Lots (and lots) of thoughts on the songs performed, the performances themselves, flubbed lyrics, my rankings, etc. ...
First of all, let me rank the contestants based on my favorites, and why I like them.
1. Brooke White - I love her voice, I love the husky, smoky vibe. I love the purity there and the emotion laced in every word and phrasing. I also love how she doesn't reach for notes out of her range, something that soooo many singers do and it drives me insane. She also comes across (and all backstage accounts concur) as a completely sweet, genuine, adorable human being. LOVE. HER. She also has gorgeous hair.
2. Jason Castro - He's pretty. I don't like the dreads, but that face? Oy, it should be carved in stone, it is that classically beautiful. I also love his voice. There's a mellow beauty to it and when he gets the right song, it's just lovely. Lovely, lovely.
3. David Cook - I like him. He has a good voice, and some of his performances have grabbed me, but he doesn't keep me. Still, I like him.
4. Syesha Mercado - She has a good voice, but consistently goes for notes that are too big for her voice and thus goes flat. A lot. A WHOLE LOT. I cringe at least once in every performance because of those bum notes. Plus, she bores me. Silly. My mind wanders when she performs, even when it's a good performance.
5. Carly Smithson - She has a good voice ... when she doesn't go for notes out of her range. Which she does CONSTANTLY. And then she strains or yells or does both and it sounds HORRIBLE. She seems nice enough, but I don't like her as a performer or singer at all. However, I don't hate her very presence when she walks on stage like I do ...
6. David Archuleta - Honestly, I liked him in the beginning, but the pimping even when he screws up, the saccharineness that I'm sure is real but comes off as fake, the never-ending smile even when the song doesn't call for it, the general air of cluelessness that hangs over his head all bug the hell out of me. BUT, if I liked his singing voice, I could ignore all of that. However, when he sings, I hear this mucuousy-sounding tenor to every note and I think it's awful. I don't deny that he CAN sing, I just don't like his voice when he does, even hitting all of his notes. I don't like how he sounds. It's a preference. And he's not mine.
Now about the theme, I'm an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. I love his stuff, the over-the-top, soaring, dramatic music, lyrics, etc. I LOVE IT. So I am VERY familiar with (as in have listened to literally hundreds of times) four of the six songs, am fairly familiar with one and shockingly to myself have never heard of one. So overall, I know these songs. Well.
Of the songs, my favorite and the one I know best is "Music of the Night." Phantom of the Opera is my favorite ALW musical, and in my top five favorite musicals ever. I'm a huge Michael Crawford fan as well and anyone else singing this song is going to be judged harshly by me (I thought Barbra Streisand's version was not that good, she didn't get the song and delivered the wrong softness and emphasis in the wrong places ... and I love her voice normally). David Cook sang this one.
On that note, "Think of Me" would be next -- also from Phantom -- this one is actually one of my favorite songs from PotO and I adore the operatic, lilting tenor of it. SO MUCH. It's a beautiful, beautiful song. David Archuleta did this.
Next up: "You Must Love Me." Evita is my second favorite musical by ALW, and I loved the movie version as well. True, Madonna is no Patti Lupone, but I LOVE Madonna and I loved this song, despite not being in the musical. This is a song that more than the first two depends on getting the emotion of it right. You NEED to get it in order for it work. Brooke sang this baby.
"Memory" is the last of the songs I know pretty much by heart, and one that I also adore. It's an incredible, poetic, beautiful song that is essentially about someone (in this case, a cat, LOL!) who has lived a long life and it's nearing its end. Like YMLM, you NEED to GET this song in order to sell it. (Ironically, Barbra Streisand does an outstanding version, while Michael Crawford's version is eh. He made it about the poetry, Streisand about the meaning behind the poetry, hers a more hopeful take on the end, as opposed to the somewhat less-so version in the musical, also gorgeous.) Jason Cook did this song.
I don't know "Jesus Superstar" super well (heh, truly there was no pun intended), as in I don't know every word, but I'm familiar with it and can sing along to roughly half of it. Carly Smithson did this one.
Finally, the song Syesha sang that I'm not even sure about the name of because I've surprisingly never heard of it. I really have no clue about this one. Good song, though. I liked it a lot.
Now, I also know music, singing, and can catch pitch, flat notes, bum notes, etc. because I grew up in a household with a woman who could sing beautifully, had taken classes and never failed to let her children know what was what when watching singing of any kind.
With that said ... my vocal rankings, based PURELY on vocal ability, not preference of style, my favorites, but pure vocal ability, ie. can they sing and did they sing it well?
1. David Cook
Cookie NAILED it. He had the softness right where needed, hit the big power notes, added the layer of sensuality. He wasn't Michael Crawford, but he did a killer job none-the-less. Excellent job. 9/10
2. David Archuleta
Oh Archie! You turned my whimsical, soaring, lilting opera-lite poem into a pop song. But it worked! I totally bought it as a pop song. I still don't like his voice, but he hit it. 7/10
3. Brooke White
Based purely on the song itself, and not the restart, she did a lovely job. And more than ANYONE else, she got the emotion of the song (and that is the only reason she's a smidgen higher than Carly). She had a few pitchy notes, but overall, she delivered technically and really sold the material. Beautifully. 6/10
4. Carly Smithson
Not a Carly fan, but other than some straining for notes out of her range, she did a great job with this one. She should NOT have gone home. Not based on this. 6/10
5. Syesha Mercado
She actually would have been in third place but the last lyric had a big note that she went HORRIBLY flat on. It was bad. I cringed. Also? She's just boring. Still, best performance of her by far and not a bad performance by ANY stretch of the imagination. She sold the character, the style, sang well, but that one note was SO bad. 4/10
FLYING LEAP OF SUCKTITUDE
6. Jason Castro
OH MY GOD! This? THIS!?!? Was one of the SINGLE worst performance I have EVER seen on this show once they hit the big stage. Bottom five, maybe even three, at least. And it's even more shocking because I didn't expect something like this from Jason. This was so horrendously, hopelessly BAD. Just bad. He sounded weak (yes, he was sick, I know, it showed). He didn't get the song at all. There was no emotion, no depth, nothing. There was nothing there. He had flat notes, he had pitch problems; oy, he was terrible. Truly awful. And I LOVE Jason. This? Was bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. He should have gone home.
The outrage over Carly going over someone less deserving should have been solely, completely and absolutely directed at JASON, not Brooke who delivered a heartfelt performance. Yes, she restarted the song ... a mere five seconds into it and it was only the piano playing at that point. But once she began again, she did a lovely job and delivered the meaning of the song better than anyone else that night. So she restarted because she forgot a lyric. It happens, and it's how professionals handle something like that when it happens in the beginning of the song all the time. And, also?
She was not the only one to forget a lyric. Carly forgot a lyric too. Some argue that she just switched songs and there were a lot of lyrics. That's correct, but she didn't mess up those parts, she messed up the easiest part. She sang "Superstar" twice instead of "Jesus Christ" in the second chorus. I knew it because I knew the song. But, good for her, if you didn't know the song, you probably wouldn't have caught it. She did best at covering up her flub. It wasn't noticable, but she still forgot a lyric.
As did David Cook who sang "Floating, falling, sweet intoxication ..." as "Falling, floating, sweet intoxication" Not a big deal, right? Unless you adore the song for its absolutely lovely poetry put to music beauty ... as do I, and think that line there is THE best line in the whole song. Still, he covered it up well. I'm just annoyed that he flipped the words, thus throwing it off for me a bit. Still, again, if you didn't know the song, you wouldn't have a clue. Still, he flubbed a lyric. It happens, but he covered it well.
Unlike Archie!! Who mumbled the forgotten lyrics so audibly and obviously. Did we see a reaction on his face? I don't know. Nor does anyone else because the show took advantage of their 10-second delay to cut to an overhead, behind him shot so that no one watching at home could see his facial reaction. Still, it was an OBVIOUS flub. And if you want to hear someone mumbling lines and covering it beautifully ... watch this: Still THE SINGLE BEST Idol performance ever!! (If you're not a die-hard fan and already know about it ... did you catch the flub? I'd honestly be surprised if you did.) So, it CAN be done. Archie didn't do it.
Based on performance and vocals, my ranking is a bit different.
1. David Cook
Yes, he switched the words, but he DELIVERED. Period. He sang it well, no pitch problems (other than a slight shakiness in the first two notes), no bum notes, covered his flub beautifully -- unless you knew the song by heart, you wouldn't know he messed it up, delivered the meaning and knocked it out of the park.
2. Brooke White
What did you expect, really? I'd have her any lower? And no, I'm not counting the restart because that wasn't part of the performance. I'm judging the performance, and even if you DO want to count that ... heck, it added to the tremulousness of the song. Once she started over, she delivered. A few shaky notes, a few pitch problems here and there, but very slight, she did the bigger notes in the song strongly and delivered the hell out of what the song meant. Glorious. (Note, if she HAD started over later in the song, or had mumbled the words badly like Archie did -- see below, she WOULD be lower on the list.)
3. Carly Smithson
She was on fire. SHE SO DID NOT DESERVE TO GO! Yes, she did the straining, but she sold it. She sang well overall.
4. Syesha Mercado
That flat note at the end (not the very last one which was lovely, but the big note before the last) was baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. And she's just a boring performer. You have charisma or you don't. She doesn't.
5. David Archuleta
Archie obviously flubbed that line, Archie stood there and grinned his vaccuous grin, Archie bored me silly, Archie sounded like he needed to cough up some phlegm even as he did hit every note. Still, obvious flub and mumbling of the lyrics. "Absolutely perfect" my ass, Paula!
6. Jason Castro
I do love ya, Jason, but this was a horrible performance. It was really, really bad. Simon was right: Total trainwreck. And even his charm (which was not in evidence during the performance tonight) couldn't save him.
But yet he was saved. Which brings me to my final point. Anyone, absolutely anyone, who complains about this being a popularity contest now and that the best singers are undeservedly booted has no clue what the show is and has always been. Hint: It's NOT a singing competition. It IS a popularity competition that encourages good singing for the most part. If it were a singing competition we wouldn't know anything other than their names. We wouldn't get those cute little packages before they sing, we wouldn't know their sad stories. All we would see would be Ryan announcing their name and the song they're singing. They'd come out, they'd sing, they'd leave the stage and then Ryan would give the folks a phone number. Period. THEN it would be purely based on singing and singing alone.
American Idol is a popularity contest about good singers, some better than others that are not as popular as those who don't sing as well. Which is really what the music industry is. Some of the best singers don't have big sales, because they're not popular. Some horrendous singers go platinum a zillion times because they're popular.
That's just the way it is, and American Idol simply reflects that reality.