‘Idol’: Jon Peter Lewis on top 11
First I’d like to throw up a high-five to my American Idol column compadre Chris Sligh. Why? Because last week, he was laying down the truthiness like Stephen Colbert. If you speak Randy Jackson, he was ”workin’ it out” or ”doing his thing” or, my personal favorite of last night, putting out ”a hot jam right there, boy!” (But you’d have to awkwardly say it like one of my friends from the suburbs for the full effect.)
But enough uncomfortable guy-emotion. Down to business: Last night I was really disappointed — and no, not because of the theme repeat. The contestants were boring, for the most part. I found myself in between commercials slumped in my chair with the remote in hand, itching for a change. Despite its dullness, and what I think might produce the first big upset of the season, there were some bright spots. You see? I’m not all storm clouds and black-hearted cynicism. Positives first!
I wrote a little note to myself during the first commercial break about how important a strong performance would be for little David A., or rather how devastating a poor performance would be. So far, he’s got all the tweenies voting for him and he has the respect of everyone else. That’s no small feat. But while he might not lose the tween vote easily, another weak song, I think, would have started to make the rest of us doubt. It would have for me, anyway. None of that matters, though: He was great on The Long and Winding Road. Not one of my favorite Beatles tunes, but a good choice for him.
Both he and Syesha gave great performances. It was a kind of flip-flop from last week, when those two were bad and everyone else was pretty good. That kind of turnaround isn’t easy with all the pressure surrounding the performers, and it should be admired. The worst part of a great performance on Idol is the morning after. You start to think, ”Oh crap, how am I gonna follow that up?” And falling into a bit of a slump happens really easily from there. But despite the tendency to second-guess and self-implode after a bad run, little Dave, and more notably Syesha, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and sang like they wanted to be around next week.
Another positive for the both of them was their song selection. It’s not hard to screw up with the Beatles songbook, and I’d like to make an observation. Here’s a list of songs:
”Love Me Do,” ”From Me to You,” ”She Loves You,” ”I Want to Hold Your Hand,” ”Can’t Buy Me Love,” ”A Hard Day’s Night,” ”I Feel Fine,” ”Eight Days a Week,” ”Ticket to Ride,” ”Help!,” ”Yesterday,” ”Day Tripper,” ”We Can Work It Out,” ”Paperback Writer,” ”Yellow Submarine,” ”Eleanor Rigby,” ”Penny Lane,” ”All You Need Is Love,” ”Hello Goodbye,” ”Lady Madonna,” ”Hey Jude,” ”Get Back,” ”The Ballad of John & Yoko,” ”Something,” ”Come Together,” ”Let It Be,” ”The Long and Winding Road.”
Those are all No. 1 Beatles hits. Last night’s strongest performances were all on that list. Last week’s strongest performances were all on that list too. I’m not saying that you have to pick a hit to win, but a hit is a hit for a reason. Especially a Beatles hit. Those are all killer songs that show great range, and there are more than enough of them for this week and last week.
That was a lesson I learned from the Idol producers. I used to submit for clearance the most random songs, like ”Rockin’ the Suburbs” by Ben Folds. (I actually submitted ”Hallelujah” and every Beatles song possible, but they didn’t spend as much money on the show back then.) I had no rhyme to the reason — I just liked those tunes. But Ken and Nigel would always give me suggestions-that-weren’t-really-”suggestions” (because that would be unfair), saying that I needed to pick something the public knows and likes and that shows off my voice — essentially, a hit song.
NEXT PAGE: Jon Peter Lewis on why he thinks someone you might not expect could be going home tonight
But bad song choice wasn’t the only bad move last night. I like Michael Johns. I think he’s got a cool voice, but there were a couple of things about his performance that reminded me of some typical Idol errors, some of which I know from experience. I had a hard time coping with the bubblegum image of American Idol back in the day. It wasn’t something I could identify with at all, which is why I used to submit so many random songs. I think I was trying to tell them, ”Hey I’m cool, look! I’m a fan of Motörhead, yippee!” But luckily they didn’t let me sing ”Ace of Spades.” They did let Michael Johns sing ”A Day in the Life,” however. That’s such a cool song in its entirety, but chopped up, it’s like a bad movie adaptation of a favorite novel.
You might protest and say, ”But it was a dedication.” And while I definitely think it’s important to pay tribute to friends who pass away, dedications in general bother me on this show. They remind me that this whole thing is more like a political primary than a music concert.
Now to the big question: Who’s gonna say goodbye tonight? That’s kind of a mystery to me. Here were my least favorites: Kristy Lee Cook, Ramiele, Chikezie. Kristy’s song was definitely her best, and every time she looked into the camera I wanted to get her phone number, but everyone else was better. Ramiele and Chikezie just chose the wrong songs. Having said that, all three of them are fairly unique in the competition. What I mean is, several of the really strong contestants are drawing from the same voting pool — and that could leave them wanting tonight during the results.
So here’s my EW.com headline: Idol upset for tonight, and it could be Brooke White. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s probably a little early for an upset, but if the likelihood were to be compared to a terrorist alert, every TSA agent from here to wherever would be wearing rubber gloves.
Jon Peter Lewis’s second album, Break the Silence, is due June 3. The single of the same name is available for download at all major online music outlets. For more on Jon, check out www.jonpeterlewis.com.