Paula’s omnipotence outshines “Idols”


Before I get into the mayhem that was last night’s show, I would like to first lament the unfortunate and untimely loss of Carly Smithson. I admittedly didn’t see that one coming. But, such is the life of an Idol fan.

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Plus, I can always find solace in the knowledge that she will certainly be putting out a record of some sort within the next year or so. And I have faith that this one has to be better than her first one.

Now, let’s get to the task at hand. Last night’s American Idol can best be summed up by quoting Simon Cowell: “This is officially the strangest show we’ve ever done.”

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With Neil Diamond mentoring and only five contestants left, this week marked the first of the season where we get to hear more than one song per person. That fact alone is standard, but where they decided to shake things up was in the judging. At the beginning of the show, Ryan Seacrest announced that the judging would be held off until after each contestant sings both songs song. Fair enough. And so, the singing began.

The round one performances were largely disappointing. Jason Castro started off with a ‘countrified’ (my word, not his) version of “Forever in Blue Jeans,” that I thought was actually pretty good. It was nothing spectacular, but it was a solid vocal, which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Jason. David Cook brought back his electric guitar for “I’m Alive,” but I thought his voice sounded very rough and very strained — and not in a good way.

Then there was Brooke White. Oh, Brooke, what ever made you think that singing “I’m a Believer” was a good idea?

First of all, the key was too low for her. Secondly, she just gave a textbook showing of what it is to be campy and awkward. It was reminiscent of when she sang “Here Comes the Sun” in the second week of finals, only this time she had a guitar. This really didn’t work for me. But on a positive note, at least we got to see her smiling!

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David Archuleta followed with “Sweet Caroline,” but I really couldn’t pay attention. I was too busy trying to figure out if they had transplanted the Idol studio to Boston.

Finally, just as we reached the show’s halfway mark, Syesha Mercado’s performance allowed me to release the breath I didn’t know I had been holding for twenty minutes. Singing “Hello Again,” she looked great (again), appeared truly confident for the first time all season, and gave a stellar performance.

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Did I miss something earlier in the season, or has she really improved this much?

She has officially won me over.

At this point, despite what he said at the top of the hour, Ryan brought all five Idol-wannabes onto the stage with the intention of having each judge say something quickly to them down the line. Randy Jackson went first, praising David A. and Syesha, and then all eyes went to Paula Abdul. Whenever Paula speaks, you know there is potential for crazy. She began her critique with Jason: Jason, first song, I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear, um … The second song, I felt like your usual charm wasn’t — it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty. The two songs made me feel like you’re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four.

If at this point you are thinking to yourself, “I thought they had only sung once,” don’t fret. You didn’t miss anything; Paula did. Or perhaps she is simply clairvoyant. Either way, Jason had indeed only sung once. After allowing her to ramble for a minute or two, Randy and Ryan saved us from her, but it did little to save her from herself. I won’t delve into the chatter about how this is proof the show is rigged (Though, how else do you explain it?), but the sphere-de-blog is swarming this morning with commentary on the flub. The best part of the whole ordeal for me: When Paula exclaimed, “This is hard!” Heh. (To watch the whole debacle, go here.)

After a much needed commercial break, the singing resumed with Jason actually singing his second song, “September Morn.” An all-in-all forgettable performance, I’d say Jason is in trouble. David C. followed with “All I Really Need is You,” and he pretty much knocked it out of the park. All three judges praised him, and Paula said she felt like she was “already looking at the American Idol.”

Next, they rolled out the piano for Brooke’s second song, “I Am, I Said.”

What a difference a day a few minutes makes. Brooke (Finally!) sounded good again. (And was it me, or did she sound a little like Sheryl Crow?) She was smiling and letting go of whatever apprehension had been holding her back recently. She seemed calm and as though she was genuinely enjoying herself. She likely saved herself from elimination as well. Phew.

David A. took a cue from Kristy Lee Cook and chose the patriotic “America” as his second song. Though his voice clearly cracked at 0:32, you gotta give him some slack. Puberty has that effect on guys! Clearly he is not going home after singing that song.

Syesha Mercado closed the show with “Thank the Lord for the Nighttime” and brought the same air of confidence as she did in the first part of the hour. It was sassy. It was upbeat. It was very, very good.

I will go out on a limb and say that there will only be a bottom two tonight (same as last week), and that those two will be Jason and Brooke. Bye, bye Jason.

Photo credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX

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