On tonight's American Idol, the Top 8 take to the stage, and the theme is "inspirational songs" to tie in with tomorrow night's "Idol Gives Back" special. Maybe we will hear some somewhat recent songs, since every theme thus far has left the contestants singing nothing like you'd hear on any pop station today. By the way, no results tomorrow; that's put off until Thursday, so there's even more AI this week. Oh, goody.
Michael Johns is the first up, and his choice for the night is Aerosmith's "Dream On." He performs with a paisley scarf around his neck, which is a nice nod to Steven Tyler's love of tying scarves on the mike stand. His performance is on point and pretty entertaining, though I don't know that I would have gone for the falsetto scream (were I to possess falsetto) as the closer. But he gets the audience pumped. Judge Randy Jackson says this was a "pretty good song choice, but it had some pitch problems. ... I don't buy you are anyway as an Aerosmith. That's not the singer you are to me." Michael says he had to sing this song because living in America and being on this show is his dream come true. Paula Abdul says she couldn't disagree more and that it was a perfect song choice. "And the high notes you hit, I think my chihuahuas are going to come join you on stage," she adds, though she means it in a nice way. Simon Cowell says, "I thought it was a very good performance. ... I thought it was a little big wannabe-ish, so I didn't like it as much as last week."
Syesha Mercado talks with Ryan Seacrest about missing Ramiele, who had been her roommate since Hollywood Week. Her song choice for this week is "I Believe" by Fantasia. She kicks it on the high notes, but the whole beginning part, which requires a little more finesse, is pretty rough. She also goes for a possibly-too-much high note. Randy gives her credit for "taking on another tiger this week." He says it was "just OK." Paula says not many people can take on songs like that, and that Syesha flipped it a little and made it her own, closing by saying, "This is one of your most shining nights." Simon says technically, Syesha sang it very well, but "what it lacked was that big wave of emotion. ... I actually want to find out who you are all about."
Jason Castro is going to take on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," as done by "Brother Iz," I assume meaning Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Jason plays the ukulele and sings, and it's pleasant, but I don't really feel there's that much depth to his performance this week. The audience does not agree with me. Neither does Randy, who calls it "blazing, molten hot" and the best so far of the night. Paula says, "Honest to God, it was the perfect song, and I love that version." Simon says the first time he heard that version, he wasn't sure, but the second time, "loved it; third time: fantastic." I liked the uke playing, and the strings coming in from the band, but personally, I didn't think this was his strongest vocal.
Kristy Lee Cook is going to sing "Anyway" by Martina McBride. She has the same issue as Syesha -- the big notes are actually strong, but the quieter ones are kind of off. Still, this is probably the best she's done in a while. Randy says she had some "pitch moments," but he loved it. Paula tells him to leave the pitch moments alone, and says she outdid herself: "This was your best by far. ... Excellent." Simon says, "With a choice this broad, you have a chance to show who you are as an artist, and I think you did very well indeed." He adds that she looks like a star tonight. Paula says that she sang "unbelievably." Simon says, "It wasn't unbelievable; it was good."
David Cook says he's singing "Innocent" by his favorite band, Our Lady Peace. And I really think it doesn't work out that well for him at all. The song has some pitch changes that work just fine for the lead singer of Our Lady Peace, but they don't translate well in this performance. Also, David closes singing at the judges' table and then flashes his hand, which says "give back," to the camera at the end. OK, Bono. It's just a little much. Randy says he's a big fan of his, but, "I'm not sure this was one of your strongest weeks. I didn't really get it." Paula disagrees, saying this week is "no exception" to his previous strong performances. "You are it. ... And I believe in you so much." Simon says, "I didn't like this performance very much at all. I think it was a teensy weensy bit pompous. ... It just wasn't anywhere near the past two weeks." Paula says it was nice to have the message written on his hand, and Simon agrees that that was nice.
Carly Smithson is taking on Queen's "The Show Must Go On." Her vocals are pretty strong, but she kind of glosses over "the" in "the show must go on" every time during the chorus, so it feels a little Tarzan-ish. "Me Carly. You audience. SHOW MUST GO ON." It's distracting! Randy says it started out good, got pitchy in the middle and ended up "OK." Paula (who really, really needs to find a stylist who will dress her in things that actually fit her top half) says Carly's voice is, as always, "pretty perfect," but, "I didn't feel engaged with you." Simon says she looks good, but he thought the song choice was "unusual," and that she oversang it and lost control of the song, which came across as angry, which kind of works against the night's theme.
David Archuleta says he had a hard time choosing an inspirational song since he loves so many of them so much. But, he says, he decided on "Angels." He performs while playing the piano, and sells it big-time during the big notes. Randy says he loved it when David stopped playing and sang some runs, and that that was his best moment of the season. Paula says it was "fantastic." Simon says it was the best song choice of the night so far, even though it's not a hit here. He says even though it was a great performance, it was not his strongest vocal, but he's just nit-picking, and David is going to "sail through."
Brooke White is going to sing Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," off of Tapestry (and also made famous by James Taylor). While this seems like a slam-dunk choice for her, she seems kind of tentative or nervous or something. Randy says it wasn't her best performance, but it was "OK." Paula says her sister used to play this song again and again, and "you're definitive and I love you." All-rightly. Simon says it was "a pleasant walk in the park. ... Was it original? No. Was it pleasant? Yes. Thank you."
So who's in trouble? I don't even know anymore. I was on a different wavelength than the judges for a while there. I suspect, despite the nice vocals, Carly might be in the bottom three after not really connecting with the audience. What do you think? Who's going to head to the stools on Thursday?
(Photo of AI Top 8 by Michael Becker / Fox)