'American Idol': Phantom of the Idol

Because "American Idol" hasn't yet lost enough of its 18- to 34-year-old viewers, Andrew Lloyd Webber is this week's guest judge and the Idolettes are being forced to sing his show tunes.

And yes, that means we, the viewers, must sit through two songs from "The Phantom of the Opera" and -- gak -- "Memory" from "Cats." Which reminds me how much I used to admire the distinguished gentleman who played the piano in the lounge of the lovely old Valencia hotel in La Jolla, Calif., and who when tourists would ask him to play "Memory" from "Cats" would tell them in the nicest possible way to buzz off. Good times.

Show host Ryan Seacrest tells us it will be the most daunting week ever for the Idolettes. What about the viewers, Ryan? Two "Phantom" songs, for god's sake!

And then, something strange begins to happen. Andrew Lloyd Webber turns into the Best "Idol" Guest Judge. Ever.

A "Memory" we'd like to forget: Jason Castro does his Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Frank Micelotta/FOX)

I mean, how can you resist a guy who says to the camera, "I don't think that girl had a clue what she was singing about," in a taped bit after suffering through Nanny Brooke singing "You Must Love Me" from the film adaptation of "Evita."

Syesha Mercado, who somehow keeps making it through week after week even though she's completely irrelevant, sings "One Rock & Roll Too Many" from "Starlight Express." I know, I've never heard of it either. Anyway, Lloyd Webber seems to have ginned up this hot-mama number and Syesha has a field day vamping and flirting with the band, which has been moved onto the stage to help fill its offputting cavernous-ness. Her singing is okay, but it doesn't matter, nor do the judges' comments, because she's wearing the most incredible red dress ever. Judge Simon Cowell calls it "very sexy" and "Michelle Pfeiffer lying on the piano." Which is overstating the facts but you get the drift.

"I never thought I'd see a man singing 'Memory' with dreadlocks," Lloyd Webber tells viewers.

He's referring, of course, to Jason Castro who, like Nanny Brooke, has no concept what he's singing during the taped rehearsal bit. He seems stunned when the composer explains it's a song sung "by an extremely old glamour puss" in the musical "Cats."

"I didn't know a cat was singing it," Jason says, dumbfounded. "I'm really nervous -- it's kind of a popular song," he adds. Lloyd Webber tells us he will not be surprised if Jason "ignores every single thing I told him" during rehearsal. Liking Lloyd Webber better and better.

Jason mauls "Memory" but, so far as the Mosh Pit Sorority Sisters are concerned, he transcends mere singing and they pour their little hearts into The Wave.

Randaula thinks it "musically a little bit of a train wreck." Simon, in the best crack of the night by someone other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, says Jason looks like a kid being forced by his mum and dad to sing this song at a wedding. It's especially true because Jason is dressed in one of the white suits made for the "Fantasy Island" remake NBC programming chief Ben Silverman has not yet thought of remaking, but will, in time.

Of Evita Peron in the song "You Must Love Me," Lloyd Webber patiently explains to Nanny Brooke, "She's dying and she knows it," while Nanny Brooke bites her lower lip and gives him her very best Tell Nanny Where It Hurts look.

"He looked into my eyes and like I got it!" she gushes at the camera, adding it was probably her " most powerful moment on the show" so far -- not to be confused with all the other most powerful moments on the show so far for Nanny Brooke.

After spending time with Nanny Brooke, Lloyd Webber pronounces her "a wonderful natural actress."

Speaking of Nanny Brooke and acting: Remember how dramatic it was last time she stopped a song and started over on the show? Well, she does it again. And this time her performance is flawless.

Seconds into her song, Nanny Brooke stops. The entire "Idol" audience holds its breath. She apologizes prettily and asks the "Idol" band if she can start over. They agree. She begins again. The audience continues to hold its collective breath while waiting to see if she'll remember the lyric this time. She does! Hooray for Nanny Brooke!

It's all downhill from there, unless you go in for Mary Poppins doing dying Evita while Mosh Pit Sorority Sisters give her the We Love You Nanny Brooke Wave. Sadly, the camera did not cut to Lloyd Webber in the audience so we could see how he was taking it.

"You must never start and stop," judge Paula Abdul admonishes. Has Paula finally seen through Nanny Brooke? It's like that scene in "All About Eve" when Bette Davis finally gets wise to faux-wide-eyed snake-in-the-grass Eve Harrington. And, just like in "All About Eve" the men are the last to figure her out. The men tell Nanny Brooke how brave it was for her to stop and start over. Seacrest even strokes her arm soothingly, while Nanny Brooke, insisting it's the first time anything like this has ever happened to her on the show, bites her lip to signal she's holding back tears. This is fast becoming my most favorite "Idol" episode ever.

David Archuleta picks the Lloyd Webber tune that most sounds like all the other tunes he's ever sung on "Idol," which happens to be "Think of Me" from -- gak -- "The Phantom of the Opera."

"Little David has a real musical soul to him but ... he must keep his eyes open. I can't watch someone who keeps his eyes closed all the time," Lloyd Webber scolds. We are now totally in love with him and sad that he is not one of the regular judges.

Little David's eyes are frozen open during his entire performance. We think he only blinks twice in two minutes, which is unsettling to watch. Nevertheless the judges give him his weekly dose of you-are-so-great.

Carly Smithson tries to sing some soppy girly Lloyd Webber song during the taped rehearsal bit, but the composer cuts her off and tells her to sing from "Jesus Christ Superstar" because "a girl with this on her arm" -- pointing at her tatts -- has to do "Superstar." Carly lights up and says she has just the right dress for the song. Please let it have sleeves.

It does! She is, as usual, a much better performer and singer than any of the other Idolettes, not that that's gotten her anywhere with the judges. Randaula calls her performance good, unexpected, and the minidress she's wearing "kinda fly." Simon, who really hates Carly, concedes it was one of his fave performances of the night. Carly shows off her "Simon Likes Me (This Week)" T-shirt she'd had made just in case.

And, finally, David Cook tells us he grew up doing musical theater -- and yet Lloyd Webber has to explain to him that his song of choice, "The Music of the Night" from -- gak -- "The Phantom of the Opera," is a love song. He demands that David C. sing the song to him as if he, Lloyd Webber, is a "gorgeous 17-year-old from the chorus line." David calls that a little strange.

David C. is so uncomfortable with a love song he sings it with a faux British accent, which, in turn, so confuses the Mosh Pit Sorority Sisters they completely forget to give him The Wave.

Undaunted, judge Randy Jackson declares it "molten hot." Paula gives her dreamy look and says David C. has a "beautiful instrument," which causes the Idol Decency Police, who have been napping under the table for weeks now, to snap to attention. Simon thinks David C. made the most of a song that was not right for him.

"We love you, David!" some chicks in the audience scream.

"I know, and it's a sign of your intelligence and innate good taste," he says with his eyes.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  April 23, 2008; 6:09 AM ET "American Idol"
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Who would have thunk? ALW was the best guest ever, by far. He really was passionate about teaching, and those contestants who listened to him, improved. Unlike the other guests, he wasn't there primarily to get his mug on TV, but actually contribute. Well done by him, if by nobody else.

Posted by: John | April 23, 2008 6:48 AM

Simon Cowell and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber are the best possible advertisements for the U.K. Their wit and straight-from-the-gut honesty just couldn't be more appreciated.

Posted by: Booklover1 | April 23, 2008 6:56 AM

DAMN!! i am so mad i missed AI last night!!!!! i gotta get tivo.....

Posted by: sophie's Mom | April 23, 2008 7:02 AM

This column was like..the best one evah :-) I agree ALW was really good--funny and honest. I thought Brooke White was insufferable and want to see her out. Jason Castro is getting on my nerves so he can go too.

Posted by: idol watcher | April 23, 2008 7:02 AM

Next year, can we have an entirely British cast of judges? i.e. people who actually have the guts to tell the truth instead of Paula's "You're so unique and true to yourself" crap?

BTW, while Nanny Brooke was so transparent, she was still better than Jason Castro. Watching him sing "Memory" made my wife and me laugh out loud for the entire performance. Does he really remember that he "was beautiful then" back in "the old days"? How awful.

Posted by: Ryan | April 23, 2008 7:16 AM

Jason's performance was abysmal.

And the judges refuse to acknowledge that Carly is fantastic and that Syesha did the best job of anyone last night.

They want a Two David finale.

Posted by: sentheru | April 23, 2008 7:31 AM

I think David Cook is great and would, by far, be more successful than the other contestants on the show, though Carly might be respectable.

However, I have increasingly been bothered by David A.'s performances. His voice ONLY sounds good when it's loud. When it's quiet, it's very hoarse and breath-y. I really don't like it. Moreover, what kind of Idol would he be? What would he sing? I really can't imagine EVER hearing David A. on the radio.

David Cook on the radio? Absolutely. I'd take his covers of Eleanor Rigby and Billie Jean anyday.

Posted by: Ryan | April 23, 2008 7:34 AM

Agree that ALW was by far best guest mentor. Only wish he could have stopped, barred or otherwise prohibited Jason from attempting "Memory". Will go down in AI annals as one of the most hysterically bad song choices ever. Randy had it only partly right - it was not a "little bit" of a train wreck, it was a flat out, monster train wreck. I'm by no means a Jason hater, but where was he at in choosing that song? There are plenty of other choices in the ALW catalog better tailored to his voice.

Posted by: MAlan | April 23, 2008 7:55 AM

OMG--what a night. Jason was BY FAR the worst ever. When I heard it was going to be ALW week, I mused, "as long as nobody is stupid enough to do Memory from Cats." Well, apparently Jason is, and he didn't know it was sung by an old, female cat? Get real... Syesha and Carly were terrific (Carly was thinking about doing All I Ask of You from Phantom? Puh-lease), and I actually liked (gasp) David A's version, as it did what Simon asked--made a Broadway tune "current." David C's song choice was poor--that song only sounds good when sung clear and strong, as opposed to breathy and raspy.

My 2 cents.

Posted by: Lisa | April 23, 2008 8:09 AM

I can't believe how uninformed some of the Idolettes were about what they were singing - don't they have the capacity to be embarrassed and maybe study a bit? ALW was wonderful!Can we have him back, please?

Jason Castro and Brooke were embarrassingly horrible. Jason, especially, truly in trainwreck zone.

I thought David C did better than he seems to be getting credit for - those songs are incredibly hard, especially the one he chose, and he showed a vocal range in singing it which was amazing. Lloyd Weber is like Sondheim - few people have the range to sing his songs. Cook actually hit all the notes properly, which is quite an achievement.
David Archuleta - boring. Carly Smithson - fun, but messed up the lyrics once, losing the rhyme that the backup singers sang correctly. Syesha - definitely a future on Broadway.
Love ya, Lisa, but you were too hard on Phantom, which is an amazing piece of theatre and songwriting, and too hard on David C.; I didn't notice the accent, but I did notice him hitting all the hard notes.

Posted by: pwjl | April 23, 2008 8:18 AM

Love your column!! It's hysterical & I look forward to your reviews - they're always "spot on"!! I'm still laughing over the Nanny Brooke comments. She has gotta go!

Posted by: hannie | April 23, 2008 8:46 AM

This column was spot-on! Thank you! ALW was a true breath of fresh air ... no wonder why the man is so great! No wonder why he is the undisputed champ! By far the best guest yet. Last night was by far one of the best Idols produced. The game is getting real tough, and the pressure is on. The singers had to bring their "A" game -- some did (the Davids) and others ... well. The true winners came out for sure. Unfortunately, Brooke ... it was just a matter of time; see ya! Castro ... ditto! Both have been held on way too long -- you're both way out classed. Carly, wow can you scream! Come on girl, you've got an absolutely beautiful voice, unleash that thing! Sing, don't scream!

Judges -- Paula ... dear God shut-up or get off the drugs would ya! Randy, you were actually good last night after you dropped the street talk. Simon ... what's there to say? Spot-on man, spot-on; boy are you good! Your ability to hit the mark is uncanny. They (contestants and audience) may not like you much, but they sure respect you. One suggestion -- dump Paula (please!) and see if you can sign ALW as a judge next season, the two of you would be great as judges. The honesty would rock the show and increase the credibility tremendously!

Posted by: Peanuts2 | April 23, 2008 8:56 AM

Peanuts2 - What you said about the judges - I absolutely agree!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 23, 2008 9:06 AM

I LOVE ALW!!! Agree with all of you, the best mentor yet!
Syesha was truly in her element. Loved the performance and I can't say I really have been a fan in the past. The dress was gorgeous and the hairdoo perfect. She really looked and sounded the part. Kudos to her. I agree, she did not get all the credit she deserved last night.
Jason, Jason, Jason, what were you thinking??? Answer: he wasn't. I think he really didn't know anything about ALW songs and picked the only one he'd heard before. Agree with Simon, it was painful to watch.
Nannybooboo, oops I did it again. I have to say I agree with Paula, she should never start over but probably couldn't think fast enough on her feet to fake a line. That was so irritating of her and she lost mega points in my book, and I was actually somewhat of a fan. The singing however, was better than I expected from her. I still think it is time for her to go, as I did last week.
At least this week Simon did not pimp the Boy Wonder on us, Randy did. I have to say I was again totally underwhelmed by his performance. In all honesty, I would love to see him go before Brooke and Jason because even though they may not be so great, at least they're interesting!
Carly...you go girl! Finally an appropriate song with good performance. I was worried about that dress (I thought it was ugly) but with the 70s song and lighting, it worked for her.
David C, I am now in love. Too bad I am old enough to be your mother (almost).
Over all, the show went much better than I expected.

Posted by: hodie | April 23, 2008 9:07 AM

AI was fun last night - ALW is a hoot! I've always loved the Phantom song David Cook sang last night and I thought he did a terrific job. Carly was my other favorite. Jason and Brooke both need to go, though Jason was definitely worse.

Posted by: WI | April 23, 2008 9:42 AM

okay, being classically trained, I try not to get hooked into AI, but this year, it's hard not to. And unfortunately, hearing about Jordin Sparks' vocal chord problem does bring up the need for these kids to be properly trained. That being said, Syesha and Nanny Brook need to go. Jason too. All of them are fine, but only just fine. Whether AI producers want an all David finale or not, those two are beyond belief. I am impressed each week with their vocals. And Carly is the dark horse in this competition. She can pull off an upset. Her rendering of Superstar last night was not only exciting, but vocally smart. When she knew there were high notes she was uncomfortable with, she went into harmony. That's smart singing. AI top three - David A., David C., Carly. The finale is up for grabs. Whoever wins, please make sure you take care of your voice and get proper training. You'll last a long time with it, and be a flash in the pan without it.

Posted by: David Opera Tenor | April 23, 2008 9:55 AM

Jason Castro should leave tonight. His performance was 100% pure torture. I was at the wedding Simon was talking about and let me tell you it was torture then.

Posted by: Brooklyn | April 23, 2008 9:56 AM

All I've got to say is, Welcome back Lisa!!! Missed you sooooooooo much!!! You always hit the nail on the head. ALW needs to become a permanent fixture on Idol.

Posted by: Maria | April 23, 2008 10:03 AM

Carly: She can sing, but she doesn't really connect with the audience. She just seems to be in her own, distant world. Behind a plate of glass or something. She has vocal talent, but not the charisma, and she always leaves me feeling neutral about her, no matter how big her voice is.

Nanny Brooke. The starting and stopping. Last time she did it, Paula called her "brave," this time it didn't charm, it just derailed her whole performance. Brooke is unable to perform well without an instrument to hide behind. Last night I think she sealed her fate.

David A. I call him squirrel boy. So bright and shiny. Don't think he will make it to the end.

Jason. Dude, learn some stuff about the songs and their meanings. Don't the Idolettes have access to the Internet so that they could do some research? BAD choice to pick "Memories." But I don't think there is any ALW song that would fit with Jason's Margaritaville vibe.

David C. is a PERFORMER. I thought he was the best last night.

Missed Syesha's performance.

PLEASE Paula Abdul, STOP SAYING that 'Idolettes have a beautiful instrument.' GAK!!! It's so pretentious. A tuba is an instrument. A vocal cord is a body part.

I think it was a major get for AI to have ALW on the show. And he tried to get substantive performances/results from the Idolettes. I am surprised, but I think he has been one of the best mentors of all their seasons so far.

Posted by: NW DC | April 23, 2008 10:04 AM

ALW was so funny. The contestants were just nearly all bad, although I was really surprised by Syesha. She did appear in her element. If Nanny Brooke stays I will truly explode. I couldn't believe she started over again, and I can't believe the judges just didn't beg the audience to vote her off.

Great commentary!

Posted by: Andrea | April 23, 2008 10:07 AM

Syesha was the best performance last night. She looked the fabulous and understood what she was singing. David C. and Carly were okay. Brooke and Jason were horrible. I felt sorry for ALW for having to mentor them. I'm a David A. hater (and proud of it). His singing is such a turnoff.

Posted by: Alicia | April 23, 2008 10:08 AM

Wow, great column today, Lisa.

My Thoughts:

1. Syesha was definitely in her element this week with the whole musical/beauty queen thing. She picked a song that no one save for the hardest of hardcore musical theatre nerds would know, and she sang it fine. It wasn't bad, but it didn't really knock my socks off.

2. Jason, WTF? Out of all the songs you could have picked, you picked "Memory?" It's a song from a show called "Cats" and you didn't know it was sung by a Cat? Take another bong hit, brah. That was such a train wreck it made me cringe. There's no way it could possibly get any worse than this...

3. Brooke, whoops, nevermind. "This girl has absolutely no idea what she is singing about." I died. Trying the stop and start thing again? No dice. The song itself? Terrible, but not surprising - ALW doesn't have any songs that span only 6 notes. It was so quiet in the theatre when Brooke was done, you could hear a pin drop. First Idol I've ever seen who has sung so *Bad* that the audience shut up.

4. David A, I can't stand him. But this is probably the first song he has done sing "Imagine" that I actually liked. It did sound like every song he has ever sung, though. I probably only liked this one because I had heard it before.

5. Carly demonstrated in her pre-clip exactly why she has been struggling in this competition - horrid song choice. I loved how ALW stopped her and basically said "Why the hell are you singing this? Sing Superstar, dummy." I thought she brought the house down. We all knew she had a great voice, and this is the first time that she really could showcase it. She needs to get ALW to pick her song every week and she would win.

6. David C I was nervous about. When they said he was singing "All I ask of you" I was overcome with a feeling of dread. That said, I thought he pulled it off exceptionally well. I really enjoyed and ws surprised by his performance.

I would have loved to hear him sing "Heaven on their minds," though.

Top 3: Carly, David C, David A

Bottom 3: Syesha, Jason C, Brooke

Gone: It's Bye-Bye for Nanny Cry-Cry

Posted by: Duffman | April 23, 2008 10:12 AM

I agree with the previous comments. In my opinion, if the Idolettes were being judged by their ability to take an ALW song, make it their own, and make it into something that could be released today, then I think David A. did a really good job. If they were being judged purely on how well they sang an ALW song the way it was intended, then David C. takes the prize. Having said that, I enjoyed Sayesha's performance, it suited her perfectly and I'm so glad that Carly did not sing the Phantom ballad!

I think either Nanny Brooke or Jason are outta there because they were both pretty awful!

Posted by: Jules | April 23, 2008 10:29 AM

Can we send both Jason and Brooke home?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2008 10:54 AM

Like the others, thought ALW was "spot-on" last night as a celebrity mentor. If the rumors are true about Paula wanting to be on Dancing with the Stars next season, maybe AI can convince ALW to sign up as a judge and throw Randy in the middle of the two randy brits. What a hoot that would make week after week?

Loved when David C. referred to ALW as "Lord Webber." This of course, right after Carly's good performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. Nice little religion theme we had going there for a moment.

BaNanny .... in the immortal words of N*Sync, Bye Bye Bye. You gots to go, hon. It's time. Running a close second in the "I cringe when you sing" hour was Jason. He wasn't just a train wreck, he was Amtrak, VRE and MARC all smashed into one.

Syesha was hot last night. She knew how to work it. As to be expected, Baby Elmo did a great job as well.

Going along with Duffman's predictions of the T3/B3/who's getting the Ruben Studdard Serendade of Goodbye, though I don't believe Syesha rightfully belongs there.

Posted by: jpstang | April 23, 2008 11:07 AM

Oops ... didn't think ALW was Lord, just a Sir. I stand corrected.

Posted by: jpstang | April 23, 2008 11:20 AM

David Arculeta looks like one of those poor kids in the Spelling Bee every year. It's like I'm watching "Archuleta and the Bee."

Posted by: Ike | April 23, 2008 11:36 AM

Saw the last five minutes (the recap) last night.

Syesha looked great. Only had to hear a few notes of Stoner's song to affirm my decision not to watch the whole show. At first glance, Carly's dress made her look like she had her whole body tattoed. Spouse said her dress matched her right arm.

My wish for final exit tonight - BaNanny or Carly or Jason or Paula.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 23, 2008 11:44 AM

Lisa -- thank you for your great writing -- I was laughing so hard that tears were running down my cheeks. ALW is terrific -- though most of those songs (except JC Superstar) were torturous.

Posted by: cesie | April 23, 2008 11:49 AM

I completely agree with sentheru's comment. In my book, Syesha and Carly were the best last night. Nanny Brooke needs to go home and take Jason with her.

ALW was the best judge last night, he actually had constructive things to say to the idolettes.

Posted by: NYC | April 23, 2008 11:50 AM

You know, about Archuleta, he is only 17, and a junior in high school. He does have that "deer in the headlights" look, and it is increasingly uncomfortable to watch him do anything but sing, but still, he's just a teenage, high school boy. I agree that I can't see him as an "American Idol" but maybe we should cut him a little slack. Jason is the next youngest, and listening to him babble to ALW (then sing) last night was even more painful.

Posted by: John | April 23, 2008 11:52 AM

Syesha played along great and looked sensational that red dress and non-Mouseketeer hairdo.

Week by week, Jason exposes himself as the guy you invite to the party only because he has pot. The interview in which he said he didn't know "Memory" was sung by a cat should be an audition tape in case they ever do a sequel to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

There was a second squirm moment in Brooke's number, and I know I'm lonely here but I was in total agreement with Paula, the star of the second. Paula -- Paula! -- was unable to say anything for six -- six! -- interminable seconds before telling her correctly that she can't ever start and stop. I'm stunned that Simon remains so kind to her. Why do he and Randy call this reboot "brave" when they tells the contestants in the early going that forgetting their lyrics is fatal?

David A. was the usual "he sounds nice, whatdidhesing" last night, but the best part was his attempt to follow Webber's wise advice. In trying to keep his eyes open, he looked like a cross between a toddler up past his bedtime (to watch Idol?) and Malcolm McDowell's Alex in "A Clockwork Orange."

Now Carly knew how to plow through even after blowing a lyric. I suspect, though, that Webber forced her to change the soppy "Phantom" number not because he thought "Superstar" was made to be sung by a chick with arm ink but because he feared that viewers would think he wrote only two bad musicals. Even so, his advice was spot-on. I thought she was out of sync with the band and especially the backups, but she's got some pipes. The Irish-hating Simon even had to muster a back-of-the-hand compliment.

David C.'s "Music" was nicely done, as usual, though I'll back away if his career takes the Michael Crawford route.

Posted by: JD | April 23, 2008 12:30 PM

How much plastic surgery has ALW had? Starting to look a little joker-esque. He's the same age as my parents and they look a lot better than that without any work.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2008 12:31 PM

Lisa- I'm not sure how much you are influenced by the bloggers of this column (if at all) but this seems to be your most measured, considerate, and funny recap yet-great job.

I would agree with everyone that ALW was easily the best guest mentor of the season, unfortunately his presence on the show was a result of a terrible theme week from the producers. (sorry theater geeks) Broadway showtunes, at best, muddle everything in terms of how we are to judge the idol finalists, at worst, it makes everyone irratating, boring, and irrelevant. Yes, we learned that Jason Cook can sing, that Syesha (besides looking gorgeous) will do great on Broadway one day, and that apparently Archuleta, Carly, and Brooke all flubbed lines-- but besides that what does last night have to say about who can be commercially viable?

American Idol is to Broadway what Matt Dillon is to Daniel Day Lewis- a broader, simpler, and ultimately more commerically minded enterprise.

other than that, Poor Brooke. Wierdly direct Paula. Great Carly Prop.

Posted by: repricer | April 23, 2008 12:40 PM

"Yes, we learned that Jason Cook can sing"

I really hope you meant David Cook and not Jason Castro.

Based on last night's performance, it is hard to believe that Kristy Lee Cook and Michael Johns were eliminated before Jason and Brooke.

Posted by: observer | April 23, 2008 12:46 PM

Observer wrote-
Based on last night's performance, it is hard to believe that Kristy Lee Cook and Michael Johns were eliminated before Jason and Brooke.

Which is exactly why I'm passing on AI (except for the last five minutes) until the finals.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 23, 2008 1:01 PM

ALW: Nice job as guest judge! Very honest and useful criticism.

Sayesha Mercado: I've never been a fan of hers, but I thought she was really in her element last night. She looked sassy and sexy and the song was perfect. She'll do well on Broadway.

Jason Castro: I'm in the minority here, but I actually liked his rendition. I thought his plaintive voice was a nice match with the Memory lyrics. Maybe I just have a soft spot in my heart for dudes on a beach with a guitar.

Brooke White: I started out really liking her, but she has one expression and it's getting on my nerves. After she's finished, she always looks like she's going to be whipped. Very annoying.

David Archuleta: The kid has talent, but he's not my style. Everything he sings sounds the same. Therefore he will be a perfect American Idol. He's young enough for the Powers That Be to package him into whatever they want. I actually hope he wins so that David Cook can go be creative without corporate interference.

Carly Smithson: Big song matched with a big voice and a fab seventies outfit. She finally got it all together. But I have to say that she's one of the coldest-looking people I've ever seen--there's no warmth at all in her face or eyes.

David Cook: Not his night, but as my grandfather used to say, he did the best he could with what he had. I was disappointed that he didn't give this song some of his usual edge, but that might be misplaced on Broadway Night. Hard to say. He's still my fav, though. So I hope he doesn't win. ;)

Posted by: Sappho | April 23, 2008 1:11 PM

Carly's performance really wasn't all that great. She flubbed a line in the chorus, she had no connection to the song. And she has absolutely no rhythm or flow to her singing. The verses were way too staccato, something that's bothered me about her since "Total Eclipse of the Heart." She has a good voice, but she's lacks charisma and is not a good performer. Overrated.

Syesha was really good. Not Fantasia good, not Idol winner good. But I think she has more of a future on Broadway than in the pop music industry. She's not winning this thing.

I think Jason's performance is being vastly underrated. "Memory" is normally sung big, but he delivered a subtle performance that suited his particular style. I think the haters are comparing it too much to the original. Try to let the performance stand on its own. He's not a great singer, he's not going to win -- but he knows what he can sing.

Brooke blew it, again. She's been going downhill for weeks now, and I don't think fan goodwill is going to help her for much longer. She SHOULD go tonight. Yes, her performance was by far the worst of the night.

David A was good. Not a memorable performance, not his best performance, but solid enough to bring him to the top 5.

David C was a revelation. I had no idea he'd done community theater. I had no idea he had the vocal range to pull of this song, but he did. He's the best in the group and deserves to win.

My bottom 3 are Jason, Brooke, and a tie between Syesha and Carly.

And while I think Brooke should go, I have a feeling we're going to see a surprise of Michael Johns proportions tonight when Carly goes home.

Posted by: Duodenum | April 23, 2008 1:39 PM

Well, I'm also in agreement with those who say that ALW was great as a guest mentor. However, it doesn't surprise me. I've been watching some of the bits from "Any Dream Will Do" the BBC choose the next Joseph for the West End reality show. ALW has done this before in both the mentoring and the critique/judging. The format is different, but he's been there. Many of the other mentors have not been.

jpstang--"Lord Webber" is technically correct. He has been knighted in the UK and Lord Webber or Sir Webber are the appropriate honorifics. If you aren't familiar enough to use his first name, respect says you use his title.

repricer--sorry, but I disagree. It is not unusual for many pop singers to end up in either movie musicals or going to Broadway. Despite the fact that their initial start is for a pop music album, this is definitely appropriate, IMHO. I find this at least as appropriate as making the idolettes sing from any other genre that they may cover at some point (whether big band, Dolly, country, Bon Jovi, etc). I see more of them singing broadway in the future than singing country, IMHO.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 23, 2008 1:48 PM

Sir Andrew deserves a standing O for such a great performance. The idolettes, on the other hand...

Sayesha had one of her best performances of the season. And it really does come down to song choice as the judges have said repeatedly in the past. Sayesha needs to move away from pop-diva and get more into this type of song.

I think the appropriate review of Jason's performance is "Wow." That was a train-wreck of amazing proportions. Although he did get the pathetic interpretation of the song at the beginning, the point of the song is that it is an emotional journey. Even not comparing it to the original, it failed because he didn't even read the words he was singing. The words change and the beginning should be pitiful but the end should be plaintive as she remembers her "days in the sun" and asks to be picked above the others for redemption (okay, elevation to the "Heavyside Layer" but that's more than the song gives). No journey and the song becomes trite. Which is what Jason delivered.

Nanny-nanny-cry-cry also had no idea what she was singing. She choked at the beginning and then was the deer in the headlights. Even after Sir Andrew coached her, she didn't really get the song. However, she did seem to understand that she was about to die (in show terms, i.e. be eliminated) tonight, so maybe that helped her interpretation a little. She started the song too low, had pitch and note problems on the lower notes at the beginning. But she had to transcribe it down or she would not have been able to hit the money notes in the middle crescendo, which were only "okay". The problem is that there is very little in the Webber catalog that she is up to. The last 2-3 weeks have truly highlighted what a weak singer she is. Time to go.

David A delivered what his fans want. They have no idea what the song is about and just want a pop tune. He delivered the Beach Boys version of ALW and they will probably love it. He decided to discard any connect with the song and changed the meaningful original for a fluffy cover. And, yes him struggling to keep his eyes open also made me think of Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"--spooky.

This just goes to show that despite having one of the best voices on the show, Carly just really needs a handler/manager. She has no idea how to pick songs, no idea how to interpret songs and no idea how to arrange songs. When someone else does those things, she'll do fine, but she can't do it herself. "All I Ask of You" would have been a train wreck, but ALW saved himself some embarrassment by getting Carly to sing the right song. It made her look better than she's looked in weeks and was one of her best efforts. But she still made some bad choices in the song and revealed her weakness again. ALW can only do so much for her.

David C proved that not only does he have charisma and good musical sense, but he also has some of the best vocals of the season. This was good in showing that off. Everyone knows he can rock and can musically arrange songs to be current and hip. Many people knew he could sing, but now many more know it. You can't hide a bad voice in a song like that.

Brooke and Jason are so far down in the bottom three that no one else is close.

My bottom-3 are David A, Jason and Brooke (eliminated).

Realistically, I think it actually will be Carly, Jason and Brooke (eliminated).

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 23, 2008 2:09 PM

Syesha irrelevant?! LdM, say it ain't so. Kudos to hodie, Alicia, jpstang, sappho, and others (sorry if I missed you) who acknowledged her. I thought hers was the best of the night because the theme called for performance in addition to singing. The Davids and Carly sang well too, but didn't supply the latter element. Syesha may not take the AI crown from the Davids but she deserves to live another week after last night.

Lord Webber was indeed the best AI mentor. Kind of explains why he is a success! I wished we could've heard his real thoughts!

When Paula went blank for six seconds, it said it all about Brookie's effort. The looks on hers and Jason's face were priceless.They knew, as did we, how bad those efforts were. And Jason is idiot #1 for admitting his ignorance of broadway and Cats in particular. Even if true, you don't admit it for the world to hear or for the weekly mentor to know. Of course, ALW saw right through their thin veneer and into their vacuous minds, so it probably didn't matter anyway.

Jason and Brooke deserve B3. David C is now bulletproof and David A remains the judges' (and the young voting block's) fav's, so they are safe til the final. That leaves Carly (sang well, looked ok finally too) and Syesha (sang best, looked better) for the underserved third spot. Hope it is not Syesha. She has outshone Brooke and Jason over the past few weeks.

Posted by: RedRocket | April 23, 2008 2:13 PM

I'm sure I"m going to get slammed for this, but I actually didn't think that Jason's performance was terrible. He sang it the way he's sung everything: simply and beautifully. He sang the song well. Was it the right song? Probably not. So what if he'd never heard of it. You think a rasta-rocker is going to be familiar with Cats? I mean, Barbara Streisand DID do a cover and the song is famous in its own right. At least he knew all the words!!! Lay off people! Brooke needs to go, and David A is going to be in trouble tonight. That is all.

Posted by: Katz | April 23, 2008 2:29 PM

Okay Katz, here's your slam. Your certainly entitled but you must know you're in the strong minority on this. Read all of the pans above.

Not sure how you saw what you saw, but (per Lord Webber) Jason was ill-prepared to be the "man" to sing that song. Even Jason admitted his ignorance of the song, indeed the whole theme. His pained face, upon finishing, said it all. He knew it. The judges all agreed. If you saw it as "singing it the way he's sung everything" then I can't have much empathy for his body of work. Put simply, it wasn't anywhere near his wheelhouse.

Posted by: RedRocket | April 23, 2008 2:58 PM

ALW's proper title is Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, not Lord Webber. His full surname is Lloyd Webber. (His brother is cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.) "Lloyd" and "Webber" are hypenated when he's being referred to without his first name, and only then (both Lord Lloyd-Webber and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber are correct). This distinguishes him from a dude whose first name is Lloyd and last name is Webber.

Posted by: tester2 | April 23, 2008 3:10 PM

I agree that Jason was hardly the guy to sing "Memory". The only one of the top-12 this year who had the chops to really sing this song would have been David H. He could have done both the first and last parts differently and well. I don't know what songs were available for the Idolettes this week, but Jason should have tried for something like "Pilate's Dream/Poor Jerusalem" from JCS or "Benjamin Calypso" from Joseph. He definitely did not have the chops to do a new take on a big diva song. Now an alternative Emo-styled David C version might have been very interesting, but...

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 23, 2008 3:17 PM

I am sooo glad that I watched last night. It was one of the best nights I have seen on any of the seasons. And when I say best I am refering to the entertainment value. The singing was even pretty good. And I loved that they were singing songs that were a little different. I was disappointed that you didn't have anything to say about Ryan's attempt at singing, which was quite interesting to say the least.
And for the record. I thought Carly's dress was hideous.
My picks for the final two - Both Davids!! At least that's the way it should be.

Posted by: sarahs | April 23, 2008 3:31 PM

"2. Jason, WTF? Out of all the songs you could have picked, you picked "Memory?" It's a song from a show called "Cats" and you didn't know it was sung by a Cat? Take another bong hit, brah. That was such a train wreck it made me cringe. There's no way it could possibly get any worse than this..."

Heh. I laughed my ass of when he said he picked that song (whatever the hell for?). I don't care how good your voice is, there's something terribly wrong with hearing someone sing Memory when they're still young enough to remember their senior year schedule. Memory is what you sing when you think of your 21 year old self and all you've been through since.

Posted by: hangin in herndon | April 23, 2008 3:50 PM

Great write-up as always.

But Pookie, NBC already *did* remake Fantasy Island, briefly, back around 1998. One episode featured a then relatively unknown Jennier Garner as some selkie-dolphin gal, who one of the guests falls for, but he gets cold feet when he discovers the truth, due to his bigotry towards women who can turn into dolphins and eat krill. It was very touching, trust me. Of course, NBC could easily go for round 3!

Posted by: Bat99 | April 23, 2008 3:52 PM

Oh my gosh. We really got our money's worth last night! Not only do I think they should immediately substitute ALW for one of the three judges - he should be immediately joined by Len Goodman of "Dancing with the Stars" and Piers Morgan of "The Apprentice".

That's because all the saccharine of AI can only be cut by truly caustic soda - not Coca-Cola.

The only slightly creepy edge was when ALW kept going on about how he'd never heard such-and-such a song song by a "boy" - and then he looked rather delighted at the prospect - or maybe the look I saw was just due to the Botox. He also seemed really into having David C. sing to him as if he was a 17-year old girl - but hey - whatever floats your boat.

I've never been an especial fan of hers - but honestly - overall I'd have given the win to Syesha in the sense that she really performed the number as a STAGE production - not a TV production - which was exactly right for a show tune. And performed it is the word - she didn't just sing it. From the "acting" to The Dress - I gave her an A+.

That's in contrast to David C. who, though he claims comes from musical theater, didn't really "perform" it - he simply stood there and sang it - and merited the "You did the best you could with what you had" comments.

Hodie - I'm old enough to be his mother, too, but a cougar has "Memory"!!!

As for Jason, I'll only say he did what he always does. So to the extent he's been praised as "brilliant" previously - perhaps he should have been last night. Or - wait - maybe the previous "brilliant" comments were total unmerited BS all along just to keep him in the competition another week for viewership.

I was also glad that Simon backed off the David A. bandwagon last night. His performance WAS forgettable.

What I remember:

Syesha was excellent.

Carly was very good.

TragiNanny made a big mistake.

David C. was okay if you're into affected British accents - and even better if you totally forgot about the song and only concentrated on his "instrument".

Jason was Jason. I've never thought he was brilliant and will not mourn his loss.

David A. - I simply have no "Memory".

Posted by: Jean | April 23, 2008 3:56 PM

I really like much of ALW's music and it is clear that many of you don't and that you find it beneath you.
And while I am not a "theater buff" I do like the theatical rock of old Genesis, Jethro Tull and some Alex Harvey.

BUT Carly and and David Cook, while I have liked some and most (respectively) of their performances, I cannot quite describe what I find wrong. for them and some of the others, it is like some kind of disconnect where they "hit" the notes but they are missing the melody(?) not sure how to describe it.
David Cook was stopping just shy of STRONG (where he should have been strong) yesterday- even the last couple notes were loud but JJJJUUUUUUST off.
David A, even on some his better performances just seem off.

My mother describes a lot of the singing as screamy not strong. Now to be fair she says that about a lot of hard rock where I disagree - but I do have to agree with her about how these idolettes have been sounding this year.

Posted by: ask | April 23, 2008 4:29 PM

Let's play a game. If Jason didn't know that the theme song from "Cats" was sung by a cat - what other things might he not know?

And would they make good 30 second public service announcement TV spots for an anti-drug campaign?

Posted by: Jean | April 23, 2008 4:51 PM

I wasn't sure if I should laugh or wince (I did both) while Jason butchered the Cats song last night, wow, did he sound bad! I hope to see either Brooke or Jason going home tonight!

Posted by: WI | April 23, 2008 5:05 PM

Being A 65 year old Canadian, I seldom read the Washington Post and this is my first encounter with this writer. Bravo !! I wish she had a column in some of our Canadian Newspapers. Seriously, ALW was terrific.

Posted by: Hilary | April 23, 2008 5:34 PM

After reading Moraes I can forgo the grinding of teeth and laugh heartily, save at least 55 minutes to devote to finding my navel lint brush and know what is going on in the most important elections our county faces. Lloyd-Webber may be a one decent tear jerking tune per show trick pony, but he knows how to sell a show, so his advice is astute. Now if they just get rid of dog, slurring, coke induced Paula and snidely. Keep up the Swiftian acerbic wit.

Posted by: gar38 | April 23, 2008 7:09 PM

I hope Jason's back for at least another week, because when he looked at the camera and said in amazement, "I didn't know it was sung by a CAT," that was one of the funniest Idol moments of the season. He has the potential to be this year's Kelli Pickler ;-).

As for ALW, his coaching reminded me of another of the best guest mentors AI has ever had -- Barry Manilow. Maybe if each week they used composers or conductors instead of aging divas and divos (if there's such a word -- are we not men? we are divo) to mentor these kids we'd really see them progress and it would be much more interesting.

Posted by: owingsmills | April 23, 2008 7:27 PM

...And I read all of these posts. Am I pathetic or what!

Posted by: andrewnotwebber | April 23, 2008 8:56 PM

Owingsmills sez:

>I hope Jason's back for at least another >week, because when he looked at the camera >and said in amazement, "I didn't know it was >sung by a CAT," that was one of the funniest >Idol moments of the season.

I totally agree. The baffled look on his face was priceless. I would go so far as to say it's the funniest moments of the whole show--all seven years of it (or however long I've endured watching it).

Posted by: Sappho | April 23, 2008 9:56 PM

"And while I think Brooke should go, I have a feeling we're going to see a surprise of Michael Johns proportions tonight when Carly goes home.

Posted by: Duodenum | April 23, 2008 1:39 PM"

Hm, I guess I was right!

Posted by: Duodenum | April 23, 2008 10:20 PM

Perhaps those of us who vote here each week should make more 1-866 calls! America got it all wrong this week. Nanny Brooke or Jason Castro should have been the ones to go.

Since Jason Castro is staying at least one more week, he should really just stand there and look pretty instead of trying to talk. Just say no, kids. Just say no.

Also, I agree with other posters who think ALW should be a judge. He was amazing. In fact, I say we get rid of Randaula altogether in favor of ALW and perhaps Craig Ferguson, the Scottish host of the Late Late Show.

Can't wait to hear today's comments on Paula's "shoes."

Posted by: freegirl | April 24, 2008 6:59 AM

OK, if Brooke is the Nanny, Simon is:
(a) Mr. Sheffield
(b) Mr. Banks (from "Mary Poppins")
(c) Baron von Trapp.


Posted by: J-Man | April 26, 2008 1:14 AM

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