American Idol, Butchering The Beatles

In the world of rock and roll, there are a few gold standards: Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Flock of Seagulls.

And of course, The Beatles.

I don't care who you are, how old you are, or where you live -- if you don't know who The Beatles are, there is something wrong with you. Seriously, seriously wrong.

Not knowing who The Beatles is like not knowing who Beethoven was. I had to learn "Yesterday," "Here Comes the Sun," and "Hey Jude" in third grade music class.

Yak herders from Uzbekistan who have never owned a radio or television in their lives know who The Beatles are.

So naturally it's a little disappointing to me when, after announcing that this week's contestants would be performing songs by The Beatles for the second week in a row, American Idol feels the need to show us a news-like story explaining who The Beatles were.

Hey guys, can you also tell me what that big orange ball in the sky is? You know, the one that rises in the east every morning and seems to give off heat.

While I'm bothered by FOX's assumption that the world has forgotten the Fab Four, I'm not exactly sure why Idol producers decided to make their songs the theme again this week. I guess they must have paid a pretty penny for the Lennon-McCartney songbook -- too much for just one week's worth of performances. But why not save these gems for later in the

competition?

In any case, the top 11 lads and ladies belted out The Beatles as best they could, but for the most part left me wishing I was back in the third grade. How'd they do? Here's my take.

TOP THREE:

Syesha Mercado: Definitely an underdog victory this week. Syesha has her work cut out for her facing singers like Carly Smithson and Brooke White, but rose to the occasion tonight. Syesha sang "Yesterday," a daring choice considering it is pretty much the quintessential Beatles tune. Pretty conventional, but a nice arrangement with just her voice and a backing

guitar. Not earth shattering, but it really showed off her strong vocals. Randy called it very good. Paula said it was beautiful. Simon thought it was her best performance of the competition so far.

David Cook: David sang one of my favorite Beatles songs, "Day Tripper," but based on a Whitesnake cover. He played the guitar, although if you looked closely, he didn't actually play that much. Still, it sounded good, and he added a little Frampton-esque voicebox at the end, giving it a unique twist. Randy called it solid. Paula said he's ready to sell records now. Simon said it wasn't as good as he thought it was.

David Archuleta: David chose to sing "The Long and Winding Road," an apt choice considering his up and down performances. Considered the odds-on favorite a few weeks ago, David has faltered as of late, even forgetting the lyrics to his song last week. No memory lapses this week, but his rendition

wasn't spectacular by any means. His vocals are strong, but I thought it was a boring song to choose. The judges disagreed with me. Randy said he brought the "hotness" back. Paula said his purity came out. Simon said he was amazing.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK:

Amanda Overmyer: The so-called "Rock and Roll Nurse" kicked off the night singing "Back in the U.S.S.R." (Quick note: anyone who doesn't know who The Beatles were sure as heck won't know what the U.S.S.R. was.) Amanda rocked it as usual, but I didn't get much new out of it. And I'm still not

in love with her "I-just-chain-smoked-a-hundred-cigarettes" voice. Randy called it pitchy at first but cool at the end. Paula mimicked Randy almost word for word. Simon called it predictable.

Kristy Lee Cook: You can call this performance a major victory compared to last week's debacle. Kristy sang "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." At first I was really worried, since not only is this a Beatles song, but Eddie Vedder covered it pretty wonderfully just a few years ago. But I was more than pleasantly surprised by Kristy's rendition. The arrangement was great, starting slow, and then picked up at just the right moment. Nice vocals, but a pretty lame stage performance. Not much animation, otherwise she might have actually made the top three in my book. Randy said interesting but not emotional enough. Paula said it was the best she's ever looked. Simon said she was better this week, but called Kristy the equivalent of verbal wallpaper.

Brooke White: The reigning champ two weeks in a row sinks a few notches with a fairly mundane performance of "Here Comes the Sun." At first I thought it was the perfect song choice, but as the song went on, I kept waiting for something to happen. Brooke tried to be animated on stage, but it just came across as contrived and awkward. I doubt she's in any jeopardy of being eliminated, though, and I think she has a better than decent chance of making it to the top two or three. Randy said she was never connected to the song. Paula said she showed a different side. Simon thought the performance was terrible.

Carly Smithson: Like David Archuleta, Carly was the early favorite among the females, but hasn't had the most consistent performances. Carly sang "Blackbird," just moments after Simon heartlessly ridiculed whomever might try to sing it. For Carly it was pretty low key. She needs to pick songs that are more upbeat. She tried to pick it up half way through, but never quite took it to another level. Not a knockout performance by any means. Randy called it controlled and nice. Paula said she was fantastic. Simon thought it was a bad song choice and that it was corny.

Chikezie Eze: Chikezie is turning out to be the roller coaster of the competition: fantastic one week, lousy the next. This week he decided to play an instrument for the first time while singing "I've Just Seen a Face." It started slow, then suddenly he whipped out a harmonica, played a riff, and the song turned country. Give him points for putting a completely new spin on it. I think The Beatles would have probably loved it, although I didn't. Neither did the judges. Randy said it was strange. Paula said he "did it again." Simon thought it started okay but then became atrocious.

BOTTOM THREE:

Jason Castro: Jason sang "Michelle" with a country flavor. On paper, I would have predicted this would be a disaster, but it actually worked. Unfortunately very little else did. The vocals were mediocre and the on-stage performance was lackluster to say the least. Randy thought it was subdued.

Paula said he was disconnected without his guitar (although a few weeks ago she specifically asked him to start performing without his guitar). Simon said his looks were okay, but his singing wasn't.

Michael Johns: Frankly I think Michael is overrated. I'm not sure why he's still around while singers like Asia'h Epperson have gone home. Michael sang "A Day in the Life." It was a pretty conventional rendition with nothing new to the arrangement. He tried to be animated on stage, but it came across as creepy if you ask me. Randy said it was not the right song choice. Paula

thought his earpiece might have caused him some trouble, which drew a confused look from Michael because he wasn't wearing an earpiece. Simon called it a mess.

Ramiele Malubay: Saving the worst for last. Wearing an awful looking felt fedora, Ramiele sang "I Shoulda Known Better." Definitely the most karaoke performance of the night. What happened to the little girl with the big voice who amazed the crap out of us during auditions and Hollywood week? I think too much of Danny Noriega must have rubbed off on Ramiele. Randy said he

wasn't jumping up and down. Paula said she was better than last week. Simon said it sounded amateurish and that she chose a mediocre song.

We'll see who goes home Wednesday night.

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