American Idol: Castro Crumbles, Syesha Makes A Case

I think just about everyone watching American Idol this season had a pretty good idea how things were going to shake out.

Ever since week one, we pretty much assumed that crowned-crooner-prince David Archuleta was a lock for the finals. His golden pipes and innocent boyish charm would carry him easily into the top two, probably against David Cook or Carly Smithson. Right?

Not so fast.

Syesha Mercado has something to say about that.

With her performances this week, Syesha made a bold statement. Anyone who thinks this is going to be a David-versus-David final might want to think again. She nailed both her songs, and showed quite clearly that she can outsing and outperform either of the Davids on any given Tuesday night.

On the one hand, I think both David A. and David C. should be worried. If we've learned one thing this season, it's that anything can happen. Just ask Carly or Michael Johns or Brooke White, who have all gone home while Jason Castro languishes in the top four. No one is safe at this point. And now Syesha is pouring it on as we head into the final stretch.

On the other hand, despite Syesha's performances, there's still an excellent chance this will be a same-name series. If we've learned another thing this season, it's that viewers are voting for people regardless of how they actually do. Case in point, the aforementioned Jason Castro, who should have been eliminated three weeks ago, two weeks ago, and last week.

This week's results should be pretty predictable, if not boring. Jason should go home, while Syesha, David and David should start preparing for next week. That's a lot of shoulds, though.

Simply put, Jason was awful. His songs were lackluster, and he looks like he just doesn't care anymore. Especially not about what the judges have to say. They accused him of phoning it in. If you ask me, he's sending it by Morse Code from some island in the middle of the South Pacific.

Tuesday night was "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" night, which meant that the contestants had a whole lot of songs from which to pick. Anything by anyone inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cleveland was fair game. Like last week, each contestant had to sing two songs.

If we've learned a third thing this season, it's that song selection is important. I mean really important. Really, really, really important. Have I conveyed just how important it is?

Still, our intrepid Idol-ites seemed to make some off-beat choices. How'd they do? Here's my take.


Syesha Mercado:

Round 1: For her first song, Syesha chose "Proud Mary," a la Tina Turner. As she pointed out, this song has been done A LOT, so I thought it was a bold choice considering that she knew she'd be compared to those performances, not to mention Tina Turner herself. But Syesha has been taking on the likes of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey all season. She seems to have no fear. And she definitely rocked it. A very sexy performance too. Randy said for the third week in the row she was in the zone. Paula said she looked like a star. Simon disagreed and said it was a bad impersonation of Tina Turner.

Round 2: For her second song, she chose Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," which I didn't think was the best choice until she explained afterwards why she chose it. But her vocals were out of this world. Tremendous. This time, Randy didn't love it and said it fell flat for him. Paula, however, gave her a standing ovation and called it a superstar performance, which caused Syesha to start crying. Simon said he agreed with ... Paula. Syesha bawled and then explained that the song inspired her because it was written for the Civil Rights Movement.


David Archuleta:

Round 1: For his first song, David chose Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." Look, we all know David can sing. There's no question about it. Which is why he needs to take a page from David Cook and try mixing up the arrangements a little bit. But he didn't here. It was a pretty standard version. Great vocals as always, but he didn't add anything new to the performance. Unlike me, the judges loved it. Randy said he brought the hot mad vocals. Paula rambled for a bit, ultimately saying she liked it. Simon thought it was a good song choice, but thought he struggled at the end.

Round 2: For his next song, David opted for "Love Me Tender" by Elvis. Now THIS was a strange choice in my mind. There's just not much to do with the song. Once again, David sang sensationally, but once again it didn't knock my socks off. Randy said he "had it going on." Paula said she felt his heart. Simon thought he crushed the competition.


David Cook:

Round 1: For his opening number, David C. decided on Duran Duran's "Hungry Like a Wolf." Now THIS was REALLY a strange choice for me. You have the whole Rock & Roll Hall of Fame library to choose from, and you go with an '80s number? Seriously? And for a guy who has made his bones by changing the arrangement of every song, he didn't do it this time. Other than speeding up the tempo a bit, this was a pretty conventional version. Randy called it a solid performance, but just okay. Paula said it left her with a big appetite, and I couldn't tell if that meant she wanted to hear more, or if she was playing on the song title. Simon said it was good, but a copycat version.

Round 2: For song number two, David chose The Who's "Baba O'Riley," which most people probably know incorrectly as "Teenage Wasteland." Now THIS was a GREAT song choice. Especially for David. This time he put his own spin on it, starting slow and picking up in the middle. But it didn't quite crescendo as much as I would have thought. Randy said there was something "off" about David this week. Paula said she wants "more David Cook." Simon loved it.


Jason Castro:

Round 1: Jason chose Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." Is anyone surprised? I think Jason has abandoned all efforts to hide the fact that he likes to partake ... if you know what I mean. This song was a terrible choice. The song itself didn't give Jason a chance to show off his vocals at all, not that it looked like he was trying to. At one point it sounded like he was actually imitating Bob Marley's accent. Randy said it was a really karaoke version of Bob Marley. Paula said he performed to the audience, but she wasn't crazy about it. Simon said it was utterly atrocious and compared it to an audition round.

Round 2: For his second song, Jason selected Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Huh? Are you trying to lose this competition? Playing guitar, he forgot the lyrics to the first verse and hummed his way through it. After that, I stopped paying attention. Randy said he was not in the zone. Excuse me Randy, I think he's too much IN the zone ... if you know what I mean. Paula said, "It is what it is." Wow, that's deep. Simon said he ought to pack his suitcase.

I think it's pretty clear that Jason should be getting the boot. We'll see if voters agreed.

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