The female American Idol semifinalists had mostly recovered from a severe illness that had many of them struggling last week. The ladies took the stage with songs from the seventies, striving to show themselves.
In a few cases, poor song choice made for embarrassing performances, while other contestants began to show their potential.
Carly Smithson kicked off the night paying tribute to one of her favorite bands with the Heart song "Crazy on You." She looked much more comfortable and seemed more herself, in a black tunic with black leggings, showing off her sleeve tattoo. Her performance was powerful, almost as good as the original, although it sounded like she dropped some of the words partway through.
Judge Randy Jackson said that the beginning was rough and that she'd over-hit some notes but by the middle got it together. Nice judge Paula Abdul said it's "good you're healthy," reminding viewers that she'd been sick the week before. She said it takes a big singer to sing those big notes and called her an amazing singer. Tough judge Simon Cowell said she was much better than last week, although he didn't think she'd connected with the right song yet. He said that "none of these girls can touch you" but that she needs a song that will give her "that moment." He called her the girl to beat.
With a sort of cutesy selection, Syesha Mercado took the stage next, performing the Billy Paul song, "Me and Mrs. Jones," turning it into "Me and Mr. Jones." In her backstage interview, she revealed that she does commercials back in Miami, and they showed a clip. The camera loves her, and you get the feeling that she has a career ahead of her, regardless of how she fares in this competition. On-stage, she looked the consummate performer, in a black tank dress with a colorful scarf tied around her hair, topped off with gold hoop earrings. The essence of artsy cool. And yet, her performance opened weak and lacked the emergency of the original. She smiled cheerfully through it, as if she'd never read the lyrics. The song is about someone who's having an affair with a married person and fears it will soon end.
Randy said it wasn't a great song choice and advised her to pick songs where she can show her voice better. "This went nowhere," he said. Paula remarked that on the softer notes, she goes off pitch, but she said she liked her interpretation of this song. Simon called it a bit indulgent, since the song wasn't written for a girl. He added that it was not designed for her voice.
A breath of fresh air, Brooke White performed the Carly Simon song, "You're So Vain." Appropriately enough, in her backstage interview she revealed that she'd gone to beauty school before deciding to pursue music. In an orange short-sleeved turtleneck, she strummed a guitar as she sang (one chord, and out of tune, at that). She got considerably better at singing once she stopped playing and let the band take over, but if she wanted to look the part of a folk rocker, the guitar was a great prop, immediately making me realize that she's practically a dead ringer for Carly Simon. Why hadn't I noticed before? That said, her singing was best through the middle of the song, as the song got too low for her and she ended on a flat note.
Randy called it a great song for her but asked if the lyrics had been pointed towards any one of the judges: in particular, "a guy who's not me." Paula said the song suited her and that she loved it. Simon also loved it, saying that she'd "connected." In response to host Ryan Seacrest teasing that he was so vain he'd love that she was singing about him, even if just to tell him he was vain, he simply smiled.
After a backstage interview revealed that Ramiele Malubay has studied Polynesian dancing, she stepped up with the Thelma Houston song "Don't Leave Me This Way," starting off sultry and demonstrating beautiful control. Besides her trendy angled haircut, she definitely looks like any girl you'd see on the street, in a double-layered tank top and gray leggings with high heels. She might want to amp up her look a little to appear to be the star she clearly has potential to become.
Randy said it was just OK and that the song choice was weird. This may be because it was yet another somewhere obscure selection, for the second week in a row. Paula called her one to beat and said her vocals are amazing but that this song didn't let her perform her magic. Simon agreed, saying that he's heard the song performed at "ghastly weddings" and that she was better last week. Still, he called her one of the top three in the competition.
Self-avowed tomboy Kristy Lee Cook sure looked feminine in a clingy silver V-neck and black flared pants as she sang the Linda Ronstadt hit, "You're No Good." Her voice had a little bit of a country twang to it, but not enough to make the performance seem like more than a better-than-average karaoke performance.
Randy called it a 100-percent improvement from the previous week but acknowledged she hadn't had a breakout moment. Paula proclaimed, "You're back" and praised her song choice. Simon called it a huge improvement, although he admitted she's difficult to characterize. He advised her to go down the country route, in order to make a statement. A kind way, perhaps, of saying that she doesn't stand out in the crowd.
Rocker Amanda Overmyer, in her backstage interview, confessed to reading a lot, especially biographies of rock icons. You would have thought she would have learned something from them, but her performance of the Kansas song, "Carry On Wayward Son," showed no evidence of that. Instead, she made every bad wannabe rock star mistake, from coming out with a strange, over-the-top look, complete with Bride of Frankenstein big hair and — yes, really! — acid-washed chaps over black jeans, paired with a fussy black jacket. This wouldn't have bothered me so much if her singing had hit the mark, but she was drastically out of tune and out of her range for much of the song.
Randy said it wasn't the right song for her and made the mystifying observation that it's "too much melody for a bluesy girl," which might mean he doesn't think she's capable of carrying a tune. Paula said that "you can dance" but that it wasn't the right song. Simon observed that on film, she's very natural, but that everything about this performance, including the "terrible hair," felt contrived. He called it an "ugly song" and said he just didn't get it.
A polar opposite to the outrageous wannabe rocker was white-bread Alaina Whitaker, who took the opportunity of her backstage interview to admit to strange food compulsions, like not allowing any of her food to touch each other on the plate. That's the sort of thing you can get away with once you are a diva, but it doesn't make much of a favorable impression now. Not that she seems to know much about making an impression. She wore an electric blue shiny strapless dress with a badly sewn hem that looked like a Project Runway reject, and her rendition of the Olivia Newton-John song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was lackluster. My friends and I had the soundtrack to Grease growing up, and I could swear that when we sang it into a hairbrush, we had more energy than she did on a stage in front of millions.
Randy said the song wasn't right for her and that even when she'd belted it, she'd sounded restrained. Paula, though, thought she did a "real good job." Simon said he likes her but that she seemed very old-fashioned, like her grandmother had prepped her for her appearance. He said the performance was very pageant-y, although he added that she's a dark horse in the competition if she manages to prove she's relevant.
Alexandrea Lushington, who had been the "poster child" for her father's fire department and once performed at Ground Zero, performed the Chicago tune, "If You Leave Me Now." She wore cargo shorts, a long-sleeved gray shirt and a padded jacket with short boots. Not the most feminine look, mind you, but at least it looked a little more contemporary than last week's retro-'80s look. She faltered at times in the song, apparently not knowing what to do with it, and she hit some rough notes at the end.
Randy told her that she's got mad vocal skills but has to challenge herself and criticized her for playing it safe. Paula complimented her for doing her own arrangement and said she was impressed. Simon said that he'd been a big fan in the early stages but that now she was struggling. He said the song was very stuck in time, and it would be hard for anyone to make it sound current. He added that she'd been in and out of tune and called the performance boring.
Tackling another Heart song, Kady Malloy did "Magic Man," revealing in her backstage interview that she also sings opera. I would have rather heard her sing opera, because her rendition of this song was rough, immediately making Carly Smithson's earlier performance of a Heart song seem even better. She's one of the more fashion-forward contestants, wearing a scoop-neck black mini dress with colored appliqués down the front. Too bad she looked better than she sounded.
Randy said he loves the song but that she was never on pitch and it didn't work. Paula said that when she powered through it, she sounded great but that she'd lost it on the low notes. Simon repeated his assessment from the previous week, that she's fantastic on film but seems forced while on-stage.
Finishing the night, Asia'h Epperson did the Eric Carmen song, "All By Myself," which has been covered by Celine Dion. She looked very contemporary, in a white button-down shirt with a high-waisted gray pencil skirt (although maybe not the best look for her, since she's got curves). Her version of the song, though, was like a bad pageant performance, and she did a weird shimmy near the end before hitting the last note.
Randy remarked that she's been sick and that it's a difficult song, but he said she'd done a good job. Paula said it was great, although she'd had problems in the low parts. Simon said that it's "one of the diva songs of all time," referring to the Celine Dion cover, and that you've got to be a heck of a singer to do it justice. "You're not," he declared. He said that she'd almost gotten away with it but that the song showed her up.
Kudos this week to Carly and Ramiele with a nod to Brooke, all of whom should be safe. Syesha and Asia'h better hope that people remember their previous stronger performance and keep them in the game.
All of the others could be in danger, but since Amanda stands out from the pack, she'll probably last another week. At least one of the interchangeable blondes (Kristy Lee Cook, Alaina Whitaker and Kady Malloy) can expect to go home. Of them, Kady's performance was the worst, so she might be catching the plane home. Although she did arguably better than some of the others, Alexandrea might find herself joining Kady at center stage, victim of a boring, fairly forgettable performance.
Say it with me: song choice, song choice, song choice!