American Idol, Costly Errors

Voters had a really tough decision to make last night. And I'm not talking about the Pennsylvania Primary.

I mean American Idol viewers, who had to decide who was worse -- Brooke White or Jason Castro.

After the evening's performances, they were clearly at the bottom of the bunch: Brooke for making the uncomfortable error of forgetting the lyrics to her song, Jason for a straight-up dismal performance.

This week, the contestants had to sing the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Randy called it one of the most challenging nights of the competition. I call it one of the most boring.

Sorry, I'm just not a Broadway-show-kind-of-guy. And I suspect a lot of my fellow American Idol watchers aren't either. I never saw Cats or Phantom of The Opera or any of ALW's shows, and hopefully Tuesday night will be my last exposure to them.

Frankly, everyone's performances sounded pretty much the same. All the contestants sang slow, slightly haunting ballads, with the notable exceptions of Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson. It's no accident, then, that they clearly rose above the rest. Here's my take.

TOP TWO:

Carly Smithson:

Carly wanted to sing some plodding ballad, but thankfully ALW talked her out of it and she ended up singing "Jesus Christ Superstar," one of two songs I recognized. Carly rocked it from beginning to end. It was the most upbeat song of the night and Carly had the best overall performance by a mile and a half. The whole thing reminded me a bit of Aretha Franklin, actually. I'm not sure why. Randy said it was definitely good. Paula loved it. Simon thought it was "shouty" in the middle, but one of his favorite performances of the night. After the judging, Carly grabbed a shirt that read, "Simon liked me (this week)." I hope she has the copyright. She'll make a million selling those.

Syesha Mercado:

The night's other top honors go to Syesha for her rendition of "One Rock and Roll Too Many." Wearing a slinky dress with her hair up, Syesha looked terrific. The upbeat song gave her a great chance to perform and have fun on stage, and her vocals were amazing. Randy thought it was her best performance to date. Paula said she brought the house down. Simon said she looked very sexy, and agreed with Randy that it was her strongest performance so far.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK:

David Archuleta:

David sang "Think of Me," which surprised Andrew Lloyd Webber because he said he never imagined a man singing it. Without impugning David at all, it doesn't surprise me one bit. His song choices this season have been unique to say the least. As usual, David's vocals were great, but the overall performance was nothing to write home about. Especially not compared to last week when he seemed to have gone through some kind of maturing metamorphosis on stage. But tonight the old, young-looking David was back. One thing that I think hurt him is that ALW told him not to close his eyes while he sings. So I spent the entire performance watching his eyes, and dang if it didn't look like he was struggling to keep them open. Now that I think

about it, he's been doing that all season. Randy, who has been an official member of the David Archuleta fan club since day one, loved it and said for the umpteenth time, "if you can sing, you can sing anything." Paula called it absolutely perfect. Simon thought it was pleasant, but forgettable and one of David's weaker performances.

David Cook:

David C. has become known for putting a rock twist on every song he sings. But working with ALW didn't really give him a chance to do that. So instead, David played it completely straight. Too straight, if you ask me. Singing "Music of the Night," he sounded to me like he was mocking the genre. I thought I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was bizarre, although his actual singing was great. Randy said it was amazing. Paula called him well-rounded. Simon said he made the most of the song. No one accused him of ridiculing the song, but someday David's going to fess up that he was purposely trying to be over-the-top. I just know it.

BOTTOM TWO:

Brooke White:

Brooke chose to sing "You Must Love Me" from Evita. She started a line or two and then stopped cold. Apologizing, she asked the band to start over again. The rest of the song was good, although it was hard to miss the look of fear in Brooke's eyes. Like someone who knows they just made a fatal blunder. After the song, Randy said it wasn't great, but he liked her emotion. Paula paused for moment (the silence in the audience was eerie) then said Brooke should never start and stop. That's funny Paula. Several weeks ago when Brooke had a false start, you told her that's exactly what she should do. Simon didn't say it was bad, but said Brooke herself would be disappointed in the performance. Then Simon and Randy ganged up on Paula and said that stopping and restarting the song was absolutely the right thing to do -- it was professional and brave. Take that Paula.

Jason Castro:

Jason sang what is perhaps THE best known ALW song ever, "Memories," and did perhaps THE worst job on it I've ever heard. What's with all these mellow songs from Jason? It worked a few weeks ago when he sang Brother IZ's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But come on, man. It's time to pick things up. There was nothing special at all about this performance. And unlike past songs where sometimes you wait for something big to happen but it never happens, this time I wasn't even waiting. You just knew it wasn't going to get any better. Randy called it a train wreck. Paula, for some reason, thought it was a good song choice. Simon said he was miserable listening to it and that Jason looked miserable singing it.

Listen: In my mind, there's no question that Jason Castro should go home. Sure he's had some good nights, but on this occasion he blew it. If viewers send Brooke home, it will be a shame. Especially since David Archuleta was forgiven for making the same mistake earlier in the season. Of course, back then there were a dozen contestants. Now we're down to six, and there's no room for error.

Of course, after Kristy Lee Cook was eliminated last week -- WHEN SHE ABSOLUTELY DIDN'T DESERVE IT -- we all know that anything can happen. No one is "safe."

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