If you asked me if I wanted to sit through an hour of Mariah Carey karaoke, my answer would be an emphatic no. But there I found myself on Tuesday, watching the top seven American Idol contestants warble their way through the singer's catalog. Frankly, it wasn't as bad as I expected — mostly thanks to the guys, who had no choice but to change up their songs rather than go for straight-up Mariah impersonations.
Mariah herself seemed genuinely happy to be on Idol, and it was good to hear her giving actual constructive feedback to most of the contestants, asking them to change up the chorus or try some falsetto. Some took her advice and got good results; others ended up looking like poor Mariah imitators. Which contestants fell on which side of that line? Don't forget to vote for which singer you think is going home, and to hear my take, just read more.
David Archuleta — This may be horribly unpopular, but the longer the season goes on, the more I wonder why Archuleta has such a teen following. He really isn't terribly charismatic, either when he talks or (especially?) when he sings. That said, this song was technically perfect, as virtually all of his performances have been; it's just a shame that it didn't make much of an impression otherwise. Randy said David can sing anything, Paula said he made Mariah proud, and Simon said he'd set the benchmark for the evening.
Carly Smithson — Her feedback from Mariah was that she needed to be confident singing "Without You," but when it came down to it, she still seemed to be forcing things. The lower notes at the beginning seemed to be hard for her (it was almost like she was trying to flee from that section as fast as possible), and the runs sounded good but looked so labored. Interestingly, the judges' comments were also mostly about confidence: Randy said she needs to trust her voice, Paula liked that she showed some restraint, and Simon said she was holding herself back and didn't meet the Mariah standard.
Syesha Mercado — Speaking of vocal runs, how much do you like them? Because if you love them, you probably loved Syesha's performance of "Vanishing," and if you hate them, well, there wasn't much in that one for you. She's likely lucky that she tried a lesser-known song, because I couldn't for the life of me remember how Mariah's version went and so it was harder to compare. Randy said it was a tough one but she pulled it off with just a few pitchy moments, Paula said she was wise to pick a relatively unknown song, and Simon disagreed and said the song choice was risky.
Brooke White — You know, I wish she'd stuck with what she was doing in rehearsal and performed "Hero" on the guitar. That would have at least changed it up a little, rather than make it sound like she was doing a pale imitation of the original. I keep thinking back to Brooke's "Love is a Battlefield" and wondering why she can't do that kind of thing with all her performances. Randy said he liked it up till the bridge, Paula said it was authentic, and Simon said it was like ordering a hamburger and only getting the bun because her voice wasn't strong enough to provide the meat.
Kristy Lee Cook — First of all, where can I buy that dress? As Mariah songs go, "Forever" was probably a good fit for her voice; she doesn't quite have the depth to pull off the chorus, which sounded somewhere between flat and screechy depending on the note, but she certainly sounded better than she did a few weeks ago — though it's hard not to think about what a stronger singer would do with that song. Randy said it wasn't great but she hit some of the tricky notes well, Paula was blown away, and Simon said that Mariah week was never going to be a great one for her so it's just good that she held her own.
David Cook — OK, now this was cool. David Cook singing "Always Be My Baby" took the silliest, poppiest song and made it into some kind of weird, dark stalker anthem. Voice-wise, the song seemed a little too low for him again, but he more than made up for that with a few Mariah-style glory notes and a pretty great chorus. He got so emotional after (possibly because of his brother being there) that I just had to root for him this time. Randy said David's the only contestant ready to make an album, Paula said it sounded like a movie soundtrack song, and Simon said it was like leaving "karaoke hell" behind for some fresh air.
Jason Castro — He also made his song, "I Don't Wanna Cry," into something utterly different from the Mariah version; I suppose his was the "barefoot on the beach version." It's actually pretty cool, very pleasant, and I want to steal Simon's "pleasant walk in the park" description of Brooke last week, because that's exactly how it felt to me. Randy thought it sounded like background music at a weird luau, which I don't think was meant to be a good thing; Paula responded that she'd like to be at that luau all night long (ew). Simon brought some sanity by saying it wasn't the night's best vocal, but it was very Jason.
My favorites: David Cook, Jason Castro
Bottom three: Brooke, Syesha, and Carly, with a possible appearance from Kristy Lee.
Going home: Carly. I don't think she was as bad as the judges said, but she seems to be struggling so hard each week that I think it's turned off a lot of potential fans.
Photos courtesy of Fox