Tuesday, May 13, 2008

American Idol- Top 3

Last week, Jason Castro appeared mightily relieved to be eliminated from American Idol and not have to learn three new songs.

So, that leaves the competition with three very different, talented, and driven performers who all seem to very much want to win the crown. Overall, there was no huge gaps in performance tonight, and no blowouts (certainly unlike the West Virginia Primary) between any of them so the two that will advance to next week's finale will likely do so based on popularity and fan base mobilization as much as anything else.

Some random thoughts... How come the show was only an hour? It was rushed of course. It seems like the performance shows should be longer and the results shows should maybe be cut. I seem to remember every other Idol final three show in the past being either 90 minutes or 2 hours. Hell's Kitchen must be a real cash-cow for FOX, huh?

My goodness, the Powers That Be on American Idol really want David Cook to win the whole thing. Forget all about any previous pimping of Archuleta, Cook is now the undeniable chosen one. It was about as obvious on this broadcast as could be. I will delge into some more specifics later on.

The contestants sang three songs each, one song picked by the judges (with a good deal of curious choices there), one picked by their own selves, and one picked by the "Producers." I really found it suprising that on the judges' and producers' picks, they all did fairly well vocally. In the middle round, where they picked the songs themselves, I thought they all had off performances and it was by far the weakest of the three rounds tonight.

Here is how I scored it based on vocal ability only, starting with Round 1- judges' picks.

1. David Archuleta- The wacky and unstable Paula Abdul picked the dreary and boring "And So It Goes" for the young singer who has been given the rap of being pretty boring and too much of a balladeer. So, his fans were understandably worried about this number, as well as all the hype, whether true or not, surrounding Archuleta's "Stage Dad" and the fact that he has reportedly ran afoul of all sorts of people associated with the show and has been banned from helping his son learn or arrange the songs in a formal setting. In a sense it is only fair that one contestant not have a trained musician with them for that purpose, but on the other hand, the 17 year old David A. is the only one that also has to go to classes for three hours every day, so maybe it evened out.

In any event, Archie was apparently flying solo in preparing for this week and those who predicted he would crumble under the pressure, were probably greatly dissapointed. In reading things online, it seems that David A's many fans, really, really like him, perhaps too much. It is at an Obama-level worship for some and I think it goes too far. On the other hand, those who do not like him or do not find his style their musical "cup of tea" (as I often have found myself in that position as well), take their dislike of him to a pretty sad level. I do not see the point in that. Whatever you may think of his musical style or his innocent demeanor, he seems like a good kid with a lot of talent. I have serious mixed feelings about what I perceive with his father and the control that he may hold over his son. Some of it is probably true, which only makes me feel more sorry for the kid, but there could be a great deal of exaggeration in there as well, which makes me feel even worse for the whole family. It just has to be a lot for a young person to handle, especially someone who can often come across as overwhelmed by the entire situation. So, I am kind of in a position of wanting David Archuleta to win American Idol, even though I am not sure he is the most deserving vocally or that it would even be in the short-term interest of his young career. I just want to see the "haters" be upset at a victory by him, especially those who attack him for his religion or make ridiculous claims that he may be developmentally disabled.

Anyways, back to the actual music... he made the crappy Billy Joel song sound good. I think it was probably better than the original. Few were expecting him to really be able to connect with a song that talks about "lovers past", etc. etc., but he really seemed to be able to credibly tell the story of it, while also sounding pretty flawless on the vocals. Paula could have really screwed him over by picking this song, as it only fits into the negative stereotypes about his ability, but he was able to make the most out of it. I am surprised that Paula, while very praiseful of the performance was as muted as she was. That is just one reason why I think that the show really wants Cook to win it all. Perhaps, certain people just want no part of Jeff Archuleta once this is over.

2. Syesha Mercado- she sang an Alicia Keyes song, "If I Don't Have You", and sounded pretty good. I thought it was extremely close to what I have ranked number one, and if not for what sounded like one bad note in the song, might have taken that spot. She actually sang this very same song a couple years back on a very little noticed or remembered ABC/Canadian Broadcasting version of American Idol, and watching it on YouTube, she certainly did much better tonight than she did then. Still though, it was odd that Randy Jackson picked this song for Syesha, considering that she already had so much experience with it.

I really think Syesha is a very talented singer and she is pretty easy on the eyes as well, in addition to being quite poised on stage and in front of cameras. However, I just can no longer see her as anything other than an actress. While the two Davids obviously have a passion for music, Syesha just seems to have a passion for performing and she will turn herself into whatever she thinks people want to see. In this round, she tried to be Alicia Keyes and sounded a lot like her, which is what made it a very good performance, but something is still missing. All she has left to go on to try to sneak her way into the finale is sex appeal and sequins, but people are not going to forget the awkward way she tried to compare her AI journey to the Civil Rights Movement and what many people (myself included) felt were manufactured tears last week. Of course, I personally really had enough when she found a way on the results show last week to endorse both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the same breath.

3. David Cook- Simon Cowell picked a fairly well known but odd seeming Roberta Flack ballad for David C., and while the judges liked it, I thought it was just alright. It was good, I just think it sounded odd in the way he started singing the song in a high register. Of course, he always builds up to the glory notes at the end, which he does well, but it is as predictable as anything that Archuleta ever does, and I just do not think he changed the song enough, (as he has successfully with many others this year) to have it been a rousing success. It was really noteworthy how the camera kept showing his mother standing in the audience with a spotlight on her as he was singing this ballad. That seemed like total pimpage to me and was something that the other contestants certainly did not get. It also seemed a little too orchestrated when David half-heartedly wished his Mom a "Happy Belated Mother's Day", but at least he didn't tell her to sit her ass down, like LeBron James might have told his mom! They also did talk briefly to Syesha's father at one portion of the show, and the Archuleta parents were barely on camera... gee, I wonder why.

Round 2- contestant choices.

1. David Cook- nominally the best of a very weak all around portion of the show. I don't really know who Switchfoot is, but apparently they are a Christian rock group that is very popular among some young people. So, in that way, it may have been a wise political move to pick that song and appeal to some demographics. I have heard the song in part before (don't ask me to name it off-hand) and I did not like it. David sounded ok on it and certainly gave a credible performance, but this time I thought it started off too low before building to the invevitable glory notes at the end. When time is limited though for these numbers, I think Cook's performances are not as good as they could be.

2. Syesha Mercado- she sang the much covered "Fever" and while she sounded technically proficient, it came across as a second-rate cabaret performance, as Syesha, in a short sequined dress pranced around with a chair. Again, she acted the song, more than she sang it.

3. David Archuleta- give him credit for taking on a popular current song for the first time this season, doing "With You" by Chris Brown, in what was clearly an attempt to do something different for him and break out of the mold to which he has been typecast (and to which Paula Abdul and "The Producers" certainly played to with their song choices for him). It was a little odd to hear young David sing some of the mildly suggestive lyrics in the song and vocally, it was not his strong suit. It was not horrible by any means, but it got off to a little bit of a rough start at the beginning, where it seems like he might have fallen behind the music and thus botched a couple lyrics, but it got better at the end. He clearly is better singing ballads, and that is probably where he is going to make his cash when all this is over, but still, his performance was perhaps credible enough to realize that with some more polishing and practice, he probably could pull off the upbeat "teen idol" angle, and thus appeal to an even bigger audience than just trying to be the next Josh Groban. The interaction with the crowd probably came across better than some might have expected.

One thing though, when Randy said it was weird to hear David say the phrase, "my boo", I thought I heard David say something like, "yeah I know it's weird for a white guy to say that." I couldn't make out exactly what was being said, but that could be a bit of a public relations gaffe. I just think the kid gets nervous on stage and acts awkwardly. Ninety-nine percent of us would be the same way. I think it just goes to show that while he obviously has been focused on singing for a long time, he is not exactly a poised, "pageant kid" in every sense of the word.

Round 3- Producers choices-

1. David Archuleta- for whatever reason, someone gave him slow and somber (but sort of melodically pretty) ballad "Longer" by the recently deceased Dan Fogelberg, a song that I can associate being played while I am suffering in a dentist's chair for some reason. I thought this one could be a snoozer, but I actually thought that David did everything he could with the song and more, and made it sound a lot more interesting than the original, by adding some runs in it. It certainly is not my favorite style of music (which would be 80's Hair Bands and Arena Rock and I doubt David would ever try or be able to pull that style off), but he absolutely has a talent for this kind of music and he gave a very strong performance in this round and was suprisingly able to come across as connecting emotionally to the syrupy but somewhat "older" lyrics. Still though, I sort of think that AI has not showcased every aspect of his vocal ability. Back when he was on Star Search as a 12 or 13 year old, he actually was pretty soulful. If he still has that in him (despite the vocal paralysis issue), it really has not come across too much, which is why he will probably be pegged as an underdog to David Cook if both, as expected, advance.

2. David Cook- the producers were kind enough to bestow the older David with the very recognizable power ballad, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing", penned by Diane Warren and performed by the mighty Aerosmith. Please don't get me wrong, I think David did a very good job on the song, backed up by a string section, but Steven Tyler he is not, and thus, while Archuleta was able to take a ho-hum song and make it sound more interesting, Cook took a pretty well-known and very popular song and did nothing to really make it better in my view. He should have no trouble making it to the Nokia Theater next week though.

3. Syesha Mercado- she was given some fast-pace contemporary song, which I am not going to bother to look up now, and vocally and stage-wise, it was a good performance. But again, she is performing, more than she is blowing anyone away with her voice at this point. She was Alicia Keyes in Round 1, some sort of Cabaret harlot in Round 2, and she tried to sound like Rhianna in Round 3. Finally, since her last song was apparently about penguins, she danced like a penguin. I am surprised she did not try to bring the global warming thing into it or just whip out a giant race card at the very end. Seriously, it was certainly good, but there are tons of young female singers like Syesha who could have done just as good with this song. She might have a very successful career on Broadway or in the movies or television, but I just do not see her cutting it as a recording artist. She may actually wind up like JLo or something and actually prefer the acting route.

So, when I average them together, with the lowest number being better, I have a tie for first place, and then a third contestant two points behind. So, I had to employ a tie-breaker, which shows how close I think things were and are in this competition between the two Davids, but because only one of them was ranked first in two rounds, and because the one round won by the other was the lousy round in my view, I have to break the tie this way:

1. David Archuleta
2. David Cook
3. Syesha Mercado

I hope and believe that the two Davids will have their chance to face off, mano a mano next week on three more songs. Just about everyone will be pretty surprised if either of them get eliminated this week, although it is possible that the Powers That Be, might actually want Archie gone (hence the bad song assignments that he did well with, as well as the whole way they seemingly worked with the tabloids on the Stage Dad story), just because they really, really want the rocker Cook to win (thinking he would be more commerical faster) and do not want to take any chances. If Cook and Archuleta do face off next week though, Cook will be considered the favorite, but based on having to do one round of whatever "inspirational ballad" wins the song-writing contest, the younger David might have a bit of an edge there. It will make for entertaining television for sure, and there will be time to ponder the question... is it better maybe to actually finish second on American Idol than to win it all?


At 7:01 AM, Blogger h said...

Actually, I think the producers should be commended for the patience and restraint they demonstrated with ghey David's psychotic and abusive stage daddy.

And did nothing to encourage the tabloids reporting.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conservative Democrat said:

Corey, my Idol predictions

1. Syesha heads back to Florida due to the Jeremiah Wright Effect.

2. Syesha's voters bolt to Cook in massive droves because they will NEVER vote for a Mormon and Archuleta will have hurdles in the Deep South.

3. Final 2-Cook crushes Archuleta in a landslide: 80% to 20% due to sweeping the Deep South "Jesusland" and the Midwest, Northeast.

4. Cook will become the 1st Idol winner from Missouri, I think McCaskill and Gov. Blunt are pulling the strings.

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most civilized recaps on the internet. Without the snarkness and wiseassness of so many others.

You covered every point. Could you send it to someone at AI who has a conscience?

My prediction- Archuleta will pick up enough Syesha fans next week to win. Simon, Paula and TPTB will weep. Randy will be happy. Jeff Archuleta will run a victory lap around the Nokia Theater.


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