Luke Menard — Never sing a song that sent a contestant home early in previous years, particularly if you’re hanging by a thread yourself. Sang Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” a really awful song that’s somehow fitting for this guy’s milquetoast on-stage persona. He should have gone home three weeks ago. I’d be shocked if he’s around for next week. He seems nice enough. But he’s really out of his league at this point.
David Archuletta — This kid wasn’t even alive in the 80s. Yikes, that makes me feel old. He’s trying to project gravitas again this week, with Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise,” a presumptuous song about homelessness that, weirdly, became a regular rotation at slow dances when I was in high school. Also, the piano oddly kept playing after Archuletta dramatically stood up and walked away from it. Odd, that. Look, the kid is really, really good. But it was a really crappy choice of songs. He’ll be fine. But he needs to be more creative. And a bit more light-hearted. A seventeen-year-old who sings about socially-conscious issues every week will get annoying real fast.
Danny Norriega — Sang Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” Gimmicky, and pretty crappy all around. Very little singing. He spoke most of it. It’s a fun song, but when it comes to actual singing, it’s almost completely void of substance. I was really ready for Norriega to tackle Culture Club this week. He would’ve knocked Karma Chamelon out of the park. He could be gone this week.
David Hernandez — I’m not wild about the song choice, because I hate Celine Dion. But the guy’s got some serious pipes. I’m curious to see what the gay strip club scandal does to his vote count this week. Will red America Idol recoil? All of that aside, he’s really one of the better singers in the competition. I’m just not sure he has the personality to go that far.
Michael Johns — First truly excellent song choice tonight. Simple Minds rocks. Fantastic all around. Great interpretation. Great stage presence. Brilliant performance. Also, I’m as ready for Johns to tackle Michael Hutchence as anyone else (see my post from last week), but what the hell is Randy Jackson talking about? “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is Simple Minds, not INXS. And Simple Minds is an Scottish band, not an Australian band (that’s off by, what, two hemispheres?) Johns is my favorite among the men. He’s safe for several weeks. Just hope he doesn’t fall victim to Daughtry syndrome, where the rock guy gets tossed for weaker, more mainstream tastes.
David Cook — Ballsy. Took Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and rocked it up. I think it worked really well. He put in the best of both worlds–he kept the song’s strong vocals, and added some guitar and tempo to make it more Idol-friendly. Really nice. I want this guy to go far, too. He’s fun to watch.
Jason Castro — Holy shit. Leonard Cohen? Really? Fucking great for him. “Hallelujah” is one of the greatest songs ever written. And he did it justice. He ain’t Jeff Buckley, or for that matter even Rufus Wainwright, but I think he did very, very well. Contra Randy, I think he would have actually done even better if he’d brought the guitar and sang the song sans band. Also, he should have slowed it down just a bit. Though the tempo may have been dictated by time constraints. Still a gutsy choice, pulled off with aplomb. The men are really strong tonight.
Chickezie — I was really hoping for some Commodores. Oh well. Sang a gender-modified version of the song Whitney Houston made famous, “He Fills Me Up.” I wasn’t crazy about it. I think all the songs tonight were hurt by the really tight window of time they gave each performer, due I guess to the move to a one-hour format. I think he’ll be okay this week, but only because there were two men this week who made a really strong case for elimination.
Ranking the men:
8. Luke Menard. He’s way outclassed at this point. Gotta’ go.
7. Danny Norriega. Also out of his league, now. Fun kid. But he’s done. If he beats out Chickezie this week, he risks turnign into this season’s Sanjaya Malakar.
6. Chickezie. He’s much bettern than Norriega and Menard, but a clear notch below the top five. Outside chance he goes home this week.
5. David Hernandez. Great voice, but there’s something really unlikeable about him. Once the also-rans get thinned out, he’ll be in trouble.
4. David Cook. If this were a who should win list, I’d move the next three men up and put Archuletta here. But since this is a who will win list, he’s probably fourth among the men. I actually like him much better than Archuletta. But Archuletta’s building a huge base of supporters right now. Good news is, Cook has a few weeks to build up his own base before he’ll need to worry.
3. Jason Castro. This guy has probably already earned himself a record deal.
2. Michael Johns. Him too. I actually hope he doesn’t win. He’s got the chops to actually do something interesting with his voice, and not sing the dreck the Idol producers generally turn out for the winner’s first album.
1. David Archuletta. If you’re wagering, at this point he’s probably even money against the rest of the field.