I'm still not sure I've seen this year's American Idol contestants meet the "best singers ever!" hype, but Tuesday's '80s night performance from the guys was . . . better. Everybody at least seemed to meet a general standard of mediocrity, and a few people went beyond to deliver some of the best performances of the season. It was just in time, too, as the vote determines which singers will become finalists in next week's top 12.
In addition to the songs, we got to hear about the contestants' most embarrassing moments; I wonder if David Hernandez would count being outed as a stripper on his list. Don't forget to vote for which guys are going home, and to see my take, just read more.
Luke Menard — His embarrassing secret: He's been dressed up in a tutu. He came out singing "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" like the touring a capella singer he is, and — OK, here's my question with Luke. Is he using falsetto, or is that his actual voice? Randy said the performance was OK but a little cheesy, Paula loved the chances he took and name-dropped George Michael, and Simon said it was "girly" and won't put him in the top 12.
David Archuleta — In case anyone's forgotten that Archuleta is a singing phenom, his embarrassing moment was about singing in Honduras, having his voice give out, and having his mom run on stage to finish the song. I like the kid, but that made me gag a little. But no matter, since I'm sure Archuleta playing the piano for his incredibly downbeat "Another Day in Paradise" sent the teenybopper girls swooning. That said, it wasn't his best song, and I wish he'd kept playing the piano; getting up to finish the song was just false drama. Randy said it was like watching a concert but there were pitch problems, Paula was glad he missed some notes because it proves he's not a robot, and Simon said he needs to stop being so gloomy.
Danny Noriega — In the course of his embarrassing moment (being tripped at a movie theater), he gave us the phrase TMTH: too much to handle. Then he proceeded to be officially TMTH with his "Tainted Heart" rendition, which was all winks and nods and strutting and funny mouth movements. Watching him is serious sensory overload. Oh, and his hair was streaked purple. Randy didn't like it at the start but appreciated his confidence, Paula told him to keep being himself but minus the purple hair, and Simon hated everything about it.
David Hernandez — Hmm, I wonder what embarrassing stories he has from his past? His was about having a booger on his face at a photo shoot (a photo shoot, eh?). Then he, bizarrely, took on "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," the song with the weird flashback video made popular by Celine Dion. And despite everything working against him, I have to admit that wasn't a bad performance. He's no Celine, but his voice could actually handle a power ballad. Randy said it was pitchy but a good fit for his voice, Paula called him a "great performer" (wink, nudge), and Simon didn't love it but thought it would be enough to get him through.
Michael Johns — He's been a mascot in a kangaroo costume, which might be my favorite embarrassing moment of the night. His "Don't You Forget About Me" was nothing special, but not bad; it seemed like he was at least trying harder than he has the past few weeks. He also looks more comfortable on stage and, again, like he's actually trying to sell the song. Randy liked him but that seemed to be because he thought the original was by INXS (come on, dude! Simple Minds!), Paula said she likes what Michael brings to the competition, and Simon said Michael still hasn't found the right song to have a big moment.
David Cook — He once forgot the second verse of a song in a talent show. Yawn. He came out playing electric guitar for a dark, sort of power-ballad-y take on Lionel Richie's "Hello," and I have to give him credit for the arrangement, which was cool and unusual and utterly disconcerting. However, I didn't love this as much as the judges did; maybe that's my boyfriend's fault for comparing him to a Jack Black character. Randy liked that he got something emo out of a pop song, Paula thought it could be a hit right now, and Simon said it was a brave performance and he loved it.
Jason Castro — He was embarrassed by his hair on a date. (Can't say I'm surprised.) I'm opposed to his cover of "Hallelujah" on principle, but he really could have done much, much worse for himself. He sounded good for the majority of the song — excluding that wavering note at the end; not sure if that was intentionally vulnerable or just a screw-up — and, upon further reflection, he might have been my favorite of the night. Randy gave him credit for attempting such a tough song, Paula appreciated the vulnerability, and Simon called it brilliant.
Chikezie — He accidentally used the women's bathroom — and I have to say, the way he told the story made it more funny than it actually was. He sang "You're all the Woman I Need," which if I recall correctly was his audition song. His voice is like butter, and I liked the arrangement, save for the strange/accidental/unnecessary falsetto at the end. Randy was surprised by the choice but impressed, Paula was a fan, and Simon thought it was good in bits but mostly cabaret.
My favorites: Jason Castro, Chikezie
Should be worried: Luke Menard, Danny Noriega, maybe Michael Johns if his fans assume he's safe, maybe David Hernandez
Going home: Luke, for sure, and the other may be a surprise, but I'm going with Danny.
Photos courtesy of Fox