Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Favorite Idol Performance #10 ~ Syesha Mercado

It was a night for reversal of fortunes on American Idol. Those who shined last week tended not to repeat their success, and a couple of people who faltered last week redeemed themselves for the moment. Frankly, I hope it's the last Beatles night for a good, long while. The bad performances definitely outnumbered the good last night.

Amanda was first, and I still love Amanda. She seems to be the one person who's genuinely having a fine old time on stage. If she's the realist I'm guessing she is, she's not deluding herself into believing she's going to win, so she's using the opportunity to sing what she damn well pleases (within the narrow constraints of the show, of course). When Simon rightly criticized her for being the same week after week, she said she used her minute and a half to show people what to expect if they came to the Amanda show. She wanted them to think, "Hey, that chick looks like fun, I wanna go see that chick." When Simon pointed out that her tickets weren't on sale quite yet, she responded, "Even if I need to sell out a local bar in Lafayette, that's all I'm sayin'." I'd love to see Amanda pull off a surprise, but I'd rather she stick to her guns and be predictable than make some misguided effort to show a range she may not have. There are worse things than being a kick-ass bar singer.

David A. pulled himself back together and back into the boy-to-beat spot. David C. remained solid even if the performance lacked the brilliance of his Lionel Richie remake. (Sometimes worse songs bring out better performances.) Michael, aside from his perfect "Bohemian Rhapsody" moment during Hollywood week, always seems a little off to me, more so last night. (Picking songs that are sentimentally important to you is usually a big mistake.) He's still the #1 hunk, however, even if the teen-aged girls squeal over Jason, whose performance of "Michelle" was nailed by Paula when she said it crossed over into awkward polka territory. Only Jason is endearingly cute and goofy enough to almost pull off polka. Chikezie aimed to pull off another out-there interpretation after his success last week, but, like most self-conscious attempts to replicate uniqueness, it went horribly awry. If only he'd left the harmonica in a drawer and used his ace falsetto the whole song through.

Brooke proved that, though she looks the part, sunshine does not become her. Sunny people are meant to sing sad songs. And then when she kept repeating, "It's okay, it's okay," when the judges slammed her, she started to appear both sunny and unhinged. I don't know why Simon was so on Carly's case about song choice. I thought it was good. I thought she was good. But, unlike Amanda, Carly believes she can win this (she does have a better shot), and her desperation to please comes off as the annoying smart girl in the front row of class with her too-eager hand perpetually up and ready. The teacher's pet who pretends she never gets a chance to speak in class. Ramiele always seems like she should be better than she is. It's a good thing she's tiny and cute, because otherwise she'd be toast. Kristy Lee knows she's running on fumes, and this knowledge seems to have relaxed her. She may not be giving good performances, but, compared to Carly, for instance, she comes across as delightfully aware of her own shortcomings and genuinely grateful to be on stage at all.

Which leaves us with Syesha, the contestant who's most disappointed me the past few weeks. Apparently, she thrives under adversity. When she lost her voice during Hollywood week, she somehow rose above it and gave a dynamite performance. Likewise, last night--after landing in the shameful Bottom 3 last week, she took that negative and turned it into an exquisitely tender and vulnerable performance, wowing by pulling in rather than pulling out all the stops. She's perhaps the most inconsistent performer left, but when she's on, she's on.

When the night was over, the ones who thrived did so by not pandering to the judges and by paying attention to their performances instead of to the screaming sign-holders in the audience. Sadly, showing how grateful you are to be loved is a good way to make people stop loving you.

My pick for this week's Bottom 3: Kristy Lee, Chikezie, and Ramiele, who will end up safe.

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