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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Rough Diamonds

jcastro2.jpgWowdidyouseetonight'sepisodeofAmerican Idol!whoops, sorry about that. Let me slow it down. It seems I got a little caught up in the moment after watching Seacrest and Co. speed race their way through the show. The producers packed so much into just one hour that when it came time for the judges to critique the first half of the show, it sounded like we were at an auction! In fact, I don't think Simon Cowell has ever insulted so many people in such a small amount of time! His words were like machine gun fire hitting the contestants: "Brooke, it was a nightmare!David, you were amateurish!Syesha was old-fashioned." Ouch! I know both the contestants and I would've felt much better if Simon was allotted more time to soften the blow, maybe with one of those food analogies he uses so well ("Brooke, you were like a hamburger without the bun!," "David, you were like tea without the crumpets"). I'd like to say that besides the rush Neil Diamond night was pretty good, but frankly, it was just plain weird.

Since each of the Top 5 sang two songs tonight, I'll review both songs at the same time. Up first was Jason Castro, a guy who probably hadn't even heard of Neil Diamond until tonight. And man, did it show. His performance of "Forever in Blue Jeans" was strange, as Castro tried to infuse his slacker style into the song, which just didn't work. His second song "September Morn" was slightly better, which was surprising since he hardly does well when he ditches his guitar. I thought it was one of his more solid vocals, but the judges thought he was playing it safe. In the end, I'm not really sure why people keep voting for him. He doesn't seem to care if he does well or if he stinks up the stage, and the judges comments just don't seem to stick to him. Oh well, he'll probably survive for one more week; two weeks if he breaks out the ukulele.

David Cook stepped up next to sing Diamond's lesser known 1983 single, "I'm Alive." Clad in his black and red rocker jacket and brandishing an electric guitar, Cook once again infused his song with plenty of moody rock tones. His voice sounded a little rougher this time around, but I thought it was a good song choice for him. His second song, "All I Really Need Is You," is my pick for best song of the night. His vocals were very pure and the rock version was awesome. Randy said it was "blazin" and Simon called it "brilliant." It even gave Neil Diamond goose bumps! But before everyone starts saying that I've caught Cook Fever, I have to say that a few of the rocker's competitors also stepped up their game tonight.

Brooke White's performances were certainly a mixed bag. Her first performance of "I'm a Believer" was a great example of bad song choice. First of all, after having already been played during the "Idol Gives Back" show, Brooke should've picked a different song. And second, despite Brooke' reputation for being Mrs. Happy, I don't quite believe her when she's bobbing along to happy songs. (Remember "Here Comes the Sun" during Beatles week? Ugh.) And while she did a much better job in the second half of the song, it was still pretty dull. But then she brought some of her old charm back during her second performance, as she sat at the piano and played "I Am!I Said." Her voice sounded very nice and I was as impressed as the judges by the way she successfully tackled the note changes throughout the song. Paula said she showed vulnerability and that's how she connects with the voters, but I'm guessing she'll fall in the Bottom Two tomorrow night.

Next up was rising tween sensation David Archuleta. Neil Diamond called him a "prodigy," and said he still needs some guidance before he can really shine. His first performance of "Sweet Caroline" sounded pretty good, as he gave the song an R&B/Pop kind of vibe while working the cameras. But it was his rendition of "America" that will keep him in the competition. We've already seen how performances of patriotic songs can be good for an "Idol" singer's longevity (see former contestant Kristy Lee Cook), and it doesn't hurt that he sang it really well either. All three judges liked him and so will America. (As a side note, has anyone noticed how confident this kid is while he's singing, but how easily that confidence disappears once he's finished?)

The final singer of the night for both sets was Syesha Mercado. She has definitely been one of the more inconsistent singers this season, but overall she's an awesome performer.
She proved it during both of her performances, first with "Hello Again" and second with "I Thank the Lord for the Night Time." Her smooth vocals once again shone through in her first song, minus a few times where she over-sang it. And on her second song, she clapped, strutted and hit the notes just like a seasoned Broadway star. I'm guessing this is probably the avenue she'll take, seeing as how she loves acting on stage. I don't think she's found the same loyal audience as some of her competitors and will probably fall into the Bottom Two again.

What did you think of the Top 5? Was the episode a little too fast for you? Did you miss the usual judges' critiques in the first part of the show? And do you think voters are making up for past mistakes with Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry by speed dialing for the two Davids? Post your comments below and make sure you tune in for the results show tomorrow night! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on April 30, 2008 12:15 AM
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I hated the show. I'm not really a Diamond fan, so I guess that influenced it for me, but even the songs I recognized were done poorly. I hated the speed show, this is Fox's biggest hit, couldn't they have allotted 90 minutes for it? geez

As for the performers, no one really did anything for me to change my previous prediction of finish.

David A
David C
Jason C
Brooke W

However, it wouldn't shock me if Jason C went home tonight. He stunk worse than anyone on the Neil Diamond songs, plus he sang first. Not a good combination.

-- 1. Posted by: Andy at April 30, 2008 3:15 PM

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