American Idol Top 11: The Beatles

More music from the Number One band of all time, the Beatles. (I guess it's safe to say Idol won't be getting approval for a night devoted to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin anytime soon. What would they say? Let's celebrate the #2 and #3 bands of all time?) They introduce the singers and no one gets even close to the screams of for David Archuleta. Actually, that's not true: Simon's screams comes pretty close. He can no longer be dubbed the judge America loves to hate. He's the judge America loves to love because he's blunt and funny and usually right.

Amanda Overmyer -- Sang "Back In The U.S.S.R.," an insanely catchy tune that gently sent up and celebrated the Beach Boys and yet -- remarkably -- was never released as a single. (It's on the bursting at the seams White Album, which depending on the day of the week may be my favorite Beatles album of all.) If you're wondering how deep the Beatles catalog is, knowing this song wasn't even a single is all the proof you need. (Chubby Checker had a modest hit with it.) Amanda begins by trying to remember her favorite moment on Idol so far, a waste of time that amounts to instant nostalgia and which for most contestants amounts to simply replaying a clip from the previous week or so. Then she does her Southern rock thing. To be fair, even more of the lyrics are intelligible this time and the song was pretty recognizable. But you can't help noticing how thin her vocals are. The judges are pretty polite and Paula offers the disastrous suggestion that Amanda sing a ballad. Not a good idea.

Kristy Lee Cook -- She tackles "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," one of the key mid-period tracks (from the soundtrack to Help!) that proved the Beatles weren't just going to pen silly love songs. Cook chose it because she liked the title and was apparently completely unfamiliar with it. Then she sings it and Kristy proves she's still unfamiliar with it. Her arrangement turns it into a power ballad of some sort, she's rough on the low notes, loses the melody completely at one point and by the end the song doesn't even remotely resemble the original tune. All three judges drop the hammer on her and Simon says simply, "You're not a good performer." Kristy rejoinders that she hopes to get back next week because -- she tells Simon -- "I can blow you out of your socks and you know it!" To which Simon laughs and says, "Okay!" Ryan keeps giggling over the unintended double entendre and Kristy finally catches on and looks amused and embarrassed at the same time. More to the point, I watched the song again and kept in mind that most people don't know the tune anyway so they won't notice or care how little it resembles the original. And Kristy looked just great, clearly did a better job than the week before and got to belt out a note or two. It might just be enough not to send her home. Still, vulnerable.

David Archuleta -- Sang "The Long and Winding Road," which he correctly points out was the last #1 single for the Beatles. (Ryan got it wrong last week and claimed it was "Let It Be.") And yes, the Archuleta train is back on track. We now know he's fallible, which means his smooth, polished, utterly professional and charming rendition of a tune that can be quite draggy in the wrong hands was jut lovely. Randy said David should take more liberties but he's crazy -- the guy's worked with Mariah Carey too long and thinks endless, pointless runs are what singers should do. David did a great job and even looked abashed at the praise when he was done. He even looked like he might cry, so they cut to a commercial just in time.

Michael Johns -- Sang "Day In The Life" from Sgt. Pepper, the very definition of an album track (that is, a song that works beautifully on an album; sure it can be played on the radio but it belongs where it belongs). Mashes up a Lennon verse drawing from newspaper stories and a McCartney ditty that blends in perfectly, topped up with an intense, orchestral meltdown. It seems a really bizarre choice to pick when you've got less than two minutes to sing and will have to cut out most of the song-- it would be like performing a truncated "Stairway to Heaven." And indeed, Johns gets the worst of all worlds by cutting and pasting this song which simply HAS to be heard in its entirety to make any emotional sense. His voice has a nice rasp to it at the beginning, but I think he's messed up the lyrics early on. (It's hard to tell since the song is edited.) Then he really messes up the lyrics at the end, even mumbling for a moment to cover it up. Pretty disastrous. All three judges drop the hammer. But bizarrely NONE of them mention the obvious fact that he forgot the lyrics. Then the recap at the end of the show replays that very same moment. Can it be that none of them know the song that well and didn't realize his mistake? He certainly looked like a deer in the headlights when it was over and only his good looks (he's really the only mature male sex symbol since Archuleta is very young and still very Tiger Beat, in a safe way) might save him. Very vulnerable.

Brooke White -- Sang "Here Comes The Sun," a George Harrison classic from Abbey Road that I will have played at my funeral (many, many years from now, hopefully). It seems like a smart choice, but she botches it up miserably, including a too obvious yellow dress with layers that looks frumpy. White seems not to trust this simple, lovely tune. She twirls around on stage, she bounces too much and seems to speed it up, she dances awkwardly and generally behaves as if she believes just singing the song would bore people to death. A train wreck, really. Everyone is pretty down, though Paula says something or other nice. Simon then bizarrely blames the song -- not only is it one of the absolute greats, it's definitely in what should be her singer-songwriter comfort zone. She just blew it.

David Cook -- Sang "Day Tripper" in a rocked-out version modeled somewhat on a cover by Whitesnake. It was the b-side to the #1 hit "We Can Work It Out" and went to #5 itself. Very good performance by Cook, despite a voice box interlude that brought up unnecessary memories of Peter Frampton. But overall, very solid. It's exactly what he should be doing. All three gave him credit, though Simon pointed out David's unfortunate tendency to look pleased with himself. (Cook might be the most modest guy on the planet; it's just the way he comes across on camera.)

Carly Smithson -- Sang "Blackbird," another gem from the White Album. (And really, if you don't own Rubber Soul and Revolver and Abbey Road and the White Album, then you can't claim to love music.) Her rather dramatic rendition worked pretty well, though it was marred by an over-active audience who squealed anytime she let out a little volume, as if "loud" equals "good. Randy and Paula were positive but Simon had some criticisms - again, he seemed to think the song was bad! Carly's comeback in which she explained why the song was meaningful to her was very effective. Plus you got to see her seriously inked-up husband (you can barely see him behind all the tattoos) which I assume scares some of Middle America every week so it's cool to see her cheered on by him, not covering her own serious tattoo and even proudly displaying a new one she got to celebrate season seven.

Jason Castro -- Sang "Michelle," one of Paul McCartney's world-class ballads, a Grammy winner for Song Of the Year and yet another classic (off Rubber Soul) that was never released as a single, though several other artists charted with it in 1966. This is a perfect choice for Castro: light, gentle and winning. The annoying audience again squeals just because he walks across the stage and claps along too fast. He really does have a thin voice and sings out of the side of his mouth at times. The judges are mixed but polite and really he has charm to spare and should be fine. Simon, by the way, that wasn't a "French-English" version Castro sang, it's the original version. Is this another Beatles tune he doesn't really know?

Syesha Mercado -- Sang "Yesterday," the #1 smash hit from the Help! soundtrack that has been recorded more than 2500 times, perhaps more than any other song in history. Finally! Finally, Syesha -- my crush - has a breakout moment. She's backed by a simple guitar (and later some strings) but doesn't try to overpower the song. She sings it directly and beautifully and has a great dress and killer earrings and looks wonderful and was just vulnerable and darn near perfect (despite a little wavering at one point and a weak run at another). All three judges are very positive, but not positive enough in my book. That song has been sung by everyone, so not boring us to tears or actually making us feel it again is a big accomplishment.

Chikezie -- Sang "I've Just Seen A Face" from Help! Since it worked the week before, Chikezie decided to do it again and delivered a fairly identical arragment to the one he used last time. Not a good idea. Personally, I liked the slow, soulful delivery he began with. Then Chikezie vamped it up with a harmonica solo and a country-ish feel. Simon was right when he said it felt gimmicky. Not bad, but he can't pull this stunt again.

Ramiele Malubay -- Sang "I Should Have Known Better" from A Hard Day's Night, which is exactly what it was for Ramielle. I've never been much of a fan, but to me she came off as a complete amatuer, even on a night where a number of other singers stumbled. She was flat, off-key and awful. (Oh yeah, and still cute as a dickens, but that won't cut it anymore.) None of the judges were positive, but they didn't trash her the way I expected. This was a "thanks very much, make sure you pack your bags" performance and they didn't treat it as such. But I think the viewers will.

The bottom three will be Michael Johns, Kristy Lee Cook and Ramiele Malubay and I believe Ramiele is going home. What do you think?