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I have a small confession to make. I’m not really the cool music-geek type that I appear to be. No, really. I know you’re astonished, but bear with me. I grew up during the ‘70’s listening to my mom’s AM radio station, and as a result – I can sing both parts of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”. Maybe I don’t have Streisand’s range, but I know the words. The other half of that immortal duet, Neil Diamond – our guest mentor tonight – had a string of hits that were the endless background noise while I did my math homework. I was checking my daughter’s multiplication sheets today and I started humming “Sweet Caroline”. So be forewarned – there may be some more repressed memories from my younger years popping up during this Neil Diamond theme week.

Brother Jason’s Traveling Salvation Show

Ryan Seacrest, who knows A Shocking Elimination when he sees one, laments the departure of Carly Smithson last week and encourages everyone to say hi to her since she’s watching from home tonight. Hi, Carly. Wish you were here instead of Syesha. Love, AJane, xoxoxo. PS: But at least you get to blow off Neil Diamond theme week.

The top five get two phone lines all their own tonight, and will be performing two songs apiece. (Seriously, I can almost hear Carly giggling.) Ryan calls Neil Diamond, guest mentor and king of 20th-century adult contemporary radio hits, a “model of longevity”. It kind of sounds like something you’d say about a long-time union worker who had a job they hated but stuck around anyway so they’d get a full pension after 25 years. If that’s the case, Neil is way overdue for his gold watch.

We’re in a big old hurry tonight, because we have ten whole songs to get through, so we rush through the footage of Jason Castro blinking vacantly at Neil Diamond and screwing up the lyrics to his songs as Neil grits his teeth in a fake grin and assures us that Jason will do great. Jason is doing “Forever in Blue Jeans”, a kind of hippie-ish tune that was recorded a good ten years after the mass extinction of the actual hippie culture. Jason has the whole folky ‘70’s vibe going for him tonight, and he reminds me of Gordon Lightfoot, another folky ‘70’s dude. Or maybe it’s just because “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was on the playlist right after “Forever in Blue Jeans”. (Hey, I warned you that I’d be flashing back.) So anyway, Jason’s vibe is good but his vocals are sadly lacking – weak and he actually squeaks on some of the high notes. Luckily for him, he’s first and therefore Randy, Paula and Simon might forget how lousy he sounds after listening to the others. Because this season, Ryan’s in such a rush to get through the performances without completely screwing up everyone’s TIVO programming, he’s having the judges hold off their critiques until after all the performances. That’s right, Paula will have no time to natter on about colors and auras and the bright twinkly lights onstage. Kind of a shame, because this is one theme week where I could sure use the distraction.

David Cook Love on the rocks

David C. is nattily attired in a pinstripe jacket with his brother’s initials “AC” on the right breast. The “AC” letters look suspiciously similar to Aussie metal band AC/DC’s logo, and I think David may have just cut the AC/DC patch off his jean jacket from high school and transferred the first half to his pinstripes. Neil Diamond loves David’s song choices – the first of which is the relatively unknown “I’m Alive” – and claims his singing gives him goosebumps. Neil is smiling broadly so I’m positive it’s the good kind of goosebumps this time. David hits the stage with his electric guitar, and…well, I guess he did the best he could with what he had. There’s some fine growly vocal work, but it’s certainly not a performance at the level we’ve come to expect from David C.

Song sung blue

Neil thinks Brooke White is genuine and seems rather pleased with our chatty folk singer, but I’m thinking that he’s referring to Brooke’s second song – no, you have to wait for that along with the judges, sorry – because her version of “I’m A Believer” could run on a “Best of the Worst American Idol Auditions” special. Brooke smiles gamely throughout the song, but she seems dwarfed by her acoustic guitar (maybe a good thing, because not only can Brooke not dance, she can’t even bop along convincingly to the song). A terrible song choice, terrible flat vocals, and actually painful to watch. I’m baffled at how an upbeat song like “Believer” can sound so depressing – I mean, it was a theme song for one of the Shrek movies, for God’s sake. If this isn’t the worst performance of the night, we’re in big trouble. At least Brooke’s hair is nice and fluffy.

Sweet as saccharine. Way, way too much saccharine.

Our Splenda overdose tonight comes courtesy of young David Archuleta, which should surprise no one. Neil comments that David is “kind of a prodigy” and thinks he’ll do great if he listens to Neil’s suggestions. I guess that’s “kind of” a compliment. David is taking on “Sweet Caroline” (two times two is four, two times three is six, two times four is…whoops, sorry) a song that’s referenced in the Oxford dictionary under the word “corny”. And David, bless his wee heart, does the song exactly the justice it deserves. I’ve heard that “Caroline” is a great barroom group-sing while drunk on many, many beers. Possibly, that’s the only way to really enjoy it. So, I recommend just fast-forwarding through David’s performance and going out with your friends to the nearest pub with a karaoke machine and Bud Lite on tap.

Hello, again, and how is it you’re still here, again?

Defying all odds – and sending the Vegas bookmakers into a tailspin – is Syesha Mercado, who in spite of having a permanent spot in the bottom two, has managed to land on the Sofas of Safety while sending other, more talented, more likable Idols home. (Michael. Carly. *sniff*) Neil hands out some more middling praise, which appears to please Syesha greatly and encourage her inner Screamesha to come out in full force on “Hello, Again”. You’ve heard this kind of Syesha performance before, and not even her very cute purple dress and look-at-me-I’m-not-really-a-diva barefoot look should save her this week. We keep saying that because it HAS to happen sometime, right?

Paula dips into that red, red, wine

Normally, the judges’ comments aren’t really special enough to warrant their own subtitle. Tonight, though, is special. Ryan, looking frazzled, offers the judges a minute for a brief commentary on the first performances. Randy understands this simple request and quickly rattles off the following: Jason-just okay, David C.-very good, Brooke-karaoke, David A.-bomb, Syesha-strong not amazing. Paula smiles benevolently and tells Jason something about his lower register, then starts to comment on his second song. There’s a shocked hush because seriously, even Abdul can’t be wasted enough to think that Jason sang twice. It’s a historic moment - Ryan is temporarily at a loss for words, Randy looks stunned, and Simon looks as though he’d like to gag Paula and throw her under the table to use as a gold lamé footrest. Ryan recovers enough to chuckle uncomfortably and remind Paula that the Idols have sang only one song thus far. Simon is heard moaning, “Paula, Paula, Paula” as she looks wildly about, then bursts out with a wail about how hard tonight is. Sure it is, honey, having to sit at a table and keep track of five whole songs is far more than anyone should expect of you. Paula tries to cover by saying that the second-song commentary she had for Jason was actually for David Cook, but she’s blown her 45 seconds and Ryan cuts her off. Simon gets a turn and not surprisingly, he disses everyone, even going so far as to call Brooke’s performance a “nightmare”. He warns them that they better redeem themselves with their second performance, and Paula is carted away by the men in white coats. Well, not really, but it certainly would have made for exciting TV.

I Thank the Lord for second chances

Round two, and Jason Castro improves his chances mightily with an excellent vocal performance on “September Morn”. Randy, obviously not on Jason’s love train, complains that it’s “just okay”. Paula whines that it was safe, and Jason says something about choking before he started singing. Well, choking is something Paula knows about. Simon sighs and calls it “forgettable”, and is unimpressed that Jason didn’t tamper with the arrangement more.

David Cook pulls out the acoustic guitar for “All I Really Need Is You”, a song I’ve never heard, but I’m fairly sure the original doesn’t sound like the Our Lady Peace version David turns it into. No, that’s not a knock – David C.’s vocals are also vastly better than on his first outing, and far more heartfelt. Randy is a huge David Cook fan, and thinks David is molten, blazing, and assorted other fiery adjectives. Paula thinks he pulled off both songs, though she might have been talking about Jason Castro, unless she managed to sort her written notes out. Simon thinks it’s brilliant and praises him for his arrangement.

Ryan wants to know if Brooke has recovered from the “nightmare” comment, and Brooke keeps her sunny smile nailed to her face and claims she had a good time singing the song. No, Brooke, Donkey had a good time singing that song – check out the video. It’s on my kids’ copy of Shrek II. Brooke does manage to have a far better time with “I Am…I Said”, wisely opting to play piano. Though she seems to be a bit breathless at times, Brooke looks simply perfect seated at the keyboard. The judges are pleased, with both Randy and Paula liking the vulnerability of the performance, while Simon says that this is the Brooke that they like. We like this one too, Brooke, please bring her back next week.

The Manchild and The Jazz Singer

So, I’m not really a Neil Diamond fan. But if I could choose a Neil Diamond song that I disliked beyond all others, it would be “America”. Tonight, it’s a double whammy, because David Archuleta is singing it. Dreadful song, dreadful performance, though to give David his due, he shows some real vocal strength towards the end of the song. Randy thinks he’s in the zone, Paula thinks it’s a perfect song for David (a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one, if I thought for two seconds that Paula was capable of that kind of snark), and Simon chortles that it was a clever choice, and makes a snide comment that the song “ticked all the (right) boxes”. Since Simon is more than capable of all kinds of snark, I’m going to take that as a negative. The fangirls in the mosh pit cheer uncertainly, but to his credit, David himself doesn’t look fooled.

Screamesha is back in full caterwaul with “I Thank The Lord for the Night Time”. This time around, she morphs into Drama-esha, as she claps above her head and prances about the stage in a performance worthy of a Rent chorus member. Randy likes that Syesha is finally realizing who she is – a Broadway performer. A label that used to get you in big trouble on AI, and was still bad enough to get poor Colton Berry punted from earlier this season. Oh, but Andrew Lloyd Webber graced us with his presence this year, so Broadway is A-OK now, I guess. Paula says blahblahblah-vulnerable-blahblahblah-theatrical, while Simon muses about the utter strangeness and chaos of tonight’s show. He then curses Syesha with his prediction that although she’s a very good actress-slash-singer, she’s probably in trouble tonight. We can only hope, but thanks for trying, Simon.

Tomorrow, Neil Diamond performs, but the saving grace is that our own sweet Caroline, MotherSister, will be bringing all the funny – and there’s bound to be plenty – in her recap of the results show.

Will you bring me flowers? Will you sing me love songs? Any…more? PM me.