare You To Move.” Which is a nice song, but a little boring. Eh. Okay, I don’t think he’s doing that great on this song, at least not in the beginning. He’s mumbling, and he’s off-pitch. He is also not daring us to move so much as he is daring us to moo. Then he hits the glory chorus, and it gets a little bit better, but he still seems kind of off — he’s sliding flat on all his notes. There’s a red rose tacked to his guitar. Randy loves the song choice, but calls it pitchy. That it was, my friends. Paula — this takes a bit of translation — critiques the arrangement, saying that it didn’t really build until the very end, and then it was over. Simon doesn’t really have much to add; he proclaims the middle round mediocre. Someone in the audience has a “Cougars for Cook” sign. Heh. Somewhere in Alabama, Taylor Hicks sees it and makes a mental note to give David Cook a phone call.

With the producers’ round under way, we are back to classic schlock for David Archuleta — he’s got Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer.” Blech. It’s okay, classic Archuleta, nothing new. Randy says it was “another hot one,” which is a lie. Simon hated the song choice but says that Archie probably did enough to get into the finale.

For Syesha, the producers’ choice is “Hit Me Up,” which is interesting — I thought this was her personal choice, but this makes more sense. SHE IS WEARING ANOTHER SEQUINED OUTFIT, because she is trying to kill me. Ugh, this song is awful. And either Syesha really let Simon’s criticism of “Fever” get to her, or she is royally pissed about having to sing this song, because at some point during the song she says “eh, fuck it,” and stops hitting notes on pitch, and her hip wiggles become really listless, and I even think I see her roll her eyes. Paula says that she’s not sure that this is the song that defines Syesha, and Syesha says “yes,” because really, who wants to be defined by a song about penguins? Simon tells Syesha that she’s never going to top her Sam Cooke moment and that this song isn’t going to get her into the final two. Syesha, this would be a good time for a little backtalk, because you didn’t pick the song! But instead, she just stands there and grins like an idiot. I actually feel kind of bad for her now, because she just got steamrolled badly, and even though I’ve had my issues with her personality, she’s scrapped her way through this entire season, whereas others (coughcoughARCHULETA) have been able to coast through on mediocre performances.

Well, we know that TPTB want David Cook to win this whole shebang, because for him they have chosen “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” which is like Nigel Lythgoe’s perfect musical climax. He even gets an entire half-moon of violinists surrounding him. It’s rough at the beginning, but he works it out at the end. DIANE WARREN is in the audience, waiting to sink her vampire teeth into Cook. Randy is unimpressed, calling it “predictable,” because that is somehow David Cook’s fault. Paula loves it, and Simon declares that Cook wins the night, which yeah, he did.

Recap: Archuleta cannot comprehend love (via Billy Joel) or sex (via Chris Brown), but can comprehend sexlessness (via Dan Fogelberg); Syesha derives energy from sequins, because the less she wears, the more she sucks; and Cook does subtle and understated better than he does, well, David Cook.

Will go home: Syesha, because it has been decreed.
Should go home: Archuleta, for giving us one completely misguided performance, one atrocious one, and one boring one.


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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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