Tuesday, May 20, 2008

American Idol: Top 2 performances

"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.



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?


Unknown said...

Why did I think these finales were two hours long?

I have an extra hour of dread left over and no idea how to use it.

Anonymous said...

I think David A sounded exactly the same on all 3 songs. Imagine was awesome in February but he hasn't improved at all this whole season. I can't understand why the judges never mentioned his pitchiness. I'm tired of have David A pushed down my throat. I would never buy anything done by him. To David Cook

Stephanie said...

I think I'm getting points in my AI fantasy league for Randy making the phone book comment yet AGAIN.

I've been pretty disinterested in Archuleta lately, but I thought he showed some spark last week, and tonight he was fighting for it. I think he won himself a title tonight.

I remember in the Hollywood rounds, when Simon told David A. that he wanted to be sure David was "ready for what's about to happen." I felt fairly certain then that this kid would be a big deal, and that Simon didn't just mean being in the Top 24 when he talked about things happening.

Early on I wasn't a David Cook fan- I thought he looked like he needed a bath and couldn't watch him perform though I liked his voice. I've really come around and win or lose I'll be interested to see what he does next.

Billy B. said...

7 words: Archuleta ripped Cook a new a**hole tonight.

Mara said...

Alan, David Cook followed the live version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" from Rattle & Hum pretty faithfully, so much so that I was pretty sure a gospel choir was going to be backing him up (which would have been awesome). I think U2 is a near-impossible to cover well - Randy & Simon didn't give him enough credit for how much poise he showed.

I want David Cook to win, just because this episode made me concerned that Archuleta can't handle the spotlight much longer without a total nervous breakdown. Did he get out more than 5 words all night? The only ones I made out was something about how this night is "so important." Dude needs a month-long vacation.

Anonymous said...

I say, "Thank God David Cook doesn't have to make an AI album." Anyone who does Collective Soul on national TV is *MY* hero.

Bobman said...

Why did I think these finales were two hours long?

Somehow (at least, according to my DVR), tomorrow's episode is two hours long.

So the one where they actually sing and do what the show is about - one hour. The one where they do nothing but crown a new winner and find filler? Two hours.


Archie definitely beat Cook in round one, but I think round 2 should have gone to Cook, and round three I would personally give to Cook just because I hate the "well I did this one well before so I guess I'll just do it again" bit. So calculated and silly, whereas Cook seemed to legitimately want to sing a song that meant something to him and he would enjoy performing.

Nicole said...

Archuleta may win, but after the Idol record, he will go the way of Taylor Hicks unless he dumps his dad and gets actual musical training and a personality. I may pay attention if he has a goth phase, but right now, he is singing to the old ladies who loved Clay Aiken, and not to anyone between the ages of 18 to 64.

I hope Cook pulls a Daughtry, because he actually sings stuff I would want to pay for, and isn't that the ultimate end game for both the Idol producers and the artist?

YDA needs to escape his father's greedy clutches first and then he will truly be the winner. (okay the mom is to blame too for allowing her son to be pimped)

Nicole said...

I just figured out Randy's problem... he thinks he's in 2007.

Anonymous said...

It just started here on the West Coast, and I think this "boxer" theme is LAME.

Anonymous said...

yes - why the heck was Jim Lampley doing commentary? I really like him, but he was almost laughing at the cheese he was slinging.

I loved the U2, and since I haven't heard any live versions, I agree with Alan about being just different enough to not be compared to Bono.

I liked the second song of David C too. But, Archie will win unless it is these strang thing like Ruben winning when Clay was reported to have won EVERY WEEK!

Paula was sane too. No crying, or up dancing.

Anonymous said...

As much as I enjoyed Cook this season (and he was the most original and dynamic) he seemed to lack the passion and energy tonight. He failed to own the stage and his songs never truly built up to the dramatic endings he needed to take this one. I knew he lost after the first number.

While his awkwardness and earnestness make him an easy target I think Archuletta is amazingly accomplished for 17 and deserves to win after tonight.

Mo Ryan said...

I have an extra hour of dread left over and no idea how to use it.

Ok, that was as funny as hot molten smokin lava.

You know what I mean. Good one.

Yeah, lil Archie's gonna win it all. Wake me when it's over.

Is it me or did he look just plain miserable every time Ryan talked to him? There's just no true joy in this kid, and that's sad. At least Cook did what he wanted to do and seemed to enjoy, you know, performing songs he actually likes and which have meaning for him.

Anonymous said...

No, I definitely agree. Archie may have been more "I'm going to pull every trick that might help me to win," but Cook was definitely more "I'm going to play the kind of music that I want to play and that I'd like you to hear from me in the future." I know which one I prefer.

Ultimately, there is only one song that I'll remember really positively from Archie from this season, and that was the first Imagine, and the redux may have reduced that. I'll remember a lot of Cook's, and I think that Collective Soul song may turn out to be one of them. "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was the biggest challenge of the night, and I thought that Cook stood up well to it, although Archie was in very good voice and energy on his Clive song.

Anonymous said...

David C is by far the more interesting performer, but David A really was at his best at what he does best tonight. I think the choice of "Imagine" really clinched it -- he really can take a song about having no countries or religion, and make it seem every bit as pander-y as "Bless the U.S.A."

Anonymous said...

Just as I thought, but still a bit disconcerting given the comments and Alan's review, the prediction markets have not changed much. I looked at them after AI finished in each time zone - there was a small bump for Archuletta after the East Coast airing, but the prediction market went right back to where it was before tonight's show.

Just as before, David Cook is a 67-33 FAVORITE to win. I didn't watch the show myself, but judging from the comments, it seems like all the judges and audience thought Archuleta ruled the night. I hope to god that the prediction markets are accurate and Cook wins, so those smug judges can shove it up their cliche-filled asses.

If you really, REALLY believe Archuletta is going to win, this is probably one of the best money making opportunities around. So many sites are giving you 2-1 odds on your 'sure thing'.

I'm tempted to bet $1000 to win $2000 profit based on the comments here, but I find prediction markets more trustworthy on so many things that I'm hesitant. How sure are people here that Archuletta will win? I'm really considering this bet, please convince me Archuletta is a sure thing....

Eric said...

What's the overlap of prediction markets and Idol voters?

I'd say close to 0.

The dead, dead eyes have it.

Anonymous said...

Eric:What's the overlap of prediction markets and Idol voters?

I'd say close to 0."

I have the same feeling. Teenage and preteen girls aren't even a rational body, IMHO. I think Cook would have a much better chance if the votes were weighted, say by age group and gender. My guess is that Cook appeals to adults who don't vote for Idol but DO wager money. And Archuletta appeals to Tiger Beat subscribers who truly feel voting for him is the most important thing in the world right now, and would actually feel devestation if he lost.

Nevertheless, prediction markets in the U.K. have been stunningly accurate about American happenings that they don't participate in. Thus my hesitation.

I'm probably going to put money down, it's just a question of how much. CONVINCE ME PEOPLE!

Anonymous said...

My predictions: Archie will win Idol and eventually release a Christmas CD that wows them at the mall and the nursing homes.

Cook will come in 2nd and actually release a CD worth listening to. He'll probably even have a couple of hit singles.

As much as the judges fawned over Archie last night, by this time next year (when Archie fails to sell CDs) they'll be backpedaling and saying that the fans selected the Idol -- not them.

Poor Archie won't even be able to do Broadway because he has zero stage presence.

Alan Sepinwall said...

UAM, I'd go look at Dial Idol before I put any money on anything, and that's all I'm going to say about that, given that you never know for sure how accurate Dial Idol is (or how big the text message turnout was).

Anonymous said...

I've seen some stuff on the itunes popularity. Any sense how accurate that is? Or how it translates into sales? Is AI going to release the sales numbers?

I listened to the six songs again. David A. was in excellent voice and had much better energy tonight, especially on the first song, but his selection of contest song was excreable, and there were too many runs in Imagine. That said, if the goal is to crown the person who did the most vocal gymnastics in this one particular night, he wins.

But Cook's songs were all high quality (well, to the extent that the contest song could be), had genuine emotion, and had variety. If the goal is to crown the person whose performances were the most complex and interesting and who is most likely to be a successful musician, he wins.

If the goal is who performed the best over the whole season, Cook wins. Plus, I'd love to see someone win who chose to turn his Final Two performances into a showcase of diversity and artistic choices, rather than a series of Randy-pleasing runs and high notes.

Dan Jameson said...

So, we all seem to be David Cook fans, right? How many of us actually vote? Personally, I've never voted for an Idol contestant in my life. I'm a 26 year old guy. I think that's David Cook's problem. Most guys in the 25-50 age group are Cook fans but don't necessarily vote. The 7-18 year old girls all love David A and will vote 15x each.

If I had $1,000 to toss around I'd put it on David A in a heart beat.

KendraWM said...

Ok I will admit I voted last night for DC. I couldn't get through until the nearly 4 hours were up.

The good thing about the 4 hours is lets not forget Little Davids fan base has a bedtime.

There is a good article on one of the news website and the article says that DC will win, because Daughtry did not and fans will be voting to make sure it does not happen again.

Also I think singing Imagine again hurt little David, I don't care if fireworks were shooting out of his backside it is still a song that he sang not only in the competition but on his trip home and has been performing since he was 13.

I think DC did the right thing in singing a new song if Simon and company wanted them to sing a song from the show then at the very least they should have made then sing a song that they struggled with in the past.

Don't the judges sit up there week after week and wax poetic on how this is a show where the contestants need to display growth and show that they are getting better week to week. Well what better way then by having them sing a song they performed poorly on.

One last thing and it has to do with the age, they really need to up the age limit, the problem with the younger contestants is that they are never critiqued the same as the older contestants, and it is not just with Little David. My goodness if you can't handle Simon, Paula and Molten Hot Phonebook what is going to happen to you when a critic hears your record????

I also believe that had DC song a past song the comments would have been along the lines of that was a cop-out now was your time to do something new to show us who you are...

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the advice on Dial Idol. It gives me pause on the one hand because Cook seems to be kicking butt according to them.

On the other hand, reading over their methodology, apparently for a person to be counted in the DI statistics, you have to install a piece of software onto your computer and make the calls from that computer's telephony system. This again seems to me to be something an adult (adult male to be specific) would bother to do while the powerful teen/preteen females would never even consider it. DI's sampling methodology seems very flawed. I wouldn't be surprised if sites like DI were in fact causing the "false" prediction markets.

BTW Alan, it was your 'perfect storm' article on Archuletta that has me thinking he is at the very least a 50-50 shot. Getting odds on him seems like a bargain. So if I win, I'm creditting myself with great instincts and opportunity recognition, but if I lose, I'm blaming you! :)

I'm going to put 500 down, and maybe another 500 later in the day if I'm still feelin it dawg. Guess I'll have to watch these finals after all.

K J Gillenwater said...

I think David A. did better last night...for him. If I think back to all performances since this began, David C. was the clear winner over everyone.

I must admit, I did want David C. to sing "Hello" one more time so he'd have to record a full-length studio version that I could buy off of iTunes. Bummer! If he doesn't include that on his first album, I'm going to be so disappointed.

I would like to see David Cook lose if only for the fact that I don't want him singing the 'winning' song. Ugh. I'm thinking he doesn't either...thus the reason he chose the songs he did last night. Stuff he wanted to sing, whether or not he thought they would be winning songs.

I've noticed that David Cook tends to pay attention more to lyrics when he chooses his songs freely (as in, not being tied to a lame theme night). I think the AI audience goes more for the pretty tune over lyrics. So that works against him.

I wish he had been given a different U2 song to sing. There are some that would have worked better for him and given him more of a 'high' moment.

Anyway, I'm expecting David A. to win, but would be really happy if David C. won and Mr. Archuleta swore when the camera was on him a la Faith Hill at the Country Music Awards a year or so ago...Ha!

KendraWM said...

My friend just reminded me that Clay sung Don't Let the Sun in season 2, watch him sing it on you tube and then watch Little David, Clays performance blows Little Davids away by miles.

As much as I cannot stand Clay his version was so so far superior, and makes David look like he was singing at his High School talent show. A good performance but not as great as what was sung on the show in the past.

Unknown said...

I really, really like Big D as a person (so far as we can tell anything based upon seeing him on Idol). He just seems very respectful, polite, and most of all, modest. And he has great talent. But, I am just not sure that he is truly "special", in the way that Little D seems to have a voice (especially for his years) that comes along once every 10-20 years. Yeah, he's that good. So, though I went into last night hoping that Big D would win, I think that Little D is deserving, based on talent alone. (I guess I agree with the judges, don't I?) But, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Cook wins after all (and that's the Dialidol prediction, to boot.)

Anonymous said...

Cook threw it. He doesn't want to be an American Idol, and I don't blame him.

Anonymous said...

I was 110 percent sure that the David vs. David finale would engender unremitting boredom; instead, my primary emotion throughout was pity.

It started when the two Davids had to pretend they cared about the show’s idiotic (and time-wasting) boxing gimmick. Could Little David look anymore awkward than he did coming out “fighting” in an oversized satin robe? Answer: yes.

His time before the judges was almost unbearable. I thought he was going have a nervous breakdown right then and there. He looked so pained, so strained, so uncomfortable. While lavishly praised, he never smiled, but just blinked and gasped like a dying fish.

His complete lack of joy was alarming. Little David’s second number was clearly picked for its lame-ass, situation-ready upbeat chorus -- “I wanna stay in this moment, no one can take it away from me” -- should have had the one-to-beat finalist beaming, exhilarated, showing us this is his moment. Instead it was like watching a budding Judy Garland, or some other micro-managed wreck of a “pro,” dutifully but joylessly hitting all the marks.

David A. is going to be the next American Idol, and sad part is -- I don’t think he wants to be.

p.s. if I bothered to vote, I would have picked Cook, a more interesting performer.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Big David has needed to stick around at all past "Hello," because on that night he sealed his fate as a person who will still be selling ten years from now.

But after the judge-delivered asskicking he took last night, I want him to win so badly that I did the unthinkable. I actually voted. (Had to wait until Hubby went to bed, or he'd still be harrassing me about it when I'm buying those albums in ten years.)

Anonymous said...

for a person to be counted in the DI statistics, you have to install a piece of software onto your computer and make the calls from that computer's telephony system

No -- the way Dial Idol works is, if you do install it on your system, it measures the ratio of busy signals to successful votes you get and uploads it to the central server as a sample to be combined with the results others in your area are getting. If you're getting through with every call with no busy signals anywhere, you contribute to a low DI score even if you yourself get in a thousand votes.

So it's really a pretty smart measure, and they've never been wrong on a finale vote where the difference between the contestants exceeded the margin of error. On top of that, Cook's even got a lead on the more opaque zabasearch.com system which claims to include text voting (I have no idea how that one works). So if Cook's not crowned, I'm going to be really surprised, and I'd advise you to hang on to your money.

Honestly, I thought Archie did take the night, but the judges were offensively OTT in their praise for him and dismissal of Cook, gave not even a nod to Cook's overall-superior season, and judging by my reaction and that of other Cook fans, really pissed us off. It got a lot of people picking up the line even if they don't normally vote and even if they didn't plan on voting for him because of this "he's better off without it" idea. (Which given that 19E has the exclusive right to sign all the top 50 finalists is puzzling, and also not borne out statistically.)

Anonymous said...

Yep, I'm 33 and actually voted for a contestant for the first time - DC. I was appalled by the dismissal of him by the judges and their slavering over DA. I got through about 10 times over the course of an hour, using the 3rd number.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it took the Archie-muppet four months to get around to Elton John. As soon as they announced he would be signing it, I told my to not bother voting for Cook: it wouldn't do any good.

I think DC did the - artistically -right thing with choosing Collective Soul. He's trying to progress as an artist. Archie's Imagine didn't have half the punch of the first time he did it. Plus he reverted back to eyes closed trick.

Half the fun of Idol this year has been discovering this blog. Thanks Alan. As Paula said, you've been standing in your truth all season.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Alan, you could blog the phonebook and I'd read it.

Anonymous said...

I haven't voted since Kelly Clarkson (I'm 40 years old), but after last night's show with the judges' blatant bias and cliches run amok, I felt compelled to throw a slew of votes DC's way. I agree with Stephanie--I came around late in favor of DC, but initially I thought he was a smug, greasy scuzzball, which trumped his good voice for me. Now, he's cleaned up a bit and seems less smug than before. I like Daughtry, and there's a good chance I'd buy DC's CD. As for Archie, my eleven year old daughter will shell out her hard-earned allowance for his CD, so both of them will make a sale at our house.

Anonymous said...

Jeez. A slew of pro DC comments, many swearing to be first time voters. I'm starting to worry. Where were you guys at 8am-ish my time, when all I could see were $$$$ floating before my eyes.

Now I have to hope that Alan's blog posters are naturally biased to be DC voters (more mature?). That's possible, but I sure feel like I'm making up a lot of excuses to justify my gambling as a true investment...

I know. If there was any time that a fix should happen, it is now. Not only would a DA win make the judges look good (and relevant), but it would help both Davids. DC not winning helps his "serious" credibility, while a DA win will keep those core females happy with AI.

Please, Please, Please.... I need to fill my car with gas, that 1K profit will buy me at least two tank fulls. WHERE IS THAT MUSHY SUPERFICIALITY THIS COUNTRY HOLDS SO DEAR?!?

Anonymous said...

I have voted in past seasons (notably for Bo Bice over Carrie Underwood, and Clay Aiken over Rooooooben Studdard). Last night I voted for David Cook (10x via text msg). And based on my past voting record it seems like Li'l Archie will win and David C. will lose. But I'm looking forward to his CD, that's for sure.

Am I the only one that thought David C. looked kinda hot last night? Sure, he has a freakishly big head (literally), but he looked pretty good last night.