‘American Idol’ Recap: David Archuleta Debacle Caps Night, While Brooke White, Chikezie Shine

When singing well-known Beatles songs, it's important not to forget the words.

As some of you may have noticed, Jeffrey Christian so kindly filled in for me these past two weeks while I was busy working on a million different projects. But now I’m back, and it feels great to be home.

And what a week to return! Yes, for the first time in “Idol” land, it was Beatles night. But don’t cash that royalty check just yet, Ringo. Seacrest made it clear that the songs would be from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. You’ll just have to live off those “Shining Time Station” residuals a little bit longer, Mr. Starkey.

Before I go on a rant about how those sultry close-ups in the new opening credit sequence reminded me of a perfume ad (“Idolatry: The Smell of Semi-Fame … by Calvin Klein”), let’s get to the performances!

(Check out photos of the top 12 performing on the new-and-improved “Idol” stage. )

Syesha Mercado
Song: “Got to Get You Into My Life”
Verdict: Breaking (Earth,) Wind (& Fire)

Syesha had an interesting strategy Tuesday night, and I’m not talking about the funky lite-jazz Earth, Wind & Fire arrangement. She banked on nobody noticing her off-key and nerve-racked performance because they’d be so distracted by her head-scratching outfit. Wearing a gold lamé off-the-shoulder cardigan, she looked like a Jewish grandma imitating Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance.” And did anyone else catch her hair homage to Marvita’s “horse-hawk” from “America’s Next Top Model”? Sadly, this shaky beginning might also mark Syesha’s end on the (new and improved!) “Idol” stage.

Chikezie
Song: “She’s a Woman”
Verdict: O Brother!

Chikezie’s electric performance was the anti-Vampire Weekend . Instead of white dorks playing African music, a Nigerian rocked a bluegrass tune, and in the process turned the entire “Idol” competition on its head. Sure, Chi’s jug-band-turned-hard-rock arrangement was a little schizophrenic and, yes, his vocals occasionally teetered on brakes-on-asphalt screeching, but he won huge points by being unpredictable and extra-likable (even after we found out he was an airport security guard). A singer who I swore wouldn’t survive the next two weeks all of a sudden seems like a guy we’ll be seeing a lot of this season. Also, I love my parents with all my heart, but if Chikezie’s family ever wants to adopt me, my bags are packed. (And hell, Chikezie could even x-ray my luggage personally!)

Ramiele Malubay
Song: “In My Life”
Verdict: I’ve loved her more

I know there was a string section. I know she did something on a staircase. I know that I thought the NyQuil’d arrangement held her back. But I’ll be damned if I could remember much else about Ramiele’s dull performance. As I watched her painfully boring offering Tuesday, I could feel my brain erasing the previous 30 seconds, “Eternal Sunshine”-style. I expected big things from this tiny star. Boo.

Jason Castro
Song: “If I Fell”
Verdict: Dread on arrival

Coming off last week’s divine “Hallelujah,” Jason proved Tuesday that he can’t make miracles happen all the time. Part of the problem was that his mellow “If I Fell” felt too similar to that Leonard Cohen number, from the acoustic strumming to the “I don’t really need to hit any of these high notes because I’m so dreamy” attitude. I’m glad the judges (well, at least the two that matter) called him out on a subpar performance. Maybe I’m just bummed because I wanted to hear the hippie sing “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”

Carly Smithson
Song: “Come Together”
Verdict: Polished and professional … but shouldn’t she always be?

It’s taken her three weeks, but Carly finally lived up to the preseason hype thanks to a pitch-perfect (and surprisingly sexy) “Come Together.” What was your favorite part? The way she cooed, “over me,” at the end of each refrain, or how she was able to sing about “juju eyeballs” and “toe-jam football” while sounding ferocious? Unfortunately, any good will I had toward the Irish lass disappeared after Simon Cowell dropped the “Kelly Clarkson” bomb. Can he stop shoving Carly down our throats already?

David Cook
Song: “Eleanor Rigby”
Verdict: Panic at the discography

David said he was worried about singing a Beatles tune because America is über-familiar with their catalog. His solution? Sing the song like he was the love child of Panic at the Disco’s Brendon Urie and Faith No More’s Mike Patton. Sorry, judges. I don’t agree that David is the best thing since sliced Daughtry. Personally, I found his rock-star posturing distracting until his final go at the chorus, where the bombast of the guitars matched his outrageous Scott Stapp “With Arms Wide Open” stance and his (by then) good-enough vocals. I liked last week’s “Hello” much better. Humbug.

Brooke White
Song: “Let It Be”
Verdict: Let it be fantastic!

How much do you love Brooke White? She has an uncanny ability to pick the perfect song each week and deliver it in a no-frills straightforward but heartfelt way. Plus, she has a dash of Paula-on-QVC loopiness that I adore. Performing barefoot at a piano? Great. Crying/shaking/stammering post-performance? Even better. If she can keep this organic trajectory going, she’ll sail to the finale. Yes, that’s right. I said the F-word. You heard it here first, folks. It’ll be a Brooke White/ David Archadorable finale this May (provided he remembers his lyrics — more on that later).

David Hernandez
Song: “I Saw Her Standing There”
Verdict: Girl, please

David’s preperformance interview was chock-full of absurdity. First, he talked about working at a “pizza bistro” (when we all know he works at a sausage factory). And then he had the gall to start a sentence with “A typical day for me would be …” without ending it with “stripping for sweaty Asian businessmen.” His “I Saw Her Standing There” was equally vexing, not only because the song is about falling in love with a girl who’s considered jailbait in most states, but also because David chose to sing it with more melisma and neck snaps than an all-day marathon of “VH1 Divas.”

Amanda Overmyer
Song: “You Can’t Do That”
Verdict: She can do whatever the hell she wants

I adore Amanda for picking a bitter, scary John Lennon song — if you could understand her marble-mouthed delivery, the lyrics are all about threatening a girlfriend with a wandering eye — and keeping the pronouns intact to boot. Instead of the awkward gender flips (ahem, Chikezie), Amanda said, “Screw it. I’ll sing it as it’s written. Who cares if people think I’m a lesbian? Right, Hernandez?” I don’t know how much longer Amanda can pull off the great rock-and-roll nurse swindle on the “Idol” stage, but for the time being, I’m happy she’s on the show, and it finally looked like she was happy to be on the show too.

Michael Johns
Song: “Across the Universe”
Verdict: Out of this world

Michael mugged like John Mayer at the Jammys and redefined the term “sweat suit,” but funny faces and glandular problem aside, I have to say I was absolutely blown away by the Aussie’s performance Tuesday night. Randy complained that it was sleepy (has he ever heard Fiona Apple’s dreary cover?), and Simon wanted him to be more like “the Irish girl” and take bigger risks. But I agree wholeheartedly with Paula (further proof that Jim is overtired), who praised Michael’s quiet confidence and called him brilliant. Like Carly before him, Michael finally lived up to his potential. Lastly, there’s been a lot of talk this season comparing Sir Sweats-A-Lot to late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, but Tuesday I noticed some Tom Jones mixed in. And somehow I mean that in a good way (again, overtired).

Kristy Lee Cook
Song: “Eight Days a Week”
Verdict: And on the third day, God created elimination shows

At long last, a hot mess for the record books. On one hand, I feel bad for Kristy, who has struggled in the competition when she has strayed from her country roots. (Speaking of which, if we have to see her riding a horse one more time …) On the other hand, there is simply no excuse for turning the jangly pop of “Eight Days a Week” into the bizarre part-hoedown, part-thrash-metal cacophony that came out of my TV speakers. Ryan tried to lighten the mood after Kristy laid the egg by pointing out that Simon advised her to stick to country last week but bashed her for sticking to country this week. What dingbat Seacrest didn’t realize was that Simon was knocking her song choice. If Ms. Cook had put some twang into “Help” or the Ringo-sung rendition of Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” or even “A Day in the Life,” it probably would have yielded some awesome results. Instead we found out what would happen if Vicki from “Small Wonder” moved to Nashville and got strung out on cocaine.

David Archuleta
Song: “We Can Work It Out”
Verdict: He’s no boy wonder

In honor of David’s performance debacle Tuesday, I will blahblahblah some of the words in my recap of his segment. Think of it as my homageblahblah to the greatest lyrics fumble in “Idol” history. Speaking of fumbles and football terms and umblahsomething, my boss Jim Fraenkel said it best when he said, “David Archuleta was totally the New England Patriots!” This statement is both 100 percent accurate and 100 percent hilarious, considering my boss is as much an “Idol” fan as he isn’t a sports fan.

So where do I even begin?

In a move that ended up being wayyyy meta, the producers picked an interview somethingsomethingsomething where David talked about being “stressed” over how difficult “We Can Work It Out” is. It’s almost like they knew he was going to screw it up in a blahblah way.

“Screw it up” is an understatement, folks. There were pitch problems, falsett-nos, three — count ‘em three — blahblahblahs and more panicked looks than Eliot Spitzer at a press conference. I know I wasn’t the only one out of breath from all my gasps after David kept “zimsimzimming” the words. And if I were on trial, I’d be found guilty of shouting, “You can work it out, David! Work it out!” at my television.

So what went wrong?

Part of the problem was that David used Stevie Wonder’s ummmerrmmmmsomething instead of the Beatles’. And say what you will about Archadorable, but a teenager from Utah should not be grabbing arrangements from Stevie Wonblahblah. Ever. Plus, didn’t you expect David to bust out some “Yesterday,” especially after several other contestants name-dropped that song in their interviews but then performed other songs?

Hasty Predictions

You’d have to be from whatever planet Brooke White’s from to think that Archublahblah will be booted Wednesday night. I predict he’ll avoid the bottom three entirely, although I wouldn’t put it past “Idol” producers to toss him on the chopping block anyway just to scare the bejeezus out of everyone. Kristy Lee Cook was unspeakably terrible (I miss you, Asia’h!), but Simon was harsh, and there are a lot of morons who give sympathy votes to whichever contestant gets it the roughest from the Cranky Brit. If Ramiele didn’t have such a gigantic fanbase, I’d say she’d be in danger. However, “Idol” history suggests that Syesha should pack her belongings because a) she was boring, b) she was forgettable and c) she went first. You can’t get much worse than that on “Idol.”

Unless you forget the lyrics.

What did you think, America? Were you also hoping that David Hernandez would whip out “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”? Do you like David Archuleta more or less now that you know he’s a human being? And did you do a double take during the new opening credits because it looked like he was the new cyborg “Idol”?

Hit me up in the comments below!

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