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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Carey Me Away

bwhite.jpgMariah Carey has been using her incredible five octave vocal range to amaze audiences for years. Along the way she's collected an impressive series of achievements, whether it be the 160 million albums she's sold worldwide, or the fact she just recently surpassed Elvis as the solo artist with the most number one hits- 18. But what's always impressed me the most about Carey is that she's the only singer I know who can deliver a powerful song and speak to dolphins at the same time. You know what I'm talking about, that crazy high-pitched squealy thing she does in all her songs. So I was surprised to hear that not only would she be a guest mentor this year, but that the contestants would be selecting from her songbook. I have yet to hear any professional singer hit those crazy notes, so I was expecting far less from our Top 7. Imagine my face then, when the contestants not only delivered awesome renditions of Mariah's songs, but that it was the guys that stole the night.

First up was everyone's favorite teen sensation, David Archuleta. His rabid Arch Angels were in full force tonight, as the audience once again delivered some powerful screams when he walked out on stage. This week David chose the Mariah song "When You Believe," which was originally a duet between Mariah and Whitney Houston for the animated movie "The Prince of Egypt" back in 1998. Simon said he could've predicted David would pick this song, probably because it's inspirational and that seems to be Mr. Archuleta's "wheelhouse" (which is "Randy-speak" for a genre of music he is comfortable in). I think David did a great job by actually using the suggestions from Mariah and breaking into his hidden falsetto. The only criticism for David A., and I mean the only criticism, would be to work on his confidence level after he's done singing. He looks like a star when he's performing, but he reverts back to Shy Guy after he sings the last note. Although, this may be in his favor since his fans might actually prefer seeing him vulnerable. None of this matters though, since he'll be part of the Top 2 singing this May.

Up next was Irish lass Carly Smithson, who sang the Mariah hit "Without You." I was expecting the usual "I really want to win and I'll step up over anyone named David to get it!" stare, but that wasn't the case tonight. Instead, Carly softened her tone a bit, probably realizing how stern she was coming across. Despite the improved demeanor and her usual technical flare for hitting all her notes, I wasn't blown away by this version of the song. I think the judges were right in saying she was holding back a little. Months ago I predicted she would be in the final two with David A., but now I'm starting to think the fans are going to get tired of her within the next couple of weeks. However, my Magic 8 Ball has been wrong so many times in the last few weeks (Kristy escaping elimination week after week; Michael Johns' surprising exit) that it's in the shop being repaired. So, really, anything could happen.

Syesha Mercado followed next with her version of "Vanishing," one of Mariah's older songs. Carey called Syesha "cool and composed," and for the most part the judges agreed. Randy said she did a good job at a difficult song, while Simon was worried she picked a song no one knows. I'm more worried by the fact that besides a few interesting performances, Syesha has yet to do anything unique in this competition. Every week she sings a new song and somehow they all sound the same, mostly because she isn't connecting with the song like many of her fellow contestants already have. I think she'll be in the Bottom Three this week.

Singing fourth tonight was Brooke White, who performed "Hero" while playing the piano. So let's address her performance in good news-bad news-worse news style. First, the good news, her take on this song was fun. She took the judges' advice and tried to inject some power in the performance, hitting the higher notes during the chorus of the song and also near the end. She also steered clear of any Mariah-like dolphin notes, which definitely helped her performance. Now for the bad news, this rendition was almost a carbon-copy of her cover of "Every Breath You Take" from a few weeks ago. From the piano playing, to the intense emotion, I felt like I was watching a rerun. That's a big no-no in Idol Land. I've seen it a million times, those that don't change it up on "American Idol" are doomed. And as for that worse news I was talking about, why haven't the producers paired this girl up with a Muppet yet? It's the perfect way to appeal to her younger fans and keep her in the competition. I won't rest until Kermie joins her in a rousing duet of "It Ain't Easy Bein Green." And if this cheerful nanny can't pull it off, who can?

Kristy Lee Cook hit the stage next with Mariah's 1996 single "Forever." I haven't been a fan of Kristy's, although she has been rallying from behind lately with some pretty good performances. Tonight's was no exception as Cook hit some pretty awesome notes during the chorus and end of the song. In fact, Mariah Carey said Kristy's rendition gave her goose bumps. Now, I never take what these guest mentors say as fact, since these people know it's in their best interest not to alienate fans by delivering harsh criticism. On the other hand, Carey could've lied and just said it was "good," so she may have actually liked our country crooner. In the end, though, Kristy can't win "Idol" with her patented Blank Stare performances, so she'll leave us soon enough. It was funny, however, when Simon said her performance was like "ordering a hamburger and only getting the bun," which led to varied discussions among the judges about hamburger condiments.

Following her was resident rocker David Cook. If ever there was a song theme that threatened to tear down the ‘House that David C. Built,' it would be Mariah Carey week. Amazingly, though, Cook surprised everyone and put together the edgiest and riskiest arrangement of the night, singing Carey's monumental hit "Always Be My Baby." Anyone who knows this song can tell you what emotions it stirs in you- love, happiness, world peace (whatever, it's a happy song!). But David flipped the song around and turned it into a stalker's moody love letter, complete with haunting melodies and a rocking chorus. Once again, he could have a hit single right now with the song he chose tonight. He could even package all the covers he's done up until now, slap them on a CD, call up Daughtry's record label and start selling some albums! He's that good! Randy celebrated by giving his first standing ovation this season, Paula said he was "it" and Simon said he was a "breath of fresh air" in the competition. After hearing that, Cook broke into tears, probably partly due to his sick brother sitting in the audience.

The last performance of the night belonged to Jason Castro, heir apparent to the throne of modern hippy music currently held by warbler Jack Johnson. Singing "I Don't Wanna Cry" from Carey's self-titled 1990 album, Castro wisely ditched the guitar this week and hit some impressive notes in both his low and high range. As much as I've criticized him for being one of the weaker performers, I genuinely think he's grown the most out of any of the contestants. If you remember, only a few short months ago, he couldn't focus during those interview segments and he sure as heck wasn't making eye contact with the audience. Now he's actually expressing emotion and gazing into the crowd. I hate to say it, but he gave a pretty good performance this week and is on a two-week hot streak. We'll see if this momentum keeps him out of the Bottom Three.

So, how did the Top 7 do tonight? Did the guys really rule the night or did one of the remaining women strike a chord? Has Randy replaced Simon as the resident Grump at the judges table? And what did you think of guest mentor Mariah Carey- did she deliver some good advice to the contestants or was she all show? Post your comments below and make sure you tune in for the results show tomorrow night! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on April 16, 2008 1:50 AM
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I was SO surprised with Mariah Carey. She was incredibly composed, she knew exactly what she was talking about, and in my opinion she was the first mentor to ever really help the idols. She's a real singer and it's obvious she knows music. I bet the Idols wished they could have more time with her. I loved how she sang the actual notes (something Dolly could have never done) and helped the kids to imitate them. I think Mariah is finally finding herself and maturing into what she portrayed as a caring and knowledgable singer/songwriter. I loved the show, thought Jason Castro had the best performance, but really couldn't get over how quickly I became a Mariah Carey fan all over again.

-- 1. Posted by: Jake at April 16, 2008 3:19 AM

i am getting so sick and tired of hearing how good david cook is. he had the most original composition but his vocals were so bad you couldn't hear a single word he said and he proved he's a chris daughtry wannabe in my opinion. david archuleta and syesha mercado in my opinion had the best night because they actually sang the songs and highlighted their vocal abilities. brooke though original had terrible vocals and hopefully either she or david cook will be sent home because they were bad. jason castro was pretty good as well but kristy lee cook and carly were bad as well. mariah was a good mentor and did help the contestants but they should have chosen better songs. all the females fell into the trap of trying to sing the hardest song vocally and they exposed their weaknesses. david cook though original showed how weak his vocals are and jason showed how good he was.overrall i was not impressed.

-- 2. Posted by: Anonymous at April 16, 2008 4:10 AM

I totally agree with you. I am sick and tired of everyone saying how good David C. is. I also couldn't understand a word he was saying. No sympathy vote for me. He will do whatever it takes to get you to vote for him- stealing arrangements of songs, crying on stage etc. David A. is the best in the competition this year.

-- 3. Posted by: donna at April 16, 2008 10:58 AM

I like David C arrangement(either own or others)and some of his performances (Billie Jeans) but the truth is his vocal is pretty weak. If AI is pure singing competition, not popularity contest, no cuteness/leather pants/hand gesturing/crying on stage involved, David A will win hands down, purely on vocal. And I gotta tell you, David A has already got an enormous fan base OUTSIDE US, at least in Asia, and whether he finally wins or not just doesn't matter, his cds will the best selling among all the contestants this year.
a fan from Malaysia.

-- 4. Posted by: witelily at April 16, 2008 12:31 PM

First of all, you're all boring for this Cook bull.

Secondly, Chris, you made a mistake. It wasn't Kristy who got the "hamburger without bun" comment, it was BROOKE. Wrong blonde, silly =P.

Kristy said "I gave Mariah goosebumps" and Simon said "well, you didn't give me any" or something. I laughed. I love it.

Well, Jason was amazing as was Cook--the two best. Syesha was stellar, but since Jason has the pimp spot and Simon loves him as much as I do, he'll avoid the B3 (pimp spots never land in the bottom 3, dude). 3 out of the 4 remaining girls will land in the B3, but it's hard to say who'll miss out. Ironically, it might be Kristy...I think she's going next week instead. But I hope she goes this week, as Syesha was stellar, Carly still needs to redeem herself, and I just love Brooke and this was tough for her. Oy!

-- 5. Posted by: James at April 16, 2008 3:00 PM

I am so sick of the adulation towards the constant soft marshmallow sound of David Archangel. ENOUGH! Send him back to junior high school - Soon!

-- 6. Posted by: Bill Chuck at April 16, 2008 9:01 PM

While the arrangement may haver been good, David Cook's performance made me searched frantically for my old Mariah Carey album to look for the lyrics in the cd insert. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND A WORD FROM HIM.

Truth be told, I prefered Jason Castro and David Archuleta. Jason has the clearest voice, and for someone with no vocal training or any solid experience, that's pretty impressive.

Cookie was good, but was completely overhyped. He is no Daughtry.

-- 7. Posted by: dee at April 17, 2008 4:28 AM

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