Idol Top Twelve Deliver Mixed Performances While Judges Give Canned Reviews

Find my latest American Idol article here.

Last night’s introduction to the final twelve contestants was uneven and confusing.  Since the episode two seasons ago when Katharine McPhee first sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,”(Note the correction in the comments) I have been convinced that the judges often enter the competitions (especially once we reach the top twelve) with preconceived ideas as to who should stay and who should go.  On that evening it was so bad that they had to backtrack and apologize on the results show.  Luckily, Katharine survived the verbal assault by the judges that evening.

Last night we were once again faced with evidence of preconceived ideas by the judges.  Ramiele (who I will comment on momentarily) once again sang a flat uninspired song that did nothing to showcase her vocal abilities.  Paula informed us that “even though it was safe and boring, she has a beautiful voice, and should go through.”  This was after three, count them three, contestants had performed.  How can a person make an objective observation after only three people had performed, and she was obviously the worst of the three?  What if all the other contestants after her delivered flawless performances?  This obviously cannot be a fair statement to deliver at this time in the show, and makes no sense unless Paula did not already think there were others who would be criticized more than Ramiele.  Later, Simon fell into the same trap.  He informed us that it was “good that Amanda was still in the competition.”  This is sounding more and more like a justification for why the choice of the “worsters” is still on the show. 

All of this led me to feel sorry for Kristy Lee Cook later in the show.  I, by no means think she is the best singer in the competition, and cannot be accused of having been overly kind to her in the past, but last night, she delivered a good, original version of a Beatles’ song that was the best thing she has done on the show yet.  The judges, their decisions predetermined, lowered the hammer in unison (Randy was kinder than the others).  Simon was unnecessarily and incorrectly cruel to her.  There were others who were obviously not as good as she was last night (including David Archuleta), but clearly the judges had already made their decision.  Unfortunately for her, last night’s performance was nowhere near the performance by McPhee referenced above, and she is not nearly the talent of McPhee.  She will probably not survive the judges’ verbal lashing.

On to my take:

Syesha Mecado- “Got to Get You Into My Life”- Once again she chose a song that was too low for her at the beginning.  It was a different version, but it did not sound good until she got to the “every single day” syncopation.  It was OK, but not great.  At the beginning of the season, I chose her as my top female, but she is consistently showing the audience an inability to choose a good song, little originality, a tendency to be safe and not show off her voice, and boring stage presence.  This is not a formula for success on Idol.  Simon seemed to love it, but I don’t know why.

Chikezie- “She’s a Woman”- Wow!  I loved the Southern/Rock version of this song, and would be happy to own a recording of it.  It was excellent, and definitely his best performance yet by a mile.  I thought it was the best vocal of the night.

I’ll give Paula props for a rare bit of insight when she described the song as a combination of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou and Rock.”  The other judges loved it too.

Ramiele- “In My Life”- Ramiele is consistently showing an ability to rip the emotion right out of any songs she sings.  The opening shot was awful.  Looking down on her like that, she came off as more of a lawn gnome than a stage performer.  I’m surprised I even made it to the end of the show because this performance put me to sleep.  Does she have pipes or not?  If she does, then show them.  I found it forgettable, forgettable and forgettable.  The judges agreed, though Paula still encouraged us to vote for her.

Jason Castro- “If I Fell”- His tone on this song was very nice, and his song, once again had a folksy quality to it.  Like Amanda, he is a one-trick-pony.  The difference is that his trick is a good one.  He should go further in the competition, but his style could never win.  It should be interesting if they have to sing a standard, or have “rock” night. 

Carly Smithson- “Come Together”- She is the most consistent performer in the competition.  Once again she showed a great voice, and a Beatles’ song suddenly sounded like a Heart song.  It thought it was recordable and the crowd as well as the judges loved it also.

David Cook- “Elinore Rigby”- Cook proves every week that any song, if adapted well, can sound good in an alternative rock version.  It was very good and he hit the big note.  I think he has survived the surliness that he displayed earlier in the competition, and could go far.  Paula called him a dark horse, and Simon loved it.

Brooke White- “Let it Be”- She played the piano on this song and sang well for the most part.  She was a little pitchy at times.  The song was a little safe and boring.  The difference between her and Ramiele was that she added inflection and emotion to the song.  Simon was a little too enthused with this one for me.

David Hernandez- “I Saw Her Standing There”- Terrible song choice that did nothing for his voice.  I hated the stage performance, but he sang the song well.  He needs to choose better music for his voice if he wants to go as far as he can.  A couple of times this evening, Paula found it necessary to tell us that she was not copying Randy’s answer.  This time, however, she copied his answer verbatim.  I thought it was funny.  Simon called it “Corny verging on desperate.”

Amanda Overmyer- “You Can’t Do That”- I find it hard to believe that she could not pick a Beatles’ song that I knew.  “Helter Skelter” or “Happiness is a Warm Gun” (I doubt Idol would allow this song, but it would be funny) would have been good rocker choices.  It was a mess, again.  She sounded like she had a mouth full of marbles as she screamed at me.  Absolutely no diction!  For me, it was the same old, same old.  I just don’t know how anyone would want to listen to her.

Randy loved it, and Simon, though he pointed out some of the problems with the song, said that she was “good for the competition.”  This is more and more coming off like Idol is trying to spin her continued success on the show as a reflection of her actual talent rather than a reflection of the fact that she has been chosen by the “Worsters.”  These people have no illusions about who is the worst on the show.  I checked this morning and she is still their candidate.

Michael Johns- “Across the Universe”- He sang this song well, and it suited his voice nicely.  The judges like it too, but Randy found it “a little sleepy.”

Kristy Lee Cook- “Eight Days a Week”- I really liked the country version of this song.  She was off tempo in the beginning, but fought through it well.  When her voice broke, in a country way, it was the best that it has sounded yet.  It was unexpected and had a good ending.  Paula and Simon hated it (see the beginning for analysis of this).

David Archuleta- “We Can Work It Out”- You are not going to make a lot of friends in the music business by criticizing the Beatles, but this can probably be attributed to the ignorance of youth.  What cannot be so easily explained away was this train-wreck of a performance.  He forgot the words, twice, and sort of fell apart.  Regardless of that, the style did not suit him at all, and the performance as a whole was bad.  It was easily the worst performance of the night, but rest assured, he will not pay the price for his mistake.  His “aw shucks” attitude has already earned him too many fans for him to go home at this point.  The judges were not kind, but he probably deserved worse than he got.  The important thing for the other contestants is that he showed he was beatable.  He proved that he can choose as bad a song as anyone else, and forgetting the words as he did shows either a lack of practice, or worse, an inability to quickly learn new songs (Idol death).  Another performance like that might even be enough to send him home.

 

I look at American Idol as a “what have you done for me lately?” forum.  I try to judge each week’s performance on its own merits, but like anyone I am also influenced by past performances.  For this reason, I don’t think Archuleta has anything to worry about.  If I had my choice, I would send the perennially disappointing Ramiele home, but it we will probably see the last of Kristy Lee Cook tonight.

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2 Responses

  1. Actually, Katharine McPhee received scathing reviews from the judges for “I Have Nothing”, a Whitney Houston song written by David Foster. Simon made a public apology to her on the results show the following night. And it probably didn’t help Simon’s case that David and Andrea Bocelli were the mentors that week, and absolutely fell in love with Katharine and her version of the song. And Katharine never sang “Somewhere Out There”.

  2. Sorry to tell you this, but the number of votes that “Vote For The Worst” contributed to the 29 million votes this week is insignificant. They never mattered, and they still don’t.
    And Amanda is hardly the worst of this bunch, she’s not even close.
    At least I agree with you about Katharine McPhee. She was on the results show tonight, and looked and sounded amazing. She basically took this years’ group to school.

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