Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yesterday's Songs

Neil Diamond is one of the biggest recording stars of all time, however I’m guessing most of the Idols and a large percentage of the voting population (teenage girls) have never heard of Mr. Diamond, so tonight should be interesting. Everyone gets to sing two songs tonight. Really? Last week we had six people singing one songg and they fit it into one hour. But this week we have five people singing two songs each – that’s 10 songs. So last week they had six songs, this week they have ten. Remember when we had 10 people singing? Yeah that’s right the show was longer than an hour. I have no idea how they will make all this fit nicely into a one hour show. Is “Hell’s Kitchen” that important Idol cannot go long tonight?

Ryan asks if anyone will lose their cool tonight. I know I’d lose my cool on Neil Diamond night. I know a few Diamond songs, but not 10, which means there will be several songs I’ve never heard before. I bet you could have Neil Diamond walk into the room with the Idols wearing a shirt that said Neil Diamond on it and Jason would not recognize him. The audience gives a loud “Hi Carly” to Idol’s latest reject. They are all about twos tonight – two songs and phone lines each. Neil has sold over 100 million records world wide, but he has never been on Idol before! Neil says this is a chance to encourage the performers and is anxious to hear them sing his songs. Brooke says they are nervous to sing his songs. She, on average, talks more than any other Idol contestant EVER. Neil says his songs are written to be joyful. He likes turning his songs over to other people and hear what the person brings to the music. Interesting. In what might be an Idol first the contestants will sing both songs before the judges comment on their songs. This time saving approach seems like a bad idea from the start and I feel a train wreck coming.

Jason Castro – Forever in Blue Jeans

Jason brings his guitar into the rehearsal with Neil. Jason starts singing and didn’t remember the words and looks down at the lyrics, but wait, it’s the lyrics to the next song. Jason! Why is it every week the one person that doesn’t remember their lyrics is Jason? He had them written down last week with Andy and was reading them during their time together. To his credit though, unlike a certain Nanny, he hasn’t forgot his words on stage yet. But, with the judges constantly inferring he is lazy and doesn’t really care about winning Idol, you would think he would take the extra step of learning his lyrics before he meets with Neil. Neil thinks Jason will bring both songs off very well on stage. Jason starts the song in his lower register. We have never heard him this low before, and he sounds pretty good. He never really plays a lot of on the guitar, but I think he is more comfortable playing it while he sings. He goes back into his higher voice on the second verse. The song loses a little steam in the middle. Filmed from behind, Simon is looking to his right with a ‘bored out of my mind’ expression. Whoah, one of the violin players is wearing sunglasses. Really? Since when are violin players so cool they have to wear shades? The beginning of the song is the best part, but he sounds ok throughout. Typical Jason. Not the best vocals, but warm and sincere and just enough to make his fans happy. Jason has a big smile on his face when he finishes. He is probably excited he only to sing Neil Diamond one more time in his entire life (unless he falls into the bottom two tomorrow).

David Cook – I’m Alive

David gets the first sit down and Ryan asks him how he prepared for this week. David turns the table on Ryan asking him the same question. Ryan rambles on about his childhood love for Neil Diamond until David sends us to the videotape. They pulled off their scripted banter pretty well, or at least as well as the best actors in the world during the Academy Awards before giving out Oscars. David is singing two songs no one has ever heard before. Which will either be good, or very good. Sometimes when you sing unpopular songs the votes don’t materialize. Neil says David gave him goose bumps. He says David made a gutsy choice of songs, but he has the right voice and will do great – no doubt about it. David has a large AC on his jacket and guitar. I’m assuming this is for his brother and not for his undying love of CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He is singing in his middle voice. Not the creepy low one we saw on Idol Gives Back or the higher one he displayed last week, but instead right in the middle. I could hear a song like this on the radio right now. I am not familiar with the original, but I’m assuming David made a few alterations. David is making Jason look like an also ran. Actually he is making everyone on the show look like they do not belong. The song is over already? Really? I feel like it just began. I’m guessing it’s not shorter than Jason’s, but, probably because I really am enjoying it, I feel like it ended after only 20 seconds. I wish we could hear the judges comments right away and not have to wait until the end of the show.

Brooke White – Believer

Brooke is still here even though she was awful last week. She asks Neil if he hugs or handshakes and he says both. Speaking of both, she will be playing the piano and the guitar this week. Neil says her second song is very hard to sing and sound genuine, but she did which surprised him. I would have preferred hearing Neil’s comments on each song. Instead they lumped the whole thing together so you are not always sure if he is talking about their first or second song. Uh oh, this is going to be a train wreck. Brooke looks scared when the song starts. Then her face looks uber happy. It’s like in one moment she is a scared little kid about to get abused by her father and in the next she has the maniacal smile of a crazed super villain about to destroy planet Earth with a massive missile. She starts the song flat but recovers in the second verse. I think she had to start the song a little too low to hit the higher notes. The back up singers are moving in unison. I wonder if they go to school to learn how to do synchronize so well. The camera flashes on the judges for a moment. Paula is dancing, Randy is bouncing his head and Simon is drinking from his glass and looking down at the table. You can tell he is having a great time tonight. Brooke picks up the pace as the song goes along and actually sounds pretty good near the end. She just might be able to salvage this…no wait, the song is over already. Jut when she started to maybe get good the super short song ended.

David A. – Sweet Caroline

Is it legal to have David go anywhere but last? Ryan is walking through the audience selling itunes. David, in his usual ‘omg I can’t believe I’m here right now’ manner tells Neil he’d love his advice on his songs. David is singing Neil’s two most famous songs. Way to go outside the box David A. Neil says he is kind of a prodigy that needs a few suggestions, and if he accepts them he’ll do great. David starts off on Caroline with his normal jacket and stupid look on his face. He manages to turn Sweet Caroline, which is not exactly hard rock, into even more of an adult contemporary song. Can you imagine the people of Fenway park singing along to this version? No you can’t! You would think the judges might once says that David keeps singing songs like a 40 year old pop star instead of a kid, but no that would require something less than positive directed towards young David and that is strictly against the rules, except for the occasional comment from Simon. I don’t know what to say about David. It’s the EXACT SAME THING I’ve seen from him since his Idol journey began. I know the musically naïve 13 year old girls love David and his big notes, but this is just not that good. He always uses his right hand to convey his emotions and his hand is moving back and forth tonight. David isn’t hitting any bad notes, but I think more so than some other songs this performance demonstrates how his voice is incredibly thin outside the big power note realm. Again, once he hits puberty this might no longer be a problem. What? He is already 17? Oh, umm, never mind. They show David’s family and friends and his dad is still wearing a hat, but this time there is a woman with a hat on too. Every one in that family wears hats!

Syesha – Hello Again

She says tonight is their chance for a mini concert. Neil thinks she did a good job on both her slow and fast song and then asks her if he can give her a hug. She says of course. I wonder if there was an awkward Chris Hansen inspired moment where Neil asked David for a hug. She starts off sitting on the edge of the stage. She is singing in her subtle full lower voice. I think I prefer this over her belt it out almost screaming voice. She probably has the most pure vocal talent of any remaining Idol. She stands up on the key change. I am not sure if this is how the original sounds, but I could hear this in the soundtrack of an animated Disney movie sung by the precocious baby bear or something. This is one of her most restrained performances all season and it also might be one of her bests. Ryan joins her on stage and then calls out all the other Idols to get a mid show review from the judges.

Judges Midway Comments

Randy says Jason was just ok, but better than last week, David Cook was very good in the zone doing his thing, Brooke was too karyoke for him, David A. was the bomb, and Syesha wasn’t amazing but strong.

Paula says she loved Jason on the first song because of his lower voice, but on the second song she didn’t like it because she felt like he wasn’t fighting hard enough to make the top 4. Huh? There has only been one song from Jason tonight. What? I don’t understand. You can see the people sitting behind Paula suddenly start looking at each other talking when she says second song. They are all asking each other ‘did we miss the second song.’ An ashen Ryan looks over to I assume Nygel as if to ask what the heck should I do now. The Idols look confused. Kids, this is your brain on drugs. Forget the commercial with the frying egg, use this clip of Idol next time you want to stop a kid from dropping acid. Randy and Simon both look dumbfounded, but Randy manages to tell Paula they are only commenting on the first song right now. Paula says ‘oh my god I thought you sang twice’ when she realizes she is predicting the future. The really funny thing is she was going into David Cook and the others and would have probably made comments on everyone’s second song. Simon moves things along by asking Paula who was her favorite. She says David Cook.

Simon says Jason was forgettable, David Cook only above average, Brooke a nightmare, David A. amateurish, and Syesha too old fashioned. He says they are all top 5 and he wants to see a performance of a lifetime on their second song. Jason has a ‘why am I even trying’ look on his face when they go to commercial. I don’t blame him. If the judges already know what they are going to say why should he even try. Of course he should try, but I’m guessing that’s how he feels right now. As for Randy’s David’s the bomb comment. Sigh. It’s become painfully obvious the Idol folks want to tap into the Disney market held by the Miley Cyrus types and David A. is their chance. Sure Jordin is really young, but she looks and sounds like a 25 year old so there aren’t the screaming teenagers waiting to buy her albums and attend her concerts. If they can help young David win they have a massive money maker for the next couple years. I bet they figure David Cook can be like Chris Daughtry and achieve massive success even without an Idol victory.

Second Songs

Jason – September Morn

Ryan gives us our first plug for the upcoming Idol tour. Jason is still sitting down this time but he has given up the guitar. A cross is clearly visible around his neck. That should be good for a few votes. He is singing in his middle voice. He sounds ok but when he enters the middle of the song and has to go a little lower I think he loses the right pitch for a few notes. Unlike his first song, this is pretty lifeless. Not even his standing up near the end of the song can give this thing any energy. The is just a so what performance. He looks like it is almost painful to sing this song; it isn’t quite as bad as he is making it look with that facial expression. I wonder if the judge’s earlier comments are ringing in his head right now. Randy says he doesn’t know what is happening tonight to Jason. He says this is about finding the best vocals and that was only ok for him - not the best. Paula says Jason was too safe on both songs. Jason says he started choking right before the song and that threw him off. Simon says this is not the Jason the judges love. He thinks he was forgettable and will regret tonight. The show is so packed Ryan cannot talk with Jason without making him move away from center stage so David Cook can stand there instead. In fact you can see David Cook and his guitar walking out as Ryan is dragging Jason to the side.

David Cook – All I Really Need is You

David has an acoustic guitar. His voice is made for pop/rock. You can hear version of him all over the radio right now. The song starts quite and thoughtful. David is very subtle until the drums come in and the song gets larger. He sounds great. I swear David is 10 times better than when the show began. As if his confidence is propelling him along. He hits a few big notes that lead into a nice falsetto note. This is by far the best of the night. No one is even close. Again, like his first song, I could hear this on the radio right now. Randy says he is a huge David Cook fan because again he rocks the house tonight. He calls it blazing blazing blazing. Paula is proud that he picked some obscure songs – she feels like she is already looking at the American Idol. Simon says he will be honest with David; the first song was ok but the second song was brilliant. He continues over the music…that David actually made this song feel like it was written this year by changing the arrangement and making it work for him.

Brooke – I am I said

Ryan is sitting down with Brooke and asks her about Simon’s comments regarding her first song. She says although it wasn’t his dream come true it wasn’t a nightmare. She has some of her lyrics written on her palm, which should be interesting if she needs to consult them considering she is playing the piano. She is playing the piano better than she did on her first attempt, but she is just not a great piano player – that will not change during her Idol run. She wisely takes Neil’s advice and changes New York to Arizona. Her voice always has a certain warmth to it, and this song is no different, but on the chorus when the song requires a number of pitch changes in quick succession she falls apart a little. This is much improved from the ‘nightmare,’ but she is still not really nailing the song. There is someone standing behind Simon with a sign reading “Simon for governor of Cowell –fornia.” Randy likes her being the piano being vulnerable and showing all her flaws. He says that might be the toughest song tonight but she did a nice job. Paula thinks Brooke had fun and showed her vulnerability by showing who she is, which works. Simon really really hated the first one because it was like a girls night out, but this is the Brooke they like behind the piano. He says it wasn’t incredible, but a million times better than the first song.

David A. – America

He has the exact same facial expressions as the first song, he is doing the same thing with his right hand, and he sounds exactly the same. If we played this version of the song all over the world, especially in Mexico, I bet less people would want to come to America. He manages to turn any song into the exact same adult contemporary pop song. I don’t know how he does it, but he made a Neil Diamond song his own by making it even safer. He might hit a bad note in the first part of the song, but like all his other songs he is hitting the right notes. If he was older than 17, would the judges be so kind to him, would they constantly pimp him, would they do everything they could to help him? I’m guessing not a chance. Randy says all he can say is for a young man he is in the zone right now with another good performance. Paula says this is the perfect song and his voice is on point. She loves him. Simon, laughingly says that was a smart choice of songs. He thinks David ticked all the boxes making his fans very happy. David looks a little scared standing next to Ryan. Since he maybe missed a note there is no doubt a massive beating forthcoming from his loving father.

Syesha – Thank the Lord for the Night Time

Ryan is in the audience again selling itunes, but this time he has the help of a very young girl. It seems like a lot of the time he ends up next to a senior citizen sitting in the audience. Ricky Minor is grooving to the song. Syesha is too. She has all three back up singers on stage to her side. She is having a lot of fun singing this song. She is showing off the personality she discovered last week. Her voice is close to being a little shrill at the start but then she settles into her smoother middle voice. She is clapping to the song. Is this the first Idol clapping of the season? She is moving around far more than anyone else tonight. With the new addition of instruments this season the Idols move around less than previous seasons. Syesha’s voice gets very big near the end of the song, but she holds back a little and keeps it sounds really nice. This, other than David Cook’s second performance, is the best of the night, but the judges hate her so we’ll see what they say. Randy says this is also in the zone and he likes her in this. Paula says the first song was vulnerable and her magic, but on the second song she showed a whole different side that is great also. Simon says this is officially the strangest show they have ever done. He says she demonstrated she is a very good singer/actress, but he thinks she might be in trouble tonight. She asks him why. He says because there are only 5 left so it’s his calculated guess. Her second song was not memorable enough for his liking. Syeshsa says she is still smiling.

Final Thoughts

Jason still sounds pretty good on the first song and disinterested on the second. David still sounds great on BOTH songs. Brooke is still not a believer nor is she I even though she said it to no one there. David A. is still coming to a high school talent show near you and is the best thing to happen to illegal immigration since the great depression. Syesha is still far more talented than the judges will ever admit and still sounds great on both songs. Ryan asks us which one of these contestants will be the next American Idol and then totally randomly happens to stand in front of David A. while he says we need to vote for our favorites. So who is going home? Jason, based on tonight, should go home. If not him then Brooke. However, this is Idol where fan base is more important than pitch, so I fear Syesha will be heading home after a thousand trips into the bottom three. I think Idol is wary of David Cook’s sudden popularity and might try the unthinkable and shake things up; if they let little David A. slip into the bottom three and act as if he is going home then his fans will redouble their efforts and almost ensure he wins. Remember, near the end of season 2, frontrunner and eventual winner Reuben slipped into the bottom three one week. So don’t be surprised if Sweet Caroline himself makes a quick non-lethal trip into the land of Kristy Lee Cook.


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