Thu. March 20, 2008 12:00 AM
by Jim Verraros
American Idol: Season Seven; Top 11 Performances
March 18, 2008—-[A week after a Beatles music-themed episode] this night of "Idol" seemed as if the producers thought having the contestants sing more Beatles songs was a good idea. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
Season seven's resident rocker, Amanda Overmyer, hoped to win-over voters by choosing, yet again, another up-tempo rock song. Her rendition of "Back in the USSR," although entertaining, lacked a certain vocal ability that the other contenders have shown. Consistently choosing songs that have five or six notes in her range, Overmyer delivered exactly what audiences every week have come to expect from her, and it was just ok. It's like she's not pushing herself to sing outside of her comfort zone. Although it's encouraged to "stick to what you're good at," it would have been nice to hear her belt-out a ballad.
From her pageant-styled hair poof, to her very awkward arrangement of "You've Got to Hide your Love Away," I'm thinking that America's chosen Horse Whisperer, Kristy Lee Cook, couldn't get any worse. She shows off her range a bit in this round, but she picks songs that don't make any sense for her to sing. She's got "Carrie Underwood" written all over her—-so maybe she should stick to that genre. Yet she keeps trying too hard to be different, making her stand-out in a not-so-good different kind of way. Every week I'm sure that she'll be eliminated, but fans love them some KLC. [She's still in the running.]
Following his prior performance's lyrics-forgetting disaster, David Archuleta came back from the previous episode of "Idol" with a vengeance and killed. He sang "The Long and Winding Road," a beautiful ballad perfectly befitting Archuleta's voice. [However, Archuleta's song choices always seem to have "older" themes that are likely not applicable or interesting to someone his age.] He's only 17-years-old, but he's singing ballads like he's in his late-fifties. I personally would love to hear him take on a few upbeat [and more age-appropriate] numbers from the Jackson 5, or some earlier John Mayer material.
Performing "A Day in the Life" is difficult to do but Michael Johns did it quite well. Johns is that guy with the good voice whose name you probably can't remember. Compared to the other contestants, he almost gets lost in the shuffle, and I think a lot of that has to do with a lack of personality. Johns deserves to be where he is in this competition; he always delivers solid vocal performances-—just not much of anything else. I fear that may hurt him in the end.
Singing "Here Comes the Sun," Brooke White came next, and it was the most awkward thing I've ever seen. She didn't know how to move to the song and, randomly kicking her leg throughout the number like Elaine from "Seinfeld," it showed. Wearing a yellow dress that matched her song choice, the entire performance was so cheesy. But White knew it, and that's the endearing thing about her. An artist who can admit their strengths and weaknesses is something I can appreciate. Perhaps it's back to the acoustic guitar for her.
Rocking-out a Whitesnake version of "Daytripper," David Cook is the male equivalent to Amanda Overmyer. This guy can do absolutely no wrong, and he proved that with flawless vocals. Cook came off more polished than a lot of the other singers in this installment. I loved his styling and his performance. He knows his direction and his genre, and always does what he knows he's good at. Cook could very well make it to the finals.
Carly Smithson goes for "Blackbird," and it was a very controlled, emotional performance. Smithson always guarantees an amazing vocal, but this time around she tried something different. She kept her powerhouse vocals in check and showed the audience her vulnerable side. It was a nice change of pace. However, the maternity top with roses up and down her collar was ridiculous and should be burned.
Jason Castro's rendition of "Michelle," wasn't one of my favorite performances from him [but he still left a resounding impression]. Castro knows how to sell his performances to the camera. [His on-air charisma] allows audiences to relate to him and connect with the songs that he's choosing to sing. Though he may not have the strongest voice in the competition, Castro has definitely got "something" that America likes.
Syesha Mercado decided to straighten her curly hair and take on "Yesterday," one of the most well known songs by the Beatles. Her vocal was definitely solid, but it could've been a bit more controlled as the song doesn't call for runs, scales and show-off notes. It's about connecting with the song, and Mercado didn't really go that route. Plus, the camera angles weren't the best. She never really sang into the camera, thus allowing America to forget her performance. She has a great voice, but she's going to have to choose songs that she can emotionally connect with. And she's going to have to connect with the camera too.
Chikezie, whose last performance was stellar, sang, "I've Just Seen a Face." His bluegrass-harmonica-square dance take on the song was not unlike something Kristy Lee Cook would do, and it didn't quite work. I love Chikezie's voice and his tone because they're incredibly smooth. His voice reminds me of Luther Vandross, but Chikezie's arrangements come off more awkward than entertaining. He'll definitely be around for a few more rounds, but that's about it.
Last, Ramiele Malubay (one of my favorites, I have to admit) chooses an upbeat song, "I Should Have Known Better." Trying not to bore the judges with another ballad, this song choice was respectable and enjoyable. A bit younger and fresher, her styling was worlds better than what it was in the last episode. However, she didn't give the performance that I know she's capable of. It was like Mariah Carey trying to sing, "Vanishing," or "Emotions," now in 2008. Malubay is full of personality—she's likable—and she has a great voice and beautiful tone. I know she's capable of better, but it's like she's choosing to sing the easier notes.
Please bring it, Rami! Stop half-assing your performances! Please!