Neil Diamond is an American singer/songwriter icon that has sold over 120 million records and had over a dozen top 10 hits. His 26th studio album Home Before Dark drops May 6, 2008.
This is the first week when each of the Idol Wannabes sing two songs. Though Diamond was friendly and engaging, the workshops were not nearly as interesting as last week with Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Jason Castro (“Forever in Blue Jeans” & “September Morn”)
In the workshop with Neil Diamond Castro didn’t know the words and brought the wrong lyric sheet but Diamond was kind enough to say that he thought the Idol Troubadour would do well once on stage.
Diamond was being FAR too kind. Castro played guitar on “Forever in Blue Jeans” to kick off the evening but unfortunately the performance sounded like it belonged in a train station.
He was boring, didn’t connect with the lyrics, and truthfully “I’d much rather be…” listening to anyone else sing this.
Regardless of what he did to Blue Jeans I’m sure that he seduced his fanbase with “September Morn” as they have probably never heard Diamond’s original and truly romantic version.
When confronted by the judges with his boring performances, he said that he started to choke right before he started to sing his second song "September Morn". He seems unaffected by the whole process and not too concerned about winning which is good because he shouldn't even come close.
Castro's plight was only made worse by the fact that David Cook followed him.
David Cook (“I’m Alive” & “All I Really Need is You”)
Cook picked two virtually unheard of Diamond tunes and rock them both.
He played electric guitar on “I’m Alive” and I wondered if he was thinking of his brother Adam (he still rocks the AC on his guitar).
Right off the bat Cook made “All I Really Need is You” his own. It was great. He was great. He hit some beautiful notes and it could be a single right now. He did everything that Castro didn’t do by reinterpreting, updating and connecting with the song.
Paula said, “I feel like I’m already looking at the next American Idol” and I couldn’t agree more.
Brooke White (“I’m a Believer” & “I Am, I Said”)
I was SO disappointed to learn that Brooke White would be singing, “I’m a Believer”. I love that song. Davy Jones offered a brilliant vocal more than 40 years ago and Smashmouth did an awesome (Awesome speech Popey –W.) job of updating it for “Shrek” in 2001.
She played acoustic guitar and I felt like I was at girl scout camp. Ok, I've never been to Girl Scouts but I can imagine...
Simon said that she was a “Nightmare” and I completely agree.
She played piano on “I Am, I Said” and the vocal was ok but it was really the song that carried her through. We’ll have to see if http://www.votefortheworst.com/ keeps her in the game and (fingers crossed) Castro goes home or if her time will finally be up.
David Archuleta (“Sweet Caroline” & Coming to America”)
As you know Rock & Roll Library is based in Boston which means we have a VERY STRONG attachment to “Sweet Caroline”. It’s played at Fenway Park during the middle of the eighth inning of Red Sox games and in November 2007 Diamond revealed that his inspiration was none other than Caroline Kennedy the daughter of Boston native and 35th President John F. Kennedy.
Unfortunately, tonight Archuleta sang it. He did not start strong and I felt like I couldn’t even hear him over the band at times; he did look a little more comfortable than usual.
He didn’t connect with the song or the audience on the most obvious lines, “hands touching hands, reaching out touching me, touching you…” he didn’t even reach for one hand in the audience. He would have been beaten and thrown out of Fenway for this rendition. Verdict: SuperLame
“Coming to America” was very karaoke. He can hit big notes but in more of a Broadway style than rock or pop. The judges loved it but I thought that it was Broadway and that was last week.
Syesha Mercado (“Hello Again” & “Thank the Lord for the Nighttime”)
“Hello Again” was not her best performance but it was still good. Unfortunately it lacked the power punch that performers need to deliver at this stage of the competition.
“Thank the Lord for the Nighttime” was her second song and it reminded me of Aretha Franklin singing “Respect” to Matt Murphy at the diner in the Blues Brothers movie. She was very good but American Idol isn't Broadway and given her frequent presence in the bottom three Syesha could be in serious trouble.
I love Syesha’s hair but this week she straightened it and I didn’t care for it.
Whack moment of the night:
After everyone performed their first song host Ryan Seacrest went to the judges for quick impressions before the break and Paula Abdul critiqued both of Jason Castro’s songs…Ryan said, “Your seeing the future baby.” She did seem sober if totally confused.
The recap montage made it perfectly clear that Jason Castro and Brooke White are in a class by themselves; last. Syesha Mercado has found her niche in musicals and the finals should be Archuleta vs. Cook with Cook crushing the 17 year old; but you never know what will happen with Idol voting.
First or fifth David Cook will go the way of Kelli Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry racking up millions of sales and tons of accolades.