Welcome back to American Idol, where saying you want to decapitate a 16-year-old boy and leave his bloody skull dangling from your rearview mirror is a compliment and a sign of thoughtfully conceived judging. Which of the Top 10 Idol Women will prove deserving of becoming disembodied automotive ornamentation on Wednesday night?
Singer: CARLY SMITHSON
Song: "Crazy on You"
My Take: Already the women are making smarter song choices than the men did in Tuesday’s lackluster show. Dipping into the Heart catalogue was a good move for Carly, though she gets a little shrill on some of the higher parts. After failing as a torch singer last week, Carly’s closer to her comfort zone as a rocker. You know what Carly does more than anything, though? She reminds me how spectacular the Sisters Wilson are. This isn’t the sort of cover that makes you forget that somebody’ll always have done it better.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: It started off rough for Randy, a little pitchy, but she found herself by the middle for an aight performance. Paula can tell Carly loves Heart. Paula loves heart too. In jars. On her desk. Simon, unsure why Carly’s panting, doesn’t think she’s connected with the right song, that none of the girls can touch her vocally. He’s just waiting for her to have her moment. Carly was bad last week and she’s fine this week, but I’d feel better about her if the judges weren’t required to over-plug her at every opportunity.
Singer: SYESHA MERCADO
Song: "Me and Mr[s] Jones"
My Take: This is a fabulous song that’s designed for a male with a deep, soulful voice and it’s been rearranged blandly for Syesha, pushing the verse to a high place where her voice is at its least interesting. When it gets to the chorus, she finds herself, but there isn’t enough of that. She comes across as sweet, not sassy.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy didn’t like the song choice, advising her to give it what she’s got. Paula would like to cut Syesha into bits, wrap her in colorful paper and give her to children at Halloween as the ultimate treat, but only on the louder notes. Simon found it a bit indulgent and says that the gender-bending choice was a silly thing for her to have attempted.
Singer: BROOKE WHITE
Song: "You’re So Vain"
My Take: Yes, I compared Brooke to Carly Simon in my recap last week. It wasn’t exactly a stretch as comparisons go and now it seems downright obvious. Brooke’s cover is straight-forward, familiar and well-interpreted, though it opens up the door for a discussion of how we feel about people doing carbon copy remakes of songs first performed by singer-songwriters. But that’s another issue. Her voice sounds strong and well-matched. As for the guitar, Brooke starts playing, but it ends up on her lap for the middle. She picks it up again at the end, but at no point is it musically necessary for the performance, since the melody is being driven by the guitarist in the band. It’s just something superfluous she’s doing that makes her appear to have a reason to be sitting on a stool.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy thought it was a great song choice, but he asks if the song was intended for Simon. Paula would like to put Brooke’s head on a pike and put that pike in the middle of town square, so that her song choices can inspire everybody forever. Simon absolutely loved it. He is, indeed, so vain and he suspects that the song is about him, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?
Singer: RAMIELE MALUBAY
Song: "Don’t Leave Me This Way"
My Take: After emphasizing one of her favorite aspects of Filipino culture — Polynesian dancing — Ramiele digs into another Filipino stand-by this week: Karaoke. When you hear the judges criticize karaoke performances, this is what they mean. She’s just up there mouthing the words, staying in tune, bopping around looking like she’s trying to make her good time appear infectious. There’s nothing of her personality or tone to the performance, which there was last week.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: It was only OK for Randy, who wonders why she didn’t pick a doper record. Paula would like to cook Ramiele in a red wine reduction with seasonal vegetables and serve her at a dinner party, so that all of her friends can appreciate her fine flavors, but this week she doesn’t feel like Ramiele got to perform her magic. Simon compares it to a ghastly wedding performance. He says Ramiele’s still one of the top two or three female vocalists.
Singer: KRISTY LEE COOK
Song: "You’re No Good"
My Take: After looking wan and tired last week and sounding that way too, Kristy looks great this week. But why do I feel nothing coming from her performance? The song is supposed to be scolding and scalding and Kristy just smiles and shakes. I may be wrong, but I recall a stern power to the Linda Ronstadt arrangement of the song that Kristy seems to be doing. Did I mention Kristy looks super? Because she does, in her tight, shimmery silver top.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy says it was a 100 percent improvement, but he’s still waiting for her breakout moment. Paula, also relieved at Kristy’s return to form, would like to stretch her out on a medieval rack, so that in addition to singing, she can also compete in the WNBA. Simon doesn’t know how to label Kristy, but that she has real potential. He advises her to go more clearly in a country direction.
Singer: AMANDA OVERMYER
Song: "Carry on my Wayward Son"
My Take: Oh Amanda, Amanda, Amanda. You know I’m fan. A big fan. I’ve totally gotten you when other people have been confused by your appeal. But, um, Kansas might have been more difficult than you expected. The verses were too big for you and the chorus wasn’t big enough. Only at the end did Amanda sound like she was putting her own stamp on the song. And while the swept-back Bride of Frankenstein hair exposes that Amanda’s a very pretty girl — far prettier than her slathering of make-up and poor styling have indicated previously — on its own, it’s a bit freakish. How could nothing from the Grace Slick catalogue have been available for Amanda to let loose on? On the other hand, Amanda’s love of books would go great with David Cook’s love of words. I can imagine things ending with Syesha’s creepy baby impression.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy thinks there was too much melody and there were too many instrumental break. Paula can’t even bring herself to wish ill on Amanda, which is a bad thing. Paula only wants good things for Amanda. Shudder. Kiss of death. "If you want the popular vote, you’re not going to get it doing that," Simon warns.
Singer: ALAINA WHITAKER
Song: "Hopelessly Devoted"
My Take: Let’s see, I guess a song from a ’70s musical about the ’50s counts for tonight’s theme. If you’re an obsessive compulsive cheater. Alaina would have done pretty well on the NBC reality show that cast Grease! last year, even though she doesn’t really have a Broadway caliber voice, which becomes clear at the end (and several places in the middle). Alaina definitely conveys the Sandy vibe, but when I’m watching Grease (which doesn’t happen often), I usually hate Sandy when she gets to "Hopelessly Devoted" and I just wait patiently til she becomes the "You’re the One That I Want" bad-girl. Maybe Alaina will go that direction next week?
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy doesn’t know and thought it was a bit too pitchy. Paula thinks Alaina did a very good job. Paula would like to cover Alaina with honey and let loose a swarm of ants, so that they too can appreciate her sweetness. Simon suggests that his grandmother must have prepared her for the audition. He thought it was too pageantry, but he calls her a dark horse, saying her likes her more now that a couple weeks ago.
Singer: ALEXANDREA LUSHINGTON
Song: "If You Leave Me Now"
My Take: Will Alexandrea become the first American Idol contestant ever done in by cargo shorts? Coupled with a song choice that leaves Alexandrea unable to show off her irrepressible personality, the cargo shorts are damning. Couldn’t they have at least arranged the song so that it could have a rhythm that would have made her more comfortable? She sings every verse like she’s waiting for it to pick up. She comes in early sometimes and late on other verses and the notes are just off as well.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: She knows she blew it, which is very sad to see. Randy thinks this was too safe for her. Paula thinks she made it her own. She’d like to lock Alexandrea up in Guantanamo Bay to teach the terrorists about the wonders of being an American. Simon was a fan earlier, but he thinks she’s stumbling now.
Singer: KADY MALLOY
Song: "Magic Man"
My Take: Kady can do many impressions, but she can’t really do Heart. The song starts low and absolutely has to be enunciated up to the first chorus. With Kady, it’s a breathy mumble and not the sort of breathy mumble that Britney or Shakira might have done. Kady’s a pop tart — she does pouty, sultry and substance-free at this point — not a rocker chick and her difficulties with Heart make me think back fondly on Carly’s show-opener. I would also like to take back my original comments about how the women have done better with song choices tonight. I was wrong.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy isn’t feeling tonight’s song choices. Randy thinks she never found the notes. For Paula, Kady only found the power notes. Paula would like to forcibly remove Kady’s foot, so keep it with her forever as a sign of luck. Simon is frustrated because he loves Kady in the filmed bits, but no so much on stage. Simon really should know more about music history. "Magic Man" is a good song. He might like it.
Singer: ASIA’H EPPERSON
Song: "All By Myself"
My Take: A little Eric Carmen on American Idol? Nice. Eric Carmen’s another underrated vocalist. I may need to go back and rewatch Asia’H’s performance, which is characterized by a lot of shouting. Every once in a while I feel like Asia’H is right on the verge of knocking out a power note, only to think that she ended up yelling it and trying to smooth it out with vibrato. This isn’t one of those unrealized performances that caused me pain, only disappointment. Asia’H looks amazing, though.
Jack, Chrissy and Simon Say: Randy says it was the night’s highest degree of difficulty. It was like "Tada!" for Paula, but she’d like to wall Asia’H up in her wine cellar so that the sound of her voice can fill every brick of her house. Simon says that she almost got away with it, but the song got away from her. Simon says that you have to know your limitations, like Seacrest does.
TONIGHT’S BEST: This was not a very good night for the Idol women. I thought Carly was just OK at first, but by the end of the night, she’d floated to the top with Brooke. The night lacked a true breakout performance.
IN DANGER: If it were my choice, Amanda would be safe for a few weeks to come, but I think she could really be in trouble after a dud of a performance. I’d be hard-pressed to guess which of several not-so-worthy candidates might join her. Alexandrea, who I liked last week, was really bad this week, as were Ramiele and Kady. I think the latter two singers might have a bigger built-in fanbase. I’m not sure if I would be surprised to see any of the women in a bottom group.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off!
And check out all of our Idol coverage over at Zap2it’s Guide to American Idol.