My buddy Susan asked me to pinch hit for her this week. Seems she is still in a mojito stupor, prone on her bedroom floor and unable to crawl to her keyboard and bang out her usual insightful, cynical, funny, and scathing American Idol review. So she asked me to fill in. I made her a fresh mojito and sat down at her computer. Now, you may label me an enabler, but what's a friend to do? So Susan has the week off as she works through her David Hernandez-less AI funk. And I have her very big, expensive shoes to fill.
First off, I want to put things in perspective: with the exception of 40 year-old Michael Johns, all of the contestants this season were born after John Lennon died. Feel old? Okay, let's continue.
The Beatles finally opened their songbook to American Idol, hopefully to attract a new generation of fans, and surely with an eye on their catalog becoming available on iTunes in 2008. AI took advantage of this generosity by doing not one, but two Beatles weeks!
Amanda Overmyer was first up and did—what else?—a rocker! "Back in the USSR," a McCartney song, was a perfect choice for her. She strutted around all flat-haired and gravelly-voiced and did her thing. She took some heat from Simon, who said she was predictable and in "danger of becoming boring." Amanda responded, "Ballads are BORING!" Damn straight! It's the seventh season of AI, and most contestants still haven't learned to stay away from the long, slow, boring, sleep-inducing tunes. This chick is growing on me. She knows who she is, and isn't going to stoop to doing some wimp-ass ballad.
A cowboy boots clad Kristy Lee Cook was next, and did the Lennon song "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." She obviously never heard this song before, because she picked it based on the title alone. Kind of like going to the track and picking a horse because you like its name, then hoping you hit it big. But she didn't pick a winner. The judges used words like "boring," "safe," and "predictable" to describe her performance. Simon said she was the musical equivalent of wallpaper: "You notice it, but don't remember it." Her response? The line of the week, if not the year. "I CAN BLOW YOU OUT OF YOUR SOCKS AND YOU KNOW IT!" I bet she can. And she may very well have to if she wants to make the top ten. Bottom three on Wednesday night. I predict she'll get the boot this week.
Troll doll David Archuleta tried to redeem himself with McCartney's "The Long and Winding Road." He had the little girlies planted in the front row squealing with this performance, and better yet, he even remembered the words! Randy said he brought the hotness back to his game. Paula mumbled something about purity and character, and Simon said it was "Amazing," then clapped. A Simon clap is like a two snaps up from Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier . He's through easily to the next round.
Michael Johns tried to squeeze the Beatles masterpiece "A Day in the Life" into a minute and a half, which is like squeezing War and Peace into a Reader's Digest condensed book: it doesn't work. Simon called it "a mess" and said he needs to sort himself out. I agree. Even Michael knew it wasn't a good performance.
I admit, I'm a Michael Johns fan. I think he's got a very good voice, an appreciation of rock history, and a natural, comfortable stage presence. But he's coasting now. Or maybe he's peaked? We'll see.
After last week's great version of "Let It Be," Brooke White came out and did George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun," which is one of my all-time favorite songs. It wasn't a very good performance. Granted, it IS a happy song, but Brooke looked like she was on a triple dose of Prozac. I'm a Brooke fan, but her performance could have been straight out of an overly-happy Target commercial. Randy called her "awkward," Paula called her "yellow," and Simon said she was "terrible" with "horrible dancing." She needs to stick with McCartney songs. My predication: now that Paul is a single man again, Brooke will leave her husband to date Paul. He loves blondes. And she's not a bitchy, water chucking gold digger like Heather Mills. You heard it here first.
David Cook. I thought by the time we'd gotten this far into Season 7, someone on the AI styling team would have fixed his hair. Whatever, this guy is really growing on me. With his performance of "Day Tripper," this was his third strong week in a row. With a guitar slug across his body, he ripped through the song, even adding a Peter Frampton-like voice box bit near the end. This led Paula to comment he was ready for a Geico commercial, a joke Simon didn't get. David really got into the whole rock star thing, complete with throwing his guitar pick into the crowd afterward. Simon said he wasn't as good as he thought he was. But he was.
Afterward, David showed Ryan how to use the voice box thingy, but for some reason Ryan didn't want to talk into it, even though the judges clearly wanted him to. What was that all about? Afraid of David's saliva, Ryan?
Carly Smithson, the former professional singer, did McCartney's famous civil rights-inspired "Blackbird." Randy said her performance was "cooliosis." Paula blathered on about tone and song choices. Simon called it indulgent. I usually find myself agreeing with Simon, but in this case I think he was wrong. Carly has done some rockers recently, and I think this was a good chance to show off her amazing voice, and really let it rip. I still think she is the frontrunner in this competition. Oh, and she sported off a new tattoo, the number 7 on her right ring finger. She said it was for Season 7 of AI. But all I could think of was the Seinfeld episode where George wanted to name his future child 7 after Mickey Mantle's uniform number.
Here she is, letting it rip:
Jason Castro. OK, I need to get this off my chest. I CANNOT look at this guy anymore without seeing Susan's comparison of Jason to John Travolta from Battlefield Earth.
That said, the judges weren't too wild about this performance, but I actually think it was one of his best weeks. Not that he was very good, but that the sing-songy style of "Michelle" fits his style perfectly. And yes, Jason, those are French words in the song. BTW, are we still supposed to call French fries "freedom fries"?
Sporting some cleavage, Syesha Mercado crooned out "Yesterday" in what she hoped was a very pained, heartfelt performance. The judges all liked it, with Simon saying it was the song Brooke should have chosen. Personally, I thought it was horrible. Boring. She'll be in the bottom three Wednesday night. She doesn't even rank a picture. Now let's all sing the schoolyard version: "Leprosy, now my skin is falling off of me. I'm not half the man I used to be..."
Let me say this about Chiekezie. The Beatles + Chiekezie = WOW! The judges were a bit mixed, but this guy is quickly becoming my favorite contestant. He has energy, charm, a good voice, and is totally infectious. After last week's great rendition of "She's A Woman," he did "I've Just Seen A Face" this week. Not as good as last week, but he is gaining more confidence, and improving week to week. He even tried his hand on the harmonica—or as it used to be known—the mouth organ (see Kristy Lee Cook's review).
Up last was Ramiele Malubay, who did "I Should Have Known Better." When it comes to Ramiele, I go back and forth (watch your dirty minds). She has a good voice, but there is something seriously lacking with her, and I don't just mean height. Simon summed it up best: "It is what it is." She'll land in the bottom three Wednesday, but will stick around another week.
Susan is beginning to stir. I'll post this review now, then get some fresh coffee into her. Let me leave you with this final thought:
I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, "The Beatles did."
—Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997