Mon. April 14, 2008 12:00 AM
by Jim Verraros
American Idol: Season 7; Songs That Inspire
April 8, 2008-—"Songs that inspire" was an interesting theme for this week's "American Idol," assuming none of the contestants had to [choose songs originally released] within a particular year. I immediately was excited.
David Archuleta chose "Angels," by Robbie Williams. It was, of course, another great choice of song for him, particularly because it's a ballad. As always, he sang it beautifully. The judges praised him. More and more, I start to think that he will definitely be in the Final Two. But I'm hoping to see him challenge himself with a broader genre of song.
Michael Johns sang "Dream On" by Aerosmith. First of all, with Steven Tyler's insane range, anything by Aerosmith is going to be ridiculously difficult to sing. Johns did a nice job until he got to the "rock-star screams" that Tyler is so well known for. They just seemed contrived but, with a song like that, you almost have to include them. It was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation for Johns, and the result seemed to be missing something. Yet I applaud him for choosing another difficult song--although I'm still not connecting with him as a viewer. I feel that [inability to connect] may hurt him in the long run.
Carly Smithson, who looked fantastic, performed "The Show Must Go On" by Queen. She was pitchy at times, not hitting the notes as she's known to do, but she definitely had more than a few decent moments throughout the song. I don't think it was the best choice of song, considering she had such a broad spectrum of songs to choose from. But, by far, she's one of the most talented in the competition. She'll be around the following week.
Kristy Lee Cook sang "Anyways" by Martina McBride. As much as I hate to say so [Editor's Note: Previous columns repeatedly report the author's personal and professional disfavor of Lee Cook], I actually loved her performance. A little. She's probably one of the smarter contestants, as she always chooses songs that suit her best. Sealing the deal by sticking to her country roots, this was by far her best performance. She'll be back next time as well. No doubt.
Syesha Mercado, and her rendition of "I Believe" by Fantasia Barrino, did not completely win me over. Although her range was amazing, she never connected. It was almost as if she thinks that she deserves praise just based on her ability alone; but singing is so much more than that. I'd almost take a worse singer if they made me believe in what they were singing. Brooke White and Jason Castro are great at this; Mercado, not so much. Although she and Michael Johns have the ability, they need to find material where they can let go of themselves and become the performer.
Speaking of Jason Castro, he chose "Somewhere over the Rainbow," and it was the best arrangement/performance of the night. He played the ukulele while crooning the tune, adding a sense of originality that completely stood out above the rest. The arrangement was absolutely gorgeous, enhanced with strings and light percussion in the background. Yet his vocal is what truly made me love this performance. It was light and soft. Castro never feels the need to try and over sing, or add runs and scales to his songs. [His style] is the perfect mix of musicianship and artist.
Brooke White decided to sing Carole King's, "You've Got a Friend." It's right up her alley of vibe and genre of music, a great choice of song for her. However, she bored me simply because I am over Brooke White. She does nothing for me. She's just not my cup of tea, although I'm sure she'll be able to make a great record someday.
David Cook chose Our Lady Peace's "Innocent." Honestly, it wasn't his best night. He's so amazing and perfectly on pitch, that I excuse this one night of him not being perfect. He was styled quite well, with a jacket that screamed, "marching band," and came off as the professional that he is. It was just a lousy choice of song for him. His fan base is huge, though-—he'll definitely be back to prove himself once again.