Assessing American Idol: It's the Songs, Stupid
It's mostly because, even through my oxycodone-induced recovery haze, I could barely believe what I was seeing last night. How could an evening devoted to the work of pop music's best band wind up stocked with so many stinkers?
A 1.5-minute version of A Day in the Life? Chikezie playing harmonica for the first time on I Just Saw a Face? You Got to Hide Your Love Away? Michelle? One thing is obvious this year: the contestants are close enough in ability that survival comes down to two things -- choosing the perfect song and singing it well.
That's why Syesha Mercado's Yesterday stood out -- sentimental, powerful with lots of room for her amazing voice. David Archuleta scored to a lesser degree with The Long and Winding Road for the same reason. And although the judges sniped at it, I thought David Cook's squawk-box flavored version of Day Tripper was fun, creative and a welcome change from all the downer songs everyone else was picking.
Entertainment Weekly handicapped all the Idols last week, but I think they got it wrong. So here's my odds on the top contestants so far.
Carly Smithson - 2 to 1:
She's got a powerful voice, a great look and a knack for nailing every song she tries. Her biggest problem is that she hasn't yet had a transcendent moment on the show, and doesn't seem quite sure what kind of artist she is.
David Archuleta - 3 to 1:
He's cute, has a strong voice and has a charm that works on both mothers and daughters -- kinda like a Sanjaya who can sing. His biggest problem is his inconsistency; the pressure of the gig (along with rumors that he's got an overbearing stage dad who screams at him after bad performances) may force the kind of error that gets him booted off the show.
David Cook - 5 to 1:
He's obviously the most musically talented of this year's crop, with a knack for bending any song to work with his Nickelback-meets-Daughtry rock sound. But his look isn't quite Idol-ready and his onstage arrogance is even turning off the king of 'tude, Simon Cowell.
Brooke White - 8 to 1:
She's got a earnest openness that's engaging and adds impact to songs that can tap that energy. Her unspoiled bohemian approach is something new for Idol, and she's got a voice good enough to impress, when employed on the right tunes. But that earnest vibe can be a little too tentative at times. I mean, if she doesn't believe in herself, why should America?
As far as who's leaving tonight, I'm betting Chikezie is in trouble, along with Kristy Lee Cook. Though, if there's any justice, viewers will send Amanda Overmyer back to the bar band from whence she came. Even she knows shes in over her head, and it shows on her face every time she steps onstage.