I was never really that interested in "American Idol" before, especially since I always got turned off by over-confident saps who insisted that they should have been chosen during the auditions despite voices that reminded me of either screaming banshees or croaking frogs. However, one afternoon I was messing around with my TV remote and I was able to catch finalist David Cook performing his own version of Lionel Richie's song, "Hello."
Under normal circumstances, I'd be barfing from the cheesiness of this Lionel Richie ballad. But when Cook sang it rocker-version, I was simply blown away. I knew from that time on that this guy was going places.
Every now and then, I'd try to catch "American Idol," if only to catch Cook's performance. Among all the finalists, it was only Cook's name I remembered. Oh, I also remembered Ranielle Malubay -- the Filipina finalist who got axed quite early in the game. Well, she also had a fabulous voice, but it didn't have a unique sound. Plus, the way she sang that Dolly Parton number was -- to be honest -- quite forgettable. Thus, I wasn't surprised when Simon, Randy, and Paula decided against her favor. There also was that blonde girl (God, I forgot her name!) who managed to survive several episodes before getting the axe despite her less-than-marketable voice and features. (Surprising, actually...)
Jason Castro, that dreadlocks guy, knew his music but didn't really seem too impassioned about winning. In fact, he really botched his rendition of the 70s song, "Mr. Tambourine Man" by flubbing a substantial part of the lyrics. In fact, I was quite relieved that he was booted out before he could do more harm.
I liked Syesha Mercado, though. And she did deserve to be among the top three finalists. She can do jazz, pop, ballad, blues, Broadway...and still come out of the experience with flying colors. In fact, I was kinda hoping that it would be her and Cook who would make it to the face-off.
But of course, David Archuleta happened.
Before Archuleta admirers start throwing rotten tomatoes my way, allow me to make a disclaimer. I never said that David Archuleta has no talent. He seems to be a great kid, and his voice can also be quite versatile -- considering that he's only 17 years old. In fact, I do believe that Archuleta's singing prowess is more flexible than Cook's. Honestly, Cook is truly in his element when doing alternative songs, but is like a fish out of water when trying Broadway and other genres. (His rendition of "Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera was not only forgettable: I felt that he raped and pillaged that beautiful song!)
Overall, Archuleta is one very young and very talented singer. I almost felt like my heart was being ripped apart while he sang his own version of the John Lennon classic, "Imagine." Archuleta laid out all his emotions before the audience as he sang that song -- even Paula's voice was breaking with emotion as she praised Archuleta's heart-rending performance.
But David Archuleta is too "boy band-ish."
That's my primary gripe against Archuleta. And that's not even taking into account his father's overbearing presence in his rehearsals and other "American Idol" dealings.
Archuleta also reminds me of a younger Michael J. Fox who -- despite the years and the eventual onset of Parkinson's Disease -- remains as baby-faced as ever. Others may take this as an asset, but Hollywood forced poor Michael into a stereotype boy-next-door rut even as he was already advancing in years. I believe that Archuleta may end up the same way as the Back to the Future star.
Finally, come to think of it: I'd be proud to come out of a music store with a newly-purchased David Cook CD in my hands. But I think I'd be covering my face if I was caught buying a David Archuleta CD. It's a typical cool guy-dorky nerd thing. Guess who's the cool guy and the dorky nerd.
I was only able to watch the first part of the two-episode face-off between the two Davids. During the first round where they sang songs chosen by two legends in the music industry, I was electrified by Cook's rendition of the U2 hit, "I still haven't Found what I'm Looking for." I don't recall the title of Archuleta's song, only that it was an Elton John ditty. And those with trained ears would take note of Archuleta's clear desafinado (hitting a chord half a tone higher or lower than the original) somewhere in the middle of the song. I was surprised that the judges didn't catch it, and still heaped praises on Archuleta who I felt lost that round to Cook.
However, I think that Round 2 where the two Davids sang original songs was a tie. Cook's rendition was edgy and powerful -- and he hit all the notes right. Archuleta continued to belt out an emotion-ridden ballad which was commendable, but without impact. When Simon Cowell still gave the second round to Archuleta, I balked. I could actually see lines of frustration growing on Cook's face. Trust me: it wasn't only him who was frustrated.
By the time the two Davids got to Round 3, I felt that Cook's daring and in-your-face piece was sure to get the judges' nod. I was especially confident about Cook winning that round when Archuleta decided to remain in his comfort zone and sing his earlier masterpiece, "Imagine." This time, I felt like strangling Cowell when he berated Cook's song as "average" and not the best selection for the American Idol finals. I dunno what this guy has against Cook, but he surely made a lot of enemies that night.
True enough, the rest of America decided to make their own stand and -- as history would have it -- chose David Cook as their new American Idol. Producers of the show were even overwhelmed at the volume of viewer response in the voting. I may not have the exact numbers with me, but it was said that Cook won over Archuleta by a whopping wide margin in terms of votes.
For once, I agreed with these Americans. In your face, Simon Cowell!
In fairness to Simon, though: he did apologize to David Cook for his comments against him the night before. So: there's still hope for Cowell. Either that or it's the end of the world as we know it.
I only got to see the synopsis of the last part of the American Idol finals through the nightly news, and I found out that Filipino American Idol wannabe Renaldo Lapuz had his own share of the limelight by belting out his now-famous "Best Friends Forever." He may not have garnered a spot in the finals, but Renaldo has surely created a niche for himself in Hollywood with his flowing silver-and-white garments. That's Filipino talent -- and ingenuity -- for you!
As for David Cook, I hope this guy doesn't get remade by Hollywood. He's got talent, he's got the face, and he's quite realistic about his new title as American Idol. When he faced the press exactly after his victory, he said something about his winning as a springboard for his rise to stardom -- or it can be plain "crapshoot." Gee, I love this guy already...