Life as an Extreme Sport

American Idol, Top 12

Oh right – we have a new stage and intro! Huh, I kind of like it, although I’m going to miss the seal. And the video screens everywhere are… strange. The band is all spread out, Ricky Minor’s getting some attention with prominent positioning. Looks like we have new lights, too – and tonight’s theme is… under the sea! Where’s Ariel when you need her?

Anyhow, they’re going to massacre The Beatles tonight. Let’s get this over with.

Top Three: David Cook, Brooke White, Amanda Overmyer
Bottom Three: Kristy Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado, David Hernandez
Top Six: David Cook, Brooke White, Amanda Overmyer, Michael Johns, Carly Smithson, Chikezie
Should Go Home: Kristy Lee Cook
Will Go Home: Syesha Mercado

Here’s your Must Watch performance of the week:

One comment

  1. I’m going to skip the contestant interviews unless they say something interesting. I think it’s safe to assume they won’t. Geez, these people are too polished in the way too boring sense. Want some rawness, folks! Sheesh!

    Syesha Mercado
    She tells us this week is going to bring us more of her personality – I don’t believe it. Apparently it’s going to bring us more of her hair, at least. How very Salt’n’Peppa – she knows this isn’t 80s week still, right? Anyhow, she’s performing a song I’m not terribly familiar with, from Revolver, Got To Get You Into My Life. Or… am I, and she just really, really butchered it? That’s almost more frightening. She’s shouty and tuneless and has no stage presence. This is… do I know this song? I’m going to regret looking, aren’t I? Oh… oh. Man.

    She butchered this song, so badly I didn’t recognize it at all. The only thing that clued me in was the particular key shift that happens at the end of each line of lyric. Wow. That was awful. And frankly, her hand movements alone make it worthy of a “karaoke” critique.

    Judges? Randy calls her out on it being an Earth, Wind, and Fire arrangement of the song, so – burn, baby! She looks embarrassed to have been called out on it, as she should be. Paula is coherent, which is strange for a live show, and… Simon? Thought it was better than alright and a great song choice, but things she looks very nervous – but, c’mon Simon, first night on the big stage, understandable.

    Uh, Ryan? fauxhawk? Ditch it, darling. It does you no favour.

    He totally breaks out a personality in the interview clip, which, where did that come from? And the song starts out sounding like he’s doing background music for Firefly (but dressed like Carlton from the Fresh Prince), or that Union Station should be on stage with him. It’s… strange and a bit disconcerting. Anyhow, he’s singing She’s a Woman, and would someone please break him from the smacking his thigh/ass thing right now? Ohmygod that needs to stop! Kid has zero stage presence… actually, that’s not even right. He fills the stage, but he fills it unappealingly. On the plus side, this might just be his best vocal – it’s not shouty or tuneless, and actually covers some ground so far as working out his range.

    Okay, I just rewatched this, and holy fuck, I change my complete everything about it – this was fucking amazing. Like, I think I’ll buy it from iTunes amazing. I’m really impressed by this.

    Aw, and he looks so happy when he’s done, and he takes the time to shake hands with the audience and blow off the (admittedly stunned) judges. Randy’s seriously trying hard to find words here, cracking up in a really good way. He manages to finally get out Chikezie smashed it. Paula rewards him on the risk/reward, and calls it an O Brother Where Art Thou vibe meets rock, and she’s so right. Simon is cracking up about actually really agreeing with Paula and Randy, but how could you not? And that news sends Chikezie bouncing all over the stage – I love how Simon’s compliments send people over the top. (Hee! You can see Ryan in the wide shots of the stage, standing on edge trying to figure out if he can come on yet.)

    Ryan comes on gushing about the enthusiasm, and then… the hell? Is Seacrest drunk? He’s bouncing all over the stage telling Chikezie to move around and work it and… the hell?

    Ramiele Malubay
    Yawn. Dedicating to her friends already kicked off the show. I’m asleep already. This is also our first stairs start. Maybe stairs? Not so much with the good starting, eh? She’s doing a delicate, high, and I bet it’s going to go diva-esque version of In My Life. It’s pretty, and nicely arranged, but the problem is this: it’s monotonous. She does nothing with it, does nowhere with it, except for the utterly predictable glory note/wooowinddown. She needs to get away from these slow songs, they’re killing her.

    On rewatch, it was just as goddamned boring as the first time. No big surprise, the judges all agree with me – it was damned boring. And Paula? Still sane commentary. Huh.

    Simon has a nice collarbone. He should unbutton that shirt more, though. (What? What? Leave my hormones alone!)

    Ryan tries to get Simon to comment on it being the song, but Randy actually says he’s not sure it’s enough that will take her to next week – this should basically quash everyone who thinks she’s actually The Chosen One. Paula jumps in that even though it was safe and boring, she should be able to go through another week.

    Jason Castro is singing If I Fell; he’s back with his guitar this week. Boy has massive charisma/stage presence, and the crowd obviously loves him. It’s another delicate cover, but very nicely done, and nicely felt. I mean, this kid is mad talented, what else is there to really say?

    Randy liked it, but didn’t love it. One of his all-fav songs, thought it should have been more heartfelt but he didn’t like the melody switches. Paula disagreed with Randy, and it pains me to agree with Paula (and Simon’s shocked Paula’s disagreeing). She hits on the fact that this guy is madcrazy with connecting to the audience, which is very obvious, so… hard for her to miss? Simon, however, calls out the emotional connection as BS-y. This week he thought it was a late night student in the bedroom performing, boring – however, he notes that although it wasn’t nearly as good as last week, it was definitely good enough to stay around and that Jason is unique and he’s a huge fan. I feel like Simon might be missing just what the appeal of Castro is.

    Carly Smithson – blah blah from Ireland moved to San Diego three years ago, ignore the record contract stuff, I work so hard. Next!

    She’s performing Come Together, another song I really, really like, and she does some interesting changeups to it. She also commands the stage relatively well, but I wasn’t too concerned about her being a contestant who’d get lost on the big stage. It’s actually interesting to note that she harmonizes well with the background singers, since this is often something that hurts the most about the show. I could really do without the vocal flourish she finished with; likewise, she shouted half the song at me, which I also could have done without. Still, she’s definitely not going anywhere this week.

    Randy likes it – stellar performance, not at all out of tune, the audience likes it, Paula likes it, and Simon? Simon thinks this was finally the right song, and he compares her to Kelly Clarkson in the same week, blahblah. Also winks at her, as she’s spazzing about finally getting it right. Kinda cute, but also a bit heavyhanded. Then again, it’s hard to disagree that she’s one of the better singers.

    David Cook
    He’s got a really quiet and laid back persona on his video package, and it’s surprisingly appealing. He is surprisingly appealing. I don’t know what to make of this…

    Oh yay, he’s doing Eleanor Rigby! Okay, dude is dripping charisma – when did that happen? To say he has a commanding stage presence is pretty much a massive understatement. He does this very true to the original version of the song, except his voice alone seems to be updating it (and is apparently similar to one Bon Jovi pulls out in concert, which I can actually see. He hits a few rough notes here and there, but really does this great crunchy sound on the end. The crowd really loves him, too – I can see the dollar signs 19E sees when they look at him. DAUGHTRY!sans attitude. And, given the misstep young Archie took this week, I’m relatively convinced this David has a good chance of going into the top three, and being a serious contender for the win this year.

    Also, for all the people bitching he’s Nickelback lite – folks, he’s Eddie Vedder gone emo. Get your comparisons straight.

    The judges will love it. Not as much as Hello, but they’re gonna love it. The crowd sure as hell does. Randy shows it’s proof that you can rock out on Idol, rock out to the Beatles, be true to yourself. Paula calls him the dark horse, more than a one horse race, and then goes off on the horse metaphor and calls Simon a first a stallion and then loses it, deciding instead he’s a donkey. Simon loved it, and thinks as long as this stays a talent show (right) David has a good chance of winning. I agree and disagree – I think this guy is going to rapidly find a fanbase of screaming girls, and think he’s got a very good chance of winning.

    Brooke White
    Let It Be
    This is probably my favourite of the Lennon/McCartney songbook. There’s something incredibly pure about the song, and I’ll admit to having listened to it quite a bit in the last 6 months. It brings a kind of peace with it.

    Brooke plays the piano, as primary accompaniment to herself, and it works well (and let me get this straight – pretty, sings, plays guitar AND piano? Can we lynch her yet?). She didn’t do anything novel with the song, but that, I think, was a wise choice. Mixing up something by The Beatles takes guts and talent, and not everyone is going to be DJ Dangermouse. Sometimes it’s better to do straight up homage than to Blakerize a song.

    This is the first time, for me, her strong “early yet sane” Tori vibe has come across clearly for me, too. She didn’t get at all lost in the big stage; she easily filled it with her charisma – and that cannot be an easy thing to do while sitting at a piano.

    Randy doesn’t think it was her strongest performance, but clearly states that he’s a fan. Paula thinks she’s great at picking songs that grant her an emotional connection, and Simon? Darling Simon got a vaguely pirate look going on – seems he’s dressing up for the big stage, and again he gives her a one of the best performances nod (and sounds surprised by it). I actually rather genuinely believe that she’s been a big surprise to all the judges – she seems very quiet, like the type who might fade into the background and then comes out big and strong in the spotlight. Anyhow, Simon highlights there’s a difference between karaoke and believable, and while I agree with him, I wish someone could better quantify just what that difference is. Altho on further reflection, it might just be the ability to project personality and charisma.

    Aw, Ryan brought her a hankie to dry her tears! And is holding her hand! And when did she get to be his hei… oh, she plays piano barefoot. More inner Tori channeling, I see. And he sweetly brings her her shoes and then Randy and Simon flip out? Warning him? The hell? The boys need to go do whatever they do to work it out, because damn, guys. Irritatingly distracting.

    Huh – not doing the Kodak Theatre anymore? The new Nokia Theatre.

    David Hernandez
    He’s starting in the audience, and is singing I Saw Her Standing There
    I loved the Tiffany version of this song when I was a teen, which caused by Dad great pain (which cracked me up then, and still does now). Seems a bit early to start in the audience (although funny that they’ve just given in and built a small stage behind the judges table now), but I guess he wants to have a chance to bust out the stripper moves? I don’t know. What I do know is he’s trying to contemporary jazz/Elliot Yamin it up, which is failing, and someone arranged this about half an octave too low, which creates a very low, pitchy, and painful song. Oh, StripperDavid, your time on this show is drawing to a rapid close, at this pace.

    Also, for being a stripper? Zero stage presence. Kinda funny. Maybe he needs to be in a g-string to really bring it?

    The judges commentary is not going to be pretty. When Randy tells ya here’s the deal? Bad. Randy says he tried to do too much with a simple song (and crowd boos like hell). Paula does the loves your voice thing, solemnly, but also agrees that he overdid it and needs to scale things back. Simon goes for the nonono chorus, corny verging on desperate. The crowd boos, and Simon loses his temper, telling them to shut up with an eye roll. Simon does rabbit in headlights, Randy wants to correct with deer, and hello people, POINT IS THE SAME.

    Ryan bounces up with a stressful week comment for David, who notes it’s easier to pull back than give more, he’ll turn it down a notch. I do like how calm he is on feedback.

    Amanda Overmyer
    She is singing You Can’t Do That, and I uh. Huh. I need to listen to this a few more times, but my initial impression is that this is actually bordering on brilliant. She’s sped it up, kept the gender pronouns the way they were originally (which is always nice – it does irritate me when singers change gender pronouns, like omg it would be horrible if a girl sang about loving a girl!), and thrown in her sort of bluesy affects. Impressive performance, especially considering she just learned the song this week (Archie, I’m looking at you). It does occur to me, though, that she’d be happier if she could interact with a band while singing.

    I suspect the judges are going to find this something of a hot mess. Ryan inches out from around, the hell, the side of the Stargate? (The edging of the new stage is weird.) While the audience goes nuts, Amanda does the shaky hands thing with the people in the pseudomosh pit, and actually looks genuinely pleased. Randy felt it was a very southerny bar thing, and loved it. Paula thinks she’s fabulous and blown-awayness, and Simon? Didn’t think it was as good as last week, and only understood about 30% of what she said – too much slurring and shouty. Having said that – and then Paula interrupts Simon, Simon tells her to shut up, she tells him not to be disrespectful, he throws it back and suggests she STFU and let him finish his commentary, and man, there’s serious fire in his eyes. She goes patronizing, and I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t haul off and smack her. Anyhow, Simon finishes his comment that week on week, it wasn’t as good as last week, but she’s great to have and a breath of fresh air.

    I kind of wish he’d smacked Paula.

    Michael Johns
    He’s singing a song with great personal meaning, to the point of choking up in his video package about it, Across the Universe. It’s another song I don’t reco- oh, whoa. He really changed this up. A very sparse acoustic version of the song that shifts around the lyrical emphasis a lot, which is actually really appealing. For a standing in one place singing song, he really does command the stage – and I was sort of expecting that.

    He’s strongly reminding me of a Seattle area/grunge/whatever singer, mixed with a healthy dose of Michael Hutchence, but for the life of me I’m not placing it right now. Oh! Hah! Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam. Regardless, good performance from him – definitely a keeper for another week.

    I’m not sure if the judges are going to like this, but it’s honestly one of my favourites of the night, especially on re-listen. Randy was looking for something big to happen, and wishes the notes had been changed up (huh? They were!). The crowd disagrees, and so does Paula – she thinks it takes an inner strength and quiet confidence to do nothing but stand and sing, sing brilliantly. She thought it was just brilliant. Simon agrees with Randy, that he should have done something a bit more like Carly – Michael needs to let himself go. Simon is a huge fan, but is frustrated that we’ve yet to hear what he can do. Which, I can also see.

    Ryan bops onstage, clarifies Paula completely disagrees and why. Ryan reads off the numbers, and Oz looks like he’s still getting his emotions under control. Interesting. Dude is way low key, though – I think he needs to bring some energy next week or he’s going to be in trouble.

    The new stage is really cyberpunk-y in it’s full. Given the lack of seal on the floor, I’m almost willing to bet we’ll see this again come summer and SYTYCD season.

    Kristy Lee Cook
    She is singing a country version of Eight Days a Week, and can we just kill me now? Actually, better yet, kill her now. Her stance is awful, she has no stage presence, and is in fact one of the ones I’d pegged to fall apart on the main stage. How nice to see I was right? She’s just pacing, it’s boring, and oh god, did I mention a country version? Dad must be having kittens about now. She ends with this “I’m so country I swear!” flourish, she spent most of the song racing ahead of the fiddles, and look. If we slammed Robbie for fake rock, can we PLEASE slam her for fake country?

    Oh, judges. Tell me how you feel. Randy’s doing the laughing which is bad thing. Vocally? Bad. Country jig would have been cool, but… naaw dawg, not good. Paula finds the Laurie Morgan in it, which good for her – but she is solemn and grim in her dislike. She flat out says she doesn’t like it and sounds sad for it, and explains that there’s listening to the judges and then there’s slavish devotion without thought. Seriously, what happened to Paula? She’s way lucid tonight! Simon, of course, thought it was horrendous, and it’s hard to disagree. Simon does note it was brave, but it was simply foolish. Kristy makes the mistake of stepping up here to say she likes it.

    Ryan wants to know how you can tell someone to go country one week, then the next hate that they did it. Which, valid point and one I’m sure many folks might ask. Simon says that the arrangement of the song was hideous – and given we know what powerful say the contestants have over arrangement, it is a valid point/critique. There’s a thing in having a country style, and then badly changing a song. Ryan asks Paula if Simon just gave bad advice, and Randy likes the attempt to stir shit (wtf Randy? It’s not a playground), and Paula dodges, Ryan tries to focus on Paula and tells Simon when he’s host he can figure out how to bounce around, and offers to build him the old set in his backyard to play on. The hell, again? Ryan very much puts Paula on the spot and asks if she can make it through, and Paula diplomatically says Kristy has a large fan base.

    Look, I get what Ryan was trying to do here. The judges were hard on Kristy – it’s rare that even Paula will come right out and say she doesn’t like something – and he was trying to give her a minute to compose herself before cutting to the numbers. This is his job, and he’s very good at reading the contestants. And even clarifying what went wrong between Simon’s advice and implementation is a good idea, from a show/procedure point of view. But this bickering? Needs to stop – it makes them all look bad.

    David Archuleta shows us cute pictures of him as a kid, blah and etc. He’s apparently not familiar with these songs, which… heresy! Burn him at the stakes! But okay, he’s nervous. Let’s see what happens. He’s singing We Can Work It Out, and walking down the stairs onto the stage, which… oh dear. Starts out with a foul note and then he forgot the lyrics. Ouch. Another bad note, too. And… is he continually missing lyrics, or just cutting out? Wow. This is a bad performance, and in the pimp spot, too. The arrangement is bad, the ending glory note is… wow. Poor kid. He goes into commentary with a clear “I fucked it” look on his face. It’s early enough in the competition that it won’t hurt him, but it doesn’t bode well for future performances. I’ve been saying for the last week that I actually thought he was going to lose momentum and start making mistakes on the main stage, and tonight I have to wonder how much of that is coming from being forced to sing a song he hasn’t been singing since he was 10 years old – how is he at prepping on short notice? Answer appears to be: not very good.

    Judges? Randy verifies he’s a fan, but clearly says it was a forced, bad performance – and that he should have stayed away from the Stevie version of the song. Paula agrees; he forgot the lyrics, he can’t let that show, and it just wasn’t a good performance. Simon tells him it was a mess – forgot the lyrics, shouldn’t have done the Stevie version, and it was by far his worst.

    Now, to his credit, he took the critique a lot better than I was expecting. Shrugged it off, said he wasn’t terribly sure about doing the song, but he had fun. Still – it does not bode well for him.

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