Idol: Who Murdered the Beatles? Syesha!

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Tonight our new co-ed American Idol crew took the stage for an evening of Lennon-McCartney songs. After wasting a good 15 minutes drooling over Idol’s flashy new set — “This is our new mosh pit, let’s hear it for the mosh pit! These are our lights, let’s hear it for our lights!” — the increasingly lewd Ryan Seacrest introduced the night’s theme: Beatles covers. The competitive stakes were high and the musical motif a challenge: transforming some of what Randy called “the greatest songs in recording history” into three minutes of glory without sounding like a righteous karaoke fan or offending America’s collective pop conscious. For all of our contestants, last night was an opportunity to impress with the shtick they’ve been honing for the past few weeks — to tap into why American originally fell in love with the Beatles, and, with the help of their new stylists and coaches, present a gaudier, sexier and more refined version of themselves. Naturally, the results were vulgar. Let’s take a look:

Syesha Mercado
Syesha took the stage with her rendition of “Got to Get You Into My Life,” an immediate example of how to fail the competition. Randy likened her horrid arrangement to an “Earth Wind and Fire” cover of the song. Indeed, Syesha’s brass section was glittery — but that was about it. Despite the new funky haircut, she’s still a little bland in my eyes. Simon thought it was a great song choice, but noted her nerves. Her response? She couldn’t be more thrilled to perform in front of such a large audience.

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Chekize
Chekize did something extraordinary this week. Besides losing what seems like 20 lbs., he arranged “She’s A Woman” into a dynamic opportunity to showcase his creativity and vocal power. Then he delivered by far the best performance of the whole night. His rendition started out as a sort of jug band version of the song. There was a banjo, maybe some spoons? I don’t know, I was lost in the “O Brother Where Art Thou” moment. But before I knew it, he was central stage doing this sort of rocker routine, fearlessly improvising in falsetto. Simon loved how drunk Chekize looked on stage. Ryan was breathless with enthusiasm and covered himself with Chekize’s sweat. Now that’s a good Beatles cover.

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Ramile Malubay
“In My Life” is the song of choice for those in times of reflection, graduations, coming-of-age moments, bat mitzvahs, and those who wish to subject their friends to their personal woes and gratitude musically. Given Ramile’s recent sorority girl antics (see her Facebook booby pictures), I’ve no doubt that she realizes her Idol odyssey is over. Her version of the song was at the top of her range and a complete snooze, exactly what one would expect to hear at the Delta Gamma end-of-the-year Memories Night. Ramile, this past year has been totally crazy and I’m sooooooo sad that you’re probably not as talented as I thought you were, but don’t let the judges hurt you on a personal level — you are WAY beyond that. Keep singing 4ever and maybe we can hang more in the fall!? Xoxox, Amy.

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Jason Castro
The former Texas A&M student’s rendition of “If I Fell In Love With You” also struck an amateurish chord. Despite his twitchy facial expressions and breathy, Tiny Tim-ish tone, I see this one sticking around for a few more weeks. Simon commented that he sounded like a college kid at midnight, but Paula and the audience remained thoroughly enchanted. The boy’s a looker — the type of dude whose “incense” and batik tapestries you’d love to admire hanging in the fluorescent light in his dorm room — so much that perhaps it doesn’t matter if all the songs he sings sound the same. After all, he’s creative! He has dreadlocks! Swoon.

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Carly Smithson
We found out this week that Carly is living with Amanda Overmeyer. They’re Idol roomies! Can you imagine?

Carly: Amanda, can I borrow your pitchfork?
Amanda: I don’t have one.
Carly: Cool!

I couldn’t help but wonder if Carly might have “borrowed” Amanda’s song choice, “Come Together,” which Amanda would have rocked. Too late, though. Carly beat her to it. Her performance was, as usual, stellar. Paula said that Carly already looked like a star on stage. Simon admitted to having a bit of a Kelly Clarkson flashback. I see Carly in the final two, for sure.

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David Cook
Idol‘s resident rocker made an important decision last week to ditch his guitar. It just seemed like “overkill,” so he smashed it during a photo shoot. Let’s hope he’s got a spare. I thought his cover of “Eleanor Rigby” was off-key and kind of boring, but the judges adored it. Paula, perhaps recovering from a trip to Jason’s dressing room, described David as a thoroughbred horse amongst all of the horse contestants. Simon said if the show was a talent competition rather than a popularity competition, David could win. But if Idol weren’t a popularity competition, no one would get famous. Sorry, David, it’s looking like lose-lose.

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Brooke White
Oh, Brooke! “Let It Be” was a fantastic choice for the songstress. Her voice may not have the diva quality of some of our other contestants, but her appeal lies in more than just musical prowess. Paula said that she picks songs in which America can see “her heart.” Even after her performance at the piano, Brooke wasn’t afraid to express her joy and gratitude for being on Idol; she was all tears as she spoke to Brian and received high praise from the judges.

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David Hernandez
David doesn’t miss going to school (read: yes, he totally does), where he studied the Beatles (read: never happened), and then worked hard at the pizza shop (read: worked as a male stripper in order to make make some cash while fantasizing about a musical career). Simon called his performance “corny, verging on desperate.” Hmm . . . kind of like a male stripper. Seriously, David, everyone’s gotta make a living, but a true star would would persuade his audience to forget about all of those nasty rumors. Let’s hope next week he’ll get another chance at erasing the past rather than almost reenacting it.

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Amanda Overmeyer
Despite buzz about nudie pictures of Amanda on the Web, our bluesy songstress returned this week more confident (and slimmer — are they feeding them?). David should take notes. Her cover of “You Can’t Do That” successfully transformed the song into a Southern rock number. I like Amanda’s shouty, semi-incomprehensible delivery, but Simon suggested that she pay a bit more attention to enunciation next week.

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Michael Johns
In his pre-performance commercial for himself, Michael explained that the lyrics to his song choice, “Across the Universe,” helped him through some tough times with his family back in Australia. To Mike, “limitless undying love that shines around him” is reminiscent of the unconditional support he received from his family after some sort of as-yet-unmentioned screw-up. Hmm. To be continued? His cover of the song was snoozey and karaoke-ish. What, they don’t have Fiona Apple in Australia? Hell-o, nothing’s gonna top that cover, Michael. His performance didn’t even attempt to. Simon and Randy said he was capable of more. Hopefully America agrees and we can find out more dirt on his past.

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Kristy Lee Cook
Two weeks ago Kristy heard Simon’s suggestion that she was country girl loud and clear. She’s been running with it ever since. This week, she ran with it into very dangerous territory. Her country arrangement of “Eight Days a Week” was so laughably bad, I’m surprised producers let her sing it. You know the music that comes into your head when you envision a riotous Southern hoedown? A clichéd country jig? The cartoon Li’l Abner? It seems these were the sources of Kirsty’s inspiration: recipes for a knee-slapping good time, performing to a crowd in a barn, not before 30 million American viewers. If America is kind, they’ll give her one more stab at saving face. It would be a shame to see her leave on such a humiliating note.

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David Archuleta
David’s pre-performance clip showed footage of him as a toddler playing jazz music with his father and dancing with his mother. It was so adorable it deserves its own Web site — like those links with all the pictures of baby animals on them. I was too busy cooing to listen entirely to what he was saying — something about being nervous about his song choice. Perhaps he provided an explanation for why he totally bombed “We Can Work It Out.” Watching his knowing grimaces as he forgot the lyrics was painful, as was watching the judges gently tell him it blew. Thankfully, I don’t think David has tapped America’s love for him.

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Tune in tonight to see what America thinks!

– Amy Beecher