Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our new "American Idol" is... DAVID COOK!!!!

Here we go - it's time for the results...

The judges say a bunch of nice things about them and I can't believe it - Simon is actually apologizing to David Cook his comments last night, saying it verged on disrespect. He says they both tried their best and for the first time ever, he doesn't really care who wins, because they've both done terrific.

Just seconds away now...

Our winner, by 12 millions votes, of "American Idol" is.... David Cook!!!

UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Finally, America got it right - I hope his brother is in the audience to see him win!!!

And to my cousin, Christian, I TOLD YOU SO!!!

Until next season everyone...

George Michael, baby!!!

For the last time, the top 12 are performing. The top 6 girls, dressed in black, come out singing "Faith," and then the top 6 guys come out, in suits, to sing "Father Figure." Is George Michael coming out next? Can it be??? Not yet - they all sing "Freedom" next. Where is George Michael?! They can't possibly be singing a medley of his songs, without having him come out and sing himself. C'mon - I want to see George Michael!!!

YES!! here he comes!!! This is almost as good as when Prince performed!! I mean, who doesn't love George Michael?

He sings "Praying for Time" and he sounds just like he did 20 years ago when the whole world was in love with him, before his arrests, before the drama. He looks older, obviously, not as sexy as he once was, but I still think he's awesome. The past hour and a half has been totally worth it just to watch him perform - just wonderful.

I'm kind of in awe right now, maybe even a little speechless. I know many of you will think I'm gushing, or that he wasn't good, but I so love George Michael - this is about as close as I'll ever come to seeing him in concert and it's just amazing. I wish he had done one more song.

Wait!!! He's gong on tour! I cannot believe this - I'm so going to that show! Unbelievable!!

The Pips and Carrie Underwood

So it's true... I had that they were going to do like a spoof with Gladys Knight, having Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. pose as her Pips. I thought it was too stupid to be true, but here we are and that's exactly what's happening right now. I suppose it's funny because of its silliness, but really, it's just filler. the one good thing about it is that the money raised by the downloads of that video will go to charity.

Next up, of course, is Carrie Underwood. She's singing "Last Name." It's getting to the point where it's not a season of "Idol" without a Carrie Underwood performance. Not that I'm complaining - I think she's awesome. And she looks beautiful tonight.

I've been fast-forwarding through most commercials, but I just caught one with David Archuleta mimicking the "Risky Business" Tom Cruise scene, I guess advertising for Guitar Hero or something. It was cute.

One Republic and Jordin Sparks

Oh my goodness - does it get any worse than this? That guy who auditioned with his own song - the one who sang "You are my brother, best friends forever..." Remember him? Well they actually brought him to the stage - he's wearing the same outfit with the winged hat and everything - just beyond ridiculous. They even get USC's marching band to accompany him - seriously? Can I change the channel?? Please?

One Republic is up next, singing "Apologize." Finally, a song I can get into. I love this song. They must have known how stupid the last segment was - they had to make up for it. Well, they've got Archuleta singing along now. Where's David Cook? I'd like to see what he could do with this song. Huh - I guess it's just an Archuleta number. Very nice. I suppose it's only fair that he get a song by himself - David Cook had ZZ Top.

And now it's Jordin Spark, singing "One Step at a Time." I have to say, she's way more successful than I thought she would be. I thought she'd have maybe one big song and that would be it, but she's had a few hits already - perhaps it's just the beginning for her.

ZZ Top for the older crowd and Jonas Brothers for the kids

Next up is David Cook performing with ZZ Top, singing "Sharp Dressed Man." I don't know if David is a fan of theirs, but even if he's not, how cool to sing lead for such a famous band?

Brooke White comes out next to sing with Graham Nash. They perform "Teach Your Children." It's a good thing they started off well - can you imagine if she had stopped and asked to start again?

I have to be honest - we're about an hour in now and I'm starting to get bored by all these performances - I hope the next hour goes by fast - I just want the results.

Well, the next performance is clearly meant for the younger crowd. The Jonas Brothers come out and sing "S.O.S." I tried to get into it, I really did, but no, I'm no longer 12 and their appeal is lost on me.

In case we didn't get enough of the crappy auditions that went on for like a month at the beginning of the season, they are now playing a video of some of the worst auditions. Yawn... wake me up when it starts to get interesting.

Jimmy Kimmel and Bryan Adams

Jimmy Kimmel comes out and does a comedy thing. He's actually pretty funny. I'm usually waiting for him to be annoying, like his girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, but he did a good job.

The top 6 guys are next, singing "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams. I understand now why David Hernandez didn't quite make it to the end - he's awful and has shown no improvement since his ouster. Jason Castro had a minor slip-up (a little out of tune, OK... a lot out of tune) but there's need to dwell on that.

They have the Davids come down the steps, almost like royalty, to sing Bryan Adams' "Heaven," which can only mean that in moments, Bryan Adams will come out onstage, too, perhaps to plug a new song or album.

Yup, here he comes, to sing "I Thought I'd Seen Everything," and then "Somebody." I remember, way back in like, 1986, before Bryan Adams was really, really huge, my babysitter, Beth, was crazy in love with Bryan Adams and had actually met him at some local show. Who knew he'd end up being so big?

Donna Summer, Carly Smithson and Michael Johns

The top 6 girls, all dressed in beautiful red dresses are singing Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money" and "Hot Stuff." Then some dancers come out and do some stuff and then Donna Summer herself comes out to sing her new song, "Stamp Your Feet."

Wow - I hate to be mean, but her hair looks awful - it's clearly a wig and doesn't look natural at all. She sounds good, though - better than past performers. I don't know about the song though. It's not really my cup of tea.

Yeah...after the new song, she goes back to one of her biggest hits, "Last Dance." What's with Syesha getting so much play? Why would they let her sing with Donna Summer?

Next up are Michael Johns and Carly Smithson singing, "The Letter." They sound terrific together - their voices blend perfectly. It's been so long, even her screaming doesn't bother me.

A bunch of filler... and JASON CASTRO!!!

Syesha Mercado is back, singing Seal's "Waiting for You," with Seal as a special guest. I'd like to say she did great, but it was really just mediocre - the difference between her and Seal was just so blatantly clear.

The best part of the show is coming up now - Jason Castro is back!!!! I've missed him these past couple of weeks - and he's back to perform "Hallelujah," arguably his best performance while on the show. Oh, he looks so good and sounds great! I wish he had stayed just a little bit longee - he was really the most interesting contestant this season.

Moving on, it's for the Ford commercial, set to "Let the Good Times Roll." They got some former contestants to take part - Kristy Lee Cook, Carly Smithson, Ramiele Malubay and Chikezie Eze were back - it's been a while since we've seen them.

Have they done this before? I can't remember - I'm sure they must have, but anyway, after they show the commercial, Ryan hands the Davids keys to their very own Ford Escape hybrids.

Probably paid advertising for "The Love Guru"

With no introduction, David Cook comes out singing "Hero," by Nickelback and is quickly joined by David Archuleta singing the harmony. Then in the second verse, they switch it up with Archuleta singing the melody and Cook the harmony. It's pretty good although Archuleta seems a bit out of place - this song is so not his style - it's totally a David Cook song, but still, it was nice to see them singing together.

Then, in an obvious plug, they show a video clip of scenes from "The Love Guru," and show the Davids at the theater, watching it and laughing. I think it looks ridiculously stupid, but that's just my opinion - I'm sure people will go out and watch it - I mean, millions watched Borat, right? Oh boy, this guru thing is going a lot longer than I thought - they actually have the Davids meet Mike Myers, dressed in character. He tells David Cook to lose the facial hair and makes some joke about how David Archuleta is prepubescent. There was some other stuff, but it was really dumb - the only funny part of the whole thing is when the guru tries to shave David Cook's face and puts a huge blob of shaving cream on his face - half of it falls off and David Archuleta quickly reaches out and catches it, which then gets David Cook laughing.

Geez - this is still going... Mike Myers shows up onstage dressed in character and tells Randy that he is his dog, tells Paula he loves her and tells Simon he loves him even more. I'm not sure I can take too much of this stupidity. He says the movie opens on June 20, andthankfully, this segment is now over.

Group song... and dance

It's the beginning of the end... in two hours, it will all be over and we will know the winner of this season's "American Idol." I, for one, cannot wait. It's been a long 4 months and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance."

So, let's get started. Ryan says that 97.5 million votes came in last night - that's incredible. He also says that one David received 56% of the votes, while the other received 44%.

They flash to the contestants' hometowns and it's amazing how many people have gathered to watch this finale.

YES!!! The top 12 are doing a group song with former contestants of "So You Think You Can Dance." They do "Get Ready" by the Temptations. It was OK - I was expecting a little more dance performance, but it was still enjoyable.

In "The world I know," David Cook would have put forth some effort to win

Round 3 is contestants' choice - they can choose whatever they want. In the past, I believe they've been able to choose their favorite song of the season. This year it seems like they can sing anything at all. Well, if David Cook is smart, he'll choose one of his many "wow" performances of the season... like "Hello," or "Eleanor Rigby," or "Billie Jean," or even "Always Be My Baby." David Archuleta has two choices - either try to relive his one shining moment by singing, "Imagine," or he could try something new - maybe an uptempo song??? Doubtful.

Anyway, looks like David Cook is not as smart as I thought - he chooses to sing "The World I Know" by Collective Soul, and as expected, David Archuleta is going with his security blanket song, "Imagine."

I'm beginning to wonder if David Cook even wants to win, because I have to be honest - it doesn't seem like he's really trying his best tonight. It makes me rethink the statement he made early on... he said that as far as he was concerned, the competition was over. It's been said before that winning "Idol" is actually a detriment to the "rockers," that it carries some kind of stigma. Is it possible that David may not really want to win the title, knowing that he'll probably sign a recording contract either way? I don't know - it's all I can think of to explain his choices tonight.

Anyway, the good thing is that David Cook's song is very nice - he plays the guitar and it's just a real mellow number, no running around the stage, he just stands in the middle of the stage and sings - and he sings the song perfectly. He does a fantastic job, but I still feel like he could have had this competition in the bag if he had sung "Hello."

He's really emotional and I wonder why - is it because it's the end of the show, or is it because he's singing on the stage at Nokia Theater or is it something deeper? Is he thinking about his brother, his family, his life? David Archuleta was emotional after Round 1 and has been on several other occasions, so it doesn't spark my curiosity as much. Plus the song he just sang is really deep - I wonder if it holds some meaning for him. Here are the lyrics...

Has our conscience shown?
Has the sweet breeze blown?
Has all the kindness gone?
Hope still lingers on.
I drink myself of newfound pity
Sitting alone in New York City
And I don't know why.

Are we listening?
Hymns of offering.
Have we eyes to see?
Love is gathering.
All the words that I've been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one.

So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down.
'Cause it's the world I know.
It's the world I know.

Anyway, Randy tells him one of the cool things about him is that he's showing people a lot of different sides of David Cook tonight, that this was a nice sensitive side of David and he loves Collective Soul and he thinks this is the kind of record he could make and get by with, that it was a very nice job. Paula says something about how he's standing up there in his truth and again, I apologize, but she sounded so ridiculous, I fast-forwarded her. Simon says he just wants to say publicly that he is one of the nicest, most sincere contestants they've had. He says he thought it was a beautiful song, but he's going to be honest with him, it was completely and utterly the wrong song choice for him tonight, because he should have sung "Billie Jean," or "Hello." Simon asks him if he understands what he's saying and David says "Yes and no." Ryan asks him to elaborate and he says that for him, this whole competition has been a progression and the way he was looking at it was, "Why do something I've already done?" But he says that he understands what Simon is saying, and for that, Simon gives him a little wink.

David Archuleta is next and to be honest, there isn't much to say - he sings "Imagine" and he sings it perfectly, just like he did the first time. OK, OK - I'll take a moment to be a softy about him - I was just thinking what it must be like for his parents - yes, even his crazy stage dad - to be sitting in the audience listening to their son sing like an angel. They must be so moved by him, so proud of him. But going back to the song choice thing, I think it could go either way for him - it could be seen as smart to choose a song he did so well with the first time around, especially one so popular, but next to David Cook, who some may say dared to do something new, David Archuleta runs the risk of looking a bit repetitive and cowardly. I guess we'll see tomorrow which way America saw it.

Randy says he's real happy and proud that it's the two Davids standing on the stage because the judges thought all season it would come down to this, and he tells David that he was so good tonight and that he's exactly what this show is about, finding the best singer they can find and the best singer of season 7 is right there. Paula says she's speechless, that he was stunning tonight. Simon says that at the end of the day, the show is about finding a star and tonight, he thinks they've witnessed one of the great finals, but here's the difference. In his opinion, David came out there tonight to win and what they have witnessed is a knockout.

So time to guess, I suppose. It's a tough one tonight, because if we're basing it on just tonight, I would have to say that David Archuleta is winning... but a competition that is won in one night alone isn't really a competition worth watching. Now, if you take the entire season into account, it gets even tougher, because they've both been good. In my opinion, though, David Cook has been better - he's been more daring, more original and more contemporary. So, like I said, it's a tough call. But, I'm gong to go with what Simon said a few weeks back. He said if this competition was based on talent, David Cook would win it. And I think this competition is supposed to be based on talent, so for that, I'm gong to stick to my guns and say that David Cook wins tomorrow night.

If we all "Dream big," David Cook may take home the prize

Round 2 is the song-writing competition. This year, instead of making both contestants sing the same song, which can unfairly tip the scales in one direction, they decided to choose 10 finalists and then let the Davids pick the one song they wanted to sing.

David Cook chooses "Dream Big," by Emily Shackelton and David Archuleta chooses "In This Moment" by Ryan Gilmore.

David Cook goes first and this is a perfect example of how a song can make you or break you. I understand that both these songs are new, but the song he chose is just bad. I mean no disrespect to the woman who wrote it and I completely understand why David chose it - it's probably the only song that fit his style of music. But, it's just not a catchy tune - the melody is not very pretty - even the chorus is kind of bland. Maybe I'm speaking to soon - maybe it's a song that needs to grow on you...

OK... I took the time and watched the performance three times and yes, the chorus does grab you a bit more after hearing it a few times. But, still, I don't think this song helped him move any closer to a win. He would have been better off singing a ballad, showing us one more tie how versatile he can be. Oh well - what's done is done.

Randy says the song was just OK but what made it really work was his voice, that he was singing his face off. Paula says some stuff, but I missed it and don't feel like rewinding - I apologize if she decided to choose this moment to say something profound or coherent. Simon, using a boxing analogy, says it was a bit of a lightweight. He thought the end was OK, that he made the most of what he had. He says that bearing in mind that this is supposed to be like a winning song, it didn't feel like a winning moment. He says the good news is that there's a third song and gives him a 61/2 out of 10.

David Archuleta is next and no big surprise here - the song he chose is a ballad. And even worse, you can tell right off the bat, his song is better. I hate to sound biased, but I am biased. I think David Cook is more deserving of this prize and while David Archuleta is great, I'm not convinced he'd sell CDs or concert tickets. But getting back to Archuleta, his song has a very simple, but catchy chorus and he sings it beautifully. He clearly wants to win this competition and is putting absolutely everything he has into tonight.

Randy says again, he wasn't crazy about the song, but he is so in the zone, he could sing the phone book and it would be good, so that was another hot performance. Paula says it was another heartfelt performance, that it's like he's on fire tonight. Simon tells him he loves the egotistical lyrics, how fantastically self-centered. I wasn't really listening to the lyrics - maybe he's talking about the lyrics mentioned before he started singing - something about looking at himself in the mirror and seeing perfection or something like that. I don't know. Anyway, Simon says Archuleta definitely chose the better song, much more in keeping with the night. Round 2 goes to David Archuleta, he says. I agree, but for me, I would rather it be worded Round 2 goes to Archuleta's song.

"Don't let the sun go down on me" while David Archuleta is singing

This it everybody!!! The final week. I can't believe it's almost over - one last night of performances and then tomorrow night's hour and 58 minutes of filler and two minutes of results. I hope tonight is a respectable final performance night - last week left something to be desired, in my opinion.

Oh how cheesy... they actually turned this whole "Battle of the Davids" into a boxing match - they even got that boxing announcer guy to do his thing. I suppose it's kind of cute, but a bit unnecessary.

So as expected, the Davids will each sing three songs, with Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Weber offering up their opinions, I suppose.

So David Archuleta won the coin toss last week and has decided to go second - no big surprise there - going second is always best - it ensures that your voice is the last one heard. But maybe not when you're up against David Cook. If he's on tonight, we're in for some real memorable performances, the type even David Archuleta can't beat.

Ryan talks to the guys for a bit about how they prepared for the finale and how it feels to be on that big stage at the Nokia Theater. Ryan then asks Randy what it will take to win this season. Randy says that they have to leave everything on the floor, that they have to bring everything they've got, that this is a duel for the king of Nokia. Paula says to enjoy it and soak it all up and may the best man win. Simon says you have to have a desire to win and you've got to hate your opponent.

Ryan then asks the guys if they have anything to say to each other before they start. David Archuleta says that David Cook is awesome and he just wishes him the best and then people started cheering, so the rest of what he said was completely garbled. David Cook says that now whatever he says will just be trite, but he says that the whole season has been amazing from 24 to 2 and that David Archuleta has been one of those consistently nice people, so as far as he's concerned, the competition is over and they're just having fun.

OK... so let's get to it... First round is Clive Davis' choice. He chooses for David Cook "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," by U2, and he chooses for David Archuleta "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," by Elton John.

David Cook is up first and he starts out perfectly - with this smooth sound, it almost seems like he's singing one continuous sentence - it works great with the song, makes it softer, somehow. Then in the second verse, he takes the microphone off the stand and starts working the stage - he walks into the crowd and up on to that walkway behind the judges - he gets the audience behind him, clapping, some people standing up and dancing. It's actually a terrific performance, but I'm a little surprised that on a night like tonight, he didn't choose to be daring - he didn't alter the song, really, and while the performance was great, this is the finale and the thing people love about him is how he makes these songs his own and I think the expectation was pretty high. So, again, while he was fantastic, it was still disappointing, somehow. He's capable of so much more.

Randy says he thinks it was a great way to start off this duel of 2007 (huh? we're halfway through this year - how can he forget it's 2008??) He says it's a very nice song choice, that he doesn't know if he did everything he could with it, but he loved the scoop of the note at the end, that it was hot. Paula says he may not have found what he's looking for, but they have found it - David Cook. Simon says that at the start of the show, he looked very tense, very emotional, and he could understand why, and taking all of that together, he thought it was phenomenal.

David Archuleta is next, and he starts off sitting on the steps, with just a spotlight on him and as he hits the chorus, he gets up and walks to the front of the stage. He does his signature move, the outstretch of his arm, palm up, and some of the "dancing" he did last week, but that's about all he does. His voice, however, is flawless. I'm reminded of the first time he really caught my attention. I think it was his final audition during Hollywood week and I think he was singing Bryan Adams' "Heaven," but I'm not sure. I am sure, though, that he blew me away. After that audition, I was sure he would win this competition - his voice was so clear, so pure, so amazing. But, as we've all seen, not much has changed since then - he's still consistently good, but up until tonight, he's only had one real shining moment - when he sang "Imagine." That's why this performance is so great - it took me back to that first moment when he knocked my socks off - it's just such a shame that it's taken so many weeks for that extra something in him to return.

Anyway, Randy says it doesn't matter what happens, he has to know one thing - this was one of the best performances this whole season and he picked the right time to peak. He says it was flawless and unbelievably molten hot. Paula says she's got chills up and down her arms and she says the sun is never going to go down on him because he bring so much sunshine to the whole world with his singing. Simon tells him that he thought he was OK last week, but tonight's performance was arguably the best he's done so far.

He then adds that taking everything into account, Round 1 goes to Archuleta.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Idol psychics: Predicting the champ

And the next "American Idol” is David. But David who? Not everyone agrees on which David will win Wednesday night.

The winner: David Archuleta.

There's no question David Cook is a far more original and versatile performer than his young opponent, but as Randy has told "Archie” so often, "Dude, you can sing the phone book.” Add to that Archie's devoted legion of prepubescent and postmenopausal fans. And then there's this year's coronation song, which is bound to be more syrupy than a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's. No one serves up syrup sweeter than Archuleta. We can already imagine his dad saying, "Pour it on.”

-- Daniel Bubbeo

The winner: David Cook

"Idol” missed its shot with Chris Daughtry two years ago. Sure, 19 Entertainment still makes money off him, but it would have been so much sweeter if the "American Idol,” not the fourth-place finisher, had been the biggest-selling artist in 2007. Cook's potential CD sales could even overtake Daughtry's. He's ├╝ber-talented and can sing "Phantom of the Opera” with as much ease as Phantom Planet. The stylists have exposed his raw sexuality and - surprise! - he's also a nice guy. The perfect "Idol” package. Make no mistake, it'll be Cook singing the assuredly icky "coronation” song Wednesday night.

-- Ronnie Gill

For more on the final, read Verne Gay's column.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Video: Long Islanders pick the next 'Idol'

We took a camera, a microphone and a walk around the mall to see which David Long Islanders think will win "American Idol."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Syesha goes bye-bye on 'Idol'

Syesha Mercado American Idol
David Archuleta and David Cook have been so linked in fans' minds as the logical front-runners that they're known simply as "The Two Davids." The Two Davids will be back next week for the seventh season shootout on Wednesday night. And someone named David will win.

Syesha Mercado, born in Bridgeport, Conn., is a feisty, smart, gifted singer who emerged from the back of this season's pack to become a genuine contender. But her dream of "Idol" conquest is not to be.

Mercado's exit may have been preordained - she was in the bottom two twice and three times in the bottom three - but that didn't mean she didn't fight to the end. As much if not more than any contestant this season, Mercado underwent a near-miraculous on-screen conversion: From something of a shy wallflower in the early rounds (when she meekly and politely sang songs like "Me and Mr. Jones") to a go-for-broke belt-it-out crooner in a slinky dress and come-hither manner. Eliza Doolittle couldn't have done better.

In fact, Tuesday night she seemed to be particularly on her game, at first anyway. Judge Randy Jackson selected "If I Ain't Got You," by Alicia Keys, which she nailed. Then came the Peggy Lee standard, "Fever," and Syesha seemed to falter, as she wove her way around a chair and through the sinuous byways of this (very old) chestnut. Finally, Gia Farrell's up-tempo "Hit Me Up." Nice song, OK performance, but the judges decided to dump a bucket of ice on it anyway.

That's no way to end this run, perhaps, but then most "Idol" dreams do usually end in ice - not fire.

- Verne Gay

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Battle of the Davids

So Ryan asks Randy what he wants to say before they announce the results and Randy says they've all done an amazing job, that they should be proud of themselves, that they are the three standing out 100,000 people they saw. Paula says they're all standing in a path of great things to come, and that life is about moments and if you're lucky enough, you create ones that will last forever and if you're really, really lucky, the world will watch. Simon says he likes the these three and if it's the final he's hoping for, they're going to have a real humdinger next week.

Here we go...

After 56 million votes, America has decided that the two people going head to head in the finale next week are:

David Archuleta and David Cook.

Syesha Mercado goes home.

David Cook's week

Last is David Cook and Ryan says that the interesting thing about David is that it wasn't his idea to audition for "Idol." David says that it wasn't. He says he went to Omaha to be moral support for his little brother, Andrew. He says a producer came up to interview Andrew and ten turned to him and he said he wasn't auditioning, to which the producer responded, "Well, now you are." Ryan then calls Andrew up to the stage with him and David and David continues the story. He says he answered the question the producer asked him and made some Mandy Moore comment, trying to be funny and the next thing he knows, he's got a golden ticket and he's heading to Hollywood.

So, we're heading to Blue Springs, Mo., now to see David's visit home. He visits the local Fox station, where tons of fans were waiting, even though it was raining. While at the station, he gives the local weather forecast, he heads to a radio station and ten goes downtown to give a little concert, where he is completely shocked by how many people turned out and he tells the audience that it's the coolest day of his life. He then heads to his old elementary school where he plans to surprise his old music teacher, Mrs. Gentry, to thank her for inspiring to get into music in the first place. They had a whole assembly gathered, so I doubt it was a real surprise, but it was still really sweet. Then he's in a parade, with a tremendous, and I mean tremendous turnout - he, too, looks close to tears. He then throws the first pitch at a baseball game and says that he's gotten to do everything he ever wanted to do in one day.

Next is a look at his journey through the season.

Looking at Syesha's week

Syesha Mercado is next...Ryan asks her what it was like to get the star treatment at home. She says it was amazing, that she didn't know there were that many people in Sarasota, Fla.

During her visit home, she makes an visit to Fox13's studios, then heads to Bradenton, Fla., wear she visits her old elementary school - the crowd is huge and one lady actually passes her a baby as she's walking, so she could take a picture with it... insane. At the school, Gwen Brown, the Manatee County Commissioner declares the day Syesha Mercado Day and Syesha too, is in tears. Then she heads to her actual home, where she visits with family. Her dad says that having Syesha be in the competition has given him a reason to stay clean, since he had struggled with drugs and alcohol. Then Syesha is part of some kind of parade on the way to her old high school, where the mayor of Sarasota, Lou Ann Palmer says nice things about her and then when the crowd starts chanting her name, she starts crying again, and the tears continue to flow on her limo ride away from the school.

Ryan then goes through her performances and shows a video of her journey through the season.

Closer look at David Archuleta's week

Well Ryan says they're getting right to the results, which makes no sense, because as soon as you say one person is safe, the bottom is immediately revealed. But anyway, he calls David Archuleta up first.

Instead of going through last night's performances, Ryan shows a video of David's visit back home to Murray, Utah. He makes an appearance on "Good Morning Utah" and has a bunch of cheerleaders rush at him to hug him, visits a radio station and shows up at the Gateway Mall. Of course, there were screaming girls at every stop and by the time he hits the mall, he's in tears, overwhelmed by everyone's support. He does say something kind of cute - on the limo ride to the high school, he's kind of talking about how many people showed up at the mall and he says, "Gosh, where did they park?" It cracks me up because it's something I would wonder about myself. Anyway, it looks the entire high school is there to support him and Yosemite Sam (the mayor) announces that May 9, 2008 is David Archuleta Day.

OK, so now Ryan goes through last night's performances and asks David what the biggest obstacle was for him. David says learning three songs was a lot with visiting home and everything, but it was fun and it was all worth it once he got on stage. And since he competition is so close, they're showing the video if David's journey through the season now - I'm assuming they'll do it for all the contestants.

Fantasia performs on "Idol"... again

The group song tonight is to "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." It's OK - they're actually blending real well together, so it sounds nice.

But let's rewind a moment - did Ryan really say Fantasia is going to be singing live? Ugh... why do they keep forcing us to listen to her? It's very possible I may fast forward past her - I hope you all understand - I think her voice is terrible.

The Ford commercial tonight is set to "Heaven" and it shows the contestants visiting a fortune teller, where they envision themselves living lavish lives, with mansions and cars (Fords, of course.) It was OK, but this season's have not been as good as last season's - it's like they've lost their originality a little bit, but they're still entertaining for 30 or 45 seconds or so.

Well, Fantasia is singing now, a song called "Bore Me," and even though I really don't like her voice, I can admit that it's quite a catchy tune and her fans probably loved it. Her performance was really energetic and she moved around the stage a lot. It was not as bad as I thought it would be.

"I don't want to miss a thing" next week when David Cook wins

The last round is the producers' choice and they choose "Longer," by Dan Fogelberg for David Archuleta.

Now, this what I'm talking about - this is a perfect song for him - very soft and soothing. He sounds incredible - as if the song had been written just for him. The melody is so pretty and the lyrics a bit sappy - it's exactly the kind of song I want to hear him sing, the kind of song I would pay to hear him sing. Up until this point, I have felt like as good as he is, I would never buy his music, but if he recorded an album with songs like this, with softer, kind of easy-listening music, I would totally buy it. He could be this decade's Lionel Richie.

Randy tells him it was interesting song choice (one he didn't get to make) but that he could sing the phone book, he's in the zone and it was another hot one from him. Paula says it was a lovely performance and Simon says he's not going to criticize him because he sang the song very well, but he thought the song and the lyrics were absolutely horrible - it was so gooey, it was something you'd choose for like a 90-year-old and he's only 17. But he adds that he thinks David has done enough to get into the finals next week.

The producers choose "Hit Me Up," by Gia Farrell, a song that was featured on the "Happy Feet" soundtrack.

My only thought is that the producers must really want Syesha off the show because this song is horrendous and her singing is not much better. She sounds out of tune in a bunch of places and she looks incredibly uncomfortable on stage. She really needed this song to be great to make up for last round's performance, but instead, I think this song just sealed her fate - she'll be going home tomorrow night.

Randy says he could see her doing a song like that, but that it was just OK for him. Paula says she sang the song well, but it's not the type of song that defines her as an artist and she doesn't know if it's going to be good enough to get into the finals. Simon says it was better than the second song, but she had her moment last week with the Sam Cooke song. He says he doesn't think anything she sang tonight has topped that and the problem with that song is that it didn't give her that defining moment he would have liked to see at the end of the show.

The producers choose Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for David Cook, and it's a great song for him. It starts out soft, which he sings perfectly and then builds to the chorus, where he rocks it out, like we've come to expect from him. Plus, they added real dramatic lighting, so the performance just had that extra something. If you ask me, he should be taking the prize next week and I just hope the teeny boppers out there can get over David Archuleta's shy giggle and vote for David Cook.

Randy says he loves the song, but it was still just OK for him, that it was very predictable. Paula says she'll see David in the finals. Simon says, "David, one of the greatest song of all time and I have to tell you, David Cook wins the night."

No big surprises here - I think Syesha Mercado will go home tomorrow and we'll be watching the battle of the Davids next week.

Syesha Mercado must have had a "Fever" when she chose that song

Next round is the contestant's choice and David Archuleta is up first. He chooses to sing Chris Brown's "With You."

He's a smart kid - he chose a song that's current, that's still being played on the radio. I'm not sure it's his thing, though. He seems really uncomfortable throughout and he's doing this weird swaying motion - I don't know if it's his attempt at dancing, but it looks a little weird. It's a cute performance and I'm sure it was meant to show that he is young, fresh and current, but I think it backfired a bit - it actually showed that he's not - he does better with the old-fashioned ballads - these uptempo songs don't suit him at all.

Randy says he applauds the fact that he tried to do something hip and young since that's the kind of record he thinks David should make, but he's not sure this was the right song, that seeing him sing "my boo," he just didn't believe it. Paula says he should be singing songs like this, that he's so used to singing ballads, but he needs to work on shortening his phrases, not extending them so much. Simon also applauds him for not doing a ballad, which he would have expected, but it was a little bit like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger, in so much that it's not really him - he thought the dancing was a bit awkward.

Syesha chooses to sing "Fever," by Peggy Lee... Whoa... big mistake and here's why. First off, that's an older song and she really should be trying to do something more contemporary to show the judges the kind of album she would like to make. Second, I can already envision her slithering across the stage, trying to be all sexy, and that angle has never worked for anyone for very long. Oh boy - she's planning to use a prop - she's got a chair onstage - is she planning to do a striptease or something? This is getting to be just a bit nonsensical.

Plus, is it just me, or did Syesha just become very annoying almost overnight? She's talking in weird voices, trying to be funny and it's just coming across like she's trying too hard and it's getting on my nerves. Anyway, she couldn't be any more predictable in her performance of this song - she starts with her back to the audience, sitting on the chair, and then turns just enough for the camera to get a profile of her making some wannabe sexy face. Then she gets up and starts walking around the stage and actually walks around a bass player and kind of caresses him, before slithering back to the chair. Just horrendous. Notice, how I haven't even mentioned her singing - that's how ridiculous she looks. It's like her voice doesn't even matter - she ruined the whole thing trying to be sexy. Definitely a bad move for her.

Randy tells her it was a very interesting song choice at this point, but what he highlights is that she sang it amazingly well (I'm surprised he was able to focus on the singing with all her theatrics going on). Paula says she's surprised Syesha picked this song because it doesn't show her who Syesha is as an artist. Simon says she will probably regret that decision tomorrow because she had a chance to prove that she is a contemporary recording artist with her own choice of song, but instead, she did quite a lame cabaret performance.

David Cook chooses to sing "Dare You to Run," by Switchfoot. I love this song - I first heard it on the soundtrack of "A Walk to Remember," and it's such a perfect mix of ballad and rock song. Great choice, in my opinion.

Ouch... it's not his best performance - I wonder if maybe he can't hear himself or something, because he's actually just a tiny bit off key in the verses. The chorus sounds fantastic, though, so maybe no one will notice.

Randy says it's a great song choice, but performance wise, it wasn't his best tonight, that it was a little pitchy (I guess someone did notice). Paula says she knows how hard it is to squeeze a song in like 90 seconds, that the key is to have audience feel like they got a beginning, middle and end, and she feels like he just got to the beginning when it hit the end of the song and she wanted more. Simon says there's nothing much he can add to that. He says it was pretty much what he expected, that it wasn't the best melodic song in the world and that the three of them all had an OK middle round.

"And so it goes," judges love David Archuleta...shocker

First off, I want to thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes - they were completely unexpected and greatly appreciated. Second, I need to take a moment to mourn the loss of my "American Idol" love, Jason Castro - I still can't believe he left on my birthday, but it's OK - it really was his time to go. It seemed to me that he had checked out a little bit, so it's all for the best.

And we're getting down to the last few episodes now - I can't believe we're just a week away from the finale. Tonight each contestant will be singing three songs - one chosen by one of the judges, one chosen by the show's producers and one song the contestants personally choose.

The first round tonight is the judges' picks and David Archuleta is up first. Mayor Snarr, of Murray, Utah, whose mustache reminds me of Yosemite Sam, tells David that Paula Abdul has chosen Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" for him to sing tonight.

I know this may be sacrilege here on Long Island, but I do not like Billy Joel - at all. So, I am not familiar with this song, nor am I looking forward to hearing it. Plus, David says he's excited to sing it because it's a really pretty song, which just means it's probably a ballad. Yuck.

I'll say this for him - he sang almost half the song a cappella, which is incredibly difficult to pull off. It's so hard to stay in tune without any accompaniment to guide you. But, as expected, I think the song is boring and completely uninteresting. He sang it well, though, and for the first time in a long time, I'm actually a little impressed with him. I just wish it had been a better song.

Randy tells him that Paula chose a dope song for him and he can sing anything. He says the Billy Joel thing works well on him and he would have liked to see David play the piano like Billy Joel while singing it, but that it doesn't matter. He says David is in the zone and he's in it to win it. Paula says it was a pure and stunning performance and that tonight, he was a storyteller, that it was a beautiful performance. Simon says it was very good, no surprises, a bit predictable. The crowd boos and Simon says that it's not really a criticism - that it was good, not outstanding, but good.

Syesha is up next and she learns via text message that Randy Jackson has chosen "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys. She says that's her favorite artist and she loves that song and already knows what she's going to do.

I love her dress - very elegant, and she looks stunning in it. I do wish she had left her hair curly, though. She sings the song well, but it wasn't a real wow performance. I think she could have gotten into it a bit more - she chose to kind of stand in the middle of the stage and just sing. But this song is very emotional, she could have put some movement into it, made it come alive. I don't know - I feel like they're all so good, any criticism is really just nit-picking, but still, I think she could have done a little more with the song.

Randy says she did an amazing job and he's so happy that she's peaking at the right time in this competition. Paula says she is very proud that Syesha is the last lady standing. She says it's hard to do a song that is so identifiable with a beautiful artist and she applauds her for that. (Why does she deserve that? She had no choice in that song - it was chosen for her.) Simon says she sang it very well, but he wishes that Randy had chosen something for her where she wasn't going to just be trying to sound like the original. Randy then says that if he listens back, she actually changed quite a few notes. Simon says not enough, in his opinion, but that she looks gorgeous.

David Cook is next and as some of you may already know, he was surprised during a live interview with a text message from Simon Cowell saying that he is singing Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." He didn't look too excited about it, but I think he'll make something out of it.

I've never actually heard the original, and I wonder if it could be any better that David Cook's version. The thing I love about him, is that while he's been categorized as a rocker, he sings these soft ballads so beautifully and really only adds a rocker twist at the end. He's versatile - he can really sing anything well - he's not trapped in one style like David Archuleta is.

Randy tells him he's been a fan since Day 1, that he can sing anything and he loved the high note at the end, but he wishes Simon would have picked something that wasn't as predictable as this older kind of song because he wants David to rock, that he's a rocker. Paula says that it's one of her favorite songs and now he's the second favorite person who sings it. Simon says that he might be a little bit biased, but he thinks it was actually one of his best performances to date.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

American Idol cuts... Jason Castro

Hey, Ace Young's gonna be a guest star on Bones next Monday. See, sometimes these commercials are worth watching. We're back, with Syesha (in a cool purple top) and Jason (usual plaid) standing on stage.

As Ryan recaps the brutal judges comments Jason says somebody told him he shot the tambourine man yesterday, which is pretty funny. They both seem pretty nervous, Jason says his inexperience may have been kicking in, it's getting tougher.

Syesha talks about her emotions last night, that she's living her dreams and the civil rights aspects of A Change is Gonna Come, referencing we may have our first black or female president. Things do indeed change.

Ryan reveals the result... and Syesha's in the top three. Goodbye, Jason Castro. His tape is fun, he really is a fun, easy-going guy. Lots of funny moments, always had a goofy smile on his face.

There's a delay as he does his farewell I Shot the Sheriff, seems to be some technical issues. Oh well; this isn't what we'll remember him for, as he's cut off halfway through like often happens.

Jason had a really nice run--I think his version of Hallelujah way at the start was one of the top three performances so far this year. It's too bad all his weeks weren't like that.

And so, we're down to the Davids and Syesha. Can she sneak into the finals next week? Suddenly there's some drama again.

Well, Eileen, hope you got some nicer birthday presents than Idol gave you tonight. But here's a look back:

Bo Bice

Back with Bo Bice performing Witness, runner-up in season four. I thought he should've beaten Carrie Underwood based on how each performed that year, but she's definitely shown since then she's the bigger star.

He looks pretty much the same as he did on the show; Ryan for some reason is standing right in between the final four contestants, nobody's really dancing or anything, they're just in a line moving a little.

The performance is allright, I don't think it's a great song so it loses my interest. That, plus my Pistons are making a nice little comeback against the Magic, on the road.

Hmm, Bice talks about the contestants, tells them to practice; he seems to have mellowed out a bit, being a father and all with another on the way.

Questions, we've got questions (and Maroon 5)

The Ford commercial is set to a bad version of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. They're all dressed up like bullfighters, it's pretty colorful.

And now, pre-recorded questions from actual Idol fans. Emily asks David Cook out, to great applause. He's like what do you like to do, she says she can show him around Pittsburgh, he winds up taking a breath and saying we'll see. That was pretty funny.

Next caller asks the group what's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome, Syesha says stage fright, Archuleta stammers out "I don't know", which makes me laugh out loud, Jason says the brain being dead.

This is a better-than-usual segment; and then someone asks Simon how come the Queen hasn't knighted him, he says he asks himself that on a daily basis. Mara, 13, asks Syesha how she feels being the only girl left, she alludes to getting teased by the guys. Paula says it's "fantastic" being the only girl on the panel.

A serious question, whether any of the artists have ever given them feedback, Cook says yeah. Marla wraps it up--don't any guys watch this show?!--by telling Simon he could be the next James Bond, he says he's available.

Maroon 5 does If I Never See Your Face Again. I keep thinking Blake Lewis is gonna slip onto stage. They're good, but the deadpan performance feels too serious for this show.

Ryan slaps hands with them all, says 'what's up brother' to Adam Levine; Ryan asks where they're touring, he says Europe, then San Antonio.

Ryan asks what advice do you have for the young people on the couch, he says hello young people; then says, get ready to work.

And it's a promo for Indiana Jones; you loyal readers out there will know this--but did you know you no longer have to go to movie theaters to see previews, you can now watch every single trailer just by clicking here.

Does David Cook get cut?

The four got flown to Las Vegas on a private jet, Idol actually dares to compare them to the real Fab Four (the Beatles); they went to see a tribute show.

It's really getting hard to separate the show from the commercial tie-ins. There's a hilarious segment showing them all getting prettied up, then they're at the show. I guess this is the payback for Idol getting to sing the Beatles songbook earlier in the season.

Ryan calls David Cook up next, leaving Jason and Syesha backstage hugging each other. Randy gets asked if he makes it to the final what does Cook need to do, he says just keep doing what you've been doing, rock it out. Cook says he did feel a bit off last night, from when he woke up.

And he's safe, too. Big applause, the two Davids do a chest bump, and Syesha and Jason Castro both get called out to the stage. Ryan messes with them, then to break.

Does David Archuleta get cut?

We're back, Ryan's talking about the July 1st kickoff of the Idol tour in Glendale, Arizona.

Then, the recap of last night--I, incidentally, thought David Archuleta was really strong (if cheesy), David Cook was inconsistent (but always worth watching), Syesha showed she could hang with the big boys (parts of A Change is Going to Come were amazing), and Jason Castro was... well, in his own world.

It's time for the results, Ryan says--which in the lying world of television means we're 47 minutes from the result. Nice young Archuleta gets called up first, to his usual shrieks; his stumbling humbleness never gets old. And of course he's safe.

Some technical difficulties as Ryan tries to promo the Idol tour again, instead we just go to commercial. Which is for the new Sex in the City movie.

A coworker who went to the media preview said there are some real surprises in it; I'll bet all the tour operators in Manhattan can't wait to add some new stops.

Idol looks for its top three

Happy birthday, Eileen (it's the 21st, right?!)--but yeah, I'm afraid it looks like your beloved Jason is going home tonight. After all, we can't have a top three that's all guys....

It's the usual melodramatic intro by Ryan, then he says nearly 51 million votes were cast last night. The top three were all within a million votes of each other apparently; hmmm, interesting--Syesha's really made a late run here. Assuming she's the 3rd, of course.

Ryan quizzes Randy about his harsh take on Syesha, Paula--in a dramatically plunging dress--talks about what she calls Syesha's amazing job, Simon's quizzed about his 'anger', which he says was just surprise at bad song choices.

Group sing, they're doing Steely Dan's Reelin' in the Years. It's fine, like most of these they're just filling time. Some serious lighting issues as it wraps up, people are either in the dark or overlit.

"Mr. Tambourine Man," sing a song for me that will save Jason Castro

Jason Castro is next, and he says he's going to stick with the Bobs and sing Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." He says it's just a cool song and that Bob Dylan kind of started the whole folk rock movement back in the day and he very much relates to that and so he's excited to sing a classic folk rock song.

He starts off really great -- I'm just about starting to think that he can turn this all around and then it happens ... he forgets the words. And not only does he forget the words but he tries to cover it by singing nah-nah-nahs. It's really obvious and I'm wondering if perhaps he should have stopped and started over like Brooke did those few times. It's a shame, because this song was so perfectly suited to him and his voice, but it's like once he forgets the words, you can't think of anything else, and instead of listening to him sing, you're more listening to see if he'll forget the words again. To be fair, though, if you put aside his little error, his voice sounds terrific. I always wonder what the judges find fault in with him -- is it because he doesn't have a power voice like Syesha or because he doesn't have the creative brain to transform songs like David Cook? Because his voice is great and his song choices, for the most part, are pretty solid. So, I'm just wondering if perhaps the judges really aren't open to a different sound -- maybe they're just looking for that middle of the road pop singer, like Archuleta or Syesha. But who knows? Maybe they'll be kind this time -- it's not like he's done it before.

Well, Randy asks him how he thinks he did (Ouch ... that's the kiss of death question). Jason says he lost some lines in there. Randy then says he's not in the zone tonight, that he doesn't know what's going on. Paula says it is what it is, that at this point in the competition, they've all solidified their niche, and obviously, it didn't blow them away, but he blows her away. Simon just says, "Jason, I'd pack your suitcase."

David Archuleta sings Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." He says Elvis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 (its first year). He says he looked up the song because he didn't know it too well and he looked up some other versions and he thought it would be a cool song to sing because he hasn't really sung a romantic love song on the big stage before, so this will be an exciting week.

It's funny because at work, my friend Cindy and I were trying to figure out what he would sing, going on the assumption that he would sing a super-well-known, classically obvious ballad. We guessed it could be "Unchained Melody" or "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." And then I said, "Maybe he'll sing some really obvious Elvis song, like 'I Can't Help Falling in Love With You.'" Who knew I would come so close? That's my big issue with him -- he sings such huge hits, that I feel like people vote for the song, not necessarily for him. I'm not saying his singing doesn't deserve votes, but I think people tend to remember songs they enjoy, so he seems to always have the advantage singing songs that everyone on planet Earth has heard.

Randy says it was another great performance, that he likes how David was so tender and he caressed each word, that he's got it going on right now, the hottest vocals of the night. Paula says it was one of her favorite performance from him, that she felt his heart, that it was fantastic and very beautiful. Simon says he didn't beat the competition tonight, he crushed the competition.

So, tomorrow is my birthday, and I will not be blogging live for the results show. Instead, Jamshid Mousavinezhad, who brought you live updates on "Idol" Gives Back night, will be blogging tomorrow night's results. I'll be back next week through to the end of the season.

As for tomorrow night, even though I knew this was bound to happen, I had hoped it wouldn't be this week. But it looks like the day has finally come. I think Jason Castro is going home tomorrow night (on my birthday - how awful!). My only consolation is that I won't actually have to see it happen.

"A change is gonna come" and leave Syesha in the top 3

Time for Round 2 ...

David Cook is singing "Baba O'Riley" by The Who. David says the song is off their 1971 album, "Who's Next." He says he chose the song because it's one of those iconic rock songs and it's never been performed on the show. He says those two things together kind of put into a really cool context and hopefully he'll be able to spin it his own way and see us all another week.

Have I mentioned how in love I am with David's voice? I don't really like this song, so it was hard for me to get into it, but if you close your eyes and really just listen, instead of watching the performance, you can really focus on his voice, and I find that his voice is the best on the show -- it's so rich and deep. He can sing softly and then really power it out. I think he's incredibly talented and even though I really can't appreciate this one choice of song, I still think he's amazing.

Randy says there something different going on with him tonight, but that this was more like the David Cook he's grown to love. He says he's the resident rocker dude, and he should shake whatever off and just be him, because he's great. Paula says she wants more -- that she's humbled to sit there and watch his soul. Simon simply says, "Welcome back, David Cook."

Syesha Mercado is up next and she's singing "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, and she says it was released after his death, in 1965 during the civil rights movement, which was a pivotal time in history, and now she's singing it in a pivotal time in her life. She says being in the top 4 is an amazing experience and that she's so thankful to still be there and this song took on a totally different meaning for her.

Well, first off, she looks stunning in this long yellow-gold gown -- I'd love to know where it came from. It's gorgeous. But about her singing, this song is a way better choice for her; it really showcases her talent and I feel like as boring as I find her personality, her voice is really something. And Randy's right -- her timing is great; she's gotten better at just the right time.

Randy says the first song he loved, but this song he did not love as much because he didn't love the arrangement with the music and he didn't even like the arrangement with the vocals. He felt like she pushed out things and tried for things that weren't there. He says Sam Cooke is the greatest singer ever in life and it's the greatest melody, she didn't have to do anything extra special. He says it sounded all disconnected to him, trying to be something it wasn't, that it fell flat for him. Paula stands up and claps -- she says that the way she orchestrated her vocals was just beautiful, that she utilized everything she was hoping she would and that she turned it into a superstar performance. She says singing "A Change Is Gonna Come," that Syesha has changed, that she is magnificent. She then tells Syesha, "Welcome to your dream, Syesha, this is it for you." And then Syesha starts to cry, as Paula once again stands up and applauds. Simon just says, "Syesha, I have to be fair ... and I'm going to agree with ... Paula."

So, back to the crying ... Syesha says she actually researched the song before she sang it and she found out so much information about it, like why it was written and it came out during the civil rights movement and it meant a lot to her and it took on a totally different meaning when she started listening to it and she couldn't stop crying because she feels like she's changed a lot. I can respect her getting emotional about the song, but it didn't seem sincere -- if she was moved by the song, why wasn't she moved during the song or right after the song? She started crying when Paula was speaking -- it was all kind of odd, but I have to take her at her word about why she was crying, and like I said, I have complete respect for that. I think we're all proud of our own backgrounds and prone to emotion when we think about the suffering our ancestors endured. I just wonder what Paula said that struck a chord with her, because the timing of the tears was really strange.

"I shot the sherriff," but Jason Castro's the one suffering

Next up is Jason Castro. He mentions this week's theme and says there were a few songs on the list that he knew and so he's singing one that he's known for a while that he likes, although he's never performed it. He's singing "I Shot the Sheriff" by Bob Marley.

I have to be honest ... I really don't think Jason is going to be able to pull this off. Bob Marley is so unique, so untouchable -- I can't imagine that Jason will be able to conjure up that same kind of energy. I don't know ... this can't be good.

I will say this -- you can tell that he loves this song. He's showing more life in this song than he has this whole competition, meaning he's actually attempting to entertain instead of just performing, like he normally does. I'm not sure I can fairly judge this -- I love Jason's voice, I think it's beautiful -- and that has nothing to do with how cute I think he is. I sincerely love the sound of his voice. I can admit that he's not well-suited for this song -- I'm not sure anyone is -- at least not like Bob Marley, but overall, I think his singing is very nice. But I have a feeling the judges will not be very kind.

Randy says it was a really karaoke Bob Marley. He says it was just OK, but there was nothing special about it and at this point, the contestants have to show that they deserve to be in the finals -- it's not about just doing a song, just good enough, just to have some fun. He says it just wasn't good. Paula says, on a positive note, that she's never seen him perform so much to the audience. But she says she wasn't crazy about the performance or the song, but he's so real, so genuine and his artistry shines through and he wins her over just for that. Simon says, "Jason, stand back. That was utterly atrocious." He says that this is a song you do not touch, the arrangement was atrocious, the performing and the singing was as bad as he's ever heard. He says it was like a first-round audition massacre. Then he says, "Honestly, I don't know what you're thinking." And Jason says, "I was thinking, Bob Marley -- yeah!!"

Ryan comments about how they seem angry at Jason, and Simon says that he was really surprised, that the only similarity between Jason and Bob Marley is the hair -- that you just can't do that. Then Ryan adds, "Especially at this point in the show, Ryan. C'mon." Paula then tells them to drop it and they do.

But Ryan is right -- they seem really angry with him, beyond not liking his song. I wonder if something has happened behind the scenes. I've seen stories talking about how Jason has said that he's ready to go home, and Simon has criticized him before for not seeming to care, so maybe it's all true. Maybe Jason really doesn't care about the competition and just hasn't been trying -- who knows? I read a story last week that said the reason Jason forgot the words to the Neil Diamond song during his meeting with him was because he had been out on the town with friends and hadn't spent the time practicing. You never know what kind of drama is brewing backstage.

Anyway, the golden child, David Archuleta is up next. He says he's singing "Stand by Me," by Ben E. King, which came out in 1960. He says it's always been a fun song for him to sing, that he would sing it in his room to himself and to his dog, but he's never sung it in public before (Sure ... wait until all the YouTube videos start popping up of him singing the song somewhere when he was like 12). He says this will be fun because he's always wanted to sing this song.

How many different ways are there to say that David is predictably fantastic? I find that every week I have less to say about him. He's great -- his voice is wonderfully smooth and he's never out of tune. He picked a fantastic song that I think the world over is in love with -- how can you not love "Stand By Me?" But again, I feel like there's never been any progress with him -- no change, no growth. He'll probably win the competition or come in behind David Cook, but I'm still not sure he'll be able to sell records.

Randy says at least there's one guy that hits the stage, every time he hits the stage, trying to win the whole thing. He says he brought the hot man vocals, that he loved it, it was hot. Paula says she really admires how he listened to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who told him to keep his eyes open, to communicate with his audience, and she says he really delivered with that. Well, you know me, I have to go back and check if she's right. Please hold ...

OK ... Now I don't know if she's reading off her notes from the dress rehearsal or what, but she couldn't possibly be referring to tonight's performance -- his eyes were closed more than half the performance. She's just batty. But anyway, Simon says the truth is, he could have whistled the song and it would have sounded better than Jason, that he was very well placed. The boos kind of drown it out, but David does respond, saying, "I liked Jason's song." Simon says it was a good choice of song, that he struggled a bit at the end of it, but in the grand scheme of things, he's going to call that the best performance of the night so far.

"Proud Mary" wouldn't be so proud of Syesha Mercado

This week's theme is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so the contestants have so much to choose from -- I imagine the choices tonight will be varied, with Jason Castro picking more folksy, hippie-like songs and David Archuleta going for those classic and extremely well-known ballads.

But let's get started. Thank goodness, after last week's confusion, Ryan says the judges will critique the contestants after each performance. Last week was just a disaster the way they set it up. I imagine this week will be way more organized.

First up tonight is David Cook. He says he is singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran. He says it came out in 1982, the year he was born. He says the song didn't immediately jump out at him, but the more he listened to it, he could kind of feel some changes that would work for him.

You know, I'm in love with David's voice, and he sounds fantastic tonight, but he said in his interview that he planned to change the song and I don't hear any changes. Is it just me? I was kind of expecting him to work some magic on this song, because as popular as this song once was, it's kind of gotten old for me. I used to watch an old friend of mine and his band cover this song almost every weekend, so I've hit a saturation point. David could have really changed it, modernized it, made it relevant, but instead, he sings it pretty much as it was written and recorded, so as much as I love him, tonight, he comes off a little bit karaoke.

Randy says it was an OK song choice and a solid performance, but he's looking to see who's gonna bring the mad-hot vocals tonight and that it was just OK, not amazing, just OK. Paula says his "Hungry Like the Wolf" left her with a big appetite ... Yuck. She says it's been truly remarkable to watch him grow and flourish. Simon says it was good, but he knows where Randy's coming from because it was a little bit copycat and he didn't do what he's done in previous weeks: choose a song and make it his own. But he says it's good enough at the moment to get him through to next week.

Syesha Mercado is next and she is singing "Proud Mary," by Tina Turner. She says this song has been covered more than 100 times and she was scared to even attempt to do this song because of Tina Turner's famous choreography in this song. But she said she looked at herself in the mirror and said, "Syesha, just do it. Just have fun with it," and she says that's what she's going to do.

OK, my first problem with her trying to imitate Tina Turner's steps is that she's going too fast. In the beginning, during the slow part, Tina does that hip move like at half the speed that Syesha's doing it, so it started out all wrong for me. Her voice sounds great, but too smooth for the song ... I don't know -- this song is so closely associated to Tina Turner it almost shouldn't be touched. I guess it's just hard to accept a different version. Meaning that Tina's version is hard and edgy, with her raspy voice making it sound rough and almost raw. Syesha's voice is so different -- it just sounds kind of out of place with this song. I mean, she's not out of tune or anything, but it's sort of like having a crazy heavy-metal singer like Marilyn Manson attempt to sing "Ave Maria." It just doesn't go -- that's how I feel about Syesha and this song: It just doesn't go. But I do give her credit for the attempt -- she mimicked the dance moves the best she could and really tried to perform the heck out of the song.

Randy says this is the third week in a row that Syesha has shown up and been in the zone. He says she has pretty good timing because she's showing the heat late in the competition when she needs it. Paula says she looks like a star and that she has this magnetic voice and presence. Simon says he's sorry to put a slight damper on things, but he thought it was a bad, shrieky version, a bad impersonation of Tina Turner. Syesha responds and says, "I was trying to have fun." And Simon responds with, "Well, OK, good. I didn't." Hilarious.

Friday, May 2, 2008

"Idol" boss: Why would I fire Paula?

I guess because the "American Idol" contestants aren't super-exciting this year we've all got to find something else to chatter about, right?

Otherwise, why else all the rumors over Paula Abdul getting fired, when a minute's logic tells you her quirky (OK ... at times downright weird) behavior is exactly why she's on the show to begin with.

In an unusually candid interview, Paula's boss said as much:

"Why would we get rid of Paula?" wonders Cecile Frot-Coutaz matter-of-factly, when questioned about possibly nixing the wacky "American Idol" judge now infamous for -- among other things -- critiquing both of Jason Castro's songs after he'd sung only one.

All the chatter about Abdul's slip-up during Tuesday's "Idol" performance show doesn't faze the FremantleMedia North America CEO and "Idol" executive producer. Nor did the subsequent speculation about the singing competition's authenticity.

"I love that everyone was talking about it," she told The Associated Press over lunch in her office two days after the show. "It was so unexpected. It was something that took up 2 seconds of airtime. You'd think there was no other news on television."
Would Cecile Frot-Coutaz rather everyone was talking about the battle of the Davids?

Yes, of course. But for whatever reason, the public just isn't interested in that type of stuff, this year.

So since Cecile Frot-Coutaz would rather we talk about Idol -- good, bad ugly -- than talk about "Dancing With the Stars" or Barack Obama, or Miley Cyrus, or Roger Clemens, she's fine with Paula Abdul hogging the headlines for now.

Here's the problem, though: to a certain extent, these tangential issues are interesting. However, we watch the show for the singers. If the bread-and-butter of the show isn't strong enough to beat out navel-gazing gossip, "Idol" is in deep trouble.

The ratings are already down; unless someone busts out with an amazing performance these last few weeks, or unless they bring Josiah back next year, I'm not optimistic about the future of the show we all love.

You can read the full AP story here, including the news about Idol Gives Back maybe not being back next year ... .

AP Photo of Paula Abdul

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brooke White goes home

OK - back to the results.

Syesha and Brooke are back on the stage ... And after more than 45 million votes, it is Brooke White who goes home. Syesha is safe another week.

I almost feel bad for Brooke -- she's hysterical crying, almost immediately. It was her time to go, though. She actually got a lot further than I thought she would at the beginning of the season. I can't believe they're making her sing when she can't stop crying. Not nice at all. Well, only three weeks to go ... Can't wait to see who takes the prize.

Neil Diamond performs

The Ford commercial this week is set to "Catch the Wind" and it has an environmental message, about cleaning up the Earth -- it was OK.

Neil Diamond is singing "Pretty Amazing Grace," a song off his new album, "Home Before Dark." I really like Diamond's speaking voice and his singing voice is nice, too. It's deep, but soothing. The song is acually very nice -- kind of soft, but with a tinge of rock in it. Very nice -- who knew I'd like Neil Diamond??

Ryan mentions that there is a special guest in the audience and it turns out to be Neil Diamond's mother -- how sweet. I always think it's sweet when parents get to watch their kids succeed in the spotlight -- it's so nice to see the pride in their eyes.

Simon's first kiss

Natasha Bedingfield performs "Pocketful of Sunshine." It's OK. I'm not overly impressed, but it's a nice song and she has an interesting voice, I guess.

Ryan plays like he's going to make her go through the judges' critiques, but it was just a joke ... he then continues the joking by asking her if she would go to the prom with David Archuleta. She says she has a dress, so she'd love to go if he asks her, but then Ryan points out that she also has a boyfriend.

So, now we're back to the stupid questions section.

The first question is for the judges -- why is it always Paula who gives the contestants a break? Paula says that somebody has to. She says that she wants to keep the dreams alive because they work so hard and it's so difficult to get into the industry.

Next question is for Paula -- is she going to do any more music videos with Randy? She says they're gonna keep on dancing like there's no tomorrow.

Next question is for Simon -- she says that he always says that performances are forgettable -- so which of these two performances are more memorable: his kiss with Paula Abdul or his first kiss with her at the bottom of his garden when he was 9 years old? He asks her if it's Tara Miller and she says it is ... then they go back and forth until Ryan asks her if he was a good kisser -- she hesitates and then Simon says to bear in mind that he was only 9 years old. Paula then asks Tara if she's over the rabies and she says, yes, that she's had lot of therapy, so she's fine. Simon asks Tara if she still looks cute -- and she says that he has aged very well and that she has, too, so probably. Simon seems really taken aback that she's called and kind of happy to hear from her -- it was quite a human moment for him to be talking to his first kiss, his first real crush. It was kind of cute.

Syesha Mercado and Brooke White in the bottom two

They show a clip of the upcoming season of "So You Think You Can Dance," and I haven't been so excited for something in a very long time. That is by far, the best show on television -- better than "Idol," in my opinion, and I just can't wait for it to start -- the dancers on that show are so amazing -- just breathtaking, really.

So, back to the results ... David Cook is next. Ryan asks him what his reaction is to Paula telling him that she was looking at the next American Idol. He says the first thing he thought about was what Simon said to Carly last week, about it being the kiss of death. Paula says, "Not with me." And David responds, "I hope you're right." Ryan then says, "I've got good news -- she was right." David is safe, so that means that Syesha and Brooke are in the bottom two.

Ryan tells them to come on out. Wait -- are they doing this right now? Ryan is going through the songs they sang and what the judges said ...

Ryan asks Syesha if song choices are tough for her. She says they are, that on rehearsal days, she finds herself not knowing what to sing and since she's not familiar with some of the songs, she doesn't know which is best. Ryan then asks Brooke how she was able to come back for her second song after Simon told her the first song was a nightmare. She says she genuinely had a good time, that she's happy to be there and she just kicked into that happy, grateful mode.

Jason Castro and David Archuleta are safe

They start the show pretty quick tonight, almost immediately going into the group song, which is a tribute to Neil Diamond, this week's mentor. I have to say, it's not one of their best performances -- maybe 5 people is just not enough for a group song, I don't know. But they all seem kind of unsure of the songs and the choreography -- it was a very tentative and cautious kind of performance.

Like every week, they show a clip of last night's performances and then Ryan takes a minute to address Paula's major screw-up last night. He says the rumors are not true (my assumption is that people said she was either drunk or on drugs) and that she is part of their family and they love her.

So on to the results. Jason Castro is up first. Ryan asks him if he knows what Simon meant when he said that he wasn't the Jason they put into the competition. He says he was thinking back and the weeks he got really good comments were weeks when he did songs he already knew, or changed a song and last night, he didn't know any of the songs and he didn't change them. Ryan asks him if he's nervous right now and he says yeah, a little. Ryan stalls for a bit, but then tells him to head to the sofas, that he is safe.

David Archuleta is next and Ryan asks Paula what she meant when she told David that she wants to see him have more fun on stage. She says there's a certain zone you hit when you're a performer and she's seen him hit it many times and she just wants to see that joy. Ryan then asks David if, at this stage, he feels like he's being more careful, more cautious? David says that this week, he just wanted to have fun, that in previous weeks, he had done more mature-sounding sounds, so he wanted to enjoy this week, but that he'll work on it some more. Ryan tells him he's safe and he puts on this really surprised and shocked look, which is kind of strange, because he's never really done that before. I wonder why he's so shocked tonight.

"America," are you really sure about David Archuleta?

David Archuleta sings "America" and it feels a little bit like Kristy Lee singing "God Bless the USA," like he's obviously looking to garner as many votes as he can -- totally cheesy. But he sounded great, so I guess that's all that matters, right? I read an interview in which his dad says that he's David's musical consultant, which means, basically, that David's dad is choosing these songs; so I can't really blame David himself, but he sang the two most obvious songs -- the most well-known. It's like he thinks people vote for the songs they recognize -- he doesn't trust that people will vote for his voice, whether they know the songs or not. He could have really taken a chance tonight and sung a completely unknown song and made it special, but instead he played it safe, as usual. I just wonder if this is the guy we want to buy music from. It's getting to the end of this competition, and I think the winner should be the one we'd spend money on, the one we'd pay to see in concert, the one whose CD we'd spend money to buy, and for me, that person is so not David Archuleta - it's David Cook, and perhaps Jason Castro, if he made a CD with songs like "Hallelujah." So, when you pick up the phone to vote for David Archuleta, just ask yourself if you're really sure - are you really going to follow his career a year from now, 3 months from now, even?

Anyway, Randy loves him and tells him that for a young man, he's definitely in the zone, another good performance. Paula says this was the perfect song for him to sing, that his voice is so on point and some other gibberish I don't feel like rewinding for. Simon says that was a smart choice of song, that it was clever. He says he ticked the boxes, meaning it was absolutely the right choice, check, check, check (gesturing like he's checking off boxes on a checklist).

Last one of the night is Syesha, singing "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." The song is not a ballad, so I'm loving it just because of that. But she does a great job with it - I think she's improved so much after getting to put some performance into her singing last week for Andrew Lloyd Webber week. It's like she really didn't think she could spice things up. But she was great last week, and this week is pretty good, too. She could manage to sneak up on the Davids without them even realizing it.

Randy tells her that she's finally realizing who she is, that she is also in the zone and this is the way he likes her. Paula says she didn't get to comment on her first song, so she says she loves hearing her vulnerable side, that it's her magic, but her second song shows a whole different side and it's her theatrical side. she said something else, too, but her thoughts are so jumbled, they're hard to decipher. Simon tells Syesha that what she demonstrated again is that she is a very good actress/singer. But he thinks she may be in trouble tonight. Syesha asks why and he says that there are only 5 of them left and it was a calculated guess. He just didn't think she had a really memorable second song like some of the other ones did.

Well, I think Syesha was pretty great this week - I'm actually going to keep her out of my bottom two. I think the judges badly want to get rid of Jason, so I think he may end up in the bottom two and I think Brooke White will join him. If we're being fair, I think Brooke will go home tomorrow, but you never know - the producers can alter the results any which way the want. But, I'm sticking to my guns - I say Brooke tomorrow.

I hate to be unfaithful, but David Cook, "All I really need is you"

OK, on to Round 2...

Jason Castro is singing "September Morn" and it's not the most interesting of songs - but I think his voice sounds great - he's really coming into his own, I think. His only weakness is the song's end - he often seems to fall out of tune just a tad right at the very end, so it's the last thing you hear and remember, which is a shame. I think tonight wasn't one of his absolute best performances, but it was solid. Plus, if you throw in his beautiful blue eyes and funky dreadlocks, he's unbeatable.

The judges disagree, though. Randy says he doesn't know what's happening to Jason tonight, but that it was just OK. He says this is a singing competition where they're trying to find the best vocals they can find, and that was just another just OK, whatever performance. Paula says he's playing it safe and he needs to get outside his comfort zone. In his defense, Jason says he was choking right before the song started, that he had something in his throat. Simon says they don't recognize him at the moment, that the last two weeks, this is not the Jason they put into the competition,there's no attempt to make the arrangement his own, he struggled through both songs, they were both forgettable and he thinks Jason is going to look back tonight and say "I don't know who this person is."

Is it just me or are they trying really hard to push him out of the competition? They're so hard on him - he was good tonight - I don't understand all the criticism. It's clear that the producers want to keep the sexes even, (2 guys, 2 girls) and they need to get rid of a guy this week, so they're doing their best to slaughter him. I mean, I've said it before - I know he's not going to win the competition - David Cook and David Archuleta are both more consistent than he is, but he deserves to stay longer than both Syesha and Brooke - it's infuriating to watch the judges purposely bash him to sway the viewers to not vote for him.

Up next is David Cook, singing "All I Really Need Is You." He's wonderful. I think it's been well-documented how much I love Jason Castro and I hate to appear fickle, but David Cook is spectacular - I could listen to him sing all day and not get tired of it. He's so smart with his song choices - he knows exactly how to manipulate songs to make them highlight his talents. Plus his dedication to his family is really endearing - he's wearing an "AC" on the chest of his blazer and the guitar he used fr his first song had the same "AC" on it. For those of you who haven't followed the news, his brother, Adam, is battling cancer and I really appreciate the way he chooses to honor his brother during his performances - it's very touching.

Randy tells him he's a huge David Cook fan because, again, he rocked the house with that, it was blazin'. Paula tells him she is so proud of him, that he picked two songs that are less familiar, and he was the only one who was able to pull that off - she adds that she feels like she's already looking at the "American Idol." Simon says, "David, I'm going to be honest with you. I thought the first song was OK - I thought the second song was brilliant." He adds that he actually made that song sound like it was written this year, he changed the arrangement, he made it work for him - that it was smart, well done.

Brooke White plays the piano while singing "I Am, I Said" and I feel like that piano is her saving grace - it's like when she has to concentrate on something else, her singing sounds so much more natural, more relaxed. The times that she just stands and sings, you can tell she's really focusing and it comes off kind of tense. This performance was great, way better than her first one.

Randy says sitting behind the piano, showing all the flaws and everything and that song was the most difficult of the night to sing with all the octaves, he thinks she did a nice job. Paula says something about her vulnerability and how everyone loves who Brooke is and how it works... I don't know - do any of us really care what Paula thinks, anyway? Simon tells her he really, really hated the first song because it was kind of like a girls night out at the karaoke bar, but this is the Brooke they like, sitting behind the piano, singing a very good song. He says it wasn't incredible, but it was a million times better than the first one.

Oh, "sweet Caroline," will David Archuleta ever take a risk?

David Archuleta is next and he is singing the most predictable songs of the night - "Sweet Caroline and "America," probably two of Neil Diamond's most recognizable songs. Diamond says that David is a little uncertain about how to end "America," so they show him going over a few options. He says that David is kind of a prodigy and with a little guidance and a couple of suggestions, which he hopes David takes to heart, he thinks David will do great.

He sings "Sweet Caroline" first and while this song is way overplayed, David is obviously not old enough to have gotten sick of it yet. I am. But, I will say it's cute to see his enthusiasm - he seems to really be enjoying the song, seems to be having such a great time on the stage - I'm not sure he's been this alive up there before. And he sounds great, as he does most every week. However, the thing with David is that he hasn't really changed through this whole competition - there's been no progression, no improvement. He started off a 10 and has remained a 10. He doesn't take chances - he doesn't seem to learn anything new. Other contestants have shown growth - I wonder which one America will prefer.

Last up is Syesha Mercado. She's singing "Hello, Again" and "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." Neil Diamond says she did very well with both songs. He says "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" is an infectious song, that it makes people just want to clap along. He says that she did a wonderful job and she'll do great in her performance, that he was very pleased.

She sings "Hello Again" and it's very nice. What isn't that nice is her hair - she has the most beautiful curly hair and she had it straightened this week - I mean, it looks OK, but why mess with a good thing? Plus, she's barefoot again. Has she always done this? Have I just missed it? Because here she is again, wearing a nice dress, looking very beautiful, and walking around the stage with no shoes - it just looks kind of out of place. I mean, if pulled a Joss Stone thing and wore long flowy, hippie kind of dresses, I would get it, but the dresses she wears should definitely be accompanied by a nice pair of shoes. But anyway, let's get to the singing - she sounds good, but not as good as last week. Plus, this particular song is a little dull, so it didn't help her, I don't think.

So, now all the contestants come out on stage, and Ryan asks the judges to quickly give their opinion on Round 1. Randy says Jason was just OK, better than last week, but just OK; David Cook was very good, very strong, in the zone, doing his thing; Brooke, better than last week, but still karaoke for him; David Archuleta, the bomb; Syesha was strong, in the zone, not amazing, but strong.

Paula says Jason loved hearing his lower register in the first song, since we never really get to hear it. Then she says, the second song, she felt like his usual charm was missing for her, left her a little empty and that the two songs made her feel like he's not fighting hard enough to get into the top 4. OK - let's rewind just a little bit - is Paula watching a different show? We've only seen one song from each contestant ...w hat is she talking about, the second song? I had read somewhere that they take notes on the dress rehearsal and go off those notes during the live show - I guess that's what she did here and just forgot that we were only halfway through. Only Paula ... only she would make such a huge and ridiculously stupid mistake like that. To make matters worse, instead of just owning up to it, when Randy tells her to comment just on the first song, she says, "Oh my God - I thought you sang twice." Huh? Idiot. Let's move past her ... Simon says, "Jason, forgettable. David Cook, just above average. Brooke, a nightmare. David Archuleta, I thought it was amateurish, and Syesha, I thought it was old-fashioned." He then tells the contestants that they are the top 5 and he wants to see and hear the performance of a lifetime coming up.