It's top three time on tonight's American Idol. And that means three songs apiece, too, as each contestant will sing a judge's choice, a producers' choice and their own choice song.
(Random celeb sighting: It's Lloyd -- aka Rex Lee -- from Entourage in the audience! And there's Justin Guarini.)
First round is judge's choice.
David Archuleta will be singing Paula Abdul's choice, "And So It Goes" by Billy Joel. She says she picked it to showcase his vocals and because it has a level of difficulty she knew he could handle. His voice sounds nice, as usual, but for the first part, he sings with no backing, then some violins, but the tempo is a little weird -- it seems so much slower without the piano in the original. When the piano comes in later, it helps a lot. Randy Jackson says, "Paula chose a dope song. ... You are in the zone, you are in it to win it, baby." Paula calls is "a pure and stunning performance" and says he was a storyteller. Simon Cowell says it was good, but "no surprises and a bit predictable."
Syesha Mercado is assigned "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys, and she is excited. She does a really nice job with it, but all it makes me think is how nice it would have been to have seen these contestants singing current songs for the entire season. (Pardon the broken record syndrome.) Randy says she did an amazing job and he's so happy she peaked at the right time in the competition, and, "That's why you're standing there number three." (Hey, did he just say she's already come in third place? I don't think it's that much of a foregone conclusion!) Paula says she did a great job with something so identifiable with another artist. Simon says it was great, but he does wish Randy had picked something she could change up a little more. Randy says she did change a lot. And Simon closes by saying that she looks gorgeous.
David Cook will be singing Roberta Flack's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," as chosen by Simon. Simon says it's one of the great songs of all time and he wanted to give David a chance to show some originality. It starts out a little weak, maybe too much in his higher register, but he gets more into it and really shows off his voice in an unencumbered kind of way as it goes on. Randy says he can sing anything, and he loved the high note at the end, but he wishes that Simon hadn't picked an older song for him. Heh. Paula reminds us that it's about the contestants and says it's one of her favorite songs, and he's now the second favorite performer of it. Simon says it was one of his best performances. "This is what makes you brilliant -- you take risks. ... Round one goes to Cook and Cowell."
Round two is constestants' choices.
David Archuleta has chosen "With You" by Chris Brown because he wanted to give something new a shot. And ... it's not bad. It's a little weird to see him doing an upbeat R&B song and kind of dancing after all these ballad-y weeks, but you won't see me complaining about something unexpected. (Hey look, it's Gavin DeGraw in the audience.) Randy gives him credit for trying something new but found it a little odd to watch him singing, "My boo." Paula thought it was perfect and in the right tone for his voice. "I think you did a great job." Simon also applauds him for not doing a "treacly ballad," but it was "a little like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger. ... It was all a little bit awkward."
Syesha Mercado's song is Peggy Lee's "Fever," and she plans to work the chair in the middle of the stage. Oh yeah, somebody is angling for a Broadway career. She is not messing around tonight, and she does a great performance yet again. Randy says it was an interesting song choice, but she "sang it amazingly well." Paula is surprised at the choice because she's not sure it shows "who Syesha is as an artist." Simon says she will probably regret that decision because she could have proven she was a contemporary recording artist, and instead, "you did a rather lame cabaret performance."
David Cook is going with Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move." He has another slow start -- the beginning doesn't do a lot for him, but he kind of gets more into his element at the end. Not his best, though. Randy says it was a great song choice (and he name checks his friend in the band), but that performance-wise, it wasn't his best: "It was a little pitchy, baby." Paula says she knows it's hard to get all of a four-minute song into 90 seconds, and the challenge is to give the audience a beginning, middle and end, and that it felt like he just got through the beginning, and then it was the end. "I wanted more," she says. Simon says all three had "an OK middle round."
Last is song choices from the producers.
David Archuleta returns with Dan Fogelberg's "Longer." I guess the producers didn't want to see whether he could do anything besides ballads. It's sweet and nice and the usual, but not unexpected or contemporary. Randy says it was an interesting song choice ("for me for you"), but vocally he was "in the zone." Paula says it was "very lovely." Simon says he sang the song very well, however he thought the song and lyrics were "horrible" and "gooey." But he thinks David's still making the finals.
Syesha Mercado is back with "Hit Me Up" by Gia Farrell. I appreciate that they're giving her something modern to work with, but I don't think I've ever heard this song. Still, she handles the cheesy pop-song well. Randy says he could see her doing a song like that, but "it was just OK for me." Paula points out it is from the Happy Feet soundtrack. She says she isn't sure this is the type of song that defines Syesha as an artist, and she's afraid it's not going to be enough to get her into the finals. Simon says nothing this week has surpassed her Sam Cooke song last week, and that he would have liked to see a "defining moment" this week.
David Cook sings "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." I don't know whose idea this arrangement was, but the whole first part is ... weird, and again, not great until he goes for the big notes at the end. Randy says he loved the song, but, "It was OK for me. Very predictable for me." Paula is crying and says, "See ya in the finals." Simon says it is one of the great songs of all time and, "David Cook wins the night."
So ... this was a weird night. I'm so not a conspiracy theorist about these sort of things, but that producers' choice really felt like sabotage of Syesha -- especially after she got so little credit for her other performances.
I expect to see her out tomorrow mostly because the Davids' fan bases are so devoted and strong.
What did you think of the top three tonight?