What a strange episode of American Idol -- neither mind bogglingly amazing or torturously bad. Some of the performances, and song choices, were so strange, I almost don't know what to say.
Part of the problem is that the songs seemed so damn short. Is it just me, or did every song seem to be about 30 seconds? We've got a big decision to make here, and I'm not sure such a short snippet of song from each contestant allowed each to leave the voters with the best impression.
Having said that, here's my rankings of the Top 8 guys:
1. David Cook
I know some of y'all aren't too fond of Season 7's rocker, but I've loved this guy since the moment he appeared in his initial audition, and as the weeks go on I keep falling deeper and deeper. His performance of "Hello" was a revelation -- he made the song current, relevant and totally appropriate for his performance style. Send this boy to the finals!
2. David Hernandez
David's got to be having a rough week with the revelations about his stripper past, but he seemed to put it aside and performed "It's All Coming Back" quite well. While I, like Simon, prefered his performance of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," there's no doubt this kid can really sing. Hopefully he'll get to show off some of his stripper moves in the Top 12.
3. David Archuleta
Is little David getting too cocky too soon? I love him, don't get me wrong, but his performance tonight was way too self-serious. As Simon said, he's got to lighten up and remind us that he's just an adorable teenager. Heck, if he keeps singing songs like this one, there's gonna be no uber-serious songs for him to sing during "Idol Gives Back"! Still, not a chance in hell he won't make it to the Top 12.
4. Jason Castro
I'm a bit Simon loved this performance so much -- it was genuine and heartfelt, sure, but less than impressive vocally. True, it's not a vocal powerhouse type of song, and his rendition was both respectable and respectful. I wanna love him -- and I did love his debut Top 24 performance -- but I'm hung up on the fact that this kid doesn't have the big notes in him. He presents Idol voters with an interesting dilemna -- do you vote for someone who seems like an authentic artist even if they are far from the best singer? I'm curious what else he's got in him, so I hope (and expect) he will get to the Top 12, but I wonder how long he can last without being able to really belt out a tune.
5. Michael Johns
How did this guy go from a frontrunner to an also-ran so quickly? His performance wasn't painful tonight by any means, but there was also nothing special about it -- unfortunately for Michael, the third straight week that's been the case. Even if he makes it to the Top 12 (which he likely will), unless he ups the ante I can't see him making much of a dent in the competition.
Vocally, there's no doubt this guy's got it. And tackling a Whitney Houston song was a risky proposition that didn't result in him falling flat on his face. But there's something off about him -- he's just not connecting with the songs or with the audience (at least not this audience member). The producers clearly think he's got something worth paying attention to, as they gave him the coveted final performance slot, but will he ever seem his display some star quality?
7. Danny Noriega
I'm still loving Danny's sassy attitude, but "Tainted Love" did absolutely nothing for him vocally. I remember him having a good voice during his initial audition and in Hollywood -- where has it gone? Still, having him as part of the Top 12 would certainly liven things up, so I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope he sneaks in.
8. Luke Menard
Egads! I actually don't think "Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)" was a terrible song choice for Luke, but I find his voice almost unbearably difficult to listen to, and he could not possibly be any cheesier. I wish Simon hadn't so blatantly told him he wasn't going to make it to the Top 12, as that sounds like a direct challenge to his fans (if he has any), but I'm hoping he's right and this is the last we'll see of the a capella pretty boy.
Which of the Top 8 guys was your favorite? Who's going home? Vote now!