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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Idol: The Top 8 Perform

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Here are some things I learned tonight thanks to Idol's songs of inspiration week: there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and dreams do come true, if you believe in yourself and make every moment count, especially if you give back, try your hardest, be comfortable in your own skin and hope. I think I've got a new mission statement.

Michael : I realized something tonight. Pretty much whatever Paula loves, I hate. So Paula loved Michael's Steven Tyler impersonation on Aerosmith's "Dream On" and she just adored his short sleeve shirt/vest/tiny knotted scarf combo. Actually, Michael didn't sing too badly, but like Simon noted, it lacked any of his own personality. But, hey, man, he's living in America and dreams can come true, so vote for him unless you hate America and dreams.

Syesha: I bet she thought Simon was going to tell her she was clever for picking an Idol winner's song (Fantasia's "I Believe"), but then she got the ol' smack-down for trying to take on, again, something meant for a bigger voice. Randy, the bad guy (i.e. my hero) of the night noted, to the enraged shrieks of the audience, that she had no special connection to the song. Simon commented that she lacked a big wave of connection and that we don't know what she's all about, and he was right on. She's a good singer but I still can't tell what makes her much more special than the dozens of other perfectly good singers who came before her on Idol. Paula of course disagreed.

Jason: Finally someone picked a song that was pleasant and not entirely self-indulgent as Jason took on Israel Kamakawiwo Ole's rendition of "Over the Rainbow", ukulele and all. I think he would have been a freaking genius if he had sung "The Rainbow Connection" instead, but this was still good. It was sweet but not cloying and he put out a bit more with the vocals too. Eat your heart out, Katharine McPhee.

Kristy: Simon and I disagreed on a major point here tonight. He thought Kristy looked like a star. I thought her clothes and hair looked cheap. But anyhow. She sang Martina McBride's "Do It Anyway," on the Syesha tip: technically fine, kind of in the genre that she seems to have settled in, but nothing special. Paula told Randy to quit picking on the contestants for being pitchy as if only anal people cared about singing in tune.

David Cook: Again, what Paula thinks is genius, I think is not so. Doing "Innocent" by Our Lady Peace, it sounded like David was trying to channel three separate singers, none of whom I recognized at all. Randy wasn't feeling it and Simon called it "pompous," which certainly wasn't helped by David holding up his palm to the audience, on which the message "GIVE BACK" had been Sharpie'd. Paula found it "very inspirational." Now, out of spite, I'm going to take back instead of give back.

Carly: What is with people singing Queen this season? Carly did "The Show Must Go On," and none of the judges were really into it, including Paula, who didn't feel engaged. Forgetting the engaging part, it really wasn't all that in tune—Simon said that she oversang it and lost control of the song and that she seemed oddly angry. He also thought she looked much better than last week. She did look better, but I still think someone is just not dressing her to look as great as she could. If Tim Gunn got a hold of her, she'd be one of the most stunning girls ever on the history of the show.

David Archuleta: I was kind of cringing before this began, since David likes inspiration and great messages a little TOO much. As he started singing "Angel" by Robbie Williams, I snarkily noted that David should record a Christmas album, but you know what, he did a great job. I am the first to admit that I wouldn't buy one of his albums but I like hearing him sing—even when he's not showing off, the timber of his voice is pleasant and when he is doing his runs, it doesn't seem too forced. Plus, by and large, he has gotten over that me-so-abashed thing he used to do onstage. So I'm back in the David Archuleta fan club, where we will be waiting outside his dressing room Thursday night so we can try to get a handful of his hair.

Brooke: Brooke and Michael are similar in some ways. The artists they pick are predictable and their covers are serviceable but by and large nothing too special. Tonight: Carol King's, "You've Got a Friend." As Simon said, it was pleasant, but not original. Paula told Brooke, of course, that she loved her and Brooke oh-so-benevolently said "I love you, too." Oh, did I mention that Brooke cried, again? She seemed positively furious, as she tilted her head and received the judges' lukewarm remarks. I imagined her seething and thinking "Here I am, crying onstage, and these assholes can't realize how special this moment is? Fuck them. Fuck them all!"

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

—Sometimes I don't get Ryan's digs at Simon. Take a tight shot on him and you'll see his chihuahuas? What?

—I think Ryan should just marry an older black lady.

—In case you were wondering, yes, I will be covering Idol Gives Back tomorrow. Won't you join me? Please?

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