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American Idol Recap: The Final Three

American Idol Rundown: Triple Threat?

The final three American Idol contestants had one more chance on Tuesday to show why they belonged in the finale . . . and honestly, I'm not sure any of them proved they really deserved to win. To be fair, I remember similar poor showings from the final three in other years; at this point, spots in the finals are so coveted that people tend to get safe and deliver mediocre performances. But I can't shake the feeling that all three of these contestants peaked earlier this season — Syesha last week, David Cook a few weeks back, David Archuleta in the first weeks of the finals — and now are just riding this thing out along with the rest of us.

Which of the trio do you think is done? Don't forget to cast your vote, and to hear my thoughts on the night's performances and share your own, just


David Archuleta
First song (Paula's choice): "And So it Goes." It does, as Paula suggested it would, exploit the timbre of his voice. It sounded smooth and rich, lounge-y without being too cheesy — but it was also like every other one of his performances, albeit one of the better ones. Randy said it was good, Paula called him a storyteller, and Simon deemed it good but not outstanding.

Second song (his choice): "With You." Wow, Archuleta's attempt to prove that he's young and modern and hip just made me feel wildly uncomfortable. It actually reminded me a little of the more awkward moments of watching Elliott Yamin . . . but I guess he turned out OK, right? Also, his lack of enunciation drove me crazy. Randy said he didn't believe this side of David, Paula said he should do more songs like this, and Simon compared it to a chihuahua trying to be a tiger.

Third song (producers' choice): "Longer." What stuck out to me about this performance (other than reminding me how much I don't like the song) was that the background singers totally overwhelmed him in parts. The most fabulous thing about the performance were how awesome their harmonies were, and that — not anything about Archuleta — is what I remember. Randy tried doing the whole "another hot one from you!" thing (but did you notice the crowd wasn't really into it?), while Paula called it lovely and Simon couldn't get over his hatred for the song to critique the performance.

Syesha Mercado
First song (Randy's choice): "If I Ain't Got You." This song was a rollercoaster ride for me: boring on the verses, then pretty darn good on the chorus, until the end when it started to sound like she was pushing too hard to make runs out of odd collections of notes. Randy said she's peaking at the right time, Paula was glad to see her as the last lady standing, and Simon said she sang it well but wished she'd gotten a song that would let her show her own style more.

Second song (her choice): "Fever." She performed this super cabaret/Broadway take on the song, strutting all around her chair and showing off her slinky dance moves. Mostly, I thought it sounded good, though I hated it when she took the verse up into her higher, wobblier register. Overall, though, this was a case of trying way too hard. Randy called it "interesting" in the negative sense, Paula said it didn't show who Syesha was (I disagree: it showed she's a ham, the one thing we've known about her all along), and Simon bemoaned the fact that when she had a chance to do something contemporary she did lame cabaret instead.

Third song (producers' choice): "Hit Me Up." Even when Syesha tries to go modern, she ends up sounding old-fashioned, and this song mostly proved to me why her talents don't quite fit the Idol style. Also, it was another arrangement that gave a lot of the best parts to the backup singers. Randy said he could see her doing something "kind of Rihanna-esque" but didn't sound convinced, Paula said she did the song well but it wasn't really her, and Simon said it wasn't a defining moment.

David Cook
First song (Simon's choice): "The First Time I Saw Your Face." David has his rocker growl perfected, but sometimes it's nice to hear something else from him, which is why I thought this was an interesting choice. I was unsure at the beginning, but I thought he grew much stronger toward the end and actually did turn the song into something of a rock ballad. Randy said he wished the song had rocked more, Paula said he's now her second-favorite person ever to sing that song (second only to Roberta Flack, presumably), and Simon said it was one of David's best to date.

Second song (his choice): "Dare You to Move." Is it just me, or did he once again pick a song that started a wee bit too low for his voice? His rendition sounded pretty faithful to the original, but I'm not sure that's a great thing — I think this should have been his standout performance, and instead it was just OK, even when he got to the power chorus (a little too late, in my opinion). Randy said it was a little pitchy, Paula said the arrangement wasn't great and was just getting good when it ended, and Simon said it was about what he expected and not fantastic.

Third song (producers' choice): "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." With the orchestra in the circle, and the blockbuster final spot of the night, the producers really set David up to have his capital-M Moment here, and I just don't think it happened. It was another odd arrangement that saved the best bits for the very end, and David didn't look all that comfortable — or, for that matter, confident when the song ended. Randy said it was OK but predictable, Paula said . . . something weird(?), and Simon said David did enough to win the night.

Going home: Syesha. I think a Big David vs. Little David finale has been coming for a while now, and there's probably nothing she could do to change that.

Photos courtesy of Fox

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