Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Idol's Top 4: Castro comes up short

Recapping Idol this week is tough (and honestly kind of dull) because the Top 3 seems to be a foregone conclusion. Last night, Jason Castro did everything to get himself booted short of saying flat-out, “Please, America, do not vote for me.”

I have no problem with Jason Castro signing Bob Marley. I take issue with certain artists supposedly being “off limits.” Yes, it’s not the best idea to try and sign Mariah or Whitney, but go for it if that’s what you’re feeling…as long as you understand that you will probably hear the phrase “pale imitation” in your critique.

However, Bob Marley was not a diva. His songs are fantastic, loose, spirited, reggae joints that aren’t vocally exclusive. And, c’mon, who better than Jason Castro to sing “I Shot the Sheriff?” Here’s the thing: Castro appeared to actually really dive into the song. He seemed more energetic and engaged with the song and the audience than I’ve seen him in weeks. That in mind, it’s really weird how, despite that, the song just really did not work. The vocals were all over the place; it was almost like he tried a little too much to channel Marley and ended up letting the song get away from him.

I'll miss the Jason Castro face. :-(

I was heartened when he started “Mr. Tambourine Man,” because I dug the laid back, folky vibe he infused it with. His voice sounded stronger and on key. He still seemed comfortable and engaged. I thought he was going to redeem himself in the eyes of the… “and the uh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh….” Oh, Jason. You just shoved that last nail right into your own coffin. Nononononononono. Simon, however blunt, was right. Even though the other three contestants were just “good” last night, I just don’t see any way he’ll avoid being the fourth place finisher.

I love Duran Duran. I love David Cook. How could I not love David Cook singing “Hungry Like the Wolf”? Sure, it was a fairly faithful interpretation (and he was forced to labor under the “this is the rocker’s week so he better be beyond amazing” weight dropped on him last Wednesday night) but he did a very solid job. The song suited his growly power vocals incredibly well, and I’ll confess my heart was all a-twitter when he stalked across the stage, promising “I’m on the hunt, I’m after you.” No, it wasn’t as groundbreaking an arrangement/performance as “Little Sparrow” or “Hello,” but when you’re singing songs that are “in your wheelhouse” can you really expect them to be?

His arrangement of “Baba O’Reilly” was much more inventive. He started the song on a slow build and slowly upped the tempo and the intensity until he gave his signature howl on “They’re all wasted – teenage waste!” However, I think 90 seconds wasn’t quite enough to give the song the proper slow build and crescendo that it needed to be truly fantastic. Still, Cook continues to be the most solid, creative performer on the Idol stage and he bounced back admirably from the criticism he received for his first song. To me, he’s still the one to beat.

I’ve stopped being impressed by the fact that David Archuleta is a precious, precocious 17-year-old moppet with an “aw shucks” demeanor and a beautiful voice that seems like it should come from a seasoned 40-year-old performer. Still, during an uneven night his “Stand By Me” and “Love Me Tender” were enough to easily make him the strongest overall performer of the night. I think the judges are almost always too quick to heap praise on Archie’s head, and that held true tonight.

Best of the night, no doubt.

His “Stand By Me” was gorgeous…and completely predictable. Archie is still too full of melisma for me, but he hit every single note with a seemingly effortless purity and grace. Best performance of the night. I wasn’t as big of a fan of his “Love Me Tender,” but that’s possibly because I have a very special place in my heart for that Elvis classic. There’s a depth and complexity Elvis brings to the ballad that a kid like Archie just couldn’t convey…his delivery fell a bit flat for me (and so did his two high notes at the end).

I wish Syesha Mercado would stop singing songs that were not only iconic, but have been covered by countless Idol wannabes of years past. She brought great energy and spirit to “Proud Mary,” but I don’t think she quite has the gravitas in her voice to pull off the Motown power hit. I was waiting for her to kick the song into high gear and it always fell just a bit short for me. Still, she’s come to life over the past couple weeks and I give her a lot of credit for persevering and continuing to improve late in the competition.

I found her version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” beautiful but forgettable. I’ve said many times that I just can’t quite figure Syesha out, and I’m going to have to stop trying…it’s never gonna happen. She’ll make the Top 3 and, barring an amazing upset, bow out gracefully (having gone much further than anyone expected) for the all-David finale.


danielletbd said...

David's head looked much smaller last night-- even in the normal range :) That's about the only good thing I can say for Idol at this point, though.

DC said...

I'm happy that you could admit that Archie's performances stood out the most as well. I'm still a Cookie through and through, but he was good this week.