American Idol: Top 5 perform

by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 29th 2008 7:45PM
American Idol Top 5
Hey look, another mentor that's a solid hundred years older than every single contestant. But Neil Diamond's still a cool cat so I forgive him. Oh and what do you know? Neil has an album, Home Before Dark, coming out next week. I'm sure that's just a coincidence. He really did the show because he enjoys it and truly wants to help the contestants. Not to promote an album. That Neil he's a swell guy. Why don't you drop by tonight and chat us up about it in our live chat?

You can join the chat by following this link. Look for the full episode review right here later tonight.

Well, it was inevitably coming but I have to say that I'm disappointed that in the week in which the contestants start singing two songs a piece, they had to pull both from Neil Diamond's catalog. This was an opportunity for the contestants to finally sing something without a theme behind it and give us an idea of what kind of singer and performer they see themselves as. Since we were robbed of that in the rounds up to the Top 12, I thought we'd get one Neil Diamond song and one contestant's choice. But no, it's Neil Diamond and Neil Diamond. To speed things up, the contestants ...

Jason Castro
"Forever in Blue Jeans"

For his first song, Jason started out way too restrained for the first few lines but quickly settled into his mellow groove. Neil Diamond's music is a good fit for the folksy intonations Jason uses in his performances. All in all, he did a nice job on this one.
Judges: The judges gave a quick run-down of the first round's performances at once. Randy said this was better than last week but still just okay. Paula enjoyed his lower register and then reviewed his second song which he hadn't performed yet. She later explained this off as saying she thought he'd performed twice already, and then that she was reading David Cook's notes. What the hell was that? Simon came right out and said he didn't like any of them. His one word review for Jason: forgettable.

"September Morn"

So, did the contestants listen to Simon and up the ante for their second song of the night? Well, the audience did their cool arm waving thing; can't Simon tell them to knock that off? Jason again missed an opportunity to take his performance to the next level as we know he's capable of. When he stood I thought he might find that magical place, but other than the fact that he was standing, there was no change in what he gave us. Ultimately it was a pretty dull and lackluster night for Jason. Somebody should have warned him that when you sing first you really need to do it well.
Judges: Again, it was just okay for Randy. Paula agreed with me that both performances were safe and in his comfort zone. Simon said that the Jason they initially put into the competition appears to be gone, as he did nothing to the songs to make them his own or make the performances special at all.

David Cook
"I'm Alive"

David, like Jason, brought his own guitar to the jam, only his was electric. Everyone has settled quite comfortably into their musical niche and David brought a rock vibe to this number. I wasn't blown away by the vocals he presented here but, at the same time, there aren't any specific complaints I can make about what he did. I guess I could just call it a very safe performance whereby he didn't challenge himself at all.
Judges: Randy felt he was grooving in his zone. Paula never recovered from reviewing both of Jason's songs before he'd sung the second. Simon's two word review: above average.

"All I Really Need is You"
David went acoustic guitar on his second number. He gave us a little more vocally, and I enjoyed the intimacy of his performance. Then, as is usual with David, he rocked the song out a bit toward the middle. His voice was on pitch throughout and he treated us to a wide range of voice throughout, from tender to falsetto to raw, with that edge of rock. All in all, head and shoulders above his first song.
Judges: Again, Randy said he rocked the house and that he was a huge fan. Paula was proud of him and felt she was already looking at the American Idol. Simon said the first song was okay but the second was brilliant. He actually made the song feel like it was written this year, modifying the arrangement to make it sound current and relevant.

Brooke White
"I'm a Believer"

Brooke joined the guitar brigade at the start of the show, taking on a song that quite honestly rocked out a little more than she does. If the judges were commenting I think they'd say that she should be grateful she has a second song to come. And for some reason, the expressions she was making throughout came across as comically earnest rather than sincere. Man, I like Brooke, but if this is what she has to offer tonight she may be singing one of these again tomorrow night in farewell.
Judges: Brooke, too, was better than last week per Randy, but still a little karaoke. Paula was out of her gourd and didn't review Brooke here. Simon's one word review: nightmare.

"I Am I Said"
Brooke seated herself behind the piano for this number. Some of her best performances have come behind the comfort of the ivory keys so maybe she'd find herself again here. She tweaked the lyrics to speak about her own experiences, living in LA away from her Arizona home. Maybe doing so made the song speak to her in a very real way because her performance of it spoke to me. This was the Brooke that has wowed us in prior weeks and eluded us these past few. I'd say that performance spells trouble for Mr. Castro.
Judges: Randy told her that that Neil Diamond song is one of the tougher ones to sing, but nice job. Paula liked the piece for her vulnerability and the connection she made with the audience. Simon reiterated that he hated the first song but confirmed that this was the Brooke they liked. It was a million times better than the first song, if still not incredible.

David Archuleta
"Sweet Caroline"

It must be a night for rocky starts, because it took David a few words to find his own groove vocally. He found it quicker than Castro managed, but again I didn't think he really did anything that challenged him. Maybe Neil's songs don't lend themselves to amazing performances, because there hadn't been one to this point on the night yet.
Judges: Randy simply said that David was "da bomb!" Paula was probably thinking about his performance in the finals. Simon's one word review: amateurish


Is it just me or does the emotional vibe that you get off of David the same for every song no matter what he sings? He's got an impressive voice and is truly an amazing singer for his age, but I seem to get more that he's trying to showcase his singing prowess rather than sell the story or message of the songs that he sings. You can commence slamming me in the comments now.
Judges: Randy said he was in the zone with another good performance. It was a perfect song choice for Paula. Just as Simon credited Kristy for singing "God Bless the USA," he credited David with another clever and smart song choice to appeal to his audience, guaranteeing his place in the Top 4. Does he think Americans are so easy to manipulate? Are we?

Syesha Mercado
"Hello Again"

I think Syesha was Neil's favorite as he had nothing but nice things to say about her command of his music and he wanted to hug her. Or maybe he just thinks she's hot. I'd certainly hug her. Syesha put a little bit more into her opening performance than any of the other four finalists. There was a sincerity to her expressions and the way she emoted the lyrics. Maybe she just connected with the story of the song in a way the others didn't. After the first round of songs, Syesha stood as the strongest on the night.
Judges: Randy thought it was strong but not amazing. Paula was restrained and given Valium. Simon's one word review: old-fashioned.

"Thank the Lord for the Night Time"
Syesha was just adorable with the attitude she gave the opening of this number. She was clearly having a blast singing this number. I think Syesha may have made the smartest song selections on the night. She followed up her opener with this up-beat number to showcase her diversity. And, of course, her power and range was on display again here. She's definitely got one of the strongest voices left in the competition. But does she have the support?
Judges: Randy thinks she's finally realizing who she is, and he likes her in the genre and style of this number. Paula loved the vulnerable texture of her first song, and appreciated the theatrical showcase that this second piece gave us. For Simon, she demonstrated that she's a very good actress/singer, but nevertheless thinks she may be in trouble tonight. He didn't think she had a really memorable second song like some of the others. Maybe Simon said that to try and save her; you know how those psychological games of his garner sympathy votes.

Best of the Night
Syesha (both songs), David Cook and Brooke White (second songs only)

The Bottom Two
Jason Castro and Brooke White (should be, but I worry about Syesha)

Going Home
Jason Castro (at this point it's almost impossible to say for certain as I have no idea what America's voting for anymore, but Jason has consistently shown he's falling behind the pack, and Brooke's second number should be enough to buy her at least one more week)

Which contestant took the night?
Jason Castro196 (6.2%)
David Cook1586 (50.4%)
Brooke White173 (5.5%)
David Archuleta393 (12.5%)
Syesha Mercado801 (25.4%)

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Hey Dan, relax dude.
If you going to make an argument, which is quite all right don't contradict yourself. So Randy's comments involve "obvious bias", but Simon's are "mostly accurate"?
Aren't we being just a little subjective here? Dare I say we are! I notice someone has cherry-picked the very few critical comments Simon has made of Archuleta all season and has conveniently left out (I quote Simon) "Amazing", "Right on the Money", "that was a Master Class"... I could go on, but my fingers would tire from typing.
Oh well. Music appreciation, as you, more than anyone should know (based upon what you have revealed about yourself), is a subjective experience. It's prefectly OK to prefer Cook's voice over Archuleta's, or vice versa. Two different types of singers and vocal timbres.
However, criticizing the kid on a technical level is laughable at best, and is not based on any objective analysis of his vocal prowess. Or, you just may not be that bright (sorry for the low dig, but you threw at me first!)
It actually just reveals even more about your purely subjective dislike for Archie. That's OK.
He's not that amazing, but David Cook really "ain't doing anything all that original" in the vocal or style department. Admit it. That's not even considering his technical challenges, e.g. intonation issues.


May 01 2008 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lessia bonn

David A. has an amazing voice and appeals to young girls. I can't imagine buying a CD of his but obviously the really young ones disagree. Someone IS voting for him.

David Cook--loved him from the get-go. I produce/write for singers and bands. Consult also--I've worked with lots of people through all that. David Cook has a cool smokey sound in his voice that's hard to come by and very appealing--he'll record LIKE A CHARM. That's a CD I would buy--and I hear he writes.
Some people are fun and flashy live but don't do as well in the studio. David Cook will do well everywhere.

Brooke- sweet girl next door with a fun voice but no range and this is, after all, a singing competition.

Jason--will also record well. He's not enough of a well-rounded musician to come up with great arrangements like David Cook, but he'd pick great songs for a CD and do them justice because his soul is in his voice. Pretty cool. Jack Johnson kinda thing.

We (a crew of pretty teenage girls w/voices and me, their slightly nutty ringleader) took our photo camera down to the railroad tracks and shot a funny SCARY GUY; Ode to Simon Cowell music vid. Don't know if this is a place to post it, but the girls are a hoot and the song is seriously funny.

'cause isn't Simon truly a scary guy? teeheehee
We really love Simon. He keeps it all interesting and mostly always tells the truth. if you
wanna smile

April 30 2008 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Dan, relax dude. Christine Aquilera has grown into a phenominal singer, and no one is comparing Archie to her. At least not I. At least not at this point. Please put away the public display of your "credentials", it's embarassing: "Obviously you're not a fan of good music when you hate David Cook and love David Archuleta. As a music lover with a lifetime of experience in music performance, theory and teaching, I feel like I am qualified to make a judgement on Archuleta's singing and it's just not that good." If you truly had the cred, you wouldn't be flaunting it to make your case. A real pro doesn't have to. Sorry, every high school does not have a "David Archuleta" on their auditorium stage. The kid's a quality singer, with a unique timbre, that makes him identifiable. There are a zillion great singers out their that don't have that "idenifiable" quality to their voices to separate them from the pack and give them "the edge". Cook certainly doesn't have it. He's going down that played and tired road of angst rock baritones that came out of the '90's. hello, it's 2008! Daughtry is squeezing the last drop out of that sponge at the current moment, with little originality. Also, ya gotta hear Cook's out of tune pick up notes. Come on now.

April 30 2008 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ric's comment

Seriously man, Archuleta has not impressed me once. I watch this show only because my girlfriend is obsessed with it and most of the singers aren't all that good. I went to high school with at least a dozen guys who could sing better than David Archuleta with more uniqueness and creativity than he will ever have. Why is it that every time I hear DA's voice, even if I'm in the kitchen, it makes me cringe? I'm not even a huge DC fan, but he is truly talented, "Music of the Night" was a perfect example of his talent. Archuleta can only sing those three or four notes in his upper register with any fluidity and if you've been fooled by Randy's obvious bias, you're just not that bright. At least Simon has been mostly accurate in the judgements of Archuleta (Amateurish, Ghastly, Theme park...).

On a personal note, how would you know that I have a valid opinion without some kind of experience? The Aguilera comment was in direct response to a comment that said she made a career of being a ballad singer...she didn't. Many of her big hits were far from being ballads, and my point was that only manufactured groups created in corporate board rooms can get by singing pre-written ballads, real artists/musicians make music their own and Archuleta has been unable to do that successfully. Making a song slower and with more big notes doesn't qualify...

May 01 2008 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My review of last night, Jason Castro just ok, his 2nd song, there was nothing there, he was just singing it. David Cook Rocked on both, Brooke White, just so-so, David Archuleta, just ok, he has the pipes, but everything is the same, it is because he is sixteen and has not the experienced those emotions of loss, love and to find love again, Syesha Mercado - Surprised me I really enjoyed her second song of the night, her 1st was a bit boring, I think Brooke will go this week, but it could be Jason.

April 30 2008 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Little Davey is a good techinical can tell he has had voice training. He's on key and all but he always picks a song and arrangement that is safely within his vocal range. Yes, he's only a "kid" but he his playing with the big boys and girls and should be judged by the same standards. He's not there yet, maybe he will be someday (his voice sounds thin to me). And his control freak father has stomped all the personality out of the kid. But the teenies will keep on screaming and voting for Little Davey.

April 30 2008 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To fitnesinst...come on dude...they have at most a minute and a half to create something entertaining. How would YOU end a song that repeats the word "today" 15 times at the end...huh? That's what I thought.

It was also a display of get the creating artists' perspective on how he would end the song properly...I'm sure david had his own idea...which he did with the "let freedom ring" ending...Neil's advice was to hold the "today" note...which Archie did. I don't understand how you all say he sounds the "same" on every song.

I ask you ALL to go out and listen to the tone of his voice first in "A long and winding road" and then "Smokey mountain memories"...his vocal approach in each is completely different...smooth in the first...and a Vince Gill slight twang in the latter.

Seriously...they ALL sound the same...they ALL have their own style...don't be rediculous...even Cookie Monster sounds the same (probably moreso that can he not when he can only his 6 notes consistently).

April 30 2008 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For those of you out there that repeatedly make yourselves look foolish by saying David A can't sing...I have two words for you..."TONE DEAF". You have clearly been drawn away from years past when an artist not only had to sing on pitch consisently...but be understood as well. Clearly David A isn't your kind of performer...but ther e is NO denying he CAN sing.

When the weekly mentors are contemporary top 40 music oriented..OF COURSE David C is going to make songs "his own"...he could sing songs note for note...word for word (which he did early in the competition and accepted compliments of being original and a risk taker...puh-lease)...anyway...I digress. Oh yes...David C's "voice"...I'm not going to say that he isn't a performer...but you're nuts if you really believe that his voice is anywhere NEAR David A's...and Cookie Monster is older...David A still has room to grow and develop his voice.

I would love to see David A stick to his Niche...sing the heck out of the ballads...cuz there IS a market out there for that music...despite the ramblings of all the "cookies" out there. Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Christina Aguilera, etc...all are consistent R&B, ballad performing artists...and they sell/sold millions of records. Go for it your thang boy!

April 30 2008 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to FedUp's comment

Christina Aguilera has a TON more talent than David Archuleta and has done many different kinds of songs (Dirrty, Genie in a Bottle, Reflections, Candy Man...) and not just ballads like DA. TONE DEAF? Um, I think that the people who like DA are TONE DEAF because they cannot hear his nasal voice and those struggles he has when he tries to hit a big note where his voice cracks. Sure he can hold a mid-range note for a few seconds without wavering the pitch, but that doesn't mean he's a good singer. Obviously you're not a fan of good music when you hate David Cook and love David Archuleta. As a music lover with a lifetime of experience in music performance, theory and teaching, I feel like I am qualified to make a judgement on Archuleta's singing and it's just not that good. Every high school in America has a kid who can sing just as well. Every time he's tried to sing anything that wasn't a ballad, it's been an incredibly cheesy disaster that I wouldn't even stand and watch if I was seeing it for free at Disneyland. The one performance people keep touting, "Imagine", was painful to me because he chopped up the song and skipped a verse he (as a Mormon) couldn't possibly sing and then during Beatles week said he didn't really know about the Beatles. Last night he made two great Neil Diamond songs painful to me, and to me he's worse than Sanjaya because the idiots voting for him don't realize how much of a joke he really is. He doesn't have the charisma or vocal range of Clay Aiken, so where does that leave his career? Even Taylor Hicks had something unique about him. The best musicians in this competition have mostly been kicked out (Asia'h Epperson, Alexandrea Lushington, Josiah Leming, Michael Johns, Chikezie Eze) and the ones who remain are Cook, Castro and White, with White being the worst due to her inability to start her songs properly and her attitude. Syesha is gorgeous and has a pretty voice, but she's destined for Broadway or possibly Hollywood, but not the Billboard Charts.

April 30 2008 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dave - half of the formula of AI's success is Paula, Randy and Simon. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't not enjoy watching them. It's entertainment, people. Paula's rambling, Randy's nonsensical "pitchy, dawg" critiques and Simon's bitchiness. It's a formula. Replace any individual element of it and it would crumble.

April 30 2008 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok...let's just all come to grips with the fact that we like who we're going to like and aren't really going to change. That in mind...let's just enjoy some friendly banter.

Ok...all you "cookie monster" fans out there...STOP saying he is the "best singer". Seriously...having a 6 note vocal range is hardly impressive..and what is up with that "I really have to take a dump" grunting vocals? Someone Puh-LEASE give that guy and Ex-lax...he has some serious inner demons to pass.

If you want to talk about vocal have to give it up to David Archuleta...if you want to talk about stage presence...then you have to give it up to David Cook.

Either way, both of them will have to either just walk off stage or hack up a lung while singing for them not to be in the top 2...and hacking a lung still might not keep them out. They BOTH have a large, loyal fan base and THAT is what this show is all about. That tells me they are BOTH highly marketable...they could take one song...let Big Dave and Little Dave each do it their own way and BOTH would kill it and sell records. They have completely different styles.

April 30 2008 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to FedUp's comment

Actually, David Cook has shown much more vocal range this season than Archuleta. Look at "Music of the Night", "Billy Jean", "Hello" and "Day Tripper" for various examples of his talent.

April 30 2008 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jimmy Jo Jo - are you blind AND deaf? David A. is THE voice this season... well, now that Carly's gone, anyway. He's got the vocal chops, the musical maturity (well beyond his physical years) and the good looks and charisma to sell millions and millions of CDs. The boy is a prodigy. Look it up.

April 30 2008 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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