Amidst a Jetson-like new stage and "Idol" rebranding, "Idol" hopefuls worked from a songbook of former Beatle composers Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
For the duo and those leaning toward traditionalism, having a list of ageless classics converted into country, jazz and metal was likely an uncomfortable, squirmy event. In their wildest dreams, could McCartney and Lennon have ever dreamed of such a thing?
Chikeize Eze, Carly Smithson and David Cook found ways to put a fresh, lively twist on the four-decade-old classics, while the fire-n-nice combo of Amanda Overmyer and Brooke White were stellar, and true to their musical identities.
The larger, shinier stage proved highly uncomfortable for Ramiele Malubay and Syesha Mercado. Michael Johns was sincere but forgetably bland, while wonder boy David Archuleta probably wished he could have said the same.
Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, and David Hernandez proved that tampering with golden oldies runs a risk; one that can backfire.
Chikezie's backed a huge artistic risk in a part-country, part-rock "She's a Woman" with a manic, monstrous delivery that left the Southern California native ringing wet and winded.
"I was looking for someone to blow from the jug," show panelist Randy Jackson said, kidding about how highly countrified the tune's early measure were. Jackson then complimented Eze, "I was thoroughly entertained! ... Chikezie smashed it!"
Lead panelist Simon Cowell, notoriously a prude, also had praise, "You were brilliant."
Smithson's power and clarity in "Come Together" was riveting. Familiarity with the tune (a staple of her weekly routine in a local San Diego club) was evident as a sauntering Smithson commanded the stage. Panelist accolades ranged from "stellar performance" and "already watching a star" to parallels with all-world "Idol" champion Kelly Clarkson.
If Smithson shows shades of Clarkson, then David Cook's intellect, creativity and steely big game capabilities liken him to superstar Chris Daughtry. Cook's Nickelback-like spin on "Eleanor Rigby" and dead-on performance were, in every way, sheer genius.
Amanda Overmyer is a rocker at heart and will not be swayed. Her run at "You Can't Do That" was a potent reminder that rock is part of the "Idol" lexicon.
Brooke White's au natural take on "Let It Be" was a genuine, heart-melting effort. White is masterfully in touch with her identity and skillfully, openly shares it with millions weekly. The curly blonde from Mesa, Ariz. is truly a shoeless wonder.
Much of the vocal texture and strength Ramiele Malubay is known for was missing during "In My Life." Malubay's syncopated movements and eye contact paired with blunted affect showed a youngster that was blinded by the larger, spiffier surroundings. Following Eze's roof-blowing Hee Haw rock gig created additional challenges. If she dodges a bullet this week, the pint-sized Pilipino should do better on March. 18.
Syesha Mercado also suffered from program placement, as being first out of the gate is an ominous task for many. It appeared to affect Mercado, who never really worked her way into "Got to Get You Into My Life." The choice of nightmarish musical score "Life" falls squarely on Mercado - from selection, to arrangement, to the band's squeaky reproduction. The putrid results may enough to get the talented young actress dismissed Wednesday.
David Archuleta's show clean up spot wasn't an issue, but his lack of comfort with a Stevie Wonder version of "We Can Work It Out" was evident. A skidding, sputtering try that saw the once-proclaimed "can't miss kid" miss pitch and song lyrics would be more than enough to get him disbanded – if he was anyone other than Archuleta. The Utah lad's horrific day is a second consecutive confidence-shaking week. Even at his worst, Archuleta is better than Cook at her best. We'll see if voters concur with that premise…
Michael Johns was equal parts sincere and forgetably bland. As meaningful as "Across the Universe" was to the fellow from down-under, it didn't connect with panelists or viewing audiences. Johns may have done enough to continue on, but that's about all.
For Jason Castro, a selection of "If I Fell" revealed clean-but-fallow vocals. An attempt to convert the sincere ballad "If I Fell" into a hipper, bluesier track shows that some tunes are classics based on their substance. Castro's strong fan base will likely give him another try next week.
With Tuesday evening's bunglings, Kristy Lee Cook and David Hernandez are two that placed themselves next to the "Idol" exit door. Cook's ill-fated "Eight Days a Week" is proof that every song is not a potential Country-Western tonk and Hernandez's "I Saw Her Standing There" isn't a practice score to whimsically chop and splice lyrical runs and riffs into. Hernandez may only be saved by his blinding talent, something Cook isn't able to boast of.
If voters' choices are made on purely on talent and not aesthetics, then Ms. Cook will be Wednesday night's outcast, and Hernandez and Malubay will have graciously survived.
Who stays and who goes? Find out on tonight's "American Idol" Results Show at 9 p.m. on Fox.
One of the night's true highlights amongst many, Chikezie's "Woman"
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