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"American Idol": Holly Holy! It's Neil Diamond Night!

"American Idol" comes unhinged on Neil Diamond Night.

For starters, each of the remaining five Idolettes gets to sing not one but two Diamond tunes. Then, to save time, the show's judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, won't get to critique the Idolettes until each has performed both tunes.

"Bring those perky contestants in," Diamond says in a taped bit, giving us hope this week might be as good as last week's Andrew Lloyd Webber night, if only Diamond's being sarcastic.
Sadly, he's not, which becomes apparent as he prattles on about his songs being written to be joyful.


David Archuleta performs. (Frank Micelotta/FOX)

ROUND 1

Jason Castro rehearses "Forever in Blue Jeans" with Diamond, only he's brought along the lyrics to his second tune, "September Morn." Even so, Diamond thinks Jason will "do great."
Diamond is overly optimistic, as befits a guy whose songs are written to be joyful. Jason does well enough, though he sounds and looks like he's been eating those flowers he used to put in his dreadlocks. The Mosh Pit Sorority Sisters are so unable to pick up the beat they don't even try to do The Wave.

Show host Ryan Seacrest asks David Cook how he has prepared to sing "I'm Alive." David C. says he was going to ask Seacrest the same thing. Oh snap! But Seacrest, presumptive winner of the Very First Primetime Emmy Award for Best Reality Series Host, misses nary a beat and says he uses his hairbrush for a mike and sings in front of the mirror, teaching David C. that he messes with The Seacrest at his own peril. Diamond is seen predicting in a taped bit that David C. will "do great."

Once again -- too joyful in his prediction, though David C. is pretty good.

When Nanny Brooke meets Diamond in the taped bit, she asks whether he's a hugger or a handshaker. He thinks it's a trick question and doesn't want to commit, saying he's both. Nanny Brooke will first sing "I'm a Believer" like a Junior Leaguer at a hootenanny, followed by a more introspective "I Am ... I Said" at the piano with some of the more difficult lyrics -- something about palm trees grow and the rents are low -- written on the palm of her hand lest she forget the words to a song for the third time this season. Diamond suggests that for the second song, she change the reference to being New York born and raised to Arizona, since that's where she's from, which will make it more "genuine" -- which is an interesting word to use in connection with a song that includes such lyrics as "and no one heard at all, not even the chair."

David "Baby Elmo" Archuleta has picked "Sweet Caroline" for his first tune. Diamond says he's "kind of a prodigy" and with a little guidance "I think he will do great."

We're sensing a trend. Or some senility setting in. Anyway, Baby Elmo's performance is the same as ever because he can't seem to do otherwise, whether he's singing a goofy tune like this one or the heavy-message song he favors. Oh, and David A. already has forgotten Andrew Lloyd Webber's advice about not shutting his eyes.

Syesha Mercado picks "Hello Again," on which, Diamond says, she did a "wonderful job" during rehearsals. He predicts she will -- wait for it -- "do great" on "Idol" night. If she could just add skating, she would make an excellent star of Idols on Ice. Instead, she performs barefooted for reasons that are never explained, which is kinda like introducing a knife in Act 1 without having used it by the final curtain. The audience feels cheated.

First round over, all the Idolettes are brought back onstage so the judges can do some speed-critiquing. Randy calls Jason "okay," David C. good, Brooke "better than last week" but still "karaoke" and David A. "the bomb," while Syesha was "in the zone."

What happens next is the Very Best Paula Moment. Ever. She has hallucinated an entire second song performance by Jason before he's given it. She says she loves hearing his lower register in his first song, but feels he did not do enough with his second song or something. Everyone looks confused -- including Paula, who says, "Oh, I thought you sang twice."

"You're seeing the future, baby -- come back!" Seacrest says.

Simon jumps in while Paula tries to swat the bats out of her brain. Jason was "forgettable," David C. "just above average," Nanny Brooke "a nightmare," David A. "amateurish" and Syesha "old fashioned," he says, telling the Idolettes they'd better pull off the "performances of a lifetime" the next go-round.

He's apparently forgotten they're stuck with Neil Diamond tunes.

ROUND 2

Jason faces the biggest challenge any "American Idol" contestant has ever faced. He has to deliver a performance that's already been panned by one of the judges before he even sings a note. Cleverly, he picks "September Morn," which he sings in a register that can be heard only by prepubescent girls, who are voting for him by the millions, but not by any of the judges. Understandably, neither Randaula nor Simon is impressed. Frustrated, Simon even predicts Jason will look back at his performance tonight and "not know who this person is." Which is undoubtedly true, but for a different reason than Simon thinks and having mostly to do with those flowers we think he's been pulling out of his hair and eating.

David C., who sadly no longer bears any resemblance to the Coroner Munchkin -- a pox upon those "Idol" makeover artists! -- does "All I Really Need Is You." Randaula and Simon seem convinced they are looking at the next American Idol. David C. simpers.

Nanny Brooke's "I Am ... I Said" makes no sense when she changes "New York" to "Arizona" -- at the suggestion of Diamond -- because then she can't be "lost between two shores" living in Los Angeles. Sadly, this geographic blooper is lost on the judges who seem mostly relieved she remembers all the lyrics -- even the one about the deaf chair.

News Flash: Carly Simon has told the Associated Press Nanny Brooke should win "Idol" this year because a few weeks back when she sang Simon's "You're So Vain" she sang the song "so much better than I ever did or ever could." Then again, Carly Simon also says she doubts Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell or her ex, James Taylor, would have gone far on "Idol" because they had untrained voices. She's clearly senile.

Baby Elmo plays the Kristy Lee Cook Patriot Card, singing "Coming to America" while a U.S. flag waves in the background. He sounds like a performer at Disneyland. We resist the urge to imagine Disney cash cow Hannah Montana deflowering him in a Scary-Stage-Parent-arranged sex scandal. Randaula calls the patriot card his "zone" and Simon calls it "a smart choice of songs ... it ticked all the boxes."

Syesha's back to sing "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" and once again she's barefoot, causing Randaula to begin blathering about her wonderful Broadway/theatrical place.

"This is officially the strangest show we've ever done," Simon says. Getting back to Syesha, he says she's demonstrated she's a very good "actress-singer" but predicts she's getting the hook this week. Safe bet given her frequent visits to the Stools of the Bottom 2 or 3.

-- LISA DE MORAES

By Rose Jacobius  |  April 30, 2008; 6:37 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: "American Idol": "I Am," Nanny Brooke Said. "Nuh-uh," We Replied.

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