Archive for the 'american idol' Category

Most mixed-up non-delinquent on the block.

Taylor Hicks made a big announcement today — he’ll be spending this summer playing the Teen Angel in Broadway’s revival of “Grease.” I happened to catch this show last year when I was in NYC, and while I’m no theater critic, the show was definitely a lot of fun (although I’m not entirely sure that the Danny and Sandy who won “You’re the One that I Want” are necessarily the Danny and Sandy I would have cast…but, whatever). The Teen Angel role, while small, is traditionally stunt-cast, so Taylor should fit right in.

And according to People, Taylor’s new album — which he’s considering self-releasing — has a country flavor to it and will have political undertones. (Note — the “country” part seems to be speculation on People‘s part; the political stuff is a quote from Hicks). That’s interesting — quite a 180 from the happy-go-lucky Soul Patrol-shouting dude who pirouetted up and down the Idol stage, no? Let’s just hope that his political rants are of the heartfelt, truly-disturbed-about-the-state-of-the-country variety and not of the condescending Sheryl Crow variety (you mean to tell me that gas is expensive because it is sold by corporations that want to make money? ZOMG, you’ve just blown my mind!).


Final 3: Results

Quick and dirty tonight. The Idolettes are singing “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” which I think is what Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken sang to each other during the Season 2 finale, no? Syesha Mercado is wearing an ensemble from the “Eh, Fuck It” collection: A simple white tank top, jeans, and white sneakers. Even her hair is less sassy. She milks her solo parts for all they’re worth, though.

Recap! David Archuleta with his omnipresent outstretched Hand Across America; Syesha “standing there at number three in the competition,” in the prescient and disheartening words of Randy Jackson; David Cook doing a generally awesome job with Robert Flack. Round Two gave us Archuleta massacring Chris Brown, Syesha busting out one of those runway-only bejeweled Victoria’s Secret nighties; Cook being kind of off-key. Round three: Archuleta back in his wheelhouse with Fogelberg; Syesha being thrown off a cliff by Nigel Lythgoe; David Cook getting a full orchestra to back him up on that song about asteroids and love.

Fantasia is here, along with Manic Panic hair and a trio of gam-alicious back-up singers, to sing something, I don’t really know what. She rocks the place with her unabounded joy and passion and screaming, but the most she can wrangle out of Syesha is polite golf clapping. Heh. Back to Fantasia gyrating. This is a woman who ain’t concerned with pretty, and depending on where you fall, that’s either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Some random rapper (probably someone very famous whom I should recognize, were I up on my pop culture as a good little pop culture blogger should be) joins in. he backbeat on this song sounds kind of like M.I.A.’s “Boyz,” which equals instantaneous awesome. There’s a cut to Simon, who has the most dumbfounded expression on his face. Fanty is working on an album and is preparing to tour.

The Jordin Sparks stamp is available for purchase. What, you don’t care? Neither do I.

Ryan brings Archuleta out first, which is how you know he is safe. Oh, Lord, I forgot — this is the night of those insipid hometown visits. In his video, David tells us that he is “stoked and pumped,” but fails to mention “emotionally stunted.” David’s homecoming is attended almost exclusively by middle-school girls, just like you knew it would be. It’s hilarious. He cries, which is touching — to have huge crowds of people come out and support you? That has to be one of the most awesome feelings in the world for a performer. David’s adorable mom and crazy dad travel to his high school with him, where the mayor/stock evil villain declares it David Archuleta Day (or maybe he doesn’t; I’m actually just kind of assuming that happened). Ryan not at all ironically reminds David that’s okay to show human emotion in front of the masses. We run down the performances again, and Ryan asks David what his biggest obstacle was. David does not say “learning to make decisions on my own ever since Daddy was banned from the rehearsal room.” David’s Bad Day/Home/ montage is shown (those damn dolphins!), just in case he doesn’t make it to the finale.

For her hometown visit, Syesha was ferreted back to Sarasota, Florida. And oh look, there’s that annoying guy from Tampa Bay Fox 13 who gives me a splitting headache after each week’s Idol broadcast. Syesha storms through the streets of Sarasota. Cops tell some lady to keep her filthy paws off Syesha. A county commissioner declares it Syesha Mercado Day, and Syesha too is overcome with tears. Her parents seem like nice, humble folks; how they managed to raise such a full-of-BS daughter I don’t know, but hey, maybe her affectation is limited to the stage and she’s a really awesome girl in real life. High school, helicopter rides, natural hair, a crappy performance of “Proud Mary” on a crappy audio system. In the back of her limo, she bawls like crazy, telling us that this is her dream and she’s living it. It’s very, very touching. Syesha, honey, when you speak honestly like that, it’s incredibly refreshing. You don’t need the fakety-fake smiles, the political pandering, the shimmy shimmy shakes — you don’t need all that crap. Just be yourself. Syesha refuses to say that Paula was too hard on her, but Simon says it for her. We get Syesha’s reel, and they flashback to her “Imagine” performance and that gorgeous green BCBG dress (side note — I tried that very dress on today, and it looked sensational, but alas, I didn’t have $400 to plunk down on it).

David Cook came to support his little brother, but producers apparently forced him to audition, which is really weird. The brother comes onstage, looks really uncomfortable, and sits back down again. Hometown time — David Cook also gets a huge reception. At least everyone’s turnout was pretty equal this time; I don’t seem to remember Melinda inspiring that big of a crowd last year, and we don’t even really need to mention a certain L.A. competitor’s pathetic turnout. Cook is the third Idolette to tear up, although they are Manly Tears. The judges have nothing new to add during the recap. Oh, I’d forgotten that David had some obnoxious colors going on in his hair when he first started this whole dog-and-pony show.

And now, the completely unsurprising results. Paula tells the three that “the world will remember every single one of them,” which is a lie. Simon says that he likes the three contestants, and that if he gets the final he’s hoping for, the finale will be “a real hum-dinger.” Okay, when did Simon Cowell become my dad? Anyway. The final two are: David Archuleta (ugh) (and Dadchuleta, you can stop acting like this is all about you any time now) and David Cook. Cook looks numb. Syesha, to her credit, is still smiling, and instead of trying to sound like a Foreign Affairs editor, gives us a simple “thank you.” Aw, Syesha. Sometimes I really liked you, sometimes I hated your bland affectations, but I think we can all agree that you got one hell of a raw deal last night. I look forward to seeing you claw your way to the top, and I wouldn’t object one iota if you managed to take out McPhee along the way.

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.

Good times.

If I were running the asylum, what would I love to see the Idolettes bang out tonight? Just for fun…

Syesha Mercado
Simon’s choice: “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. We know Syesha likes to move it, move it onstage, and we also know that she’s been pulling out all the stops wardrobe-wise these last few weeks (sequins and minis and boobs, oh my!). And we know that Simon can see right through it. So here’s a challenge — can the undeniably beautiful Syesha adopt the style of the undeniably beautiful M.I.A., ditch her spangly diva wear for oversized hoodies and multi-colored leggings, and bop across the stage? In other words, can she be fierce? Added bonus: M.I.A.’s politically relevant lyrics can satisfy Syesha’s seeming need to give the viewing audience a history lesson every week, thus sparing us all another lecture on how the bravery of the 9/11 rescuers inspire her to give her best onstage every week.

Nigel’s choice: “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. Syesha is gearing up to spoil Nigel’s dream David vs. David finale, so what better way to knock her out of the running than to foist this demon song (that has tripped up Scott Savol, Katharine McPhee, and even this season’s Ramiele Malubay) upon her? Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Syesha’s choice: “Fame” by Irene Cara. “Remember my name, FAME! I’m gonna live forever, I’ m gonna learn now to fly.” Really, need I say more?

David Cook
Randy’s choice: “Photograph” by Nickelback. Mainly because Randy has zero creativity (or credibility, for that matter). It’s sappy, it’s got a soaring chorus, and hell, it’s probably the only relatively “modern” “rock” song that Randy even knows. Alternate choice: Nickelback’s “If Everyone Cared,” if TPTB decide that Cook needs to go two-against-one to Syesha’s spiel about how her songs are dedicated to the survivors of the Sichuan province earthquake.

Nigel’s choice: “Home” by Daughtry. What better way to promote the heir apparent to the rock gawd throne by having him tackle rock gawd 1.0’s omnipresent hit?

David C.’s choice: “Inside of You” by Infant Sorrow. What better way to pay tribute to Cook’s (apparent) slightly grungy sexuality and unwashed hair than with a little Aldous Snow? Oh, please wear skinny leather pants, David! And of course, there’s always “We’ve Got to Do Something” if Cookie feels the need to go head-to-head against Syesha’s political pandering.

David Archuleta
Paula’s choice: “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Paula has one lucid, prescient moment this season and picks a Disney song for Archie — after all, where he’s headed, he better learn to master songs that have already been covered by Vanessa Hudgens, no? Plus, colors! Yay!

Nigel’s choice: “I Want to Break Free” by Queen. Now that Nigel has confirmed the banning of Dadchuleta from David’s rehearsals, he wanted to memorialize little David’s newfound independence in song.

David A.’s choice: “Yeah” by Usher feat. Li’l Jon & Ludacris. Free from the clutches of Dadchuleta’s insistence on singing schlock like “When You Believe” and “You’re the Voice” (that “whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” chorus is going to haunt me until the day I die), li’l Archie rebels by rapping everyone’s favorite lyrics about ladies in the street and freaks in the bed. However, he should still wear ironed jeans and that T-shirt with the little birdies on it.

Top 4: Results

Oh, results. We need a good fourth-place shocker boot this year, don’t we? And the only ones that would fit that bill would be David Archuleta and David Cook. Well, it ain’t gonna be Archie, because after rambling incoherently in response to Ryan’s rather simple questions, he gets sent off to the couch of safety.

Something happens involving dolphins and makeovers and a Cirque du Soleil show. Wouldn’t it be funny if dolphins got makeovers and performed next week on American Idol? It’d be more exciting to say the least. David Archuleta’s makeover almost makes him look like an adult. David Cook moans and groans about getting a manicure. Syesha is wearing an ugly green dress, and her natural hair is back, but it’s parted all weird. Meh.

David Cook is quickly sent to safety, which means that there will be no shocking boot this season. Yay, because based on performances those two deserve to be in the final three, but boo, because I like my drama. Jason Castro is the one who deserves to go (seriously — I like the kid a lot, and I think it’s rather obvious that he sees right through this show and has had quite enough of it, which is cool, but it’s definitely his time to go), and even though Syesha had a decent night last night (relatively speaking, anyway), she’s hit the seal so many times that her departure wouldn’t be shocking under any circumstances, really. Anyway, Syesha seems to have raided Kristy Lee Cook‘s closet of spangly shirts. Is it just me, or is her tank top on backwards?

Pimpmercial. The Family Cash won’t release “Ring of Fire” for hemmorhoid-relief commercials, but shilling for Ford and the decline of American culture is cool. The final four are all dressed up as matadors. Cook looks smug, Archie is just golly gosh g-g-g-g-grateful to be there, Castro is at least having fun with it, and Syesha think she’s at an America’s Next Top Model shoot. Blah.

The Taylor Hicks postage stamp is introduced and passed over as quickly as can be, just as you knew it would. Didn’t all the other past winners get a full screen to showcase their stamp? Did they get applause? I haven’t been paying attention.

Stupid question time. Emily from Pennsylvania wants to know if David Cook will go out on a date with her. Emily is only 24 but has a full-on smoker’s rasp in her laugh. Some moron in the audience screams “do it!” Cook plays along for a while, but looks tremendously uncomfortable and pissed throughout the entire thing, especially when Emily says that she’ll do whatever David wants. Scary. Sweet Sarah, only 14, wants to know what everyone’s biggest challenge has been. Syesha’s is stage fright (gag, but it might explain her over-reliance on pageant poses, so okay), Archie doesn’t know what his is, and Castro’s is “the brain being dead,” because he’s just given up. Someone else wants to know why Simon hasn’t been knighted by the Queen. “Good point,” Simon snots. Thirteen-year-old Mara wants to know how Syesha feels being the only girl in the top four. I like when the little kids and tweens call in; it’s cute. When you see “76-year-old Margie” flash on the screen, it’s a little weird. Marla makes some comment about Simon being the next James Bond, and Simon turns to the camera to tell “Mr. Broccoli” that he’s available. I’m assuming he didn’t mean this Mr. Broccoli.

Maroon 5 is going to sing now, and I’m going to stab myself in the ears. The lead singer is just…oh, my goodness. He has this shrill little voice, and I remember him making some list of Men You Should Find Sexy, and I almost lost my lunch. I am sure he is a perfectly nice gentleman in real life, but…sorry, but twiggy, pencil-legged little men who wear eyeliner and high heels just aren’t my idea of sexy. But hey, maybe it’s my problem. Anyway, this song sucks. Adam Levine speaks, and his speaking voice is just as high as his singing voice, hee. But as it turns out, he has a sparkly, lovely personality. Oh, I like him. Maybe I jumped the gun on this one. Still not sexy, really, but cute. Witty. Oh, you sneaky little man, you! Ugly suit though. What? I’m feeling like I need to balance out my compliments tonight.

Oh, it is time for Bo Bice! Bo has stopped conditioning his hair, which is great. Remember the last time he performed solo on this show, how shiny his hair was and how tight his pants were and how very, very angry he seemed to be with the whole thing? Good times, those. He’s singing “Witness,” and as far as I can tell, these are the lyrics:

Garble garble garble
Needle deedle do
Garble garble zazzle blurgh
I need a witness
When you talk to me
(twing-twang Peter Frampton machine)
Naudle waumagh nee, naudle waumagh ow
Garble dwabble dwee, garble dwabble dow
I need a witness
When you talk to me
I need a witness, baby
Won’t you set me free

And hey, it’s already better than the coronation song they’re going to foist upon those poor kids, so score one for Bo Bice. He is very sweaty. He’s happy that everyone gets to play instruments this year. Bo pimps his not-so-new album See the Light, which is actually pretty good — far better than the drivel of The Real Thing.

FF through commercials. I think I see Ace Young singing something, but whatever. Bottom two. We run through Castro’s performances, and he makes some stoned comment about shooting a tambourine or something. Recap Syesha’s performance. She’s still friggin’ smiling, but it’s a smile of fear. Jason says that his inexperience is shining through, and Syesha tries to explain that she was emotional because she’s living her dream, and also because of the meaning of the song and how it’s changed because we might have a female president or a black president. Yes, Syesha. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking up there while you were on stage being critiqued on national television! I see Syesha! the Cylon is back — and she’s here to stay, because mighty Jason has finally struck out, and he’s sent packing. He mumbles something about being happy that he doesn’t to sing three songs next week. I think. And he looks really, really happy. Wow. This is the most ecstatic sing-out I have ever seen. Hahahaha. I adore it. So long, Jason Castro! Your time was up, but I’ll miss your smile and your awesome attitude.

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.

Top 5: Results

Group sing! This group’s inability to harmonize truly is mind-boggling. We’re down to five contestants, and I can’t help but compare their group number to the awesomeness that was Season 5’s Elvis medley. Now that was an amazing moment–Taylor and Katharine and Elliott and Chris all coming together, all sounding fantastic, goofing off together and missing their marks and generally dropping their bullshit personas (well, if you’re not counting McPhee wearing one of her many “Pretty Thing” shirts) for a few minutes to just genuinely have a good time and sing like their lives depended on it. It was one of the best moments of the season, especially in light of the still-persistent rumors that most of the Season 5 contestants secretly hated each other, despite the fact that they all appeared pretty buddy-buddy onstage, and despite the fact that Elliott, Taylor, and Chris all performed together at dive bars during the tour, and Kat McPhee had Kellie Pickler as a bridesmaid in her wedding, and Ace Young wrote songs for Daughtry and all that. Nope, they all totally wanted to slit each other’s throats. But if you buy the rumors, watching that particular performance was akin to peeling an onion — one layer of “oh, they’re all so cute together” revealing another layer of “but they’re so competitive!” on top of “but they totally seem like best friends” on top of “but The Advocate said only two of them were sweet and easy to get along with, while the other two were annoying divas!” And then you started to cry anyway, either because of the sheer beauty of the entire performance or because you realized just how much thought you were investing into American Idol. I’ll leave you to guess whether mine were tears of joy or of sorrow.

But getting back to the actual present, the kids are attempting a Neil Diamond medley. Syesha‘s microphone is strangely turned off for most of it, not that I’m really complaining or anything. She’s wearing an odd little Grecian-style minidress; it’s got one shoulder and is simultaneously slate gray and peach, and it is very short and shows off Syesha’s lovely legs, because she’s onto the game and is pulling out all the stops. You know, I don’t even think Syesha is a real person anymore. I’m convinced that she’s actually Katharine McPhee in a very elaborate Days of our Lives-style disguise. Oh, come on; you know you don’t seriously doubt she’d do it, and besides, being back to traipsing barefoot across the shiny Idol stage has got to be better than wearing a prosthetic pregnant belly alongside Rumer Willis. They do “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” at the end, which is one of my favorite Neil songs ever, so I wind up happy, even if I still kind of think they all suck in one way or another.

And then Ryan wants to reassure us all that despite whatever you might have read on the Internet this morning, Paula is not being fired, because she is family and they love her, even though she’s really just the cousin that no one likes to talk about, possibly because she’s batshit, possibly because no one’s really sure who her real parents actually are. Paula, for her part, looks eminently grateful in her strange porcelain-doll dress and her even stranger porcelain-doll wig.

Castro, safe. Archuleta, safe. Cook, safe. Brooke and Syesha are called out to the seal, but are never explicitly labeled as the bottom two, which probably doesn’t mean much, but at this point the tinfoil-hat stuff is far more interesting than any of the actual performances. And then Natasha Bedingfield comes out and sings about the sun, looking exactly nothing like she did the last time I saw her, when she was all boho and dancing alongside little cartoon radios. She has straw hair and sad heroin eyes now. I wonder if she and Nelly Furtado ever go out for skim frapps together and compare notes and hair products and their eternal contractual obligations to the underworld.

Neil Diamond sings one of his new songs, “Pretty Amazing Grace.” And it’s awesome. His band’s a little overpowering, and given that Home After Dark is another Rick Rubin production, I’m thinking that the album cut is going to be more restrained. In any event, I like the slight mambo swing of the song. Ryan congratulates Neil for having the energy to still stand on his own two feet, and then we cut to Neil’s mother in the audience, because nice guys like Neil bring their moms places. Ryan asks us why we should all buy Neil’s new album — I’m totally downloading it the minute it drops, by the way — and Neil says “because it’s good,” which rocks. Heh. And then it appears that Simon and Neil have some kind of history together, because neither one seems to like the other very much. Oooh, scandal. One I’m too lazy to Google, though.

Brooke and Syesha hit the seal again. Ryan asks Syesha whether it’s hard choosing what to sing every week; Syesha responds that it is, because usually she doesn’t know the songs. Yes, Syehsa wants us to believe that she didn’t know “I Will Always Love You.” Or “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Or “Saving All My Love For You.” Or “YEsterday.” Oh, just go away. Brooke is already breaking down; she’s sobbing before Ryan even calls her name, and she’s in hysterics before Ruben celebrates her home. Meanwhile, Syesha has placed her hand over her heart in her community-theater way, because she is an actress, and also because she is Katharine. Ryan hands Brooke the mic and tells her “this is gonna be hard.” Oh, thanks, Ryan. She fumbles in the beginning, but looks like she’s getting into the groove, and then my DVR decides it has had quite enough of this. So, your final four — Archuleta, Cook, Castro, and Mercado. I’m partial to Cook vs. Castro when it comes down to the bitter, bitter end.

February 2019
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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. "