American Idol does a double shot of Neil Diamond

Tonight’s American Idol was a tour of madness. The pace is far too fast for a one hour show with each contestant performing not one but two Neil Diamond songs. The show ran a minute or so over with very little time for the judges to comment, which may have either been bad or good.

Ryan Seacrest does a quick intro of the judges and the top 5 before we quickly move on to the “How Awesome is Neil Diamond” video clip. His career spans 4 decades and he’s about to release his 26th studio album. Neil likes the chance to encourage singers as he thinks they need encouragement. He likes turning his music over to someone else, especially when they find their own path and direction.

They are judging the contestants after the second song is performed, so I will be putting all of my comments on both performances into one paragraph for each contestant.

Jason Castro was up first. He picked “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “September Morn.” Neil thinks he’ll do great when he gets onstage and is more comfortable with the songs. He played guitar for his first performance, “Forever in Blue Jeans.” It was a good performance, but not my favorite from him. I prefer him softer and more intimate than perky. I liked “September Morn” better. He sat on a stool to sing. It was slower and more intimate. He really knows how to connect to his audience, even if the judges don’t get it. Randy went on about this being a singing competition where they are trying to find the best singer (which we all know is complete bull and apparently Mr. Dawg hasn’t gotten the memo). Jason isn’t the best singer (neither was Taylor Hicks or Jordin Sparks or Kelly Clarkson for that matter). Paula felt he was too safe. Simon said this isn’t the Jason they put into the competition.

David Cook was asked by Ryan how he prepared for this week. Cookie turned the question around and asked Ryan how he prepared. Ryan said something about singing Neil Diamond songs as a kid. Cookie picked “I’m Alive” for his first performance and “All I Really Need is You” for his second. Neil said Cookie was going for songs that most people haven’t heard of. After David sang for him Neil told him he had goosebumps. He played guitar for his first performance. I’m familiar with the song, but not very. I think David’s version was a bit more rocky than the original (but I’m really having a hard time remembering the original honestly). Cookie’s second song was great. I think it works for him that he picked two obscure songs. Randy said he rocked the house. Paula is proud of him and feels like she is already looking at the American Idol. Simon said the first song was okay but the second was brilliant. He said Cookie made that song feel like it was written this year.

Brooke White was in the third position this week. She decided to play guitar on “I’m a Believer” for her first performance and then for performance number two, “I Am, I Said,” she played piano. Neil said the song is difficult to sing and make genuine but he was surprised to hear she could do it. “I’m a Believer” was vocally pretty weak, but she was having fun which I think she really needed to try to do. For her second song, she had one part of the lyrics written on her hand. It was a much more solid performance. Her vocals were good, the connection was there. Too bad she can’t do things like this all the time, she’d be on track to win. Randy said she did a nice job with one of the tougher songs. Paula likes her vulnerability. Simon said this is the Brooke we like sitting behind the piano.

David Archuleta picked “Sweet Caroline” for his first performance and “America” for his second. Neil said that he was uncertain how to end the song. Neil called Archie a prodigy, but with guidance and suggestions he’ll do great. It was a good performance but still boring. I hate his breathy voice, which is really obvious on the second song. It wasn’t his best and I have no clue how he can bore me while even singing this song but he can. Randy said it was in the zone. Paula and Simon both thought it was a perfect song choice.

Syesha Mercado picked “Hello Again” for her first performance and “Thank the Lord for the Nightime.” I finally felt somewhat of a connection from her on the first song. I think it was her best performance overall ever, though probably not her best vocal. For her second performance, “Thank the Lord for the Nightime,” she was on spot again. I felt the connection again. It was a great performance. This spells her doom I fear, as she finally seems to be hitting her stride. Randy thought she finally realized who she is. Paula thought the first song showed her vulnerable side while the second showed the performance side. Simon called this the strangest night yet. He said she is a good actress/singer but might be in trouble because she didn’t have a memorable second song.

Ryan went to the judges to get their opinions on the first round. Randy Jackson thought Jason was okay, Cookie was good, Brooke was better than last week, Archie was the bomb and Syesha was in the zone. Paula said that Jason’s first song featured his lower register. She then went on about his second song, confusing me before being told that there was only one song so far. Simon Cowell had quick insults for all. Jason was forgettable, Cookie was above average, Brooke was a nightmare, Archie was amateurish, and Syesha was old fashioned. He told all of them that they are Top 5 and they want to see and hear the performance of a lifetime on the second round.

My Ratings:

With a perfect 10 for both of her performances, Syesha lands on top of my ratings.

Cookie holds a solid second place, scoring a 9 on the first song and a 10 on the second for an average of 9.5

In third place is Archie, earning 8 points for each song.

Jason Castro comes in fourth with a 7 on his first song and an 8 on his second for an average of 7.5
Brooke is last with a 6 on the first song and an 8 on the second for an average of 7.
As for who will leave, my only bet would be Syesha for her lack of connection over the season with the audience. Beyond that, I would only be surprised if David Cook left at this point.


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