American Idol

‘American Idol’ comes down to David and David

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

David Archuleta squares off against David Cook in the American Idol finals next week, and all is right in the world with me, Randy Salas, your guest blogger for the evening.

To make way for their showdown, Syesha Mercado left the show tonight after receiving the fewest viewer votes. It seemed inevitable, especially after she lost her momentum from recent weeks with three unremarkable performances Tuesday night, but you never can be sure until the results are announced.

As I’ve said before, I like this finals match-up. Teeny-bopper Archuleta seems charmed due to his huge fan base of rabid young girls, but rocker Cook seems equally popular. Cook also has an edge to win it all based on his sheer musicality and range of style. Archuleta seems mired in a goo of syrupy ballads; when he tries to pick up the tempo, as with Tuesday’s rendition of “With You,” he never seems to find his groove. Cook, on the other hand, can turn a ballad as easily as an all-out rock anthem — and often give them a refreshing spin, even if he’s covering someone else’s arrangement.

Next week brings a  one-hour performance show on Tuesday, followed by viewer voting, and then a two-hour extravaganza on Wednesday to announce the winner — at the end of the broadcast, of course.

So what do you think of the finals match-up? Who will win? And was Syesha the right one to leave the show tonight?

American Idol’s final 3 take the stage

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Randy Salas here to serve as your guide and critic for tonight’s American Idol broadcast. Let’s go:

ROUND 1 – Judges’ choices

David Archuleta is up first with Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” chosen by Paula Abdul. Once again, he changes up the melody too much for my taste, but this was a great song choice for him. His voice is just perfect for a song that should be more widely known. One problem is that the original song gains more weight and meaning over its duration, but this version was too short to capitalize on that. But I’m sure the average viewer is really concerned with meaning and development in the songs.

Syesha Mercado is up with Alicia Keys “If I Got You.” Randy Jackson picked it. He had “a feeling” she was into Keys? All he had to do was look on YouTube to see Syesha singing the same song on the ABC reality show “The One.” She sounds just like Keys, except more shrill and with half the emotion. It’s serviceable but nothing spectacular — and actually not as good as her previous televised version. The judges love it much more than I do.

David Cook gets nailed with Roberta Flack’s version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” a wicked curve ball from Simon Cowell. It’s not his style at all, and rather slow. But, man, does he wail on a song that no one would ever expect him to pick himself. This could work on the radio now with a more developed arrangement.

First round goes to Cook.

ROUND 2 – Singers’ choices

David Archuleta picks Chris Brown’s “With You,” a refreshingly contemporary choice for the little fella. Unfortunately, diction isn’t Archie’s strongest suit and he stumbles early over a few words and gets behind the beat. “Little mama”? That just ain’t right. It’s OK, but doing a current song can often be the death knell for an Idol singer because all of the young viewers actually know the song. And that was just aw-ight.

Syesha does “Fever” as her choice. She’s a working actress, as she has reminded us several times this season, so she should be able to vamp it up — with or without a prop chair. But I’m actually surprised at how straightforward a version she delivers, considering that. It’s “Fever” without the steam.

David Cook goes with Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” as his pick (not the previously leaked choice of Collective Soul’s “The World I Know”). I’m not wild about the choice, but let’s see how he does. The opening verse is shaky, but he delivers on the powered-up chorus. It’s just too short — man, the producers are killing the singers with the time limit tonight. Nothing special. 

Second round goes to no one. They all just treaded water.

Round 3 – Producers’ choices

David A. does Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer.” Eh. I love the song, but it was not what I had hoped for from Archie. It comes across as pretty but insincere.

Syesha is back with Gia Farrell’s “Hit Me Up” from “Happy Feet.” Oh, man, she looks uncomfortable and she went out of tune toward the end. Ultimately, it wasn’t horrible, but what a sad way to go out for her. Each song she did tonight was weaker than the previous one. She clearly has lost her momentum.

David C. ends the night with Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” That arrangement was a bit of a mess, but Cook pulls through. Even when things seem off, he never loses control. That’s the mark of a winner.

Third round goes to David Cook.

Overall, Cook takes the night, but I was underwhelmed. I was hoping for a killer performance, but it didn’t materialize. It has to be David vs. David in next week’s finals. It won’t be worth watching if not. 

Word is out on tonight’s ‘Idol’ songs

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Hey, guest American Idol blogger Randy Salas here. The final three singers don’t perform until tonight on the top-rated TV show, but word has already gotten out on some of the songs we’ll hear. Each singer must perform a song chosen by one of the judges, by the producers and by him- or herself. According to Internet scuttlebutt, here are some of the songs on tap:

 David Archuleta: Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer” (producers’ choice), Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” (Paula Abdul’s choice) and Chris Brown’s “With You” (his choice).

My thoughts: Wow, if that’s really Paula’s choice, it’s brilliant. Little Archie’s smoky-toned voice is just right for the Billy Joel song. “Longer” also is a cool choice, and “With You” will finally give us a glimpse of how he’ll do with something contemporary. Unfortunately, all three sings emphasize that Archie can only do a ballad salad — not much stylistic range.

David Cook: Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Simon Cowell’s choice), Collective Soul’s “The World I Know” (his choice) and an as-yet-unknown producers’ choice.

My thoughts: What an odd choice for Simon to make for the rocker: a musty, slow ballad. I thought at first that he’d be better off doing the earlier folk version by Gordon Lightfoot, but that would probably misfire from being too unfamiliar to viewers. Here’s hoping for another reinvention as he did with the version he covered of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” “The World I Know” is a down-tempo, fairly unmelodic number, so we could really use an all-out rock choice from the producers.

Syesha Mercado: Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” (Randy Jackson’s choice) and two unknown numbers (her choice and the producers’).

My thoughts: Eye roll. Mercado performed the same song on the ABC reality show ”The One.” Did Randy Jackson know that when he made his choice? She acted it well. 

I have to say that I’m seriously pulling for David Cook at this point. David Archuleta has worn on me, largely because he has no stylistic range and I tire of his “making songs his own” by simply changing every original melody. Syesha has been touted as “coming on strong” in the past few weeks, but has any contestant ever been among the bottom vote-getters so many times and made it to this point? I’m over her shrill high notes and “it’s all about me” stage presence, such as equating her Idol journey to the civil rights movement. I hope we shall overcome her this week and have a finals pitting David vs. David.

What say you? And come back later tonight for my thoughts on tonight’s show.

The Final Four: Castro, out

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Music critic Jon Bream on the Island tonight. What were these Final Four thinking? It’s time to get serious about this competition. This was the week with the biggest, broadest and deepest song catalog to choose from — the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So why did we get so many misguided song choices and so many uninspired performances?

Why did heavy favorite David Cook pick Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like a Wolf” (Whose Hall of Fame?) and the Who’s untouchable “Baba O’Riley”? Imprudent choices and unmemorable performances.

Nervous to the point of being unfocused, Jason Castro went for the “two Bobs”: Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The only thing he got right on the Marley was the dreadlocks. On “Tambo,” he forget one line and blew some others — and any chance he had to stay in the “Idol” race.

Syesha Mercado’s song choices were problematic and her interpretations unremarkable. Her “Proud Mary” was too Tina Turner-like, and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” was soulful but screechy. At least, she scored points in the wardrobe category with both numbers (a spangly short skirt for “Mary” and an elegant gold gown for “Change”).

David (Crusher) Archuleta “crushed the competition,” to use Simon’s words, partly because they were that bad and partly because he wasn’t bad at all. In fact, he was pretty good. “Stand By Me” was heartfelt if unspecial, but “Love Me Tender” was a sweet choir boy-meets-boy band reading — something he made his own.

There’s no question that the voters will say “Castro out” and that this has become a two-horse race between the Davids.

What do you think? Please post your comments here: 

American Idol shines on you crazy Diamond

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Neal Justin back at the reins and, I must confess, I’m still upset with you, America. Not only was the elimination of Carly totally uncalled for , but you once again put Syesha, my longtime favorite female contestant, back on the hot seat. What does the girl have to do, people?

But enough of that. Time to move on to a new rant: Neil Diamond. I love the guy for the very reasons that he makes a terrible choice to be an “Idol” mentor. His songs are simple, with little range and little ambition. That’s why you hear “Solitary Man” at every karaoke bar. Anyone can sing his songs. ANYONE. That doesn’t make for a very good challenge and it doesn’t give us much insight as to who has the best pipes.

That being said, I hope the contestants stay away from the more familiar hits, although Brooke and Jason Castro probably won’t be able to help themselves.

I’d love to hear someone tackle something off of Diamond’s last album, “12 Songs” (“Hell Yeah” perhaps?) and some lesser known, but nevertheless beautiful numbers, like “Play Me” and “If You Know What I Mean.” Unfortunately, I’m bracing myself for yet another version of “Red Red Wine.” Groan.

What do you hope to hear – and who do you want to see soar (Let me hear from my fellow Syesha fans. C’mon!)

“Happy trails” to cowgirl Kristy Lee Cook

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

It was apparent that one of the gals would be going home tonight — none of them captured the essence of a Mariah Carey number as well as the guys — but not many Idol watchers thought it would be Kristy Lee Cook.

Hi- it’s Remote Island guest blogger Lynn Underwood on the American Idol results show.

Kristy Lee  shined on the country flavored ”Forever” and it wasn’t only because of her glittery eye shadow and silver cocktail dress.

I was a little sad to see her go — she always had an upbeat attitude,  even when Simon said she should be ”hypnotized” to learn how to perform on stage, was ridiculed for the Beatles “8 Days a Week” disaster and consistently landed in the bottom three for many weeks.

Plus - In the call-in segment – a viewer asked Kristy if she was able to buy her horse back.  She replied that the man she sold it to for money to travel to the Idol auditions would not sell her horse back to her!

She really had a bad day.

Powerhouse singer Carly Smithson seemed to be on the cusp, but maybe covering the arm tattoos with an elegant long-sleeved dress helped attract the above age 30 vote.

 According to an interview on, Michael Johns had planned on singing a Mariah Carey’s ”Vision of Love.”  What a major loss!!!

Do you think “just call me Carole King” Brooke White and “second string Whitney” Syesha Mercado deserved to be in the bottom  three?

And will it be a  showdown between the two Davids for the finals?

I don’t know about you — but I’m pumped for Andrew Lloyd Webber week. I can’t wait to  hear the ”Go, Go Go Joseph” group number.