American Idol Judges Are Becoming More Bizarre

Some unlikely Idol contestants shine. And will whoever stole Randy Jackson's brain please return it?

Remember that episode of Star Trek when Captain Kirk ends up in an alternate universe where everyone is the exact opposite of what they're supposed to be? You know, the one where Spock is evil with a goatee?

That's what it felt like watching American Idol last night. Everything was... well... off. Up was down. Left was right. Paula was relatively coherent. And some of the least spectacular of the remaining Idol contestants turned in the best performances of the night.

More than that, Randy Jackson was the meanest judge of the evening. Seriously, it was like someone stole his brain and replaced it with Simon's. He was as harsh as I've ever seen him.

As anyone who watches the show knows, Randy is the "technical" expert. He's the judge who pays attention to every note and notoriously tells you if you're "a little pitchy, dog," but then finds something redeeming in the performance. This week, however, the usually good-natured Jackson was unimpressed with most of the singers and downright disdainful with the rest. He even argued with Paula, who he usually ends up defending from Simon.

By the end of the evening, a modicum of praise from Randy was truly the most coveted prize.

This week the contestants had to pick a song from the year they were born. Which meant that, except for two contestants, it was '80s night again. So how'd everyone do? Here's my take:


David Cook (Born in 1982): David was the last performer of the night, but came out with top honors. He sang Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" in a rock ballad-esque fashion. It was almost unrecognizeable at the start, but what a terrific twist. This is what you hope for when someone covers a song. It was brilliant! Randy, in one of his few laudatory critiques of the evening, said David was worthy of winning the whole competition. Paula said she was blown away. Simon said it could have been either insane or amazing, but he went with amazing.

Michael Johns (Born in 1978): The oldest by far of the contestants, Michael had to choose something from the '70s and went with Queen's "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions." On paper I'd have predicted this to be really cheesy, but it rocked. Terrific vocals. I even got goose bumps. After several lackluster weeks, Michael really redeemed himself here. Randy didn't call it

great, but said it was his best performance yet. Paula called it his shining moment. Simon said he saw star potential and that he "got it right."

Kristy Lee Cook (Born in 1984): Another unlikely top finisher, Kristy has been in the bottom three the last several weeks. She chose to sing "God Bless the USA," another song I would have predicted to be too corny, but it worked. Kristy nailed it. I almost got goose bumps, but not quite. Randy thought it was a great song choice. Paula said it was poignant and respectful. Simon

said it was her best performance by a mile and a clever song.


Syesha Mercado (Born in 1987): Syesha sang "If I Were Your Woman." I don't know this song, so I'd never heard the lyrics before. But I do know that Syesha sang "If I was your woman" not "were." I don't know if that was a mistake or intentional. Either way, her vocals were great and it was a terrific performance. I'd have put her in the top three, but I felt like Kristy Lee edged her out slightly. Randy said it was perhaps her best of the entire competition. Paula called it a pivotal moment. Simon thought it was okay, but didn't like the end very much.

Brooke White (Born in 1983): Brooke is my favorite of all the Idol contestants and I think she's going to surprise everyone by making it to the finals, but not on this performance. Brooke sang "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. First she had a false start, stopped, and then started the song over again. She was looking up at the band as if waiting for a cue, which makes

me think there was a miscommunication of some sort. Her vocals were solid, but she didn't bring much new to the song and never hit any big notes. Randy thought her arrangement was poor and that she shouldn't have used the backing band. Paula liked it a lot more than last week. Simon agreed with Randy. (See, I told you they switched brains.)

Carly Smithson (Born in 1983): Carly is definitely the odds-on favorite among the women, but not last night. She sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart," which is a huge song. Give her props for even choosing to tackle it. But it backfired on her. For starters, I think the backup singer sounded better than Carly in the opening part of the song. In the middle, she tried to blast it, but couldn't quite take it to Bonnie Tyler-ville. And the last series of notes was a little bit of a mess if you ask me. Randy was unimpressed and said he didn't love it. Paula disagreed and thought Carly could do no wrong. Simon thought it didn't work and that she seemed tense.

David Archuleta (Born in 1990): The wunderkind of the group showed his young age and inexperience by choosing a song that nobody has ever heard. David sang something called "You're the Voice." His vocals were incredible, as always, but the song was hard to enjoy because I didn't know it. If people vote based on his singing, he's in no danger of leaving, but this was

not a stellar performance. Randy said it was "nice" but was disappointed in the song choice. Paula seemed perplexed that David didn't pick an American composer. Simon was the only one of the bunch (and probably the only one in the audience) who knew the song, but hated the performance and called it a "theme park" rendition.


Ramiele Malubay (Born in 1987): Sang Heart's "Alone." A good song choice for her to show off her powerful vocals. The little girl with the big voice made a comeback from last week's dismal karaoke-esque performance. But she still lacks that "star quality." Randy thought it was not the right song for her, which led to another patented "Ramiele pouty expression." Paula gave her credit for picking a tough song. Simon didn't think it was so bad and thought Rami will survive another week. (You know something is wrong with the universe when Randy doesn't like a performance and Simon does!)

Chikezie Eze (Born in 1985): I've said it before, but Chikezie is the roller coaster of this competition. Up one week, down the next. This week he sang "If Only for One Night," another song I didn't recognize. It started slow and picked up slightly, but not much. Chikezie tried to hit some deep sexy notes at the end. Before he sang, Chikezie said he had shied away from

ballads for the last few weeks. I'd say that returning to them didn't do him any favors. Randy didn't like it. Paula disagreed and thought it was good. Simon thought he sang it well, but that the performance was cheesy.

Jason Castro (Born in 1987): Playing guitar again, Jason sang "Fragile" by Sting, but in a definitively more upbeat tempo. Aside from being faster paced, though, he didn't add a whole lot new to the song. The vocals were okay, but nothing spectacular, and Jason didn't do anything to "wow" us. Randy grudgingly called it "alright." Paula thought he was staying true to who he is. Simon thought it was his second bad week in a row and that he sounded like a performer outside a subway station.

Wednesday night we find out who's going home, and whether anyone has returned Randy's brain.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write him.