"American Idol" spoilers coming up after I see what listings the phonebook has under Molten Lava Hot...
Sonuva... David Archuleta is going to win "American Idol" after all.
Yes, David Cook has been much better throughout the season, and if you believe DialIdol and the iTunes sales figures, then he's easily eclipsed L'il Archie's popularity in recent weeks. But there's a school of thought suggesting that Cook would be better off not winning, with the proponents of said school citing Chris Daughtry (while ignoring, of course, the cautionary tale that is Bo "I finished second and all I got was this cheeseball album" Bice). Given that, I think Cook really needed to blow the kid's doors off tonight and, though I enjoyed all three of his performances, the first was the only one that was close to showy enough to really sway people, while Archuleta belted himself silly. Anything can happen with crazy fanbases on either side, but I have a feeling young David's going to have the good kind of cry tomorrow night.
CLIVE DAVIS' CHOICE
David Cook, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For": When this particular song spoiler starting floating around over the last 24 hours, it seemed like a no-win scenario for Cook. Because U2 has never been performed in competition on the show before (though Elliott Yamin kinda sorta dueted with Mary J. Blige on "One" in the season 5 finale), the judges have never gotten a chance to lump Bono in with the Mariahs and Whitneys on the list of Thou Shalt Not Sing types, but he'd definitely be up there. Could Cook tackle one of the most iconic songs by one of the most iconic rock bands of all time and not seem, at best, like a decent imitator?
As it turned out, yes he could. The arrangement straddled the line between a faithful cover and a complete reinvention, in that it sounded in the style of the original but not so much so that I was unfavorably comparing Cook to Bono on various notes. (Compare that to the way male contestants usually fall apart trying to do Freddie Mercury.) Because he's the "rocker" this year, I don't know that Cook gets enough credit for what a talented and versatile singer he is, but I just enjoy hearing him work, and this was no exception.
David Archuleta, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me": Really, this was the ballgame right here. Everything after this was moot. While Cook was great on the U2 song, it wasn't the kind of flashy, everything but the kitchen sink kind of performance that the voters and the judges lap up. Though some of the notes near the end made my ears hurt, there were enough vocal gymnastics -- and enough genuine passion from the usually dead-eyed Archuleta -- that it was going to be an uphill battle for Cook on the next two songs, and he never really got there. Speaking of which...
David Cook, "Dream Big": I'll say this: Cook's version of "Dream Big" is the first performance of an "Idol" coronation song since Fantasia's "I Believe" that I actually wouldn't mind hearing if it came on my car radio. I don't know how much of the arrangement was his and how much was the songwriter's -- I was way too afraid to actually listen to all the top 10 contest entries -- but it was uptempo and upbeat without being too cheesey or seeming out of character. But it also wasn't a showstopper.
David Archuleta, "In This Moment": After momentarily turning into a real boy on the Elton John song, Archie goes back to being a lifeless singing puppet on this incredibly boring song. The most interesting part of the performance is how David starts making the Carly Smithson "It causes me physical pain to hit this note but I love my fans too much not to try" faces whenever he has to hit a falsetto. Still, this sounded like a much more traditional coronation song than "Dream Big."
(God, I love Randy. He trots out "lava hot" for Archuleta's first performance, then immediately goes for "you can sing the phonebook" for the second. Question: does he have any idea what a lame cliche he is, and if so, do you think he even cares?)
David Cook, "The World I Know": Much as I admire his insistence on singing a new song, I understand Simon's point about how David would have been better served with "Hello" or "Billie Jean." It isn't even so much that these were songs the audience had enjoyed before. It's that Cook is one of the few artists in the history of the show to be best-served by the ill-fitting theme nights, because he was able to do such surprising things to such familiar lite-FM standards. The last few weeks, when he's had a bit more freedom to choose his own stuff (from Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame Night on), he's often sounded good, but there hasn't been a "Wow" moment the way there was when you heard what he did with Lionel Richie or Mariah Carey. Beyond that, this was a fairly understated take on the Collective Soul original, which I remember building to a much more bombastic and passionate ending than Cook had either the time, energy or interest to go for. Again, a very solid performance, but not close to a winning one.
David Archuleta, "Imagine": Of course David goes and sings "Imagine" again. It symbolizes everything he's about -- specifically, earnest balladeering and predictability. Sounded fine, seemed emotional again, give him the trophy and let me know when Cook's CD drops.
What did everybody else think?