New Idol Crowned During Star Studded Finale

May 21, 2009

With just under 100 million votes cast towards deciding this year’s winner, American Idol pulled out all the stops for its two hour finale.  And what a finale it was!

Two very talented men -- Adam and Kris.  Photo courtesy of American Idol

Two very talented men -- Adam and Kris. Photo courtesy of American Idol

The dark horse prevailed.  Kris Allen has been declared the Season 8 Winner of American Idol.  He’s come a long way from the guy we didn’t meet until Hollywood Week and didn’t get to know until the Top 13.

Ryan never released how close the vote came, but I can’t imagine that it wasn’t close.  We couldn’t have been treated to two more deserving candidates for the finale.  Both men are very, very talented and seem like all around good guys.

And I loved all of Adam and Kris’ performances tonight.  I had a hard time picking my favorite.

In fact, the whole finale was stunning.  Usually, I’m annoyed by all the fluff Idol parade out to fill out their two hour shows.  But this show was completely different.  It was one stunning performance after another.

The opening number of the night saw the return of the Top 13 singing Pink’s “So What.”  It was really nice to see the whole gang back together again.  I’ve already forgotten some of the faces; it’s been so long since we’ve seen them.  But it was nice to see Alexis back in the fold.

Speaking of old faces, last year’s winner David Cook returned to perform his single “Permanent,” a song he wrote with Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.  The proceeds from the sale of this iTunes song will go to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2), a DC-based organization dedicated to finding a cure for brain cancer.

Next we got to get a look back at the auditions with the Golden Idol Awards. 

The first trophy went to Nick Mitchell aka Norman Gentle for Outstanding Male.  I’m so glad that we got to see Nick one more time this season.  He really added some humor to the beginning of the season.

The next award went to Katrina Darrell aka Bikini Girl for Best Attitude.  Is it me or did the bikini get smaller?  But the best part had to be when Kara came out and showed her up – vocally!  I’ll let you guys be the judge of who had the better body. 

The last award, Outstanding Female, went to Tatiana Nicole Del Toro.  Either she really wants her 15 minutes of fame or she’s a good sport to play along as Idol poked fun at her. 

But then we got down to some serious singing. 

The first duet brought back Lil Rounds and paired her with Queen Latifah for “Cue the Rain.”  I was hoping without the pressure of the judging we’d see the Lil we loved during the early phases.  Unfortunately, singing with Queen Latifah proved that Lil’s voice just isn’t that great.

On the other hand, Anoop Desai and Alexis Grace sounded wonderful as they sang “I’m Yours” with Jason Mraz.  I think it says a lot about Alexis’ popularity that she got a shot at the spotlight tonight.  Last year, only the Top 6 got to perform, other than group numbers, during the finale.

Now, I don’t think of Kris Allen as a country singer, but I loved his duet of “Kiss a Girl” with Keith Urban.  They both looked like they were having a ball.  This duet was one of my favorite performances of the night.

The stars keep coming, the girls from got to do a medley with Fergie before introducing the Black Eyed Peas.

Another good pairing was Allison Iraheta and Cyndi Lauper on “Time After Time.”  I always thought of Allison as a through back to the 80s and this duet proved it.  I thought they sounded perfect togher.  And was Cyndi playing a steel guitar?  I didn’t know she could play.

And while the producers got the pairing right with Allison, I have to wonder what they were thinking with Danny Gokey.  They had him sing a solo of “Hello” before continuing the medley with Lionel Richie.  However, no one will ever compare to the David Cook version of “Hello” from last season.  I think the producers just set up Danny for a comparison he could never live up to.  The rest of the medley wasn’t bad though.

Now the next guest performer shocked me.  I’d have never guessed that they would make an appearance on American Idol.  But with Adam in the finale it seems only right he should get partnered with KISS for a medley.  Now that was a performance that rocked!

But the stars didn’t stop there.  Carlos Santana took the stage with a guitar solo of “Black Magic Woman” before performing “Smooth” with the Top 13.

Then we got one last Ford Video that was really just a clip of videos from throughout the season as Adam and Kris sang “I Will Remember You.”  And then David Cook handed the keys over to Adam and Kris for their brand new 2010 Ford Fusions.

Idol is full of surprises tonight because I had no idea that Steve Martin had musical aspirations, let alone could play the banjo.  But I liked “Pretty Flowers,” the song he wrote and performed with Megan Joy and Michael Sarver.  The song itself actually suited the pair really well.

Next up, the guys got to sing “Do You Think I’m Sexy” before Rod Stewart came out to sing “Maggie May.”

The final duet went to the two stars of the night. Adam and Kris teamed up with Queen to sing “We are the Champions.”  The rest of the Top 13 joined them on backgrounds.  What a great way to close the night.  And can I say that I think Adam and Kris actually would do well singing together!

Unfortunately, they couldn’t just give us the results and end it there.  Poor Kris had to sing “No Boundaries” again. 

What I can’t understand is if the producers can do such great pairings for the finale, why can’t they (and the judges) do a better job picking songs for the contestants to sing.

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Idol Judges Find Another Castro in Kansas City Auditions

January 15, 2009
Two nights into the competition, American Idol tries to hit the jackpot with auditions in David Cook’s hometown, Kansas City.  But the judges did not find another Cook.  Instead they found another Castro.
Banana Man

Banana Man

Last year’s fourth place finisher Jason Castro accompanied his brother Michael to the audition.  And apparently golden tickets run in the family.  Michael, who claims to have just started sing 20 days before the audition because if Jason could do it, so could he, impressed the judges with his version of Gavin DeGraw’s “In Love with a Girl.”  In fact, Kara called him “ballsy.”

I liked Michael better than Jason, but he seems to share his brother’s carefree attitude – as well as his interesting taste in hairdos.  Unfortunately, the laissez-faire attitude probably won’t bode well for Michael in the competition.

Another 26 will join Michael in Hollywood.  And continuing in the kinder, gentler format we saw in Phoenix, Idol showed us more of the Hollywood contenders than the train wreck performances.

That’s not to say that Kansas City was without a few memorable rejects.  The one that really stands out in my mind was Banana Man.  College student Vaughn English not only came dressed in banana colors, but he sang some type of ode to the banana complete with props.

Aside from Andrew Lang, who came with his own cheerleaders, the rest of the rejects were pretty forgettable.  But that left more time for our real contenders.

And the contenders seemed to be coming in pairs tonight. 

Sister act Asia McClain and India Morrison opened their auditions with a rap on “Cookies’ dedicated to Randy.  Unfortunately, the pair will have to split for the Hollywood trip.  India deserved the bid that she got.  She shows some real potential.  And was it just me or did Asia really look like she was just there to encourage her sister to audition?  If she was disappointed in her dismissal, she hid it well.

Also making the trip to the audition together were best friends bartender Jamar Rogers and music teacher Danny Gokey.

Danny had this very heartbreaking story about how his wife passed away four weeks before the audition, but it was his rendition of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” that won me and the judges over.  Danny was my forerunner for the night.

But Danny’s situation had me intrigued.  So, I asked my husband if I were to have an untimely demise if he would then try out for American Idol in my memory.  He told me no, he was going to Hooters instead.

But unlike Danny, his friend Jamar wasn’t quite as memorable and I think the judges were a little lenient here although Jamar did get the okay across the board.  In my opinion, Jamar really missed out on the rhythm of the song – “California Dreamin’.”  He might have a decent voice, but I just wasn’t impressed.

Maybe the judges were getting tired, but I thought they let a couple slide tonight, including Von Smith and Dennis Brigham.

There is a fine line between a powerful voice and shouting, and I think Von, who sang “Over the Rainbow” was straddling that line.

And Dennis’ version of Chris Brown’s “With You” did absolutely nothing for you.  Maybe the judges put him through because he had that dream about Simon? 

Several other contenders showed some potential, but we just didn’t get to see enough of them to really form an opinion.

Ashley Anderson is lucky she had a strong voice, because I’m sure that singing the wrong words to “Footprints in the Sand,” a song Simon co-wrote did not help her case.  But in the end she moved on unanimously.

Then there was Casey Carlson who impressed the judges with her rendition of “A Thousand Miles.”  But honestly I’m more curious about her profession – bubble tea maker.  What is bubble tea?

Jessica Furney, who takes care of her grandmother, tested her chops on Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.”  Joplin songs are tough audition songs.  I’d really like to see what you could do on another song.

Behind the “geeky” look, Anoop Desai proved that he had some soul when he belted out “Thank You” by Boys II Men.  Which reminds me – if I ever go back to college, I want to find a program where I can study barbeques too.

But even among all the contenders we saw, a few stood out.  Not only am I looking forward to seeing what else they can do, but I liked how important family was to these contestants.

Matt Breitzke, the welder who sang “Aint No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, topped my list.  The judges were split on him, but I thought he had a nice bluesy sound.

And I might agree with Simon that the Michael Jackson tune wasn’t the way to go for Asa Barnes, the middle school band director.  However, I like singers that make me want to get up and dance and that’s just what Asa did.

And last of the night, but certainly not least was Lil Rounds who’s home in Memphis was taken out by a tornado.  Randy called her a combination of Fantasia and Mary J. Blige.  I thought her rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do” had some real potential.

Six more cities and 93 more golden tickets to go.

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Phoenix Auditions


American Idol Launches Season 8 in Phoenix

January 14, 2009

After nearly 15 minutes of fluff, American Idol opened its eighth season with auditions in Phoenix, Arizona in 106 degree heat in tonight’s two-hour premiere.

We were treated to a flashback sequence of the last seven seasons and a recap of last season’s finale where 55 million Americans watched 97 million votes tallied to name David Cook the newest American Idol.  But this is old news, on with the new.

After a montage of nameless hopefuls and an ode to the desert, we were introduced to the newest addition to Idol, Kara DioGuardi who will be take up residence as a fourth judge.

But a new addition doesn’t mean that life on Idol has changed much.  By the third on-screen audition, Paula and Simon were at each other’s throats after he made a dig about her song “Straight Up” and she responded by flipping him off.

Seeing this example of life as a judge, Kara jumped right into the fun the second day when she told a bikini-clad contest to “hang on a minute, bitch.”  And Season 8 is off and running!

Let’s just talk a minute about Ms. Bikini, because I’m sure she’s going to get a lot of press.  Model Katrina Darrell banked on her assets and her gimmick got her a ticket to Hollywood.  You can’t fault the girl for that.  But she’s not going to be able to wear a bikini throughout the whole season and insulting a judge is not the best way to win points in the long run.

But Katrina’s talents weren’t the only ones in question tonight.  In these auditions episodes I’m never surprised by the number of people who butcher songs – everyone overestimates their talents once in a while.  However, I was honestly surprised by the number of these people who listed music-related careers as their profession.

Oakland-resident Shawn Vasquez, Oakland listed musician as his job.  But I think Dionne Warwick might disagree after hearing his version of “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” 

Performer Aundre “Xray” Carawy professed that music was his thing.  He might want to rethink this claim after getting four vetos from the judges.  

And Tears for Fears’ “Mad for You” was butchered by music student Will Kunick.  Stay in school Will.

Many others with be remember for more than their meager vocal abilities.  Tuan Nguyen, the Michael Jackson fan with the gigantic Afro showed us that you can combine ROTC moves with tap.  We still aren’t sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Randy Madden, the Axl Rose look-a-like who works in an office, proved that just because you look like a rock star doesn’t make you one.

A heart-to-heart pep talk with fan and songwriter hopeful Lea Marie Golde showed us that Kara has a softer side.

And of course, we learned the lesson that auditioners still can’t seem to grasp – asking to perform another song doesn’t change that resounding no to a yes.

But Phoenix wasn’t all duds.  The four judges found a few diamonds in the rough – 27 in fact.  And we got to see 11 of the winning auditions – three the first hour and eight the second.

The first to grab a golden ticket was Emily Wynne-Hughes who sang “Barracuda” by Heart.  Her mom, singer Patty Wynne-Hughes probably isn’t surprised by this accomplishment, but the rest of Emily’s all-girl rock band will be because she didn’t tell them she was putting her membership in the band on hold for a chance on Idol

Sixteen proved to be a “golden” age for J.B. Ahfua, Arianna Afsar and Stevie Wright.  J.B. is hoping that his ticket would be his chance to change his life.  He’s 16!  How much life has he had to want to change it?

Arianna, who definitely could cash in on the cute factor, picked a perfect song with for her voice and age with “Put Your Records On.” 

And Stevie’s – yes she was named after Stevie Nicks – bubbly personality made me want her to go onto Hollywood even before I heard her rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”  After I heard her sing, she because my favorite female of the night.  Simon told her she needed to “grow some teeth” if she’s really going to compete.

Bartender Deena Brown also had plenty of personality to go with that bluesy sound she had when she sang “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”  It’s a good thing she got her ticket if not she was going to come back next year for this “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Some of our better auditions were a bit of a surprise just because the voice just didn’t seem to match the person in front of us. 

Roughneck Michael Sarver’s rendition of “Thank You” by Boys II Men proved that just because you have the fifth most dangerous job in the world doesn’t mean you don’t have a soft side.  He was my favorite male singer of the night, but I have to say that I secretly expected him to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and then announce that he was headed to outer space to save the planet from an astroid.

High school student and horror film producer Cody Sheldon showed us that he has a lighter side with “Wonderful World” by James Morrison.  Cody’s friends told Ryan that Cody has “wanted this for a really long time.”  It’s a good thing Cody made it this time because at 17 he’s all but washed up.

Meanwhile college student Alex Wagner-Trugman, 19, overcame a case of mold sickness after teaching himself to sing at night in a closet to produce a perfectly pitched (according to Randy) rendition of “Baby, Come to Me” by James Ingram.

The only contestant of the night to squeak by with only two votes, including a tie breaker by Simon, Brianna Quijada gave us a new nickname for the Brit that we all love to hate – Simy.

And closing out the evening was the touching audition of blind pianist Scott MacIntyre.  Although he might be visually impaired Scott’s audition of “And So it Goes” by Billy Joel proved that he’s musically capable.  This guy’s got lots of potential.  His biggest challenge will be building a stage presence without his piano.

Although the first hour looked a little thin, Phoenix came through with some interesting talent with a lot of potential heading for Hollywood.  One city down, seven more to go.


David Cook Wins it All, Named 2008 American Idol

May 22, 2008

Welcome to the two-hour Fox promo machine – I mean, the season finale of American Idol.  And believe it or not among all the stars, a new star was crowned in what had to be one of the closest finales in seven seasons.

Cook rocks his way to victoryIt was easy to forget that the purpose of the night was to award the Idol title as Fox paraded star after star among this season’s Top 12.  But never fear, the answer to your long awaited question of who is the next American Idol is answered.

With a fairly narrow 56% of the record-setting 97 ½ million votes, David Cook beat out David Archuleta for the 2008 American Idol title.  Who knew that the cougar vote was more powerful than the teen vote?

Seriously, I was sure that Archuleta had the crown cinched especially after the judges gushed all over him last night.  But just before the winner was announced, Simon apologized to Cook saying that after rewatching the performances from Tuesday night, he didn’t give Cook enough credit and that the race was closer than he thought.

As the new Idol, a very emotional Cook closed out the show with a performance of “Time of My Life,” the songwriting contest winner.  This song was worthy of the award and suited Cook to a tee.  It was a nice finish to a busy night.

Individual Performances

But if I was Cook, the highlight of my night would have had to been jamming with ZZ Top to “Sharp Dressed Man.”  Second on the list would have been doing the Guitar Hero commercial a lá Risky Business – which for me was the best cross-promotion of the night (sorry Archuleta, your boxer version just didn’t cut it).

But sing with a star was the name of the game tonight.  Archuleta sang the hit “Apologize” with One Republic.  And I actually liked him with this group.  Maybe there is hope for him yet.  But did anyone else notice that he seemed to have a little trouble keeping up with the group?  I think the multiple performances were taking their toll on him.

Syesha Mercado returned to sing “Waiting for You” with Seal.  I’m not sure if it was the time off, the song or her duet partner, but I thought she sounded great.  Guess it’s easier to perform without the pressure of being judged.

But apparently the producers couldn’t find anyone willing to sing with Jason Castro, who gave us an encore performance of “Halleluiah.”  My husband kept wondering if he’d remember the words.  I think the song was handpicked for him because they knew it was his best performance all season.

Brooke White teamed up with Graham Nash to sing “Teach Your Children,” a song that suited her style well.  She seemed more relaxed than ever.  Maybe she wasn’t struggling with stage fright afterall, but with the stress of the competition.  Either way, I was impressed with her performance.

Carly Smithson rounded out performances of the Top 6 by teaming up with fellow contestant Michael Johns to perform “The Letter.” 

Group Performances

The finale was packed with so many performances by the Top 12 that it seemed more like a preview of the upcoming tour with special guests.  But if the confident performances we saw tonight are any indication then the tour shouldn’t be as bad as I once imagined – at least for the more individual performances.

The group numbers weren’t quite as impressive.  The finalists of So You Think You Can Dance joined the Top 12 to liven up the opening number.  Clearly the producers are saying they don’t expect the Idol contestants to have any dancing abilities.  Do you think the dancers will be going on the tour too?

The two Davids treated us to a duet of Chad Kroeger’s “Hero,” a performance that clearly exaggerated the differences between the two and why Cook deserved the title.  As my husband said, Cook has a rocker sound that is more interesting to listen to.

The Top 6 women did a medley with Donna Summer featuring her new song “Stomp Your Feet.”  I was not impressed with this number.  Amanda Overmyer looked totally uncomfortable – maybe it was all the red outfits for “She Works Hard for Her Money.”  Somehow with these outfits the song wasn’t bringing to mind a woman working as a waitress.  But even with the prostitution undertones, Brooke still managed to look pure and innocent. 

And then there was the aging Donna Summer who had to be helped down the steps.  Couldn’t they come up with a better entrance that didn’t make her seem so feeble?

The Top 6 men had a better outing with their Bryan Adams medley.  They all looked sharp in their dark suits and Adams aged better than Summer.  He sang his new single “I Thought I’d See Everything.”

And finally the Top 12 performed a George Michael medley with the man himself.  Who knew that the Wham alum was resurrecting his career with his first American tour in 17 years?  Personally, I can do without the medley numbers.

Additional Filler

The musical side of the show was rounded out with performances by past Idol winners Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood.  The Jonas Brothers also performed.  I guess they had to have someone on the show that was within Archuleta’s age range.  But even the Jonas Brothers made Archie look young.

While I expected to see the array of singers, I was a little shocked by the number of comic acts.

Of course, we’d be treated to a promo for the new Mike Myers’s movie The Love Guru.  The mock advice of the guru was cute, but it was when Ryan almost drove his “flying pillow” off the edge of the stage that I laughed.

Surprisingly, Jimmy Kimmel (not a Fox product) put in an appearance to give us a season recap monologue.  Unfortunately, his Simon video just didn’t compare with his Ben Affleck video.

My favorite comic act of the night was the try outs for Gladys Knight’s Pips which featured funnymen Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and the surprisingly stoic Robert Downing Jr.  This skit was my favorite bit of the night.

It definitely beat out the return of Renaldo Lapuz who got to perform his original “My Brother” song with the USC marching band.  This Best of the Worst feature was still better than last year’s “awards.”

Overall, the two hours of fluff could have been worse – at least most of the time was filled with performances and a few of them were even good.

What do you think?  Did the best David win?  Was the show a complete waste of two hours or have the producers finally found a good mixture of fluff and performances?

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Davids Duke it Out for Idol Title

May 21, 2008

Tonight the Davids faced off in the finals of American Idol in a battle that pit a rock star versus boy wonder.  But who will pull away with the title?

David and DavidGoing into this final night of competition I still believe that David Cook is the better choice for the Idol winner because he offers the whole pop star package.  Even in the cheesy eight-minute Ready-to-Rumble introduction David Archuleta couldn’t muster up enough character to make the whole “fight night” ambiance believable.

This final battle was fought in three rounds before 7,000 fans in the Nokia Theatre with Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Webber helping the Davids prepare.

Round 1 – Clive’s Choice

Songs for Round 1 were chosen for the contestants by Sony BMG Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis.

In the first round, Cook proved that he was in it to win tonight, opening with a slowed-down rendition of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” that started the show off on a high note and caused Randy to forget the year when he called this the Dual of 2007. 

But if you liked Archuleta coming into this show, then you loved his version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  It was his every performance personified, then amplified.  I’ll agree that it was one of his best performances.

Although the judges gave this round to Archuleta, I’d say that Cook won it.  While both sang well, Cook worked the stage and the crowd better.

Round 2 – Songwriter Contest Choice

This round was for those of you that wanted to see what the contestants could do with something original. 

And what Cook did was rock a song with only mediocre lyrics.  In fact, I think his rendition of Emily Shackleton’s “Dream Big” could actually become a hit for him despite second-rate words.  The arrangement was likable, fun and easy to rock out to.

The lyrics of “In this Moment” by Ryan Gilmore might have been better, but for me Archuleta’s performance was forgettable.  As I listened, I kept wondering what Cook could do with this song.  We all knew what Archuleta would do – sing it as a ballad, squint his eyes and hold out his right arm as he sang.

While I thought it was cool to see some original work, I have to wonder at the wisdom of choosing from songs that weren’t good enough to win the songwriting contest.  The judges also gave this round to Archuleta.  But was it because they liked the lyrics better?  I still think that Cook did more with what he had.

Round 3 – Contestant’s Choice

The songs selections in the Contestant’s Choice round were better than last week.

Cook showed his versatility by slowing things down with Collective Soul’s “The World I Know.”  For me, his performance felt intimate despite the venue.  I think it was a cool move on his part that, even on the last night with the title at stake, he didn’t take the easy way out with a song he’d already performed.  Instead he challenged himself with a new song.

On the other hand, I was not impressed with Archuleta’s “Imagine” the first time he sang it.  And an encore performance did nothing to improve his standing with me.  But on a similar note, I wouldn’t have been more awed if he’d chosen a new song since I think all of his performances sound the same. 

Again the judges gave the round to Archuleta, but it was Cook who proved his range and his flexibility with his choice.

If anyone had any doubt that Archuleta was being set up to win had to just listen to the judge comments tonight for proof.

Cook clearly out sang Archuleta showing his versatility and originality while Archuleta’s songs were all alike – right down to the hand gestures.  But still he got the praise.

What do you think?  Who sang better?  Who deserves the title?

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The Davids to Battle it Out in Idol Final

May 15, 2008

And then there were two.  In a very predictable finish to the American Idol Top 3, Syesha Mercado is eliminated leaving David Cook and David Archuleta to vie for the title next week.

Syesha MercadoWhile the pairing of the Davids in the final is something fans have been predicting for weeks, I am surprised by Syesha’s third place finish.  For several weeks in the middle, I was sure that she was marked for an early exit.  But the last few weeks, we have seen Syesha pull out all the stops with Broadway-worthy performances.

Although I’d much rather see Syesha over Archuleta in the final, I’m not surprised to see her go.  Cook has stood out as a favorite among fans looking for originality and the complete package while Archuleta is a favorite of the judges and teenage girls.

In addition to the group number to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” – an appropriate title for the night if not a mediocre performance –  the Ford “Heaven” video and a performance by Idol winner Fantasia, we were treated to videos of each contestants tearful homecoming.

Archuleta headed home to Murray, Utah where he performed at his high school and, of course, visited the mall where he was surrounded by – what else – throngs of teens.  His big concern – where did they all park?

Syesha was so welcomed in Sarasota, Florida that the mayor was doing handstands.  She rounded out her very emotional visit with stops at Bradenton and her alma mater Booker High School.

Cook’s trip to Blue Springs, Missouri read like a wish list – he did the weather on the local TV station, gave a concert downtown where even the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the masses, got to thank his elementary school music teacher for inspiring him to get into music and threw out a pitch to for the Royals.

It should be interesting to see how next week pans out.  I still think that Cook deserves the title more, but that it’ll be Archuleta walking away with it.

What do you think?  Was Syesha the right person to send home?  What are your predictions for next week?

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Related articles:

Who Could Actually Win Idol?

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Idol Top 3 Fail to Wow with Lackluster Performances

May 14, 2008

American Idol is down to its Top 3 contenders and the contest should be heating up, but the competition tonight was uninspired and predictable.  With three songs a piece, did any of the contestants really stand out?

David, David and SyeshaTonight each contestant got to sing one song chosen for them by one of the judges, one song of their choice, and one song chosen by the producers.  Let’s just say that the producers should stick to producing and not selecting song (as if the themes from this season are proof enough).

The sole bright spot tonight was David Cook, but even his performances weren’t top shelf.

Simons’s choice of a Roberta Flack song for Cook seemed off the wall at first.  But I have to give Simon credit for picking something outside of the box and let’s just say that once again Cook rose to that challenge with a tear-jerking performance of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  I had no idea how was going to pull of such an old-fashioned song, but he not only did, he made it sound current and hip.

Next was Cook’s song choice.  The fact that he picked a Switchfoot tune didn’t surprise me, but it did disappoint me.  His rendition of “Dare You to Move” sounded exactly like something I’d expect to hear from Cook.  But I was hoping for more – more originality, more extraordinary – another “Hello” or “Billie Jean.”  And I didn’t get it.

And as for the producer’s choice, Cook definitely served up the best performance in this category.  I’m pretty sure that an Aerosmith tune wouldn’t have been what I would have picked for Cook, but he nailed the performance of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and did songwriter Diane Warren (who was in the audience) proud.

Syesha Mercado, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well.

I can see why Randy picked an Alicia Keys balled for her.  Syesha definitely has the voice to carry off a powerful song like “If I Ain’t Got You.”  And Syesha even gave the number a little pizzazz.  But just like the Whitney Houston and Celine Dion songs that she gravitates to, it’s hard for Syesha to stand out against the originals.

Now Syesha made an excellent song choice for herself.  Tunes like Peggy Lee’s “Fever” are a perfect fit for her.  Not only does she get a chance to showcase that nice bluesy-soul sound with her voice, but she gets to flaunt her stage skills.  I know the judges didn’t like this performance, but I think it played to her strengths.

Now the song that the producers picked for Syesha did just the opposite.  The tune from the movie Happy Feet was a nice dance number.  But when you get up and dance it’s easy to forget who’s performing and unfortunately that’s exactly what happened with Syesha’s rendition of “Hit Me Up.”  It was fun while it lasted, but it was easily forgotten.

And finally, David Archuleta showed us all the same moves he’s been using all season.

Archuleta was right about one thing – the Billy Joel song Paula chose for him is a pretty song.  And Archuleta’s rendition of “And So it Goes” wasn’t bad.  But the performance wasn’t really any different that every other song he’s every performed on the show – nice, but forgettable.

Picking a Chris Brown song was a smart choice for Archuleta if he was trying to appeal to his teenage fans.  But unfortunately Archuleta is not Chris Brown.  He lacks Brown’s smooth moves and performance skills, leaving his version of “With You” looking and sounding like bad karaoke.

Archuleta concluded his set with another uninspired choice – the producers chose yet another ballad for the 17-year-old – “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg.  As expected, Archuleta performed the song in exactly the same format that he’s performed all the rest of his ballads – no surprises and no wow factor.

I thought Archuleta was the least impressive tonight.  It’s not that he doesn’t have a nice voice; it’s just that every song sounds the same with him.  But since he’s a favorite of the judges, I’m going against my better judgment and predict that Syesha will be going home on Wednesday.

Who do you think had the better night?  Who should go home?

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