And you thought having a Dolly Parton week was cruel and unusual punishment for our young Idol hopefuls. Well, let us count the ways that Dolly Parton is superior to Mariah Carey, shall we?
1. You can actually tell one Dolly song from another.
2. Dolly didn’t bring her dog to the mentoring sessions.
3. Dolly didn’t make us listen to her sing through her mentoring sessions.
4. Dolly doesn’t have a fake tan, and admits her plastic surgery.
5. If Dolly is a Backwoods Barbie, Mariah is a Bratz doll.
You get the idea. Besides, we only have to listen to an hour of Mariah covers – the top 7 of season 7 have to perform them. A prospect that likely delighted only Syesha Mercado, and to a lesser extent, Carly Smithson. Though I think little David Archuleta got quite a thrill as well, especially seeing as what he was eye-level to.
David does Disney
Speaking of David Archuleta! After Ryan Seacrest invokes a brief mourning period in honor of Michael Johns’ abrupt departure last week, and the usual pimping of the guest mentor’s latest album, young David is ushered into the rehearsal studio to sing his version of “When You Believe” to Mariah. In spite of the fact this song is from a movie that is a favorite with my daughters (The Prince of Egypt), I didn’t recognize it. I suppose it doesn’t matter, as all of Mariah Carey’s songs are designed to exploit her much-vaunted 5-octave range, so David is free to pull out his falsetto and emote away to his wee heart’s content. Mariah, though she’s a songwriter and not just another caterwauling diva (a fact she reminds us of at pretty much every single mentoring session) doesn’t go out of her way with her remarks about the Idols, saying mostly that she found David’s singing “really moving”. Randy declares David “the bomb”, and Paula sniffles that he’s made Mariah proud. Simon chortles that he knew David would choose that song (ah, so he does read the message boards!) and gives David his usual tongue bath, saying he was very good and set the benchmark for the evening.
Carly Smithson is up next, and she looks nervous just bantering with Ryan. She, like so many female AI fans, misses Michael Johns, and so has chosen “Without You”. Actually, I made that last part up – she didn’t say that’s why she chose it, but she should have. It wouldn’t hurt to try to win over Michael’s fan base at this point. Mariah likes Carly’s powerful voice. Great, so do we, thanks Mariah. Carly, like the other girls, is dressed-to-impress tonight, and she’s looking quite pretty in understated makeup and a sparkly V-neck navy blue frock. Carly sings Mariah pretty much like Mariah sings Mariah, and though I can’t bring myself to praise the song choice, she sounds good for what it is, I suppose. Randy likes that she challenged herself and thinks it was pretty good. Paula praises the restraint at the beginning of the song, and how it soared afterwards. Simon, again reiterating how much he likes Carly, doesn’t think she pulled it off and accuses her of “overthinking” her performance. This is the way he critiques someone he likes? Must be that dry British wit I’m not getting.
Another Idol who should be in her element tonight is Syesha Mercado, who has chosen something called “Vanishing”. Mariah thinks it’s an excellent choice and that she’ll do a great job. It must be that kind of insight that makes Mariah such a prolific songwriter. Syesha is dolled up in a gold halter-neck dress, and sings Mariah pretty much like Mariah sings Mariah. Oh, wait, did I say that already? Sorry, but Syesha’s performance was just that indistinguishable from Carly’s. She gets a similar hodgepodge of comments from the judges, too, with Randy complimenting the “bold” song choice and saying she did a good job, “all things considered”, and Paula also likes that Syesha picked an unknown song and thinks it was magical. Simon shrugs that it was very good technically but disses the song choice. Like he could tell it was a different one from Carly’s.
Would you like fries with that?
Brooke White is all sad and gloomy that she missed her sister’s wedding last week. Well, not exactly gloomy, because Brooke seems immune to actual gloominess. What I don’t understand is why she didn’t just unfurl her umbrella and fly off to the wedding. Surely with her supercalifragilisticexpialidoc ious powers, she could have easily made it back for rehearsals. Mariah isn’t immune to Brooke’s spoonful-of-sugar sweetness, and lauds her as “genuine”. Brooke is opting to accompany herself on piano this week, and although she’s doing “Hero”, the whole performance sounds rather Elton John-like. Kind of like that One Day At A Time episode where Mackenzie Phillips dressed up in giant plastic sunglasses and striped pants and sang “Crocodile Rock”. Or was it Valerie Bertinelli who did that? Anyway, that’s what it reminds me of. Randy thinks the singer/songwriter vibe was kinda cool but didn’t like the bridge. Paula worries that there were a few off-notes but Brooke is so authentic it doesn’t matter. A hungry Simon complains that it was like ordering a hamburger but only getting the bun. This sets off a heated discussion among the judges about the condiments on the burger or the lack thereof, and Brooke looks confused – poor girl is probably a vegetarian.
A Cook by any other name
Apparently a lot of Idols are picking “unknown” songs, which makes me think I’m not the only AI viewer who would be hard-pressed to name more than one of Mariah Carey’s hits. Kristy Lee Cook is picking the unknown “Forever”, and Mariah claims that Kristy’s rendition gave her goosebumps. The good kind, I’m sure. Kristy Lee is all glammed up in a metallic dress, and her vocals evoke a bit of a Patsy Cline feel. (I said a bit, and I said feel. I did NOT say she sounded like Patsy Cline. Just wanted to make that clear.) Randy doesn’t think it was amazing, but Paula is blown away. Simon interrupts some further meanderings from Paula and smirks that Kristy Lee must not have been jumping for joy at the prospect of a Mariah Carey week, but thinks she managed it as well as could be expected. Which in all honestly should have been the real theme name of the week – “As Good As Could Be Expected Week”. Just keepin’ it real, dawg.
David Cook shows his sense of humor by choosing “Always Be My Baby”, which surprises Mariah but also makes her proud as a songwriter, because David has managed to turn her pop hit (the only one I actually do recognize) into a mournful emo-ish lament. David is sans guitar tonight, and though the whole thing is slightly odd and the backup singers can’t quite seem to tone down the mood to suit David’s arrangement, he’s in great voice and it’s a welcome relief after everyone else thus far. Randy is bug-eyed with delight and pronounces David ready for the recording studio. Paula just thinks he’s “it”, but Simon waxes poetic, saying it’s like coming out of karaoke hell into a breath of fresh air. It’s not one of his best metaphors, but Simon adds that the risk-taking and originality of the arrangement is a sign of a great potential artist. David is teary-eyed by the time his number is read, and I’m welling up a bit too at the sight of his (obviously ill) brother in the audience.
Aloha, and good night
*Blows nose* I’m in need of a little light-heartedness, something to make me feel like all’s right with the world. And if I can’t have Kermit the Frog on his lily pad, guitar in hand, singing “Rainbow Connection”, then I’ll take the next best thing – Jason Castro. (Can’t you just picture Jason doing a duet with Kermit? It’s not out of the question, you know – if REM can make a guest appearance on Sesame Street, then it’s good enough for Jason.) Jason is taking on “I Don’t Wanna Cry”, and Mariah thinks Jason is unique and is looking forward to his performance. Jason’s left his guitar in the rehearsal room as well tonight, and his rendition isn’t too bad. Like David Cook, he’s taken one of Mariah’s songs and made it fit neatly into his own style, and while Jason won’t win any new fans tonight, he’s not likely to lose the ones he already has. Randy didn’t love it and thinks it has a weird, beachy luau-feel. Paula simpers that she’d love to be at that luau, and Simon, apparently still hungry, salivates at the thought of poi and agrees with Paula. He doesn’t think it’s the best vocal of the night, but it’s a cool version and he declares the guys to be the winners of the evening.
Somehow, although we’re a singer short from last week, the show has managed to run overtime. Don’t fret, TIVO owners – Ryan is in such a rush to sign off, we get no clue about what to expect on Wednesday’s results show, but you can put your money on a performance from Mimi herself, a group sing, and a Ford commercial. Your best bet, though, is another stellar recap from FORT’s own delicious diva, MotherSister. And you don’t need earplugs for that!
Or was it Bonnie Franklin who sang the Elton John number? Fans of ‘70’s sitcoms, PM me.