Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Favorite Idol Performances #19 & #20

Neil Diamond night. Not one of the better ones on American Idol, though he's underrated as a songwriter. (He's also written and recorded some wretched songs, it should be noted.) He wasn't quite as scary looking as Andrew Lloyd Weber, but there was a certain eerie resemblance through the eyebrows, even if Neil lacked the surprising wit and pointed advice that Sir Weber brought to last week's proceedings.

David Cook. Let's just declare him the Idol and call it a season. Yet those seemingly certain things often don't work out on AI, so I'm readying myself for the bombshell when he's voted off. He shouldn't be. His second song, "All I Really Need is You," was on a completely different level than all of the other performances. Enough said.

Jason is lost. At the end of his second song Simon put it on the table, telling Jason that he would look back at the night and think, "I don't know who this person is." A melancholic verging on tragic moment. I'm not sure it registered with Jason, who appeared as oblivious as ever, but his body language was saying, "Man, I need to kick back, and it ain't gonna happen on this stage. Get me out of here now." I hope he gets voted off tonight, because he really seems ready to head to the woods with his guitar and a pocketful of mellowness. Another week on AI could ruin his soul.

Syesha is certainly the most versatile female vocalist left, which isn't saying much since Brooke is the only remaining comparison. Both of her songs were good last night, confident and competent, but they lacked the determined edge Syesha brought to earlier performances, almost as if--now that her Broadway-ready talents have been touted--she's rehearsing for future shows instead of aiming to beat out the Davids, which she knows is never going to happen. She also wasn't smart to act surprised when Simon told her she might be in trouble. Girl, hello? Haven't you been in the chairs of humiliation enough to know you're always in trouble? It came off as petulant, and petulant isn't a good note to end on right before the voting begins.

After being hard on David A. in recent weeks, I warmed to him a little last night. When he asked Neil for advice and suggestions. When his voice broke a little bit in the second song, and you could see him mentally chiding himself yet carrying on. When Neil called him a prodigy who needs a little guidance. I am a sucker for vulnerability, and he showed it in endearing ways. He also had a little fire under him last night, a touch of spunk, as if he realizes that David C. isn't going to vanish and he best expand his repertoire beyond squinting at tween girls through yet another ballad. Shades of George Michael when he was on the cusp of breaking free of Wham! blandness. (Okay, maybe I'm being generous, but even vocally there are shades of GM's admirable fluidity in little David.) And he pulled off a clever Kristy Lee move by choosing a song with patriotism built right into it. I liked that performance more than I wanted to. How cannot it not come down to David vs. David? (Note to self: stop using the word "little" in relation to David A.)

Then there's Brooke, sunny, vocally limited Brooke. She repeated the stupendous mistake of trying to rock. Why, Brooke, why? You can sing "I'm a Believer" but, honey, we don't believe! She looked as comfortable as a nun dancing in a miniskirt, and whenever Brooke aims for funkiness her last name suddenly seems wincingly descriptive. Nightmare was right. Then she came back for her second song, palm lyrics written on her palm to ward off the forgotten lyric curse from last week. "I Am I Said." Perfect perfect perfect song choice for her. It showcased the positive side of that break in her voice, and the confidently quiet ending fit just right. Just when you thought you could count her out . . .

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