Imagine if you will our final five contestants as lumps of coal. For a few months, they've been under intense pressure, and last night, they were squished tight for time. A Diamond was onhand to mentor, but, sadly, none of the coal-contestants made that alchemic transformation into brilliance and fire.
I'm not a huge Neil Diamond fan, but I've liked him just fine ever since I first saw his slightly anachronistic performance in "The Last Waltz." (no, it wasn't the caliber of, say, ShaNaNa at Woodstock, but it was a bit different from the rest of the night's festivities.) Plus, I admire a guy who can still be attractive even when he's wearing upside-down Nike Swooshes as his eyebrows.
As any diamond lover can tell you, there are four Cs to diamond appraisal. Cut, color, clarity, and carat.*1 So I figure we'd shorthand Neil Diamond night by rating each contestant with that criteria.*2 Also, recently, they've added a fifth C to diamond valuation: Certificate. However, none of the performers gets one of those tonight, because the only one certifiable was Paula.
Poor Paula. Any deviation from the carefully formatted routine is bound to throw her for a loop, and she totally dingbatted out and tipped her hand, and possibly the show's, when she bungled Jason's review. Since they were so pressed for time, they didn't have each judge take a shot at the contestants after each song. Instead, once all five had sung their first song, Ryan brought them back out onstage and had the judges take a brief pass about them all. Randy held his shit together. But it was a bad sign when we saw Paula fidgeting with paperwork in front of her. And let me tell you, this wasn't lightweight paperwork. There were white sheets, a pink sheet, AND notecards. I'm not sure, but I believe I even spotted a clipboard. That's heavy artillery for our queen of the Coke placebo.
So she mumbles something about Jason's first song, and then she started talking about his second song. She said his usual charm was missing and that she doesn't think he's fighting hard enough to make the top four. It was after she babbled this embarrassment that Randy pointed out to her that Jason only sang one song so far. Please note Simon's look of disgust, but only a half-second later, he'll break into laughter.
Once called out, Paula's nonplused for a second, and then dumbly blurts out, "I thought he sang twice." No, darling, you were just seeing double.
She then makes it worse and tries to cover by looking at Cook and saying, you know what, I was looking at your notes, David, and you were fantastic! Please explain to me just how fucked up she is to supposedly read her own notes the first time as saying "missing charm, not fighting" and then supposedly, when those same notes are for Cook, she reads them to say "Fantastic." Then, disgusted with herself, probably thinking most people will write it off to her dingbatty proclivities, she just gets flustered and wants it all to go away.
It is unclear if it occurs to her that people immediately realize she was commenting on his performance based on his dress rehearsal, which she surely checked out. She then goes back to shuffling her paperwork while Simon prattles on a bit.
What's most unclear at this point, however, is whether she was commenting based on her own notes on Jason's dress rehearsal, or if the notes in front of her, should a detailed handwriting analysis be performed on them, would actually prove to be written in Nigel's manipulative cursive penmanship. One thing is certain, though. By placing Jason first, and then Paula clumsily commenting out-of-turn, the show's agenda was revealed. Congrats, Pauler & producers. Your certificate of inauthenticity has been served.
So what was she commenting on? Well, first, Jason sang "Forever in Blue Jeans." He had his airheaded Castro moment in his mentoring segment when he had the lyrics to the wrong song in front of him, but, best, in case things don't pan out for him on Idol, he's already taking his cues from Melinda and Chris Richardson. Instead of going for the Edy's slow churned crowd, he's showing off his "I could've had a V-8" prowess.
Cute, isn't it? How he and Paula both had the brain-freeze moments this week. Anyhow, I liked "Blue Jeans" quite a bit. Then he sang "September Morn" and he unfortunately lived up to Paula's prognosticating. Whether this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, a Paula jinx, or just a crappy song choice is up for debate. I'm giving him the SI2 grade for the night, with a pretty nice color of I, because he's still a cutie. Jason, he's a trilliant cut.*3 Definitely not ordinary, and definitely only going to satisfy the tastes of a select few who want something different.
Cook sang "I'm Alive" and "All I Really Need is You." Simon did find him "brilliant." Me? I give him a grade of IF. Don't know what that is? It's really rare. It means there are no internal inclusions, but there are some subtle surface flaws. Yes I'm shallow. (He was back to rocking the combover.) But he does have a nice color rating of F because he's shown such clarity in who he is as a performer, and he's the classic round cut diamond -- looks good to just about everyone.
Then we had Brooke. For her first song, she wrestled a guitar as she sang "I"m a Believer." The guitar mostly won.
When Simon called her "nightmarish" in the brief group recap, she disagreed. Then she sang "I Am, I Said," and everyone salivated over her, but I'm so over her and all her flaws I just can't see any shine anymore. In other words, she's the low-grade I3 to me with a crappy V color and gag-worthy heart cut for all her histrionic heart-on-her-sleeve crap.
Archie finally let go of the ballads and what a difference that makes. He did "Sweet Caroline" and then reached into Kristy Lee's bag of tricks with "America." I will say that I think part of the reason he sticks to ballads is because he moves so awkwardly on these bouncier numbers, particularly "Sweet Caroline."
And, frankly, I could've done without all the runs on that song, too. But, he kept his eyes open and actually seemed to be enjoying himself for large portions of the songs and it was just refreshing. Admittedly, it's damn hard to dislike nearly any version of "Sweet Caroline," and Simon did call it amateurish. But I liked it. I give him an SI1 for it all, with a color of K. Archie, he's definitely a radiant cut. Why? He's kinda square, but he's been carefully researched & developed for maximum sparkle!
And then there was Syesha. Even though Simon told her that he thought she'd be in trouble, she had the pimp spot, so it's likely she's going to stay. She did a typically Screamesha version of "Hello, Again" which I thought blew. I let it go last week when she started on the piano and didn't wear shoes, but I see no reason why she was barefoot for both songs this week. Maybe she's trying to give off a carefree, breezy feel, but that's the last thing she is. Paula tried to warn her that her "magic" is in her softer notes. (translation: stop fucking SHOUTING AT US ALL THE TIME, SYESHA. It's like Al fucking Pacino up there sing-shouting even when it's uncalled for.) Then she did "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" and it was slightly campy and a kinda theatrical and I really liked it. I still give her an I1, with a faint yellow K color, and she's most definitely a princess cut, as evidenced by her reactions to anything less-than-glowing praise.
So, in summary, given Paula's faux pas and Brooke's underwhelming performance and Syesha's continued struggles, I think it's safe to say that last night was the exception to the rule. Diamond was not a girl's best friend.
*1 -- http://www.adiamondisforever.com/buy/4cs_flash.html
*2 -- I blew off carat rating. Carats just aren't funny. Unless you're the recipient of a really small one. Then again, being the recipient of a "really small one" is rarely a laughing matter. Until the next day when you giggle about it.
*3 -- technically, I used "shape" instead of "cut" because it's just impractical to use the actual "cut" criteria to rate them and would have made little sense, unless I wanted to get technical about their "depth." But, since the whole metaphor was a stretch, I'm hoping you'll let this "cut - shape" thing slide, too.
*4 -- Footnotes! How fun are they!