Wednesday, May 07, 2008
American Idol Wednesdays: In Which Dreadlock Boy Forgets the Lyrics and Syesha Surprises Us
With only two weeks left until America votes in their new Idol, every performance counts. Every song choice counts. There's no more skating by, no more flying under the radar. Such a strategy has proven to be a winning one this season, with both Syesha Mercado and Jason Castro squeezing out enough votes to get them into the Top 4, while more well-defined artists like Carly Smithson and Brooke White fell by the wayside. Mercado has emerged as the competition's true dark horse, discovering a soul-meets-Broadway jazz vibe that suits her far better than the overblown pop ballads she tried on early in the competition. Castro, however just couldn't find it within himself to step it up, and has likely strummed his guitar for the last time upon the Idol stage.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Top 4:
David Cook "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Baba O'Riley" All goateed and scruffy, donning the requisite leather jacket, Cook gave the audience a decent rendition of the Duran Duran hit, pausing to grab a few teenage hands as he strode across the stage. But that's just what it was... decent. Totally competent but equally as ordinary and nothing we're going to remember tomorrow morning. Then, after basically confessing to phoning it in during his "chat" with Ryan Seacrest, he brought out "Baba O'Riley", and the Cook we know and love was back. The arrangement was quietly intense-- holding back in the first half with organ and strings taking the place of the verse's signature electric power chord hook, and then turning the volume up on the chorus, Cook picking up the axe and letting his voice soar on the money notes. Cook also pointed out that the song had never been done on the show and you know what? That gets him even more points in my book. A great find and another memorable performance.
David Archuleta "Stand By Me", "Love Me Tender"
"Stand By Me" was actually a great song choice for Archuleta and I liked the spare arrangement with just bass, bongos, and background singers. Oh, and a triangle (for that ding! punctuating each phrase). He manipulated the melody just enough and got in some nice runs. It was also appropriate for him, which is more than I can say for his second song, "Love Me Tender." Look, I'm just not into underage gay boys singing love songs, what can I say? Fortunately for him, 11-14 year old girls are. I think at this point, it would take Wonder Boy being struck down by a meteor or kidnapped by a rabid band of Jason Castro superfans to prevent him from going to the finals. He's gonna win this thing.
Syesha Mercado "Proud Mary", "A Change is Gonna Come" "This song has been covered over one hundred times. That's a lot!" -- Syesha Mercado
And that's just on iTunes, baby. So... after choosing a song that you yourself admit has been done to death, what in the name of all that is holy possesses you to decide to attempt the Tina Turner dance. And not just any Tina Turner dance. The Tina Turner dance. However you do it, if you are not, indeed Tina Turner, you're gonna look like a wannabe. Amateurish. Cruise-ship ready. Chorus girl in Legally Blonde: The Musical. Then there's the matter of the too-short gold lame dress (God help her should she ever decide to get out of a limo in it). Ditto the cheeseball band-on-the-stage arrangement. It was all very "Legends in Concert" at the Imperial Palace for me. Syesha has definitely been stepping up her game over the last several weeks, and this performance was an unfortunate detour. But... the Idols had two songs tonight. And on Syesha's second choice "A Change is Gonna Come", she blew the doors off the place. It was the first time I got chills from her since her Hollywood Week audition. It was a beautiful, supple vocal that showed off her soaring belt in just the right range. I don't know who shit in Randy's oatmeal this morning... it was probably her best performance to date. I'm still very happy with my side of my bet with Otis, but Syesha went a long way tonight toward perhaps pulling what would be one of Idol's most stunning upsets ever.
Jason Castro "I Shot the Sheriff", "Mr. Tambourine Man" Wow. I mean wowwwwww. I haven't seen such a pile of musical roadkill on Idol since... well, since Castro completely obliterated "Memory" during Andrew Lloyd Webber week. Dreadlock Boy proved tonight that he has entirely overstayed his welcome on the show. Randy called his Bob Marley cover a "karaoke bomb" and I think he was being kind. Simon's "utterly atrocious" was far more apt. Then there was the matter of "Mr. Tambourine Man" where Castro committed perhaps the worst offense possible from an AI contestant-- he forgot the lyrics. And not just a word or two. We're talking several lines where he quite literally substituted "eh muh mehnuh meh muh" for Dylan's verse. Seriously, I've seen better performances from strung-out wookies in the Bonnaroo parking lot and an 11-year old busker outside a surf shop in Byron Bay (he could play the violin and remembered his words). Goddammit, I expect more from my Top 4! But you know what? All things considered, here's what I admire about what Castro did not only tonight, but throughout the competition. While Simon and Randy completely ass-raped him with their criticism, he just stood there, smiled, looked charming, and gazed into the eyes of teenage girls across America. Now that's knowing your audience.
Order in which I (still) think they'll finish:
4. Jason Castro
3. Syesha Mercado
2. David Cook
1. David Archuleta
Current Bodog odds on the remaining contestants:
David Archuleta 2-1 (OMG can you say value? if I had a Bodog account I'd bet the farm.)
David Cook 1-2
Jason Castro 25-1
Syesha Mercado 30-1 (poor Otis...)