Let me once again state for the record that is not, as the host and the judges (and the producers) keep trying to convince us, the best group of AI finalists “ever”. They’re a talented enough bunch but, as a group, they’re certainly not head and shoulders over the standard set by the previous groups of finalists: season 1 (Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Justin Guarini, Nikki McKibbin, Ryan Starr, Christina Christian), season 2 (Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke, Josh Gracin, Kimberly Caldwell, Trenyce), season 3 (Fantasia, Diana DeGarmo, Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London, Jasmine Trias, George Huff, John Stevens), season 4 (Carrie Underwood, Bo Bice, Vonzell Solomon, Nadia Turner, Anthony Federov, Constantine Maroulis), season 5 (Chris Daughtry, Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, Elliott Yamin, Paris Bennett, Mandisa, Kellie Pickler, Ace Young), and season 6 (Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis, Melinda Doolittle, LaKisha, Chris Richardson, Phil Stacey, Chris Sligh).
That said, the first performance night on the big stage (the new set is too busy and kind of ugly actually) showed some of the current cast stepping into contention while others kind of belly flopped.
Personally, I’ve got a fondness for the laid back Jason Castro (his take on “If I Fell” was charming)…I have no idea if he can go the distance but I like him.
Young front runner David Archuletta was a disaster on “We Can Work it Out” but he is still a strong contender with his lovely voice and his “aw shucks” demeanor. Kristy Lee Cook’s ghastly hyperactive country hoedown version of “Eight Days a Week” (I loved how Paula Abdul told her that the contestants shouldn’t take the judges’ suggestions so literally) and David Hernandez’s lounge-tastic stumble through “I Saw Her Standing There” dropped their long-term prospects while Syesha Mercado hit the triple whammy by having to go first, being off-key, and dropping a totally unmemorable version of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s arrangement of “Got to Get You into my Life”.
I think that Carly Smithson over-sings everything (she bludgeoned “Come Together” into submission last night) but she has a strong voice and good stage presence and she should go far in the competition.
I like the bluesy/growly rock chick thing that Amanda Overmyer does but I’m not sure if it will serve her well in some of the theme shows that AI throws at the singers (a disco night would be hell for her as will, I suspect, the week when Mariah Carey is the mentor.)
The judges seem to like David Cook but I don’t get it myself (like Smithson, he over-sings everything and doesn’t really connect with the lyrics he’s singing…”Eleanor Rigby” was a case in point) and Brooke White has a nice voice and an earnest charm….both of them seem likely to stick around for a while.
Who’s going to be the first of the finalists to be serenaded off by “Celebrate Me Home” (as sung by season 2 champ Ruben Studdard)? I don’t know…my guess would be Syesha but we shall see (and we shall update this entry after the results show.)
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So it was David Hernandez...this year's "controversial" contestant...who got the boot. I was a bit surprised but I guess I shouldn't have been.
And next week, according to Seacrest, more Lennon-McCartney songs. I can't remember them using the same theme two weeks running but I guess that John and Paul's songs are more than worthy of that distinction.