Watching last night’s episode of American Idol, it occurred to me that we’ve yet to see any of these contestants sing anything that’s less than eighteen years old. Think about it: the semi-finals forced the singers to stick to the ’60s, ’70s, and ultimately the ’90s, and now we’ve been stuck with two, count ’em, two weeks of Beatles tunes. It was cool last week, but this time around, it was all kind of lame. The arrangements were worse, the singing was uninspired, and the entire conceit was simply tired. I’m ready to see this show head into a more current direction —  if only to see what David Archuletta must do when faced with a non-adult-contemporary tune.

I can’t say I particularly loved any singer last night. Carly Smithson was probably the best with her version of “Blackbird,” which is a song I generally despise (too damn folksy for me). I was actually shocked that Simon panned her, calling her “indulgent” among other things, but then again, I was completely out of sync with the cranky Brit all night (a rarity, I must admit). I similarly did not agree that David Archuletta’s take on “The Long And Winding Road” was a “master class,” as Simon said. I actually thought it was boring and forgettable. However, I was happy for the unmitigated praise, if only to see David Archuletta return to full on “OH MAN!” giggle-fest mode.
I also disagreed with Simon on the whole David Cook / vocoder issue. I liked the use of the Frampton-esque effect. It added a funky classic rock edge to the tune. Every week, I have a hard time admitting that David Cook is really good. It pretty much all boils down to that awful, awful hair of his. I just want to take a comb and push it back. I mean, it’s terrible. My guess is that it’s his way of compensating for a receding hairline (don’t think we don’t notice the thinning in the back). He’s in a tough bind because if he shaves it off, he’ll draw too many comparisons to Chris Daughtry. But if he keeps it as is, he’ll just look idiotic. I mean, every single time he walks out on stage, I want to fast forward. Thankfully for him, he’s talented enough to override the aesthetic errors atop his head. Maybe he should just embrace the hairline. There’ve been plenty of others who’ve followed suit: Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Michael Bolton. Hmmm… this isn’t really helping my case. Moving on…
Also falling into the whole “kinda lookin’ strange” category was Ramiele, or Rambutan as I call her, who came out in full ladyboy glory. She’s a perfectly cute girl, but when she wears anything slightly androgynous (a.k.a. a bizarre button-down shirt with pants and a fedora), she starts to look like a little drag queen boy. Unlike David Cook though, she wasn’t able to distract us away from her appearance. Rambutan again faltered this week, delivering a warbly, uneven, and kind of awful performance. Oh Rambutan, we put so much faith in you. Why? WHY?
Not helping Rambutan at all was her annoying, harmonica arrangement —  something we’d had our fill of with Chikezie’s song. For some reason, he felt the pressure to use an instrument last night, and so he integrated a strange little harmonica interlude into his already bizarre song. Memo to contestants: this is NOT the time to experiment with new instruments. I didn’t think he was awful with the harmonica, but the risk wasn’t worth the reward. Plus, honestly, the song was kind of a mess. The first half, he was out of tune and restrained. The second half, he sounded good, but the whole country element sounded like an unimaginative retread from last week. I’ve come to really like Chikezie, but this was a total step backwards.
Also going backwards was Brooke White, who’d been getting better and better each week. Her performance of “Here Comes the Sun” was strange and annoying, and I’ll just say that in her dress, she looked like an oversized marshmallow Peeps. And then there was the twirl. Oh that twirl. It was 360 degrees of pure awkwardness. I think it would have been more graceful to have watched Julie Chen pirouetting to Iron Maiden. Afterwards, when Brooke faced the judges, things went from bad to worse. She simply would not SHUT UP. She seems to think that the critiques are a conversation. They’re not. Just smile and nod! Instead, babbling Brooke repeatedly yammered on about this and that, sometimes talking right over the judges. DAMMIT, LISTEN TO THEM!
I vastly enjoyed Amanda Overmyer’s judge banter much more. She also was given some harsh critiques, but afterwards, she made the salient point that hey, she’s just showing America what you’d see at one of her shows. Of course, Simon had the best comeback of the night when he reminded her that the tickets ain’t on sale just yet. Nevertheless, Amanda wasn’t up to her usual badass self last night, thanks in part to a middling song choice in “Back to the U.S.S.R.” (I was hoping she’d do “Instant Karma”). As a result, her performance felt a bit rote and uninspired. She did, however, get more in touch with her rocker side as she pumped up the crowd and announced that ballads are boring. RAH!!!! I was so wound up I almost slipped on my acid washed jeans, teased my hair up two feet, and waddled around my living room like a crazy person.
As for our other rocker, Michael Johns certainly got thrown over to coals last night. I was secretly hoping someone would do “A Day In The Life,” but he was the last person I expected. His voice is too growly and, um, limited for such a song. But he tackled it, and you know what? I didn’t think it was that bad. Yeah, it was strange, especially in the way that it was all edited together, but I’d say that 80% of his performance was pretty good. He lost it towards the end though. Oh well. I agree that it’s been a while since he’s connected with a song, but I wouldn’t call this performance a mess, as Simon did. I would have to give Michael Johns the Danny Noreiga “I Guess Some People Weren’t Likin’ It” award of the night.
I also thought Jason Castro got a little bit of a bum rap for his sweet and charming rendition of “Michelle.” I mean, it’s a cute little ditty. It matched his style perfectly. He’s not the greatest vocalists always, but his performance always sells the song, and at this stage, that’s what I care most about.
And speaking of selling a song, Syesha finally put her acting experience to good use and sold the hell out of “Yesterday.” To be honest, when I saw that she was going to be singing that song, I moaned. I don’t know why. I think it’s just the thought of Syesha and “Yesterday” is just so… precious. To her credit though, she did a great job. One of the best of the night. She seemed fairly connected with the song; although, part of me felt her emotional expressions were a tad disingenuous. I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was trying for a Fantasia moment, but hey, I’d rather her try that pull off a blank, soulless cover.
Speaking of which…
This brings us to Kristy Lee Cook, who actually started off “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” surprisingly well. For once, I thought she was going to show us that something special we all saw back in the auditions. And then she hit the chorus. Oh man…
The poor girl couldn’t hit a low note even if her wayward horse’s life depended on it. Plus, she seemed completely unable to sing “HEY!” with any sort of conviction. Yes, after she reached that chorus, it all fell apart for her. Just another cringe-worthy performance for the KLC. For the record, I still say she should play up her sex appeal. She’s sitting on a goldmine!
To Kristy’s credit though, she did have the best line of the night. When faced with further criticism from Simon, she emphatically yelled, “I can blow you out of your socks, and you know it!” This was slightly better than her previously planned response, “I WILL FUCK YOU!” Nevertheless, Kristy’s double-entendre led to giggles all around, and provided a dose of light Kelly Pickler fun to the proceedings. The Pickle, by the way, will be performing on tonight’s results show. Here’s to hoping she’s gotten rid of that soccer mom hairstyle.
What did you think about the top 11?