The Top Eight Perform: Inspirational Songs
April 8, 1008
Ladies and gents, American Idol brings you songs of inspiration!
And I stick a fork in my eye.
Unfortunately, that does nothing for my ears.
Seriously, how much pain did I know I was going to have to suffer tonight, knowing that we were about to go down this road? A lot. Was there a chance on earth that some folks could view "inspirational" in a way that doesn't involve invisible supernatural powers? Yes. But a really small one.
Michael Johns: After last week's stellar performance, I feared that our Aussie wonder would return to his feeble attempts at '70s classic rock poseur. On that point, he did not disappoint. Johns picked the 1973 Aerosmith shrieker, "Dream On." Sadly, it was not very good. Having the band a story above the singer's head didn't help. Neither did his wobbly vocal. Randy and Simon weren't in love with it. (Paula's just plain nuts, so what she said didn't matter.) Simon even made the good point that Michael should stick to the bluesy vibe he showcased last week. From me he also gets two points for interpreting "inspirational" as a song that inspired him to follow his dream.
Syesha Mercado: The poor dear. I love her so. But when someone's personal idol is a previous season's Idol winner, we're in trouble. And when that contestant picks the treacly inspirational ballad that won their Idol the title, we're in for doom come results night. My girl chose Fantasia's 2004 hit "I Believe." Oy vey.
The judges rightfully said that Syesha's performance just couldn't overcome the memory of Fantasia's original, which is so wedded to her vocals. Despite what the Straight Up judge said, my girl did not change the arrangement noticeably.
(Incidentally, are young people these days just plain not aware of anything from before they were born? Hell, I was aware of songs from the '50s when I was in high school. It seems that if it wasn't performed on Idol or a current hit from the past four years, it didn't exist.)
Fantasia - I Believe
Jason Castro: The Dreaded One goes for the standard "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," which, of course, has been done to death. But this time we get the 2001 Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version, you know the dreamy Hawaiian version which was used to sell everything from Toys.com to, oh, say, insurance. Oh, and did I mention the chief instrument is a ukulele? So, seated on a stool with his tiny instrument, Castro delivers his usual laid-back performance. It's OK, but the judges are over the moon about it, Simon calling it "molton hot."
Not since Arthur Godfrey has a ukulele been so popular. Go figure.
Kristy Lee Cook: And now my anguish begins in earnest. Princess Buttercup, who two weeks ago provided the cynical, Red State Red Meat anthem "God Bless The U.S.A.," comes back with one of maybe four songs I hate quite as much, Martina McBride's 2007 ode to slamming your head against a wall "Anyways." In case you're unfamiliar it's a ditty that tells you that if someone's totally wrong for you, love them anyway. If praying to an invisible superpower doesn't get you the results you want, do it anyway. I suppose it's Bush's mantra.
The judges love it. I think that's what they said. I couldn't really hear them too well with all the screaming from having stabbed out my own eyes with knitting needles.
David Cook: And I was just starting to tolerate him. When a singer says his favorite musical act is Our Lady Peace it reveals a lot. No wonder he'd been so unbearably pretentious, derivative and pompous. The Giant Head delivers OLP's 2002 "Innocent." And if that weren't horrid enough, the BushLiveLitSTP wannabee puts the cap on his capital "M" Message by "earnestly" staring down the camera and showing us that he's written "Give Back" on his palm.
Paula thinks it was a lovely touch. Nuff said.
Carly Smithson: When I saw that the Tattooed Lady was doing a Queen song, I was worried. But despite the fact that not only did she try to tackle a Freddie Mercury vocal, she attempted a tune which, in my mind, cannot be divorced from his personality, the 1991 anthem "The Show Must Go On." In the final analysis, she did it reasonably well. And her outfit was (congenital abhorrence of sleeves notwithstanding) flattering. But Simon was right in his assessment that she seemed to deliver it as an "angry" performance and that it could land her in the bottom three come Thursday.
David Archuleta: Now you just knew that the Pocket Idol was going to go into wild spasms with the prospect of being asked to sing an inspirational message-y song which would only be matched by the convulsions of the Hanna Montana fans in the "mosh pit." The lad sings the 1997 international (read: non-US) Robbie Williams hit "Angels." It's pretty. He sings it well. But going back to the well of "magic helpers as what a person needs to get through tough times" is rubbing my last nerve raw. The judges are agog with delight, with Simon (who brought the world Il Divo and the Telletubbies) wondering why the song was never a hit stateside.
I'm still feeling around under the couch for my eyeballs.
Brooke White: I just knew that my Hippie Chick would deliver something that I would adore, allowing me to once again emerge from the fetal position of my "inspiration"-inspired catatonia. The blonde maiden delivers Carole King's 1971 masterpiece "You've Got A Friend," made most famous the same year by James Taylor. It actually gives me chills. Which is why there's a giant crack in my flat screen from when I heard the judges say it was "nice" and nothing more.
Next up: The two hour Jerry Lewis Telethon-replacement series, Idol Gives Back.
Once the Noble Fundraising* for Needy Causes Which Just Happens To Provide Corporate Sponsors Valuable PR Coverage is over we're back to kicking kids to the curb.
My picks for the bottom three, Carly Smithson, Brooke White and (if the Flying Spaghetti Monster is merciful) Kristy Lee Cook. My loathing of her may not get her booted ... but I do it anyway.
* Incidentally, said Noble Fundraising (as of Tuesday's show) doesn't have audited results for how they spent the money raised last year.