American Idol 7: Top 12 Male Performances Live Thoughts
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
After 17 years of auditions, we finally get to vote on some performances on American Idol. 12 men, 3 judges, 2 hours, and 1 delectable host in a pear tree. For guys in American Idol's Top 12, the pre-performance hype is going to David Archuleta and Michael Johns, both of whom endeared themselves to fans during the audition phase, while many of the other guys didn't get a whole lot of screentime. I'll be here all night with my live commentary on the Top 12 performances by the men.

THIS…is American Idol!

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Ranking the Top 12 Male Performances

Before we begin, did anyone else catch latchkey kid Josiah Leming on The Ellen Degeneres Show this morning?  As flawed and untrained as his voice is, this season would be a lot more interesting if he were one of the Top 12 men.

Ryan Seacrest introduces us to the men, and Danny Noriega gets off to an awkward start as he completely burns out America's collective gaydar.  Randy Jackson talks about how original this group of men is.  Paula Abdul rags on Randy's excessive use of "dawg."  Simon Cowell is looking for personality, originality, and a good voice, yet is somehow disparaged for this.

Oh yay, a montage of how the Top 12 men got here.  The American Idol time wasters are already at work.  Ryan pimps iTunes.  All the songs tonight are from the 1960s.

David Hernandez is up first, and my first impression is that of a totally bland, emotionless person.  He sings "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett.  Great, they're not telling us the names of the songs, and my musical knowledge is highly limited  Thank God for Google.  Technically, he's very good, with the runs and the range, and it's a little gospel.  The problem is he's completely dead behind the eyes.  Simon correctly calls him out for being stiff.

Second up is Chikezie Eze, who now goes by just Chikezie (I prefer to call him Chuck E. Cheese).  He's busting out Stevie Wonder's "I Love You More Today Than Yesterday"  It's a little rough, and the song shows how vocally weak he really is.  Randy tries hard to be nice, but he can't.  Paula is happy he's here and that he looks great.  She talks about how much weight he's lost, which is as close to a comment on his singing as we get from her.  Simon hated it all, and is booed for having a correct opinion.

Ryan meets Colton Berry, who claims he looks like Ellen Degeneres.  Ryan brings up the judges' complaints that he's too theatrical.  That's because, as I've already said 1,000 times, he's the real-life inspiration for Ryan Evans from High School Musical.

Tonight's third singer is David Cook, singing "Happy Together" by The Turtles.  Yikes, three bad performances in a row.  He gets lost against the music, and at times, it seems like he's laughing during the performance.  Randy is excited he made it rock.  Paula lives in Randy's shadow, echoing everything he says.  Simon is rather complimentary that David Cook almost made "Happy Together" a rock song.  The judges are nicer than I am, apparently.

Jason Yeager is a country boy with some blond highlights.  He has a son, which makes me question whether he might actually be straight.  He's singing "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Damnit, stop confusing my gaydar (yes, I have a spare in case of Noriega emergencies).  By the way, Noriega Emergencies would be a great band name.  It's a painfully bad song choice that does nothing for his voice.  Randy noticed some pitch problems.   Paula likes Randy's advice, then talks about doing her first ballet recital to that song.  Simon dusts off the cruise ship metaphor.

Robbie Carrico is fifth, and I pray he ends this run of sub-par performances.  He's a boy bander who toured with Britney Spears who turned into a rocker.  He's taking on "One" by Three Dog Night (originally by Harry Nilsson, which is why it counts as '60s), and it instantly reminds me of the opening to Magnolia, my favorite movie of all-time.  He's pretty good, but not great.  Simon claims it was the only sensible performance so far, and I agree.

David Archuleta busts out "Shop Around" by The Miracles.  It's actually really good, with one noticeable voice crack and a final glory note he couldn't figure out how to start.  The song is not in his wheelhouse, and he'll be much better with more current songs.  Also, his voice is way different from how he looks.  The judges all overlook the obvious flaws to pimp him hard.  This is the kid American Idol is putting its money on.  Ryan nearly pimps him out literally, offering David Archuleta up to all the ladies like a slab of meat.

Heading into the second half, we get Danny Noriega.  He's singing "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis, so I take it he's wasting no time taking on the Sanjaya role.  This is probably the worst possible song he could've chosen, but he's actually pretty entertaining,  Damnit, this is how Sanjaya started, and I know now I'm gonna be won over by this kid.   The judges have no idea how to respond to this.  It was kinda hot.  If Project Runway's Christian was here, he might call it fierce.  Simon calls it grotesque.  Didn't he learn that's not the way to get rid of Sanjayas?

Now we see Luke Menard, for the first time ever.  He was cut at the first audition in season 6, which is not a good sign.  He takes on "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson, and it was boring as all hell.  The judges slap him down.  He's dressed way too casually, and Simon calls it totally forgettable.  Goodbye, Luke Menard.

"Theatrical" Colton Berry is up next.  Can you break American Idol's clever use of codewords?  Here's another young whippersnapper taking on Elvis, this time it's "Suspicious Minds."  It's very buoyant and entertaining, and most importantly, it's a strong vocal, maybe the best of the night,  Go, Colton Berry!  So far, this is my favorite.  Simon's problem is he didn't see a potential recording artist, just a good singer.

Shaun White impersonator Garrett Haley is another kid with no screentime.  He's very awkward on camera.  He sings "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka.  I guess he has a nice voice, high pitched as it may be.  It's slightly better than Luke Menard, but still largely forgettable.  Randy says Garrett didn't do anything with it.  When even Randy is bored, you know it's problematic.  Simon thinks he needs some fresh air and sunlight, and he's right.  In a move that shatters the space-time continuum, not only does Ryan understand what Simon is saying, but he agrees with him.

Our penultimate performer is dreadlocked Jason Castro (aka Jarret from those Saturday Night Live sketches).  He's laid back, adorable, and awesome.  He's playing the guitar while singing "Daydream" by Lovin' Spoonful.  I've never seen him sing before, but now I know exactly who he is.  Jason Castro is that awesome dude playing his guitar in a coffee bar, and when he's done, you're like, "Damn, I would totally buy his CD."  Randy is wishy washy.  Paula agrees with me that his song choice was perfect.  Simon says it was in the top 2 performances of the night, alongside David Archuleta.  Yay, Jason Castro for the win!

Aussie Michael Johns gets the final spot, which isn't fair, because he doesn't need any more of an advantage to make the finals.  He takes on "Light My Fire" by The Doors, which he nails.  I hate him, but I'll admit, the man can sing well, and he can give a great performance.  In fact, I'm struggling to remember why I hate him, because it's the performance of someone who can win this competition.  Randy calls him da bomb.  Paula raves as well.  Simon says he has the natural charisma of a lead singer.  Can we just give Michael Johns a free pass to the final five?

Tomorrow night, come back for the American Idol Top 12 women as they perform for your votes.

-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of FOX)