American Idol 7: Top 5 Performances, Live Thoughts
Over his career, Neil Diamond has sold over 120 million records worldwide.  This is what Wikipedia tells me.  He's written and recorded more songs than one can count and, at the age of 67, is still going strong, selling out arenas across the globe.  You may not like him for what he's regrettably come to represent, mostly thanks to the stereotyped make up of his fans, those being lame Baby Boomers.  The American Idol viewing audience, I'm sure, is chalk full of Diamond lifers, and for them tonight promises to be a treat.  I could personally do without most of his song book, but I readily admit that he's got about 15-20 great songs notched on his large belt.  Those who are inexplicably dreading this night because it's another theme might just be pleasantly surprised by tonight's American Idol.  It will certainly be better than last week's.  I'll be here throughout the episode, chiming in with my live thoughts as the episode moves along.  Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the performances, and don't forget to hit that refresh button.

It's on.  Here we go.  Both Cook and Jason are wearing blue jeans, and you know what that means - one of them may be singing "Forever in Blue Jeans."  I can't take that song seriously after what Will Ferrell did to it. 

Paula Abdul looks absolutely sauced. 

Archuleta is also wearing jeans.  So, there you go.

Whoa - everybody will be singing TWO SONGS tonight.  This should be fun.  It also means that I have a good chance at nailing some of my song choice predictions (which you can find on the main Idol page here at BuddyTV). 

Neil talks to the contestants.  He says he likes seeing other people singing his songs.  Seems liek a nice enough dude. 

We're doing things different tonight - the singers will be judged after their second song only.

Tonight, Jason Castro is up first will be performing "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "Summer Morn."  Blue Jeans is first.  This is actually perfect for him.  He's up there with his guitar doing his thing.  The performance might be called a little boring, but I dig it.  Just a vintage Castro performance - if you like him, you'll like what he did.  He didn't change the original up much (save for changing the key).

David Cook is up next.  He's going to sing "I'm Alive" and "All I really Need is You."  I don't know either of these songs.  He gave Neil goosebumps in rehearsal.  I presume "I'm Alive" is first.  He's playing the electric guitar.  He's singing this with a pronounced growl tonight.  My fear is that Cook is trying to rock out to a song here that really isn't conducive to rocking.  It was pretty good, but too much like the plodding and brooding of his worst performances.

Brooke White is going to play guitar on "I'm a Believer" and piano on "I Am, I Said."  I'm a Believer" is first and I fear it is an unmitigated disaster.  The arrangement is trying to make this a harder rock song than it is, and it completely wastes Brooke and her acoustic guitar.  Her voice is also too weak for the instrumentation.  Man, I really like Brooke, but this is really bad.  Let's hope song #2 is a whole lot better. 

David Archuleta is going next and he's singing "Sweet Caroline" and "America."  Wow, so Archuleta gets to sing his most famous song and his most patriotic one.  Wonder who the Idol producers want to win?  He's singing Caroline first and it starts with this stupid liquid jazz vibe.  This sucks.  This just plain sucks.  He's turning a down right great, iconic song into a weird R&B ballad.  If you ever wanted definitive evidence that Archuleta cannot do upbeat tunes, this was it.

Man, am I in a bad mood tonight or have the last two songs just been that bad?

Syesha Mercado is going to sing "Hello Again" and "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime."  Those are good choices for her - one ballad, one upbeat.  "Hello Again" is first.  Syesha's looking great again tonight - she's been stepping up that aspect of her game lately.  This is a soft little tune, and she's singing it well.  There 's some out of tune stuff in the middle (going sharp, I believe), but her voice is strong and she's being pretty subtle with her choices.  I liked it, aside from the out of tune stuff.

The judge's all give their opinions about round 1:

Randy on Jason: OK

On Cook: Pretty good.

On Brooke: OK

On Archuleta: Da bomb.

On Syesha: Strong.

Paula, I'm not going to write about.  She thought Cook had sang twice already.  She either saw dress rehearsal.

Simon Cowell hated everyone's performance.  I'm with you Cowell.  Jason, Cook, and Syesha were pretty good, Archuleta and Brooke terrible.

Jason is back to sing "September Morn."  It's a slow ballad - Jason sits on a stool and serenades all the teenage girls of America.  This is a perfect laid-back tune for Castro, even better than his first song.  Castro being Castro.  You know what you're going to get.  Randy thought it was just OK.  Paula didn't even like it.  Simon says they don't recognize him right now.  He thought both of the songs were forgettable.  Fair enough, I suppose.  He was nothing special, but he is what he is.

Cook is out now to sing "All I Really Need is You."  He's playing the acoustic guitar. This is the David Cook I like, showing off the big voice he has.  This was probably the best performance of the night.  He took an unknown song, made it into a heartfelt ballad.  Randy thought it was blazing.  Simon thought his first song was OK, the second brilliant.

Brooke is next, singing "I Am, I Said" at the piano.  This is what I want from Brooke.  It's a Joni Mitchell vibe.  Her voice works much better in the softer setting.  And, when it gets to the big parts, it works because of the type of song it is.  Really, really good.  Keep doing that, Brooke.  Randy really liked the performance.  Simon really hated the first song, but thought the second performance was very good. 

David Archuleta is singing "America."  I want to drown in a sea of garbage juice.  He's trying to make this, like a "cool" version of this song.  I don't want to write anything more, I don't want to see Archuleta sing anymore.  I bet Randy and Paula love it, though.  This is worse than Kristy Lee Cook's "God Bless America."  Randy says he's in the zone.  Paula calls it the perfect song.  She calls his voice on point - the thing is, it wasn't.  It was weak in the beginning and often out of tune.  Simon calls it a smart choice of song.  Sometimes, this show really angers me.

Syesha is closing the show tonight with "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime."  This is a great little song, and she's arranged with a little salsa flavor.  Poor choice, I believe.  This is a song meant to be sung at a break-neck speed - Syesha is not doing this.  She's singing it fine, giving some nice attitude, and she ends it well.  I doubt this will be enough to keep Syesha out of the bottom two, however.  Randy thought it was in the zone.  Simon thinks Syesha's an actress/singer and not just a singer.  He didn't think the second song was memorable.

I'll be back later with my performance rankings.

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)