After last week’s Idol lovefest — when not one, not two, but five plus hours aired in three days — this week returns to the normal schedule: performances tonight and elimination tomorrow.
As for the theme, it’s Mariah Carey week — undoubtedly because of the songstress’s longevity and range, not the fact that her new album drops, umm, today. But hey, at least we get to see David Cook attempt “Always Be My Baby.” And though I fear that it’s impossible to send a female home after what is essentially diva night, let’s hope that either Carly Smithson or Kristy Lee messes up enough to keep Jason and the Davids in the Top Six.
Check below for tonight’s song selections, and click after the jump for live coverage of the performances and predictions for the elimination.
Syesha Mercado — “Vanishing”
David Cook — “Always Be My Baby”
Carly Smithson — “Without You”
Brooke White — “Hero”
Jason Castro — “I Don’t Wanna Cry”
Kristy Lee Cook — “Forever”
David Archuleta — “When You Believe”
David Archuleta, “When You Believe” (My Love Is Your Love)
Okay, there weren’t any huge problems with this performance. But some of the surrounding banter made me nervous — like Ryan mentioning that David skips meals on performance days, or David himself lacking the confidence to try his falsetto before Mariah recommended it. So I’ll reiterate what I’ve been saying for weeks about this kid: he may be the best singer in this competition, but he’s not an amazing performer. And granted, this is a singing competition; but all this year’s bells and whistles — contestants playing instruments, straight-to-iTunes show downloads — are making Idol more a performer’s contest than ever. David is safe come tomorrow night, but I’m not sure if “cute” can win him this competition.
Carly Smithson, “Without You” (Music Box)
Tonight’s theme is tailor-made for Carly and Syesha: the latter has a bigger voice while the former is more consistent vocally. So at least Carly recognized her chance to shine and picked a gigantic (though poorly-known) Mariah song. But here’s the weird thing: for me, this performance sounded like Syesha. It was brilliant in moments, but shaky in Carly’s lower register and even shakier during some of her runs. So let’s hope that Syesha can bring the house down with “Vanishing.”
Syesha Mercado, “Vanishing” (Mariah Carey)
This performance — easily tonight’s highlight so far — may be the best of Syesha’s Idol career. And given that almost every week turns into Mariah night for Syesha — a point made by Randy, who said that she consistently picks the most challenging songs — it’s nice to see her rise to the occasion on what may as well be her night. But perhaps my favorite part of Syesha’s take on “Vanishing” was the way she sold it. Simon has mentioned how at times she comes off like a good actress who happens to sing; tonight I think she was a great singer who acted out her song just as well.
Brooke White, “Hero” (Music Box)
And one commercial break brings us from Syesha’s best to Brooke’s absolute worst. What might threaten her longevity on the show, however, is the fact that Brooke knew she was terrible. As the song carried on, Brooke started to rush through the performance and even made several mistakes on the piano; you could see the pain on her face during the second chorus. Like David Archuleta, Brooke seems to lack a certain amount of confidence — but she lets it affect her to the point where she gives up mid-song. So whether buns without meat or a meat patty without buns, Brooke’s take on “Hero” was decidedly unappetizing.
Kristy Lee Cook, “Forever” (Daydream)
My first theory on why Kristy Lee Cook is still in this competition: she’s really, really pretty. (She even had a quiet sex tape rumor back in January, before the Top 24 had even been announced.) My second theory: that she’s benefitting massively from the country western vote combined with whatever influence Howard Stern’s “Vote for the Worst” website might have. My third theory? That she’s actually a talented performer. After listening to her take on “Forever,” I’ll just say this: it ain’t #3.
David Cook, “Always Be My Baby” (Daydream)
Hey, what’s new: David Cook turns in another melodramatic version of a huge pop hit, and his arrangement is rather brilliant. But at this point in the competition, I feel like David A. and David C. — our two frontrunners — are getting by too much on cuteness and creativity, respectively. David’s take on “Always,” accurately described by Paula as movie-soundtrack-worthy, was sung far below where he’s comfortable, and he missed a huge chance to sing the chorus an octave higher. But hey, the guy still managed to make me love “Always Be My Baby” without singing any of the “doo-doo-doos.” And better yet, he cried at the end. Beautiful.
Jason Castro, “I Don’t Wanna Cry” (Mariah Carey)
So Jason gets his first shot at the pimp spot this week — most likely because of his great rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” last week. Paula and Simon loved it, so the only contestant with bigger hair than Mariah will slide safely into next week. And is it just me, or do Jason Castro’s performances sound more and more Spanish each week? I think he’d be a big hit in the country whose dictator shares his last name.
Early in the night, Simon made the right call: this week is actually easier for the guys because they don’t risk comparison to the “great” Mariah Carey. (By the way, Mariah, make sure to sing live tomorrow night.) So my guess is that tomorrow night’s Top 3 will be composed entirely of women, and my choices are as follows: Brooke, Carly and Kristy Lee. I fear that Syesha might sneak into the low group, but I can’t see anyone going home besides Brooke. And America seems to actually be getting it right this year (outside of last week’s ousting of Michael Johns), so I’d guess it’ll be goodbye for Brooke tomorrow — but I know our Top Six will be fifty-fifty across the genders.