AMERICAN IDOL 7: TOP 12 ANALYSIS

I’m a little late with this post because I had to go see a movie tonight (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and when I got home, I discovered I had only taped part of the show because I forgot to reset my video recorder’s clock for daylight savings time. So I watched what I had and then went over to a friend’s house to see what I missed… and also hear what I missed, as that friend was in the actual “Idol” audience. So we’ll have a little inside scoop this time around! Onward!

It turns out that Top 12 night is so special, they not only have a new set to mark the occasion, but Simon’s wearing a white shirt! And look, there’s someone I know, that friend I mentioned: Billboard columnist Fred Bronson, giving a little background on the importance of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team. Notice I didn’t say the Beatles and neither did anyone on the show. There were no George Harrison songs for the contestants to choose, thus no “Something” or “Here Comes The Sun.”

Fred told me he spent an hour and a half being interviewed for the segment on Friday morning, because the producers also had him talk about each of the songs the contestants chose, although they decided not to use those comments. Too bad, because the footage of the Idols talking about their lives seemed to be a rerun of past weeks. I know they want to give us more insight into the contestants, but we already know Carly works at a bar!

They followed up the piece with a shot of Fred in the audience. That must have helped some of the people sitting near him understand why Paula, Randy and Ryan all came over to talk to him during the commercial breaks. Fred sat near Taye Diggs, who is married to Broadway actress and singer Idina Menzel. Taye was very happy to hear that Fred enjoyed the album Idina recently put out.  Now, on with the show:

SYESHA MERCADO – “Got To Get You Into My Life”

I was all set to talk about how Syesha used the Earth, Wind & Fire arrangement from the movie, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” but Randy beat me to it. So I’ll just say that this was a solid R&B performance, not momentous, but with some nice held notes. Certainly better than her last few tries and enough to keep her in the contest for another week.

CHIKEZIE – “She’s A Woman”

The surprise of the night, it was like Chikezie was replaced by a better performer! At first, I thought he would go with a country arrangement, using the kind of guitar sound that the production team Stargate brought to songs like “Irreplaceable” and “Tattoo,” but the song quickly turned rocking. He even used some stuttering out of the Who’s playbook and gave us a big note at the end. Nice job…

RAMIELE MALUBAY – “In My Life”

I still like the throaty quality of her voice, but the arrangement just wasn’t exciting enough to make her stand out. Still, you can’t make her into something she isn’t, so this singer in the Celine mold shouldn’t be around too much longer.

JASON CASTRO – “If I Fell”

The song would have started out on a higher note if Jason had brought in another guitarist to finger pick the intro instead of strumming it himself. I thought he brought some nice emotion to the song, actually seeming hurt. I would have left out the falsetto, but good enough to keep him in the hunt.

CARLY SMITHSON – “Come Together”

The best performance of the night, showing that Amanda isn’t the only contestant with a little Janis in her soul, although I did think part of the reason she sounded so good was that the background singers sounded great behind her. Interestingly, Fred told me that when they showed her friends in the audience, one of them was former child actress Danielle Brisebois, who later became a songwriter/producer (she’s one of the writers of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”). Danielle is not only one of Carly’s best friends, but worked on Carly’s ill fated 2001 album, “Ultimate High.”

DAVID COOK – “Eleanor Rigby”

David did a nice job of putting power into his vocals, although “Eleanor Rigby” didn’t quite make the jump into being a power ballad as easily as “Hello.” Also, like many of the contestants this week, David seemed a little looser with Ryan and the judges after the song, actually smiling, which should help his likability quotient.

BROOKE WHITE – “Let It Be”

Ryan makes a big mistake in the intro, calling “Let It Be” the Beatles’ last single. Actually “The Long And Winding Road” came out after “Let It Be” and hit number one. That doesn’t even include all the singles Capitol has put out since the band broke up.

I think “Let It Be” is a hard song to screw up, and Brooke does a lovely job. Still, if you compare her version to the passion Paul McCartney brought to the original, well, Brooke’s doesn’t even compare.

DAVID HERNANDEZ – “I Saw Her Standing There”

Memories of the stripper controversy won’t go away as David talks about another job he had at a pizzeria. It’s a charming interview, but the song fails him. He shows off some strong vocal power, but he’s just not a rocker. As he’s more of a soul singer, I wonder what he would have done with “We Can Work It Out” using the Stevie Wonder arrangement David Archuleta did.

AMANDA OVERMYER – “You Can’t Do That”

Amanda has the Steven Tyler rocker posture down. If you saw her in a club, you would be blown away by her voice, so there’s no reason not to be impressed with her on the “Idol” stage. But she’s limited as a performer and it won’t seem like much of a loss when she goes…

MICHAEL JOHNS – “Across The Universe”

Nicely sung, but not too exciting. There’s really no interesting lyric for Michael to dig into.

KRISTY LEE COOK – “Eight Days A Week”

A horrible mistake, this is like one of those house remakes of a hit song, all sped up with no emotion. Too bad Kristy never heard Rosanne Cash’s version of “I Don’t Want To Spoil the Party.” Rosanne took that Beatles song to number one on the country charts. There’s no doubt Kristy Lee deserves to go tomorrow night, although Ramiele’s in the running. It all depends on how big their respective fan bases are.

DAVID ARCHULETA – “We Can Work It Out”

The front runner falters, although he could easily have some more bad nights like this and stay in the contest on likability. I actually thought his microphone was cutting out on him the first time I watched the show. If he knew the song as well as he said, then he’s being affected by nerves. Maybe he should have taken the easy way out and sung “Yesterday”…

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5 Responses to “AMERICAN IDOL 7: TOP 12 ANALYSIS”

  1. everydayman Says:

    Who do you think would win ?

    I’m placing my bet on Cikezi… the names made for the world of showbiz.

    http://3critical.wordpress.com

  2. BRIAN Says:

    Sorry Everydayman, but betting on Chikeze is like going to the races and betting on a horse because you like their name. He definitely won’t win (he probably won’t even make it to the top five), although last night he did show a the ability to surprise us.

    Personally, I’m thinking it will be Brooke White vs. David Archuleta in the final, while some of my friends think it will be Carly vs. David. Of course, the performer I’m enjoying the most is David Cook, and I think he’ll be around awhile too.

  3. Wyatt Says:

    I really like Chikezie, but don’t think he will win because he has such a retro sound and Idol is looking for someone more “today.”

  4. Pam Says:

    I think as the competition gets tighter, little David A.’s flaws will begin to show compared to the more seasoned performers (Carly, Brooke, David C.). I really resent when the judges/producers & the media tell us who’s going to win this early in the game. That usually means the fix is in (Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie) & I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Chikezie could continue to surprise, tho, so don’t count him out just yet. Btw, Danielle Brisebois also wrote one of the better songs (PERFECT DAY) on Clay’s first album, which kind of sounds like a McCartney solo tune itself.

  5. Susie Says:

    Hey, Brian,
    I’m very interested in your Fred Bronson connection (found you through the recent, very entertaining “Claymate” article you did).

    Reading your essay above, I’m impressed with your knowledge of pop music and actually pretty much agree with your analysis of the top 12. I live in Inglewood, CA & am a big Chikezie fan (he’s my “homie”), but also have been blown away by David Cook’s powerful emergence and Carly’s beautiful voice, as well as young David Archuleta’s soulful sweetness. Brooke always delivers a solid performance, and Jason Castro, who does not have as powerful vocal chops, has a lot of appeal to young girls, especially.

    There’s lots to enjoy in this season’s top group, but to my ears, no one that compares with my season 2 favorite, Clay Aiken, who is proving himself to be a multi-talented performer with his remarkable and critically well received current Broadway stint in Spamalot.

    The scoop on his upcoming album gives me hope that finally the critics will see that he is more than a manufactured pop phenom – he’s a real artist and all round entertainer.

    I really enjoy your blog and will be back for more!

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