American Idol: Top 11

So last week, during the first installment of AmIdol to move from the small stage to the big stage, everything was about being new. Ryan Seacrest opened the show by talking up the brand new Idol set — including a bird’s-eye location for Ricky Minor’s band and a few rows of fans stuck between the judging panel and the front of the stage.

This week, by comparison, is a big fat repeat. For the first time ever, the same musical theme — the Beatles catalog — is being redone, suggesting either the unending creativity of Lennon and McCartney or the lacking creativity of AmIdol‘s producers. But regardless, the Beatles are without a doubt number one on the list of recording artists who deserve four hours of Idol. And let’s hope someone sings “Yesterday.”

After the jump, check out live coverage of tonight’s eleven performers followed by predictions as to who goes home.

Amanda Overmeyer: Back in the U.S.S.R. (from “The White Album”)
Amanda, spending her first week in pole position, turns in another half-sung, half-screamed rendition of a Beatles classic. As long as she’s not abysmal, Amanda is likely to stick around — she’s “that rocker chick,” after all. But when we get down to 8 performers, she’ll have to hang up these incessant beer-battered performances for a genuine, raspy ballad.

Kristy Lee Cook: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (“Help!”)
Randy made the perfect call on this one — Kristy didn’t even sing the chorus correctly. And I guess I’d call it ironic that “You’ve Got…” would have sounded great with a country twist, which Kristy took to an extreme with last show’s “Eight Days a Week” hoe-down. And as for her final comment, saying that she could “blow [Simon] out of his socks”: either Kristy’s brilliantly aware of that innuendo or truly the daughter of a horse farmer. I’m guessing the latter.

David Archuleta: The Long and Winding Road (“Let It Be”)
Beatles songs, often crafted with the most intricately perfect of melodies, are hard to sing runs around. With that in mind, David Archuleta has capitalized off of two classic Lennon/McCartney tunes — first “Imagine” and now “Long and Winding” — without deviating from their melodies in the slightest. But regardless of singing these songs so well, David has quickly gone from competition frontrunner to middle-of-the-pack in two short weeks. He’ll need to spruce things up a little bit to keep from slipping further downward.

Michael Johns: A Day in the Life (“Sgt. Pepper”)
A couple years ago, Chris Daughtry had his worst week ever when he sang Queen’s “Innuendo”; he didn’t sing it poorly, but it’s not a well-known song. Daughtry made the point that he loved the song when Simon bashed him, but that didn’t matter the next night when Daughtry was voted off the show. History might repeat itself with Michael Johns, who chose “A Day in the Life” because it’s his favorite Beatles song ever written — but that doesn’t mean it makes sense in a 90 second performance. Johns proved tonight that you can’t shrink down a 6 minute opus into one fourth its original length, and his only saving grace was a last-second explanation that he chose the song for a friend who died too young. I’m not so sure that will save Mike from an early departure of his own come results night.

Brooke White: Here Comes the Sun (“Abbey Road”)
Ah, the nuances of Idol. Technically, tonight is Beatles week, whereas last Tuesday was Lennon/McCartney week. That opens up Beatle contributions from George Harrison, including “Here Comes the Sun” — his career highlight from 1969’s Abbey Road. So props to Brooke for representing the quietest Beatle, but no props for performing so quietly herself. She did an absolute karaoke version of “Here Comes” this week, playing it totally safe and then practically agreeing with the criticism of all three judges. Seriously, in all my years watching this show, I’ve never seen someone so eager to concur that they sucked.

David Cooke: Day Tripper (“Yesterday…and Today”)
Blake Lewis introducing beatboxing to Idol last year, and now David Cooke becomes the first contestant to use a vocoder. But being the first doesn’t always mean the best, and David’s shaky voicebox solo more than proved that tonight. At the same time, this performance in the context of Cooke’s previous weeks was nothing new: the same big choruses, the same rocky rasp and the same quasi-Dominatrix outfit. That said, I liked it. But Simon hated it, and Randy said it wasn’t Cooke’s best. Voters won’t blink.

Carly Smithson: “Blackbird” (“The White Album”)
“Blackbird” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, and something about Carly’s arrangement tonight made me hate it. She turned an acoustic classic into jazz-cabaret with an awkward tempo and rushed vocals. Simon was similarly unenthused, despite rave reviews from Randy and Paula. And then, before Simon could even finish his first sentence of criticism, Carly jumped all over him to explain why “Blackbird” is relevant to her as a struggling artist — prompting Paula to back her up and refer to her as “a gift.” (The whole thing seemed more Lifetime than FOX.) But regardless of Simon’s dislike, Carly flies safely into next week.

Jason Castro: Michelle (“Rubber Soul”)
Paula — yes, Paula — takes the cake for the most accurate comment on this performance: it sounded like a polka. Jason had to learn French for the song, and as a result he went all uber-Euro on us — flimsy hand motions and weird pacing included. Paula also mentioned that Jason tends to become disconnected when he’s away from his guitar; perhaps more accurate is that Jason becomes disconnected when his song involves more instruments than just a guitar. We haven’t really seen him shine since “Hallelujah,” the performance that simultaneously made him a top season contender and propelled Jeff Buckley’s cover of the song to 170,000 digital downloads in one week. But Castro will undoubtedly be around next week, so let’s hope he goes acoustic before he goes home.

Syesha Mercado: Yesterday (“Help!”)
In this week’s rags-to-riches vocal story, Syesha went from instantly forgettable last week to instantly memorable tonight. Truth be told, just singing the melody of “Yesterday” without error is worthy enough to avoid elimination — but Syesha threw in a few extra notes here and there that made the song her own. With a performance like that, she’s definitely not going home tomorrow, and she’s probably not in the bottom three.

Chikezie: I’ve Just Seen a Face (“Help!”)
We saw three shades of Chikezie tonight: the balladeer, the instrumentalist, and the bluegrass superstar. He whipped out the harmonica mid-performance because “other people were playing instruments this season” (his words), which makes about as much sense as, well, Chikezie still being in this competition. But hey, the dude’s got charisma — so much so that he’ll most likely get by despite singing a whole slue of blue notes and picking a Beatles song that Paul McCartney himself probably doesn’t remember.

Ramiele Malubay: I Should Have Known Better (“A Hard Day’s Night”)
Ick. The only thing messier than Ramiele’s butchering of this song was her outfit — including a Charlie Chaplin hat that made me wish she was just as silent. This week only reminded me how bad she was last week, and left me wondering why she wasn’t in last Wednesday’s bottom three. And as per usual, Simon wins for best comment of the night: “It sounded like Chikezie was on harmonica.”

FINAL THOUGHTS
Best performance goes to David Archuleta, but that’s hardly a compliment; if last week was a fitting tribute to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, this week was even worse for Sir Paul than losing $46 mill in his divorce. Worst performance is a three-way tie between Chikezie, Ramiele and Michael Johns, but those three won’t compose tomorrow’s bottom feeders. Instead, I’d expect Kristy Lee Cook, Ramiele and Michael Johns to pull the least amount of votes, and I’d expect Kristy Lee to finally go home. And in response to Ryan hyping Kellie Pickler like crazy for tomorrow night’s show, I ask this: is Taylor Hicks dead, ’cause I know he’s not doing anything else.

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One Response to American Idol: Top 11

  1. Bryan says:

    The more I think about it, the weirder this season gets. The season is filled with people I think “are locks to get fifth” or “locks to get seventh”. I think, I think the final three is going to be Archuleta, Cooke and Carly Smithson.

    I think Kristy is going home tonight. I think Ramiele and a surprise, maybe Castro maybe Johns, will be in the bottom three with Kristy. I think after Kristy, Syesha and Ramiele will be the next two to go. But a couple boys will then fall … probably Castro, probably Chikezie — who really can’t do better than sixth, can he?

    It’s just a weird season, and a wide open one. I think the three I mentioned to get to the final could all win. I think Michael could win, I think Brooke could win. But after that, there’s five people stacked in a group that can’t win, and really don’t deserve better than eighth.

    Oh, and Paula was oddly sober last night.

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