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American Idol Rundown: The Top Four Try to Rock You

The remaining four American Idol contestants had a chance to prove they could rock out on Tuesday. By picking songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songbook, they had a huge portion of music history open to them. So would you have expected one of the song picks to be "Hungry Like the Wolf"?

Beyond that, Tuesday's performance night fell flat in a lot of ways; nobody really impressed me — including this year's anointed "rocker." Were you similarly let down? Don't forget to vote for which singer is going home, and for my take, just


David Cook
First song — "Hungry Like the Wolf." OK, I was kind of excited when I heard he'd be singing this; it's so cheesy that I figured he'd take it and turn it into something entirely unexpected (see also: "Always Be My Baby"). Instead, he delivered a version that sounded very close to the original — partway between karaoke and a slightly edgier Duran Duran cover band. Randy said it was just OK, Paula said something gross about it leaving her with a big appetite, and Simon said it was good enough.

Second song — "Baba O'Reilly." This started out all slow and ballad-y, then kicked up a notch going into the chorus, then seemed like it was going to go up another notch and become totally awesome — but then it just abruptly ended. It's always interesting to hear a song that shows he can actually sing rather than just growl, and this song did, but for me, it lacked the excitement or connection that David's been so good at bringing all season long. Randy liked his rocker style, Paula said it made her want more David, and Simon simply said "welcome back."

Syesha Mercado
First song — "Proud Mary." I'm surprised that Syesha didn't try to play up her performance capabilities earlier in the season, because none of the other contestants have managed to take command of the stage, and Syesha did that pretty well here. OK, so some of the dancing was awkward, but at least she didn't sing sitting down. Her voice wasn't fabulous, but the energy was, and overall she kept my opinion of her on the rise. Randy said she's peaking at the right time, Paula said she's come into her own, and Simon called it "a bad, shrieky version."

Second song — "A Change is Gonna Come." Um, I'm going to assume that Syesha didn't really mean to compare her journey on Idol to the civil rights movement. The thing about Syesha is that she thinks she's a better singer than she is — thus all the warbling at the end, proving she can hit those glory notes. I wish she'd changed up her style to fit the song, but she still mostly pulled off what she attempted. Randy said it wasn't very good, Paula said it was beautiful, and Simon agreed with Paula. Then, tears. It was almost shocking to see some actual emotion from Syesha.

Jason Castro
First song — "I Shot the Sheriff." Oh man, he had the dreadlocks in full effect and was making this "oh yeah, I'm funky!" face through the whole thing. Worse from a competition perspective, he let the backup singers carry most of the chorus. He got points for at least trying to connect with the audience but lost them by being lazy and not trying to show how well he can sing. Randy said it was really karaoke, Paula liked how he played to the audience, and Simon called it atrocious and "a first-round audition massacre."

Second song — "Mr. Tambourine Man." OK, I'm starting to agree with Pop that forgetting the lyrics should be automatic disqualification. There's just no excuse for it at this point, and it all but proved what the judges have been hinting at for weeks: Jason doesn't seem like he's trying. I thought Randy and Simon might jump on stage and try to shake some life into him, they were so angry. Randy said he was just off, even Paula didn't love it, and Simon just told him to pack his bags.

David Archuleta
First song — "Stand By Me." Which he sings to his dog! I actually did like how he changed the arrangement, and he sounded good — but to me, it was the same as every other Archuleta performance. The cheers, though, went on forever. Randy said it's good that at least one person was bringing it, Paula loved it, and Simon declared it the best of the first round.

Second song — "Love Me Tender." Awwww, little Archie's first love song! It didn't really connect with me, but I'm not 14. Again, he sounded good, but I thought he really struggled toward the end with some of his bigger notes. Randy still loved it, Paula said it was one of his best, and Simon said he crushed the competition.

My favorites: Syesha? I don't know; nobody really blew me away.

Bottom two: Beyond Archuleta, it could be anyone. I think Jason Castro has got to be there, unless his fans rally in crazy numbers. And I'd suspect Syesha would be there, just because of her run in the bottom two. But I'm worried about David Cook: On a night like this, sometimes it's better to be bad than to be mediocre.

Going home: It's got to be Jason, right? Though I think a surprise David Cook elimination is possible.

Photos courtesy of Fox

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