On tonight's American Idol, the Top 10 take to the stage to take on songs from "The Year They Were Born."
Well, I guess we're getting a little closer to modern songs. Kind of. I guess, really, it's mostly just 1980s night again.
Ramiele Malubay is up first. She was born in 1987, and her song is "Alone" by Heart. It is, of course, a huge song, but she belts it out and reminds us of the big voice that got her this far to start with. Judge Randy Jackson mentions that she's under the weather, but that regardless, it wasn't the right choice as far as he is concerned. Judge Paula Abdul says, "I give you a tremendous amount of credit and brave [sic]" for going through with it despite being sick. Judge Simon Cowell says, "I don't think it was as bad as Randy said. I thought the first part of the song was OK." He adds that if she survived on last week's "appalling" performance, she will be fine with this one.
Jason Castro was also born in 1987, and he chooses Sting's "Fragile." He's back with the guitar and looking a lot more comfortable. It's a lovely song, and he does well with it, but it's not a huge departure or anything. Randy says it was a very good choice of song, though he didn't do anything new with it, but still: "It was nice." Paula says he's staying true to who he is and his niche, but there wasn't a big wow factor. Simon says he's had two bad weeks, "and I think it's time for you to start taking this seriously." He compares it to someone busking outside the subway station. "You're not going to win if you keep doing that week after week."
Syesha Mercado is another 1987 baby. She sings "If I Were Your Woman." Except she sings it "If I was your woman ..." at the beginning (sorry, subjunctive!), but she goes back to "were" halfway through. (Hmm, upon doing a little research, it appears that Alicia Keys might have ditched the subjunctive on this song first. But enough about the grammar.) I think this is one of Syesha's best performances, especially lately. Randy says, "This is the best I have ever heard you sing, including when you auditioned. It was stellar, it was unbelievable. I am shocked." Paula says this is going to be the moment that everyone remembers as when "Syesha flipped it" and became a contender. Simon agrees that it was the best so far, but he thinks she was reaching her limit toward the end of the song.
Chikezie was born in 1985, and he sings "If Only for One Night." He tells Ryan beforehand that he was scared off of ballads for a while after getting ripped by the judges a couple of weeks ago, but he decided to follow his heart this week and sing something that was important to him. His voice sounds pretty good, especially after he warms up a bit, but for some reason the performance still doesn't do much for me. Randy says this came from a "very old-school" place and that he didn't love it. He missed the vibe and energy from some of Chikezie's other performances. Paula says he's a throwback, but "a good throwback." "I think that you did a great job." Simon says, "I think you sang it well. Having said that, the performance was actually very cheesy." After silencing the "wrap-it-up" music, Simon adds that he didn't see any originality.
Brooke White is a 1983 baby, and her song is "Every Breath You Take." Like Jason, she's decided to go back to her instrument, so she's behind the piano. She starts the first couple of words, then stops and starts again from the beginning. Once she starts, though, she's pretty good, though she starts rushing it toward the end. (I almost hate to bring this up, but doesn't her left hand look really odd? It looks pruney, like she was in the bath for too long, or like maybe she has a glove on or something? I've never noticed it before, and I'm a little perplexed.) Randy says he liked the first part, but he didn't love the arrangement toward the middle or end. Paula: "I enjoyed this performance so much more than last week's." She says Brooke has her own niche and her own voice, and she appreciates her consistency. Simon agrees with Randy, especially about the band joining in toward the end, which he says made it sound old-fashioned. Still, he says, she will be fine and through to next week.
Michael Johns is the first non-1980s person of the night -- he was born in 1978. He's taking on "two Queen classics." In 90 seconds? The first one is "We Will Rock You," and after a couple of lines, he launches into "We Are the Champions." I think he was right to go back to Queen (which he did so memorably in Hollywood week). This was his best in a while (as evidenced by the audience going crazy). Randy: "That was the best performance for me since you've been on this show." Paula says this was his moment, "and I'm so proud of you." Simon: "Michael, this is the first time with you that I've seen star potential. You just got it right. ... For me, it's the only memorable performance of the night so far."
Carly Smithson was born in 1983, and she's taking on "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I think she made the right choice with this song -- it really suits her range -- but the wrong choice with her final note(s). Randy says it was an interesting song choice, and that he didn't love the note at the end. "I don't like the whole rock thing," he adds. Paula thinks he's crazy and says Carly could take any song Paula didn't really like and make her a believer. But then I think Paula's crazy because she gives Carly credit for that last awful note. "That run at the end was not in tune, Paula," Randy rightly points out. Simon says that something didn't quite work. He says she seemed uptight and tense, which prevented him from enjoying the performance.
David Archuleta was born in 1990 (I am so old), and he's going to sing "You're the Voice," which I am pretty sure I've never heard before. (But hey, 1990 had some rough choices: Imagine if he'd gone with something off of 1990's Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em.) It's a big song and suits his big voice, though the song itself is fairly cheesy and doesn't feel too modern even though it's the newest song we'll be hearing tonight. Randy says it was a strange song choice, "but if you can sing, you can sing whatever." Paula says she was also confused by the song choice, but that he "could sing the phone book." Simon says he sang it well in parts, but, "I actually didn't like the performance at all. I thought it was reminiscent of a theme-park performance. It was one of those ghastly songs you sing with animated characters around you, and everyone joins in."
Kristy Lee Cook was born in 1984, and she is going to sing "God Bless the U.S.A." Are you kidding me? Come ON. Is this a "ghastly" Fourth of July parade in some small town? I take back what I said about David's song being cheesy. This is the cheesiest song in the history of the known universe. I can scarcely bring myself to critique her performance, but, uh, her last note was nice. Randy says it was "a great song choice, I love that song." He thought it was a great performance. Paula says she has heard better performances from her, but her voice is getting stronger. Simon says this was her best performance by a mile. "That was the most clever song choice I have heard in years. ... That's going to keep you in the competition." I have had a lot of Twilight Zone moments recapping this show, but this one might take the cake.
David Cook is a 1982 baby, and he is going to sing "Billie Jean." Yes, that one. But not in a Michael Jackson-ish way at all; it's a rock-ballad take on the song. His voice sounds good, but it's a little weird to me. He's definitely making it his own, but it doesn't seem to have much in common with the original. No one seems to mind that much, though. Randy calls him the most original, most bold contestant ever, and adds that with that performance, he might win the whole thing. Paula says he's brilliant, and she thinks he can win this. Simon: "David, that was brave. It could have either been insane or amazing, and I have to tell you, it was amazing." He's very happy with that, as you would imagine.
Who's in danger? Who's got it made? Who made you go, "Huh?" (Or was that just me?)