Tonight, the Top 10 guys take to the stage on American Idol. We'll see how they do -- and what this week's theme is.
Judge Randy Jackson hopes the guys' nerves are gone now that they're through the first week, and Paula Abdul says they are finding their comfort level. Simon says everyone needs to "be better."
And this week's theme is: the 1970s. Wow, what a departure from last week!
Michael Johns interviews about his love for tennis and how it helps keep him centered. He sings Fleetwood Mac's "You Can Go Your Own Way." He's a little bouncy and overly dependent on the vibrato for my tastes, but let's turn to the judges. Randy says it wasn't his best, but he got into it and let go. Paula says he's "consistent, consistent" and has the whole crowd behind him. Simon: "Michael, it was OK; it was by far your weakest performance in the whole competition so far." He says he didn't have "a moment." Michael says it's been a dream of his to sing a Fleetwood Mac song, so, regardless of what Simon has to say, it was the right choice for him.
Jason Castro is very low-key and doesn't seem to enjoy the whole interview process, calling himself out for making weird faces because he doesn't know what to say. On stage, he's got his guitar again, and he sings "I Just Want to Be Your Everything." The guitar de-discos it a little, which works in his favor in terms of Simon's favorite "relevance" argument. Randy says that, minus the guitar, the vocals were only "OK." Paula thinks it was a clever choice but that next week, she'd like to see him without the guitar. Simon: "I thought the song was horrible." He says it was schmaltzy and didn't suit him at all. "You didn't do yourself any favors tonight." Well, so much for my interpretation. Heh.
Luke Menard says he's part of an a capella group called Chapter 6 and that he loves the challenge because you have to be "flawless." He says it was the best preparation for AI. On stage, he sings Queen's "Killer Queen." He is ... not flawless. Nor is he "fastidious and precise," as the lyrics go. Randy says he picked a very difficult song and that this seemed more like his vibe, and that despite some pitch problems, it was good. Paula is glad he had a good week. Simon says: "It was a mistake. ... You're always going to be judged with the original. ... You suffered by the comparison." He adds that it was "theatrical and verging on whiny." I feel like I watched a different performance than the judges (except maybe Simon). I even went back and watched it again, and I just really think an a capalla group singer should not have that many problems blending with backing singers.
Robbie Carrico talks to Ryan about how he has to prove his authenticity to Simon. In the interview, he says a surprising fact about him is that he drag-races cars (at tracks, not on the street). He hits the stage to sing "Hot Blooded." Randy says he's not totally sure that Robbie has enough "uuuuuhhhh" (my best approximation) to be true rock. Paula says no one knows who you are but you. But she says he played it a little safe this week and that he lost his "character" somewhat in it. She suggests that he "up the ante." Simon says he doesn't have to get that defensive and that he thought the vocal was pretty good tonight. Robbie says he's just trying to absorb it all and step it up every week.
Danny Noriega interviews that something unexpected about him is that he was in a punk-rock band in the ninth grade. On stage, he sings "Superstar," and it's decent but not super-engaging. Randy says he's a fan because Danny's such a fun guy, but that there were some problems with the song vocally. "I felt like you were thinking while you were singing every line. ... Let it go." Paula says he has amazing vocal skill, but he needs to take a deep breath "and forget about us ... just perform." Simon says this was better than last week's disaster. He agrees that he was overconcentrating. Danny tells Ryan that he agrees that last week was a disaster, even though he gave Simon the head-bob about it. Simon says, "So you agree with me?" Danny: "-ish." Hee.
David Hernandez says he was in gymnastics when he was a kid and that he was pretty good at it back then. He comes out to sing "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." I really like his voice and I think he handles the song pretty well (with a little bobble on the final note). Paula gives him a standing o. Randy: "Now this is the David Hernandez that we fell in love with. ... That's how to put it down, show your personality, all those vocal skills." Paula says his voice pierces right to the heart and the notes are "right in the pocket. ... Perfect." Simon: "David, this may surprise you, but in my opinion, that was the best vocal of the night so far. ... I like that when you get some criticism, you don't sulk; you treat it as a challenge."
Jason Yeager says he plays multiple instruments, and he's largely self-taught. He sings the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'." This is a good match for his voice, I think, and a step up from last week's "Moon River." His delivery is still a little cheeseball, but it's still an improvement. Randy says the 1970s are one of the best times in music and that this song didn't do him justice because it's not a singer's song. He says it was a little karaoke and kind of pitchy. Paula says, "From last week to this week, it was good to see this side of you." She says the song doesn't have a lot of notes, so it didn't show off his voice. Simon: "Last week was boring, this week was awkward and ordinary." He adds that the end was corny and that overall, he's "a quite good singer who can't perform." Jason says he thought about it long and hard and tried to dance and have fun this week.
Chikezie says his "crazy name" is Nigerian and that the true pronunciation got dropped a long time ago, but he's used to it now. He sings "I Believe to My Soul," and it's all right, but I'm not that into it. Randy disagrees, saying, "Chikezie is BACK! ... This is the guy we fell in love with." Paula says it was brilliant and really fun. Simon says he looks better, he sounded better, it was a good choice of song, and that "it was a million times better than last week." Simon says Chikezie must have watched the tape of himself after the show last week and seen "the horrorshow that was you." He responds that the biggest problem was that he let Simon get to him and that kind of messed him up. He says he loves his suit and he would wear it again, but not on TV because you can't do a replay: "Only you do that!" He tells Ryan that he lucked out beacuse the theme had one of his favorite songs, by Donny Hathaway, and also that one of the backup singers is Hathaway's daughter Kenya.
David Cook says that he is a word nerd, which I can totally relate to. He comes out on stage bearing an electric guitar to perform "All Right Now." He manages to play to the crowd and work the guitar and stage without being too self-indulgent. Randy: "Listen, to me, you're the real rocker of the boys this year. ... I really liked this." Paula says he's the real deal, and, "You've got it!" She calls it very smart, fun and relevant. Simon: "David, it was solid, it was sort of believable. I don't think that film helped you. Tennis to drag racing to ... crosswords." He adds that he doesn't have any charisma, which is a problem. David backtalks and says then that it's good he doesn't have to win Simon over. Oh, just shut up and go sing some more! This is the part where you get judged.
David Archuleta is last up. He says that when he was 11, he got to meet all the season one finalists and sing for them. He's going to sing "Imagine." He just has a lovely, pure voice, and I think I could listen to him all day. Randy: "Dog, that's one of the best vocals I've ever heard on this show. ... You were born to do exactly what you're doing there." Paula, bawling: "David, you are ridiculous, I want to just squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rearview mirror. Honest to God, that was one of the most beautiful songs ever written and one of the most moving performances I've ever heard. You're destined for superstardom." Simon says it is very, very risky to take on John Lennon, but it worked. He says David is the one to beat, and there are 19 very miserable other contestants.
Montage of the night's performances, which reminds us that the three Davids did pretty darned good jobs tonight. Who were your favorites, and who do you think is at risk of getting the boot on Thursday?
(Photo of Michael Johns courtesy of Fox)