The female semifinalist on American Idol competed with songs from the Eighties. Two will be cut tonight, narrowing the field to 12 finalists.
Compared to the guys, the night was a pale comparison, primarily because of some strange song choices. A few contestants stood out, probably saving themselves from being cut.
Bravely, or perhaps foolishly, Asia'h Epperson started the night with the Whitney Houston song, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," the song that exposed many to the artist, which had been paired with a highly popular video that many people still remember. Both her singing and dancing paled by comparison, but she was very controlled. She should have been more joyful, which was the key characteristic of Whitney's version. Asia'h looked a little '80s in a hot pink top with spaghetti straps and violet high-waisted leggings, with high heels. In her backstage interview, she revealed her most embarrassing moment, which was tripping over a set light while she was an extra on a movie.
Judge Randy Jackson, after noting that he'd recorded this song with Whitney, called the song a "tall order" but said that she'd showed she deserves to be here. "That was hot." Nice judge Paula Abdul said, "You nailed it." Tough judge Simon Cowell, however, was not so enthusiastic. He said that at best it was second-rate Whitney Houston and criticized her for not hitting the big note at the end. I do remember that Whitney's stratospheric high notes were one of the appeals of the original, so I agree with his point.
Poor misguided Kady Malloy tackled the Queen song "Who Wants to Live Forever?" and answered it herself. She doesn't. At least, she doesn't want to survive in this competition, because her version was just painful. In my notes, I actually wrote, "Ouch. Make it stop!" Ever the fashionista, though, she looked great in a bright blue sleeveless tunic with empire waist over a bright red cami, paired with jeans and high heels. Her most embarrassing moment? Tripping over a wire and creating a scene.
Randy called it an interesting song choice, saying it was a pretty good song. He remarked that she'd hit the big notes but didn't support the lesser notes. Paula called it her best performance to date and said that the tenderness of her voice is where the magic is. Simon agreed it was better than last week but criticized her for a "massive lack of personality." He said she's like a robot when she sings and that she might be in trouble.
Biker nurse and resident rock chick Amanda Overmyer finally struck gold with the Joan Jett song, "I Hate Myself for Loving You." The song was perfectly matched to both her vocal range and her comfort level, and she knocked it out of the park, dressed in a much more believable outfit than last week's showy KISS-like garb. This time she looked much like she had at her original audition, in a black tank top with jeans and a long sparkly scarf. She still looks down a lot and has trouble relating to the camera, though. Her backstage story was even entertaining, about how she'd been careless with an outdoor fireplace and burned down her family's deck, even melting the pool. "I'm the only chick in the world that can burn down a pool," she said, dryly.
Randy gushed, "That's the Amanda we love. That's who you really are." He added, "Well done." Paula said she has a beautiful face and that she liked her hair. "You've found your niche," she said. Simon milked his response for effect, saying, "If I'm being honest... I thought it was fantastic." He said that she'd nailed it and that it was one of his favorite girl performances of the season.
Next up, Carly Smithson performed the Cyndi Lauper tune "I Drove All Night," which might be better known in recent days for the Celine Dion cover. She wore a black tank top with high-waisted jeans and demonstrated some powerful vocals. Her most embarrassing moment, she said, was getting her leg stuck in a railing and having a friend grease it to get it out.
Randy said that she was hitting the high notes like she was picking off targets. He added it was another great performance. Paula, strangely, said that she was like a dependable dog. She said that she's totally into her niche and that there "aren't enough adjectives" to describe her performance. Simon, though, said she hadn't picked the right song so that she could make the most of it. He added, though, that he really likes her.
The second of the interchangeable blondes, Kristy Lee Cook, sang the Journey song, "Faithfully." If her performance was forgettable, her most embarrassing moment wasn't. She said that at 7 she used to pretend to be a dog, down to eating out of a bowl and everything! She wore a patterned black and white blousy shirt with jeans and turned in a version that sounded so little like the original I didn't know what she was singing until the chorus. It was fairly good until the ending, where she missed some notes.
Randy called it a great song and said that non one will sing it like Steve Perry. He did, however, like the country lilt of her voice. Paula said that her version could be a hit in country music (does Paula ever listen to country?) She added that she looked great. Simon said it was good to hear her country influence but it was still forgettable. He said that, at the best, she'd come in 10th.
The ever cute but ever powerful Ramiele Malubay did what she does best, turning the Phil Collins song "Against All Odds" into a torch song. She really has got a big voice and the best control of any of the female performers. In a bit of a departure, she shed the gray leggings for a deep purple miniskirt, paired with a red cami and heather gray cardigan, with the requisite high-heeled sandals. Her embarrassing moment was cute, about how in grade school she'd dropped off a school picture at a boy's house and hid across the street to see his reaction. Both the boy and his mother retrieved the picture and laughed at it!
Randy called it a big song with "pretty good vocals." He advised her to find her confidence, and said she's thinking too hard about her performances. Paula said she has such a beautiful face and an innocent, pure voice. She said she deserves to be in the top 12. Simon said that, because she's so little and cute, the song was good (whatever that means). Still, he said it was old-fashioned and predictable.
Brooke White did an unplugged version of the Pat Benetar song, "Love is a Battlefield," perched on the edge of the stage in a salmon-colored button-down with black pants and a silver belt. She was accompanied by a single guitar, and she stayed seated, focusing on the emotion of the song. The lyrics repeat the phrase, "We are young," but as she poured her soul into this song, she seemed like a seasoned performer. Her embarrassing moment was funny, too, about how she once came out of church and hugged her Dad, only to realize it wasn't her Dad.
Randy said that he really liked it and said it was "very interesting." Paula labeled it a very wise choice of song but said she would have liked her to incorporate the band more and build the song. Simon disagreeing, saying that the pared-down version made it original. He said that for two weeks running, she'd been great.
Ending the night, Syesha Mercado tackled the Whitney Houston song, "Saving All My Love for You." Her embarrassing moment story was cute, about how she'd sent a love note to a boy in second grade, along with a piece of strawberry bubble gum. He'd told the teacher on her for passing a note but ate the gum! Wearing a sleeveless midnight blue top with shorts, pumps and a silver pendant, she sang her heart out, hitting the high notes safely. My only criticisms seem minor but could affect her chances. She's still making strange faces during her performance, which often makes her look angry. And she could use a little color, which would look great on her.
They were short on time at the end, so the judges kept their comments brief. Randy just said, "Good." Paula added, "Sophisticated and lovely." Simon summarized, "A bit predictable but good."
Kudos this week to Amanda Overmyer, Carly Smithson, Ramiele Malubay and Brooke White, with a nod to Syesha Mercado.
Kady Malloy has likely worn out her welcome, and Kristy Lee Cook's performance was fairly forgettable. But will both of them be sent packing, or will the show see its first "surprise" cut of the season, with Asia'h Epperson leaving instead? It might sound strange, but despite her potential, she has yet to really wow the judges or, presumably, the viewers. So she might find herself on the plane home, while a very surprised Kristy Lee Cook lives up to Simon's prediction and comes in 10th.
Don't choose a Whitney Houston song unless you can do it justice.