Tonight on American Idol, the finalists are taking on the songs of Neil Diamond. Wait, it gets better. Each one will sing two songs. Don't get overwhelmed by the hipness!

The contestants won't hear judges' comments until after both performances.


Jason Castro gives an acoustic guitar performance of "Forever in Blue Jeans." It's nice, but the usual -- sounds like exactly what it is, an acoustic performance of an old-fashioned song.

David Cook gives Neil Diamond goosebumps with his practice performance of "I'm Alive," which is not a super-well-known song. He rocks out, and it's his usual, too, but nothing really memorable.

Brooke White sings "I'm a Believer" for her first song. I get that she's trying to have fun, but ... how can you hear this song without thinking of the Monkees?

They are rushing through the performances, and in case you can't tell, it's pretty lame so far. And it's odd without the breaks for the judges to talk.

David Archuleta starts off with "Sweet Caroline" (dun-dun-dun!). Are we surprised he does pretty well with it? He's sweet and goofy; the song is sweet and goofy. It's a perfect match. Modern? No. Pleasant? Sure.

Syesha Mercado sings "Hello Again." It's nice, she's good, probably won't hear it on the radio any time soon.

After round one, Randy Jackson tells Jason he was "OK," says David Cook was "in the zone," Brooke was "a little karaoke," David A. was "the bomb" and Syesha was "in the zone, too." Paula Abdul says Jason's lower register was nice and then starts talking about his second song, which he hasn't even sung yet. She says, "I thought you sang twice." Simon sums it up: "Jason, forgettable, David Cook, just above average, Brooke, a nightmare, David Archuleta, amateurish, Syesha, I thought it was old-fashioned."

Here's hoping round two is more fun ...

Jason's back with "September Morn," and it's pretty bad. Randy says, "That was just another OK whatever performance for me." Paula says he took "the same liberty with each song," and he is being safe. Simon says they don't recognize him because he hasn't made any attempt to make the songs his own.

David Cook performs "All I Really Need is You." And ... it's a David Cook take on the song -- he turns it into a rock ballad. Randy says he "rocked the house tonight." Paula says she's proud of him, and that she feels like she is already looking at the American Idol. Simon says he thought the first song was "OK" and the second song was "brilliant." "You actually made it feel like that song was written this year. ... Well done."

Brooke sings "I Am, I Said" while in front of the piano. Remember all those previews of AI that ran during the Super Bowl with Brooke performing during Hollywood Week? She's basically in the exact same place now as then, only maybe a little bit more nervous. But also, I think her singer-songwriter-ly vibe isn't served by these darned themes. It's harder to make an older song sound modern when your sound isn't edgy to start with, you know? Randy says she did a nice job. Paula says she connected with the audience and that this really worked. Simon says he really, really hated the first song, but that "this is the Brooke we like. ... It wasn't incredible, but it was a million times better than the first song."

And immediately, here's David Archuleta with "America." (Of course.) Vocally, it's pretty great and shows off his strengths. Randy calls it "another good performance." Paula says this was the perfect song for him. Simon says, "That was a smart choice of song, that was clever. ... It was absolutely the right choice, check-check-check."

Syehsa closes the show with "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." And that's a good choice, too, because it's upbeat and infectious, and she turns it into kind of a girl-group song, which is fun. Randy says she is finally realizing who she is. Paula calls Syesha Brooke and says that she loved the vulnerable side she showed in the first song, and that in the second song ... she liked it. But I don't know how she said it. Simon says it's pretty chaotic and strange tonight. But he says that tonight she showed she is a good actress/singer, but he thinks she might be in trouble tonight because he doesn't think she had a memorable second song like some of the others. Yes, this really is a strange night.

My regular readers know I hate filler, but it really was tough for them to cram 10 performances into one hour, and it made the whole show strange. That said, I think this was one of the worst themes the contestants have had to deal with. I'm so over this season and the weird themes!


Who do you think is in danger of going home? I'm going to say Jason and Brooke again even though that didn't remotely come to pass last week.

(Photo by Michael Becker / Fox)