Mon. May 5, 2008 12:00 AM
by Jim Verraros
American Idol: Season Seven; Neil Diamond Week
Ryan Seacrest opens the Top Five performances episode by telling the audience that the contestants will be singing two songs a piece. Oh great. Two Neil Diamond songs each? I can hardly stand it.
Jason Castro started the show with "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn." Whoop-de-freakin-doo. As always, it was predictable, safe and completely boring. Even Simon agreed with me on this one, as he called Castro's performance, "Forgettable." I completely agree. There was nothing earth shatteringly authentic about these performances. Castro made no additional effort to make them his own and just got through them. It was as if he'd been dreading this week for months, and it showed.
David Cook choose "I'm Alive" and "All I Really Need is You." The first performance was a little on the boring side, as he chose not to show us
any range by singing the song true to its arrangement. He did infuse some rock elements, but nowhere near the caliber of performance audiences are used to from him. Although, on his second song, he really shined. He made tweaks to the arrangement, completely making it sound like it could be a track on his upcoming album. It was a great vocal, and perfectly arranged. So, he redeemed himself.
Brooke White decided to take a gamble with the very well known "I'm a Believer" and "I Am, I Said." Even though she's a "musician" (which I can appreciate), I just didn't buy what she was selling. I get that she's not the strongest vocalist, and I get that she's the "emoter," but I didn't feel anything when she was singing. She's an average vocalist, someone you could find 100 more of in Los Angeles. Yet everyone argues that she's got that "something." Well, what is it? Someone point it out for me, because I don't see it. She's nowhere near the caliber of artist that she's always compared to, IE: Carly Simon. I don't get it.
David Archuleta, with the help of Neil Diamond himself, choose "Sweet Caroline" and "America." Both are done well, but the second performance was the performance that's going to stick to viewers. It was a very patriotic song, which of course screamed, "Middle America." So this is going to do nothing but help him sail on through to the next round. Vocally, he's always solid, and always puts his R&B-tinge on his renditions. [However, he's yet to do anything shocking or suprising]. That would seal the deal as David Archuleta being the American Idol. Otherwise, it's David Cook.
Syesha Mercado, seemingly the only well-styled contestant of the bunch, choose "Hello, Again" and "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." They were both fantastic vocal performances, always something expected to be from Mercado. But more now than ever, she's truly using her musical theater background to her advantage; something she should've done months ago. She's a very theatrical performer, incorporating some Dreamgirls-esque moves with soulful vocals. She's definitely a Broadway star in the making. Hell, she'd probably make more money doing a show in NYC than releasing a record. She was in her element this round, and I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up in the final three.