I can’t tell a difference between the new set and the old, but Ryan’s like a kid with a new bike, flashing the lights and ringing the bells and everything. He’s super hyper tonight, running around in the audience and calling Paula brilliant without even flinching. Sometimes I worry about that boy.
Luckily, there are usually more important things to worry about. I don’t know how anyone could help knowing by now that Sir Paul and Michael Jackson and Sony and whoever else have finally been prevailed on, somehow, to cut American Idol a slice of Lennon-McCartney pie. Tonight the most talented beings in the world ever – also known as our Top 12 – will get the chance to pick a song and try not to be buried under the crushing weight of nostalgia that they all carry. Should be fun!
Sit Back and Let the Evening Go
Retrospective: All about John and Paul and the Beatles and how much mania they inspired with their mop-toppy genius. (Also probably drugs.) I think we all know the story by now. The judges get to say some stuff that is slightly less interesting than watching an ant cross a sidewalk, and then it’s on to the singing!
We begin with Syesha. Tonight’s video packages are all reminiscing about how the Beatles touched our souls and changed our lives; Syesha talks about listening to the oldies in the car with her family. But she never mentions the Beatles by their cleverly-spelled name, just vaguely refers to rockin’ oldies. So it’s not surprising at all that she’s doing EWF’s version of “Got to Get You Into My Life,” which is one of like four Beatles covers that I think are better than the original. Syesha tries to be better than the original and the remake, only she’s not ever on key, so it’s futile. Nothing good will come from my dissecting this performance, but happily Syesha’s look is all the way on point – chunky bun and flirty gold shrug with painted on jeans, so points for that. Randy says she was off pitch in the beginning but once she stopped thinking so much it was better. Paula tells her she’s a very good singer and then basically repeats everything Randy says, and then says, “There’s Syesha.” I’m going to have to get back to you on what that one means. I put it into my Paula-Speak translator, but all I got back was, “The number you have reached is no longer in service,” so your guess is as good as mine. Simon says he thought it was “better than all right,” but that he thought she was nervous. Experienced AI watchers will recognize this tactic I call the backhand slap, wherein Simon finely treads the great big line between dismissal and over-praise, delighting the contestant until they are eliminated the next night.
A Fun Diversion
In a very relaxed pre-performance chat, Chikezie lets it slip that the TSA makes sure to harass Paula on purpose, and then talks about how much he thought he was going home last week. So stop sending him those threatening text messages, Danimals. Chikezie went through his whole life not knowing the Beatles from beetles, until he had to perform on this week’s show. Then he found out his mother and the Fab Four go way back like Sherman and Peabody. That’ll teach you to automatically go to your mother for help, no matter what.
So Chikezie is singing some Soggy Bottom version of “She’s A Woman,” complete with banjo, fiddle, and tambourine. I’m kind of digging it, although vocally I don’t think Chikezie varies from the one note he starts with. You can tell he’s working really hard to stay on the show though, which I can’t help but find endearing. The crowd loved it all, and the judges too. Randy pronounces himself “thoroughly entertained,” and praises the arrangement. Paula says some stuff about taking a risk and said she was waiting for this. Then she says, “the reward paid off.” Again I’m stumped; the translator says “Wizards tell me to drink things!” So make of that what you will. Simon thinks Chikezie was terrific, apart from the crazy alcoholic moves he threw in there. But Chikezie’s so happy not to have been raked over the coals that he runs around the stage some more, with Ryan in tow, until they all get winded and Ryan wipes some sweat from Chikezie’s brow. Then they probably go backstage for a pina colada or something. I don’t know how this show works behind the scenes.
There Are Performances I Remember, But Not This One
Ramiele works at a sushi place and always smells like soy sauce. Also, she loves music and her family does too, especially the Beatles, which is a nice coincidence. Tonight she is singing “In My Life,” in memory of all her dearly departed American Idol buddies. She does know they’re still alive, right?
Wait, am I still alive? I can’t tell after this deadly dull performance. Ramiele’s voice isn’t at its best and the orchestral strings seem to drag everything down to more of a dreary dirge than a sweet elegy. So all in all, I could’ve had a V-8. Randy says pretty but boring, and Ramiele says that’s okay. Paula calls her beautiful and then says this was a safe choice, since her voice can go so many other places. Simon cuts the rope and says he was bored to tears. I don’t think literally though. He’s too rich to actually cry. Ryan tries to pick at Simon and gives them all the chance to say “boring” like a million more times, just so we all stay awake.
The Contact High
Jason Castro is up now; he talks about being every guy you ever knew in college, with the guitar and the mumbling and the half-closed eyes. His family is from Colombia, and they love the Beatles, so Jason would always visit them and fall in love with the Beatles too. The Beatles turned him into a musician, so you have yet another thing to thank those guys for.
He’s singing “If I Fell,” which is a pretty perfect choice. Tonight marks the triumphant return of Jason strumming his own guitar on the stool. His voice is the same as it always is, but he’s got some extra aspirate action going on, making him sing “If I fell in love with Hugh” which, 10 to 1 is making some guy out there named Hugh really happy right now. Also happy: everyone in the studio. Jason’s got some medicinal effect on the audience; they don’t cheer wildly when he’s done but they look like they’re stoned. That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to do. Randy liked it but didn’t love the way he fiddled with the melody, and says it didn’t seem heartfelt. Paula couldn’t disagree more, she says she totally “feels his heart,” which sounds gross until you think about it, and then it sounds insane. Translator? “I’m insane!” Well, there you go. Simon gives Jason grief for always doing the same thing and for sounding tonight like every college guy in a dorm room with a guitar, and again we hear the word “boring” bandied about. Can’t they hit up David Cook to get some synonyms or something? Sheesh. Ryan tries to make some lame joke about Simon lingering in people’s dorm rooms, which is inappropriate, and Simon’s flustered and speechless; Ryan needles him about not having a comeback and you start to wonder why they haven’t just mounted each other already so we can get over this tedious baiting stuff.
A Clean Machine
Carly’s Irish brogue has returned with a vengeance since the early rounds, which makes me even happier to see her than usual. She and Amanda are now roommates and BFF who do their shopping together, which Carly says must include potatoes. This finally gives her that perfect horizontal row in Irish Bingo.
In her package she talks about loving San Diego and missing Ireland, and going to play music around town. Every week she sings “Come Together,” and according to Carly it always “goes down a treat.” So you don’t even have to pay attention tonight; she already told us we love it. It’s a little disconcerting to hear this song in such a high key, but eventually it makes sense because Carly’s voice is so great. I think she flubs a few of the words, but it’s “Come Together,” so who can really tell. Randy calls her singing strong and confident, and says it was a stellar performance. Paula says it felt like she was watching someone who’s already a star. Ha. Simon says Carly finally got it right and then compares her to Kelly. There’s a bit of difference between the two, mostly in album sales, but I can see where Simon was going with this.
Making It Their Own
David Cook smashes a guitar in his clip and talks about growing up in suburban Missouri before coming out to sing a pop rock version of “Eleanor Rigby.” It could probably make TRL. I don’t really like it, but who cares what I think. David’s hyped and shouting with his jacket collar popped up after he’s done. Randy says David proves you can definitely “rock out” on Idol. Paula says he’s not only a dark horse, he’s a thoroughbred. I don’t think you even need a translator to know why that’s so wrong. Simon thought it was brilliant and says if we vote the right way, he’ll win.
Good Girl and Nanny Brooke White has been into the Beatles since 8th grade, and she particularly loves the philosophy of “Let It Be,” so she’s singing it tonight. Bonus, she’s at the piano, which I’ve been waiting for since her awesome turn during Hollywood week, but un-bonus, I can’t hear it at all over the band. The stage is all dark and atmospheric and Brooke looks very earnest; her voice is very pretty and fragile which is probably supposed to translate into “full of emotion and purity.” Randy thinks that this is Brooke’s dream come true, and he loves her conviction and the simple way she sang. Paula says that this is Brooke’s niche, the emotional connection thing. Simon says she made it believable instead of karaoke, and that Brooke was one of the best of the night again. Ryan lets Brooke ramble on effervescently about how awesome she thinks being on the show is and he takes the opportunity to talk about her bare feet and bring her her shows. Simon’s doing some two-year-old thing and calling Ryan’s name until he gets some attention, then they talk about which one of them wants Brooke’s shoes more, and it’s never as funny as they think it is.
Facts about David Hernandez: He’s from the same town as Jordin Sparks, he once was fired from a job (not that one) on his day off, and he’s actually graduated from Beatles 101 at an accredited institution of higher learning, so tonight should be cake for him. Only it’s not. He’s singing “I Saw Her Standing There” which really isn’t the way to go for a few reasons, the main one for me being David’s status as a 24 year old man invalidating the whole teeny-bopper aura of the song. The bombastic and the dancing don’t help matter much. Everyone’s a little bit cheesy, sometimes. But poor David Hernandez is headed for two weeks in a row, which is as good as a death knell. He sounds lovely, as always, especially on the refrain, but the judges weren’t satisfied. Randy says it was overdone. Paula repeats him. Simon says “No, no, no” and says it was desperate. In my show notes I wrote “I feel spurned,” which is probably because I wish David was using his voice for good instead of stupid. It’s okay though David; I still love you. I think I’m the only one though. See you at the finale!
The Middle of the Road
If you go into your bathroom, turn off the light, look in the mirror and say, “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!” then I promise Amanda Overmyer will appear before you looking just as she does here tonight. She gabs with Ryan about life behind the scenes and how everyone does their own thing. Then in her package she talks about riding her Harley and being a girl who rides her Harley. She’s singing “You Can’t Do That,” only rocked up Amanda style, which means kind of painful to listen to but also kind of easy to pretend is only a joke.
Randy loves the way she did the bar-singer thing; Paula is too blown away to say anything. Simon says it wasn’t as good as last week’s offering, and then tells Paula to shut up and stop interrupting him. But in a loving way, I’m sure.
Michael Johns comes on now to remind me that he is still in the competition. He talks about having a bunch of crappy jobs so he can play music without having to live in his car. He’s loved the Beatles since he was 10, and “Across the Universe” is very meaningful to him in an ambiguous personal way, so it’s probably a momentous thing for him to sing it tonight. This one’s kind of untouchable for me (unless you are Fiona Apple, in which case, madam you may proceed), but who am I to begrudge Michael the chance to make it his own. His voice seems to have returned to him, and that’s great, and that’s all I’m going to say. Randy says it was okay, but kind of sleepy. Paula disagrees and compliments Michael’s inner-strength as displayed by his standing and singing. Simon agrees with Randy and says it was all monotonous. Somebody’s finally had that chat with David Cook, thank goodness.
And Your Bird Can’t Sing
I am baffled as to why Kristy Lee Cook remains in the game, but this is America so what are you going to do. She’s from Oklahoma and she grew up listening to the Beatles, but wants to take a big risk and make “Eight Days A Week” her very own. So basically, Kristy took the judges’ advice to stuff herself into a magnolia-scented country box and ran all the way to the moon with it – her box is stuffed with magnolias, cornbread, hayseeds, moonshine and the crazy toothless cousin sitting out on the porch in a rocker. This is a sped-up, fiddle-fied, rollickin’ country mess, from arrangement to vocals. This is the Wreck of the Hesperus. It is bad. Wow. There is no mercy from the judges. Randy liked the arrangement but hated the performance overall. Paula totally slams Kristy and doesn’t even tell her she’s pretty, is how bad this was. Simon says it was horrendous, and that Kristy sounded like Dolly Parton on helium. But Kristy says she liked it. Well, as long as one of us is satisfied.
My Only Friends, The End
Little David Archuleta gets to close the show again. He talks about his family and how much they like music, and him too, except not oldies. So he was not psyched for Lennon-McCartney week, until he saw “We Can Work It Out,” which Stevie Wonder did (yeah, better than the Beatles,) and so of course he was familiar with that. David says he is still very nervous though, and if you don’t believe him just check out the many ways he ultimately blows this performance. He’s singing in much too low of a key, and trying to be hip, which are both big mistakes for him. The biggest flaw is his straight up blanking on a bunch of words right at the beginning and again in the middle, and then at the end too, but that last blank was probably just for symmetry. Then there’s the ending improvisation, which just looks awkward and uncomfortable. Randy didn’t dig it, and neither did Paula, but she says he’s still a front-runner anyway because she loves him. Simon says it was a mess, and some other mean stuff too but you know what? I think we get it. David A. sucked this week but he will grow from this and carry on to do great things, like selling out arenas full of twelve year olds and perhaps having his own show on ice. Ryan stems the present smothering of the poor boy’s spirit while the performance recap plays and reminds me that Syesha sang earlier and Ramiele too.
And that’s it. You know, the Idols didn’t do too badly by the Beatles. There were only two out and out disasters, which is certainly less than I looked for. Maybe this is the best top 12 we’ve ever seen. Or maybe my expectations have just gone on a long vacation. I’m not sure. Actually the only thing I really am sure of is that David A. isn’t going to be the one singing it out on Wednesday. The witty and wonderful AJane has the honor of sharing with us who is going down in history as the least talented of the most talented ever, so be sure not to miss that!