After weeks upon weeks of bad auditions, three hours in Hollywood, and more screen time spent on some eliminated contestants than on several members of the top 24, how does American Idol kick off its first live performance show? With a recap, of course. Naturally.
Still, the top 12 guys' performances on Tuesday revealed that Idol is serious about us getting to know the contestants more this year. I might already know more about, say, David Hernandez than I ever really did about Jordin Sparks. (Best fun fact of the night: Colton Berry's "From certain angles, I look like Ellen DeGeneres." It's true!) The night also included some, uh, colorful babbling from Paula, one burnt-orange suit, a couple of Simon smackdowns, and a Peter Frampton lookalike. Don't forget to vote for which two guys are going home, and to see which singers I think are safe and which had better pack their bags, just read more.
David Hernandez — It must be tough to be first, and — after Simon told him at the end of Hollywood that he'd have to work harder than anyone to stick around — he delivered a completely solid, if slightly boring, performance of "In the Midnight Hour." Someone needs to tell him that leg bouncing does not qualify as dancing, though. Randy liked the song's surprising gospel tinge, Paula said his vocals were "brilliant," and Simon said it was better than he thought it would be but David needs to loosen up.
Chikezie — OK, first of all, he's apparently dropped his last name and is now just "Chikezie." Mr. Chikezie, if you're nasty. He interpreted '60s night to be almost Austin Powers-esque, with a crazy orange suit and a throwback performance of "More Today than Yesterday." Maybe it's because I didn't know the song, but that was way lounge singer to me. His voice is smooth, though. Randy thought it was OK, Paula loved the old R&B style, and Simon came down hard, saying the performance was old-fashioned and cheesy.
David Cook — Betcha he ends up being a love-him-or-hate-him contestant. He's got bad hair, but good stage presence, and while the singing on "Happy Together" didn't sound too great, he definitely got the crowd into the performance. Little early in the season for twirling the mic stand, no? Randy was confused but ultimately liked it, Paula said it was original, and Simon said it was "almost" a believable rocker performance.
Jason Yeager — Aw, he has a cute son who looks exactly like him! Unfortunately, any performance this early in Idol that starts with the singer seated has potential for disaster, and this was not good. His "Moon River" sounded a little off to me (was it the tempo?) For someone with so little screen time coming in, I needed him to wow me. Randy said it seemed like he lost his concentration, Paula noted that it was the song from her first dance recital, and Simon deadpanned "I bought my first puppy to that song" and called it a cruise ship performance.
Robbie Carrico — Is always going to be a boy band singer to me, no matter how much he claims to be a rocker. Nonetheless, "One is the Loneliest Number" was a fun song for him, and he's clearly comfortable in front of a crowd. I could get used to watching him. The judges thought it rocked, even Simon, who said it was the first performance of the night to make any sense.
David Archuleta — In a word, adorable. Even Seacrest noted that you can only vote for him, not adopt him. As cute as he looks in real life, though, he seems much bigger and more powerful on stage — not the meek presence that so many Idol teen heartthrobs have been. Also, dude can sing; I liked his "Shop Around." Randy was a fan, Paula said it made her forget how young he is, and Simon said it was the best of the night.
Danny Noriega — If you mixed Sanjaya with Project Runway's Christian Siriano, you'd end up with something close to Danny Noriega. You know a sure way to make Idol seem like karaoke? Sing "Jailhouse Rock." I liked his auditions, but this was a bad choice. Randy called it "kinda hot," Paula babbled something about all the colors of the wind, and Simon essentially called it a disgrace to Idol.
Luke Menard — Full disclosure: I find Luke ridiculously attractive. Unfortunately, he started out singing in this soft, warbly falsetto-is voice, and it was pretty clear it wouldn't end well. Randy said the whole song was sharp, Paula blamed it on the song, and Simon pronounced him forgettable.
Colton Berry — Colton seems super-nerdy and really into musical theater — totally my type! However, the performance seemed a little young (especially when compared with, say, Archuleta, who really commands the stage). It was better than the other Elvis song of the night, though. Randy was glad Colton had fun, Paula said it wasn't his best, and Simon said he didn't see anything unique, just a kid doing a decent job singing Elvis.
Garrett Haley — He looks as much like Peter Frampton as Colton looks like Ellen DeGeneres, maybe more. So maybe that's why he went all teen-heartthrob with "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." It was competently sung but really dull; I thought it would never end. Randy said he needed to do more with the song, Paula wanted him to take some chances, and Simon thought it was off in snores-ville.
Jason Castro — Of all the contestants we saw for the first time last night, I think Jason made the best impression. Sure, the dreadlocks help him be memorable, but he also took a risk by playing the guitar, and that made him seem all the more comfortable with "What a Day for a Daydream." Randy said it was pitchy but not bad, Paula said it was the perfect song for him, and Simon said it was one of the best.
Michael Johns — Let's be honest, Michael is getting through on biceps alone. That said, I'm glad he justified his near-certain presence in the top 12 with a strong "Light My Fire." Randy said he feels like Michael is already a rock legend (is that slang for "don't get too cocky"?), Paula is blinded by The Hotness, and Simon said Michael is the most consistent performer in the competition.
My favorites: David Archuleta, Jason Castro, Robbie Carrico, Michael Johns
In trouble: Garrett Haley, Luke Menard, Chikezie, Jason Yeager. I'd say Danny Noriega, but that would be optimistic considering Vote for the Worst.
Going home: Garrett and Luke
Photos courtesy of Fox