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American Idol: The Top 12 Perform

Illustration for article titled iAmerican Idol/i: The Top 12 Perform
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So Idol decided to spice things up for the top twelve with a new introduction (which looks kind of like the old one) and a new stage (which looks a little like the not-too-distant future.) Of course what really made tonight special was the debut of the Lennon/McCartney songbook. When I was 13 or so I came down with a bad case of Beatlemania, from which I am recovering—but I am not a purist. I didn't think that it was a travesty that Paul and John's music was being featured on the show—how can you say it's a bad thing to give the singers more and better songs from which to choose? However it was difficult to take off my Beatles fan hat for this show, so forgive me if I still get a little too overanalytic about the song choices.

Syesha : Syesha kicked it all off with "Got to Get You Into My Life," which to me means one thing: drugs. Her soul-ey interpretation was a good choice for her, but it was really nothing special—the band was outshining her, and so were those constant flashing strobe lights.

Chikezie: I could sense that "She's a Woman" was going to be a great song choice for him. His country/rock take on it was unexpected and definitely a risk but the guy pulled it off and made everyone who voted for him instead of Danny not look like assholes. Even Ryan was feeling him, and I mean literally.

Ramiele: "In My Life" meant a lot to me in high school, and I swore to myself that I'd make it my first dance at my wedding. Now, however, it puts me to sleep a little bit and so did Ramiele's version. Once again, the guitar and strings section outshone the singer. And even Paula was admitting that the rendition was a snooze. I wonder if Danny was pissed, since the song was dedicated to him.

Jason: According to Paula, we can feel his heart, so who cares how he sings? There are a few things up with Jason. First, as a Beatles fan, I wasn't thrilled with his choice of "If I Fell": I think the song is 50% as good without the close two-part harmony. Secondly, his John Mayer-esque ballading is just getting kind of tired. Plus, he has a slight male version of the Britney Spears catch in his voice. I know this kid is talented (even though he was wearing a vest), but he needs to get outside his hot-box.

(This was the point in the show where I put "A Hard Day's Night" on and started listening during the commercials. I actually thought to myself, also, "Man I love 'You Can't Do That.' I wish someone would sing that.")

Carly: This is going to be a cheesy metaphor, but if Carly's voice is an expensive car, it needs a big road to be let out on. Tonight, on that new stage, she finally showed, not hinted at her potential. You wouldn't think "Come Together" would be a great song for showing off your voice but her doing so really proved what she can do. Plus, she looked comfortable on stage, too, maybe more than she has thus far. She earned the coveted Kelly Clarkson comparison from Simon, maybe partially because the lyrics mention Coca-Cola.

David Cook: Argh, he was wearing nail polish in his little personal video montage. I hate nail polish on guys. Where was I? Okay. Here is an example of where Idol and the Beatles clash for me. Like last week, David chose a really good song for him. He sang well and interpreted "Eleanor Rigby" in a way that worked for his preferred singing style. If I never had heard that song before or if I were really into quasi emo rock ballads I would love it. However, knowing what I already know about "Eleanor Rigby," I have a problem with the near-shouting and the flashing lights and the melodrama of the delivery. There's re-interpreting a song and then there's eliminating the context. But again, he did a good job and I have to say that nothing is sacred, so I can't hate. I want to, but I can't.

Brooke: Brooke seemed nervous at the beginning of "Let It Be" but I guess she was just overcome with emotion. Whatever. She did a fine job, doing her Brooke White thing. Once again, the Beatles fan in me gets in the way. I think this song is Paul McCartney getting overly maudlin and hackneyed and I personally find it rather cheesy. If I weren't as familiar with it I'd probably find her performance simple yet powerful but I wasn't into it. "Hey Jude" might have been a more interesting choice for her since she'd be able to rock out a bit at the end.

David Hernandez: Ouch. This is what happens when Lennon/McCartney night goes terribly awry. I was wondering how he would handle, anyway, a song that started off with "She was just 17/If you know what I mean." I don't think "I Saw Her Standing There" is a great song for showing off one's voice to begin with, and I think David's attempt to "work the stage" distracted him, and he tried too hard, as the judges pointed out. As Simon said, it was corny and not cool.

(This was the point where I realized that this episode easily could have fit into 90 minutes.)

Amanda: Holy Christ, someone at Idol was listening to my thoughts. Once again Amanda picked a good song for herself, even though she admitted to never hearing "You Can't Do That" before. Her country take on it worked, and I didn't even mind her riffing or the inclusion of the ever-present "chile." I was glad she didn't change the gender in the lyrics, and I liked that she did change her hair. The girl looked happy up there, for once, and I think she was fun. Not the most talented of the bunch but she did a good job with Beatles night.

Michael: I thought this went the way of Ramiele and Brooke's performances. It was fine, but zzz. To entertain myself during the chorus I sang the backup "aahs" that you hear on the "Past Masters Vol. II" version of this song.

Kristy Lee: Yikes. Paula really hated this. I wasn't a fan of her interpretation of "Eight Days a Week": I don't think that the composition of the song fit well at all with country arrangement. So many other Beatles songs could have been better in this genre: "Can't Buy Me Love," "The Night Before," "Wait," maybe? I don't know. I didn't think she was as bad as what Paula said, though. Definitely in the bottom 50% of the show but at least she sang functionally. I thought her outfit was stupid, however.

David Archuleta: Oh my. Well, what can you say when somebody forgets the lyrics to a well-known song with a well-known cover? David should have known better than to try to take on Steve Wonder's cover of "We Can Work It Out," as it seems like a proven formula that if you want the judges to hate you, try doing Whitney or Stevie. The shame is that it might not have been such a bad version but I think David's attempt at dancing shook all the words out of his head. Well, now we know he's human, and not a little angel sent from heaven.

I imagine Syesha, Ramiele, Kristy Lee and David Hernandez will be in the bottom tomorrow night.

Was there any question that the addition of the Lennon/McCartney songbook could only do good things for the show? I hope that tonight wasn't all we heard from it, because imagine all the other songs everyone could have chosen. I cringe a little bit as I think about tomorrow night: I imagine the group walking as a clump down the stage smiling at each other singing "A Little Help From My Friends" but tonight I was definitely entertained—we heard mostly good singing and definitely good music. Plus, it had me pulling up and singing along to some tunes that I hadn't listened to in a long time, and it's not very often that Idol makes me want to listen to more pop music. I would give this an A- if we didn't have to pause for a commercial after every singer.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

—When Ryan asked Randy why Beatles tunes are enduring, Randy's answer was, "because they'll last forever." So true.

—Ramiele needs to find a new answer other than "It's okay!!!" when one of the judges finishes criticizing her and finishes with "…sorry."

—We should be more mature and above this but I can't believe that in talking about David Hernandez's old job we didn't hear about his stint at Dick's. Not talking about it probably drew more attention to it.

—Ever notice how the audience laughs when Simon tells them to shut up? They LOVE it. As they should.

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