Tonight on American Idol the Top 10 contenders got to choose songs from the year they were born. Besides making me feel old with only one contestant sharing the same birth decade with me, I had to wonder if the contenders could really maximize on the cool theme.
I was very impressed with the idea for the theme – songs from the contestants’ birth year. I thought it was a very creative concept that left the door wide open on song choices, a necessity after the limits of the last two week. But several of the song choices don’t seem to match the theme.
And in the end, I’d have to say that only a handful used their song choice to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
At the top of that list is our favorite rocker – David Cook who performed the Chris Cornell version of “Billie Jean,” a rock alternative to Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit. Not only did Cook’s rendition top Cornell’s but I will never again be able to list to the Jackson version again without thinking about how much better Cook performed his song.
I was blown away. Cook continues to amaze me with his originality week after week. He really knows how to calculate his risk and push the envelope. However, I do have one pet peeve. Cook was born in 1982 and since Jackson didn’t come out with the hit until 1983, I fail to see how the song qualifies under the theme let alone the Cornell version that came out more than 20 years later.
Next on the list Michael Johns born in 1978. We’ve finally found Michael’s niche – he can only do Queen songs. You already know I loved his “Bohemian Rhapsody” during Hollywood week. Tonight he paired two Queen hits from 1977 “We will Rock You” and “We are the Champions” to finally showcase his vocal abilities.
But the big question is what will he do next week when a Queen song isn’t an option? Also notice that neither of Michael’s songs are from his birth year.
Also impressing me this week was Carly Smithson. I finally found a side of Carly I liked – her version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” I will agree with Simon that she looked a little stiff during her performance. But this time was one of the first where I actually enjoyed her rocker vibe.
By the way, Randy’s got a new term – he called her last note sharp. Is “sharp” the new “pitchy?”
Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was a clever song choice for Kristy Lee Cook and she rose to the song putting in one of her best performances (I still liked the Journey number better). However, I had a little trouble watching her perform because she kept doing this weird head shake thing that was distracting. Still, the performance is enough to save her for another week.
Those four are really the only ones that I think really made an impression this week. The others just seemed to skate by.
I think I might have been more impressed with Syesha Mercado’s “If I Were Your Woman” if it hadn’t been yet another romantic song from a strict balladeer. There’s no question that Syesha nailed her performance, but we know she can do the soft slow songs. What else can she do?
By the way “If I Were Your Woman” was released in 1970 by Gladys .Knights & the Pips nowhere near Syesha’s birth in 1987.
On the other hand a ballad was a nice change of pace for Chikezie. I like Chikezie best when he’s doing upbeat songs, but I think he channeled Luther Vandross tonight for his rendition of “If Only for One Night.” This performance was not his best, but it shouldn’t earn him a spot in the bottom three.
Then we have Brooke White. The misstep at the beginning of Police’s “Every Breath You Take” will cost Brooke a little, but she recovered and came through with a solid performance. We all know that Brooke can sing, but can she perform without a piano or keyboard in front of her?
Also playing it safe was Jason Castro. “Fragile” by Sting seemed like it would be the perfect match for Jason’s laid back persona if you don’t mind that it came out in 1988, a year after Jason’s birth. But at this point we need to see Jason step outside his comfort zone. His performance was fine for a coffee house show, but he can’t expect safe songs and his quirky expressions will charm his way to victory.
Conversely, it was nice to see David Archuleta do something other than a ballad. That said thought, I didn’t like his rendition of “You’re the Voice.” It didn’t help that no one knew the song. Simon called the performance theme parkish, but I thought it was something you’d hear in a pageant.
And what was Paula’s comment about choosing an American composer? Especially after two weeks of the Beatles!
Finally, I continue to be underwhelmed by Ramiele Malubay. Her performance of Heart’s “Alone’ confirms my opinion that she should have been voted off weeks ago. The beginning of the song was another boring ballad and I’m not even sure how to describe the mess that was the rest of the song.
The outstanding performances tonight made it worth the show, but the rest were a bit of a letdown. My bottom three picks are Jason, Ramiele and Archuleta.
Ryan closed out the evening telling us that Kimberley Locke, a finalist from the second season, would be performing tomorrow night. But I had more pressing questions:
1. What was Paula wearing? The gloves looked like they were out of the ‘80s, but I don’t even know what to make of the asymmetrical shirt.
2. What was up with Randy? He was really breaking bad tonight. He made Simon look like a teddy bear. Is he tired of no one listening to his opinion? Or did he just decide to stray from his “dawg, it was a bit pitchy” lines?
3. First of all, I think that the idea of a mosh pit on Idol is a little silly. But who decides who gets to be in it? Apparently there is a girls only rule.
4. Why were we told each contestants astrological sign? Is voting now being aligned with the stars? It felt a little more like a dating show than a singing competition.
So who impressed you most tonight? And who should we send home?