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TV Recap - American Idol - I’ve Just Seen A Farce

I guess there were so many downloads of the Lennon-McCartney songs on iTunes last week that the show decided to do it again. I think starting out with two weeks of the greatest songwriting team in pop music is a bad idea because everything in the coming weeks are going to pale in comparison in terms of song quality. It’s like being in First Class the first time you’re on a plane, or if your first taste of steak was at Peter Luger’s. This week, they’re saying the theme is “The Beatles” and not just L/M, so maybe there will be some George and (God help us) Ringo tonight. And please, go download some of the iTunes versions this week, because Paul just lost about $50M this week, so he can use the bucks.

Amanda Overmeyer – Her intro video is so cliché (“I love singing on this stage”) it’s not even worth recapping. She sings “Back In The USSR.” The start of the songs is so bad, it almost knocked me off the couch. It takes a good second verse from Amanda for it to take off. The bridge to the song, though, is UNBELIEVEABLY bad. She’s shouting it to the point of almost screeching. Randy says it was pitchy in the beginning, but ended up good. Paula (and by the way Paula - what’s with the standing ovation?) notes that the start sounded rushed (her tempo was pretty bad), and Simon describes it as a mess and predictable. Simon recommends she should change things up a bit and not of do a screamer each week. She says “Ballads are boring,” which means there will be more of the same old crap to come. Simon tries to bring her back to earth about what people want to see from her, but the audience is drowning him out.

Kristy Lee Cook- Kristy looks like she’s either wrapped in plastic, or Idol’s wardrobe department is shrink-wrapping outfits onto the contestants. Kristy laments that she keeps ending up in the bottom two. She sings “You’ve Got To Hide You’re Love Away,” which she picked only based on its title. She does a smart thing by getting rid of the country vibe this week, and goes with a bigger, diva-like sound. It’s a little flat in places, but it’s better than her hillbilly-like performance last week. I like the largeness of it, and she finally shows her range. Randy thinks there should have been more emotion, Paula says it’s the best Kristy has ever looked (ugh), but too safe, and Simon recommends she get hypnosis to make her a better performer. It will be too bad if she gets voted off this week because it was the best of her last three weeks.

David Archuleta- He reminds everyone that he forgot the words last week, which would have cost an average contestant a shot at the Idol crown. He sings “The Long Winding Road,” and it’s arranged with the strings heard on the original version (which, by the way, is a touch added by Phil Spector that the Beatles always hated). He’s doing a wedding singer (not the movie, but a real wedding singer version) style of performance. . I guess after blowing the words last week, he tried not to take too many chances. The problem with it is that it’s so safe and boring, that it could have been done the same way by anyone in the competition. Randy says he played it too safe, Paula thinks it was pure, and Simon says he was amazing. While it was good, I think that if he is the locked-in winner of the show, he could have been a lot better.

Michael Johns- Michael is impressed with his own version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He is bravely singing “A Day In The Life,” which is pretty much two different songs combined into 6 minutes, and he has to get it down to about 90 seconds. He starts with the John Lennon part, which starts out great, but then he can’t hit one big note. He then segues into the Paul section, and things start to fall to pieces. When Michael tires to get all the big notes of the “Woke up/Got out of bed” section of the song, it becomes a big muddled mess, because he doesn’t have the high range he needs. Finally, he gets back to the John part, and he finishes OK. Randy says it wasn’t his best, Paula thinks his dress rehearsal was better, and blames the monitors in his ears. Simon calls it a mess and that this epic song didn’t work in short form. I think if he was smart, he would have bailed on the Paul part (I mean really, Paul is Dead) and stuck with the John Lennon part of the song. There is a huge discussion about what the ear monitors are about, then Michael says the song is for his friend who passed on, and thankfully, Simon doesn’t roll his eyes.

Brooke White- Ryan calls Brooke “the sweetest person alive.” Brooke’s favorite moment was just last week when she sang “Let It Be.” She sings “Here Comes The Sun,” which she calls “a well-written song,” which is one of the biggest understatements ever said on television. Personally, I think she did a great job this week. She has the personality that makes the song seem natural, and not turn the song into theme-park cheese. I could have done without the “WOOOO!!” she slipped out in the middle of it; this song does not need a “WOOOO.” Randy calls her performance awkward, but hot. Paula says it showed the tone of her voice, and it could have been more challenging. Simon thinks it was terrible from beginning to end, from her dancing to her yellow outfit. I thought it was not as bad as everyone is saying. Brooke is so bummed about her performance that it borders on annoying.

David Cook- His memorable moment was last week too. This shows that it is far too early to do a “most memorable moment” montage on Idol. He sings “Day Tripper,” which he based on Whitesnake’s (?!?) 1979 version. This guy could put a rock flavor on just about anything and it will go over on this show. David then pulls out a trick from the 1979 bag of tricks: The Peter Frampton-esque voicebox, which is totally cool. The issue with David, though, is that most of his songs sound like they are from 1993-1995. Randy calls it solid, Pauls says he’s ready to sell records already, and Simon thinks he was far too smug. It was one of those performances which may not be the best, but so far, it’s the best of the night.

Carly Smithson- Yes, I will concede Carly’s version of “Come Together” last Tuesday was awesome. This week, she sang “Blackbird,” which I guess was the reason for Paula’s explanation about what the song was about. She sounds great, even though the piano backing her sounds like it’s from a 6th grade recital. Once she starts to overpower the arrangement, she really packs soul into a song that didn’t really have that much to begin with. Randy calls it another great, controlled performance, and it was “cooliosis.” Paula thinks that she stands out from a lot of the other performers. Simon says the song was indulgent, which prompts Carly to explain what the songs means to her, from a musical and poetic perspective. Simon doesn’t like that she spends too much trying to explain herself. With all the arguing going tonight, the show feels like it’s the length of an Oscar telecast.

Jason Castro- Typical of Jason’s interview style, his most memorable moment was when he couldn’t hit a note at the end of “Halleujah” a few weeks ago. He sings “Michelle,” which he didn’t know had French lyrics until he started to practice it. His voice has a nice tone to it, and he’s actually pulling off the French lyrics too. It’s a good thing he dumped the guitar. In the middle of the song, there’s a shot of Simon sighing and looking bored, which maybe more due to “Michelle” being one of Paul McCartney’s cornier songs. Randy thinks it was a little iffy, Paula notices that without the guitar, Jason is awkward, and Simon starts to question the wisdom of doing multiple weeks of the same artist. He also says that Jason’s look sold the song. Maybe it was the aw-shucks way he performed it that made me like it, but I didn’t love it.

Syesha Mercado- Her moment is when she was in the bottom three one week, and she says she needed it. She sings “Yesterday,” which can either be the best of the night or a disaster. For this version she brings out a guy to play acoustic guitar at her feet. She even changes the words from “man” to “girl,” which is a little silly, but necessary. She sounds like if Mariah Carey did the song for her MTV Unplugged special in the 90s, which is not necessarily a complement. She hits some bad notes, but the emotion in her voice and in her eyes carries her though the song. Randy says she did a good job, Paula calls it beautiful, and Simon thinks it was her best performance so far, but not incredible. It will most likely keep her around for another week.

Chikeze- His two favorite moments are Hollywood Week and when Ryan Seacrest rubbed his head last week. He sings “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” which I think should have been done by Kristy Lee Cook in a country way. OK, I have never felt this strongly about a contestant before: I HATE HIS VERSION. I cannot express how much I HATE this. He slows up the first part of the song, which totally ruins it. This song is supposed to be fun, and he turned it into a boring love song. Then he breaks out a harmonica, and even though he admits she only learned to play it this week, it sounds like his first lesson was during his “moment” video. Then, he does the second part of the song like it was at a hoe-down. The pain this performance has caused me cannot be put into words. Randy thinks the slow part was a bad idea, Paula (for reasons only known to her therapist) likes what he did with it, and Simon calls it gimmicky, and the harmonica part was downright “atrocious.” It may be good enough for some people to keep him on the show, but I am making it my mission to vote him off this week. Not only did he ruin one of my favorite Beatles songs, but he turned it into a flaming three-car wreck you can’t even bear to look as you head down a highway.

Ramiele Mulabay- She sings “I Should Have Known Better.” It’s a little too cheery. I also don’t like the way she’s doing the head-bob, hip-wiggle thing. Her voice sounds weak, maybe because she’s trying to smile with her voice. Some of her bottom notes are pretty flat as well. I always thought that they save the best performance for last, but not so this week. Randy likes it, but says he didn’t jump up and down, Paula wants her to go back to ballads, and Simon says her performance was amateurish, and she (like other people tonight) didn’t pick good songs. Luckily for her, most of America was probably still reeling from Chikeze, so she’ll get a pass this week.

So the grand two-week experiment is over, and the verdict is a thumbs-down. This week, Idol will be getting requests not to do multiples again. When they do the final phone-number montage, some of the earlier songs that were not good, seem better after seeing Chikeze. I might be harping on one contestant, but it’s been awhile since an American Idol performance actually made me angry. The last thing I’ll say about Chikeze is this: Remember in Anchorman how every time someone tries to describe how that Sex Panther cologne smells, it gets grosser and grosser? That’s how I felt about his performance – the more it lingered, the worse it got. Download It: David Cook’s “Day Tripper”

See Ya: Don’t make me say it again (even though it probably won’t be him)