Remember that time you tried to convince your friends you weren’t gay, even though you loved American Idol? I do, weekly, but this time, I’m not sure how to defend myself. How do you defend yourself against:
Andrew. Lloyd. Webber. Musicals.
After a few weeks of the usual star-stroking interrupted by Idol Gives Back week, Idol decided to pull a fast one on everyone left with … this. Now I like musicals as much as the next guy — can we see “Wicked” up there? — but check out this song list, thanks to our friends at TMZ.
Syesha — “One Rock and Roll Too Many” from Starlight Express
D. Cook — “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera
Carly — “Jesus Christ Superstar”
Brooke — “You Must Love Me” from Evita
Castro — “Memory” from Cats
D. Archuleta — “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera
The winner of American Idol gets the opportunity to enter the United States pop culture realm. So, to convince Americans who is best poised to enter as ‘American Idol Winner’ as their title, the producers of this show decided that Americans needed to see how they could perform … Phantom of the Opera? For some reason, I’m not expecting Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Chris Brown’s next record.
Thoughts on the show, as they come, after the jump.
Bryan: “We push further than ever before” Ryan tells us. Yeah, no shit, you picked musicals as the fucking theme. You pushed most men more sane than me away from your show.
Syesha — “One Rock and Roll Too Many” from Starlight Express
Bryan: “It’s American Idol, it’s not musical theatre,” Syesha tells us, quoting the response of every person watching the show. The good news about this performance: Syesha brings the breasts back. It’s been too long, my dear. With Kristy finally gone, there is no argument that Syesha is the best looking person on the show, so she celebrates it with breasts and a sexy performance. I wrote that before Simon, by the way, who always is creepy about his sexiness comments. The song was iffy for me, with not enough big notes to highlight her voice, but she was good in the lower register for the first time yet. God this is going to be a fucked up night of television.
Jon: Some Idol contestants make it in the pop world. Others head the country route, and yet a third group makes it in musical theatre — Clay Aiken as the effeminate Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Spamalot, Fantasia’s never-ending run in The Color Purple, even Jen Hudson’s Academy-awarded performance onscreen in Dreamgirls. If anyone’s Broadway-bound from this season, it’s Syesha. Her natural acting chops combined with those ballroom vocals would work well on stage — and as Bryan mentioned, the sex factor came back with a bang this week. Pun somewhat intended.
Jason Castro — “Memory” from Cats
Bryan: I would like to personally thank Jason Castro for picking a “Cats” song, if only because it gave me the opportunity to use the best picture accompanying a post in this blog’s history. This was one of the two songs I have heard of on the night — “Jesus Christ Superstar” the other. It’s a pretty song, but it was an octave too low for Jason to really connect with the song in any memorable way. I think his female supporters will walk away as happy as those of us happy about Syesha’s sexiness, but it really wasn’t sung in a way that reflected a top 6 contestant on this show, not for me.
Jon: Here’s a musical metaphor: if Syesha was tonight’s Beauty, Jason Castro was the Beast. His take on “Memory” — a song I’ve never heard and never want to here again — was melodically abysmal, and his pallid suit topped off with bright white sneakers was the antithesis of class. After that performance, Jason might be headed to tomorrow night’s bottom three — and it’ll be a shame if he goes home for botching a song from a category he shouldn’t have had to deal with in the first place. But after seeing what David Cook did with Mariah Carey last week, we can’t patronize Castro for failing to stretch his vocal abilities.
Brooke White — “You Must Love Me” from Evita
Bryan: If I had to choose who this night was designed for, who would be most excited about it, I would have chosen Brooke. If I had to choose the one person who would search desperately to find a loophole — like the film adaptation of a song, it would be David Cook. But alas, it’s Brooke that intelligently runs for the hills, using the Madonna film version. And then …
…that happened. Again. For the second time. So, let me get this straight: I’m watching a girl too nervous to perform on stage trying to sing me musical songs on my Tuesday night? Damn, I need to find a new show. I had a difficult time getting back to paying attention after that — but my thoughts on hearing it was that it would be a much better song choice for Syesha than Brooke. I never minded Brooke much before this, but Jesus, she couldn’t have fucked up more.
Jon: Brooke has been out of her comfort zone for two weeks now. Last week, she tried Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and fell apart so badly that she missed piano notes and vocal runs alike. This week, she stammer-starts the beginning of “You Must Love Me” and remains scared to death for the rest of her performance. She is literally handing America its decision on a golden platter tonight, and the judges know it: Randy, Simon and even Paula gave her criticism as if this were the last time they’d ever talk to her. (Paula to Brooke: “You must never start and stop.” Me to Paula: “Didn’t you do that with your career?”) But as Bryan said, Brooke is this season’s resident fuck-up, and I don’t think this week provides us any weaker a contestant to vote against.
David Archuleta — “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera
Bryan: Can’t you just imagine David’s reaction after hearing the theme of the week? Has anyone ever been this excited, or at least this excited since Paula found out her local liquor store was going to start carrying Effen? God, I bet Archuleta was pumping this very same shit out in theatre club after school six months ago. So, I call no fair! Of course it was going to be this good. Outside of a tempo problem in the verses, this was about as good as I expected, and something the producers will be sure to show quite a bit of in his winning videotape five weeks from now. And, guess what: it annoys me as much now as it will then. Paula is definitively wrong: that is NOT a pop ballad, not at all.
Jon: Okay, this was probably my favorite of David Archuleta’s performances. Unfortunately, that’s not really a good thing. As much as I appreciate the kid as a singer, someone in the industry should raise a red flag when his strong suit is sappy, orchestral ballads. I still doubt David’s ability to sing real-world pop hits, the same way many critics rightly doubted Taylor Hicks and even Rubben Studdard before that. Archy can be inspirational, but not sexy or even cool. And what’s on our pop charts? Sex and cool.
Carly Smithson — “Jesus Christ Superstar”
Bryan: This is the other song I knew tonight, and I told Jon before the show it would either be the best choice of the night or the worst. It also should have finished the show, because it is as fun a song as you’ll get in musical-dom. But, as much as I hate to say it, Lloyd Webber was right to direct her to this song, and she was right to sing it. On a night that has seen many a bland performance, this actually had some personality, it had a good arrangement, and some good singing. When they put Carly into the Top 24, I think they anticipated a lot more stuff as good as this. She should make it through to next week, now, a notion I’m surprised to be typing as you are for reading it.
Jon: I can’t believe this week worked for Carly. After last week — when she surprisingly avoided the bottom three — she returns with a rock vengeance for the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber, managing to make it through an entire performance without any of her normal pitfalls: no screeching, awkward runs or even fashion missteps. And Simon liked it. This girl is golden come tomorrow night. Jesus Christ indeed.
David Cook — “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera
Bryan: OK, this is weird. This is just not the type of voice that should be singing Phantom. But I knew it was coming. But I couldn’t have prepared myself for this. God, AI is making me schizophrenic. As for the performance, I don’t know what to say. He made the best out of a raw deal, that’s for sure. I didn’t like it as much as Randy and Paula, that’s for sure, but I’m with Simon — if the producers were going to back him into this corner (because they want Archuleta to win, says the conspirator inside of me), he issued a big “Fuck You” back at them.
Jon: My opinion: classy, elegant and versatile. Randy’s opinion: “Molten hot lava.” So it was good, and it keeps David Cook above water for yet another week. He’s the performer I look forward to most each week, and he hasn’t disappointed me since that Our Lady Peace debacle from a few weeks back. And if a showtune can’t impede his march to the top of this competition, I don’t know what can.
PREDICTIONS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS
Bryan: Yeah, that was just about as bad as I thought it was going to be an hour ago. We saw Jason completely fall flat on his face. We saw Brooke show that sometimes, idiots don’t learn from their mistakes. And then, surprisingly, the rest were okay, and some of them pretty good. So, we know that Brooke goes in the bottom three, and she probably goes home. I can’t imagine Castro isn’t in the bottom three, which leaves the real question between Carly and Syesha’s breasts. Since one went first and the other near the end, and both were comparable performances, I’m going Syesha in the bottom three, undeservingly.
Jon: The American voter makes a tough choice tonight, but that’s between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Idol makes it easy: Brooke White and Jason Castro more or less nominated themselves for the Bottom 3, and it’ll be rounded out by Syesha, as predicted by Bryan and last week’s results — when Syesha was also unjustly thrust into the lower eschelon of this competition. And who goes home? Kiss Goldilocks goodbye.