American Idol 7: Top 7 Performance Rankings
I'm always wary of mentor nights on American Idol, especially when I'm not intimately familiar with the mentor's discography.  Tonight, Mariah Carey's song book was opened up to the American Idol contestants, and the results were somewhat peculiar.  Mariah grew on me as a person as the episode went along – more so than any mentor I can remember on American Idol, she seemed very interested in nurturing the contestants and making their performances better.  The men had more success with the Mariah songs than the ladies, and Simon Cowell believed this was because the men didn't bring on comparisons to the original tune as much as the women.  I agree.  Mariah has a voice that you just can't mimic – the ladies were going to pale in comparison, no matter what they did. 

1) David Archuleta

OK, I'll give Archuleta his props, if only for this one night.  A Mariah song was right up his alley, and he gave his patented expert vocal performance.  There was no new ground broken in the song, David just does what he does and he does it well.  Sometimes, the slow, cheesy ballad doesn't work for me, but it fit right in with the theme tonight.  Doesn't mean I particularly enjoyed it, just that it was perfect for tonight.

2) Jason Castro

Jason continued his streak of great performances tonight.  Like David A and Brooke, Castro just does what he does and he did it well tonight.  It was a cool little folksy arrangement, and Castro sang it with a vigor that was absent a month ago.  I'm thinking top 3 is not out of the question for Jason.

3) Brooke White

This is getting redundant – we know what we're getting from these contestants at this point.  No one is very diverse in their performances.  I don't really want Brooke to break out from the identity she has carved out, and she didn't tonight.  I enjoyed her song, like I do every week. 

4) Syesha Mercado

Despite Simon's advice, Syesha keeps picking big, big songs.  She was more successful tonight than in any other week, and I think it may have been her best performance of the season.  Simon has single-handedly kept Syesha from being a front-runner, I think, by constantly undermining every one of her performances by stating that she doesn't live up to the original.  I wish he would stop doing that, and judge Syesha on her own merits. 

5) Kristy Lee Cook

She's a clever girl, that Kristy Lee.  It's like she's playing an entirely different game than the rest of the singers.  Just keep plugging along, giving vaguely country performances, receiving middling praise, and pleasing a large subset of voters who enjoy your style.  It's simple, and it works.  Kristy Lee was solid again tonight, and he's officially worn me down.  I don't hate her anymore, I even kind of enjoy her songs.  It's been a weird season.

6) David Cook

David, we know, has the potential to bring incredible performances.  And tonight, the judges seemed to believe that he did.  I found the performance dreary and uninspiring, but maybe it's because I've been conditioned to believe that Cook is a creative song arranger, when he's really not.  I still like him, but tonight didn't do it for me.

7) Carly Smithson

I don't think Carly was all that bad – she gets the bottom spot by default.  The problem with Carly, as Simon illustrated, is that she never lives up to her potential.  She should have knocked “Without You” out of the park.  She didn't. 

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