As Finalists Stumble On ‘Idol,’ Archuleta Takes Flight

The remaining contenders on Season 7 of “American Idol” faced one of their toughest evenings of competition on Tuesday night. From forgetting the words, to splitting the judges panel, to just being off their game, only one person managed to endure the hour plus broadcast without taking a knock — David Archuleta.

The theme this week — songs from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Top 500 — gave the four contenders (David Cook, Syesha Mercado, Jason Castro and David Archuleta) plenty of material to choose from, but the multiplicity of options proved too much for the first singer up.

David Cook took on the Duran Duran classic “Hungry Like The Wolf,” a rocked up number that left the judges anything but satisfied.

“That was an OK choice and that was a solid performance, but I’m just looking to see who’s trying to bring the mad hot vocals tonight,” Randy Jackson said. “That was just OK for you.”

Syesha Mercado performed Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.” And though she shook out her hair and her moves on stage, the rendition split the panel.

“She’s in the zone,” Randy enthused. “You’re showing the heat late in the competition when you need it.”

“I’m sorry to put a slight damper of things,” Simon said when it was his turn, “because for me I just thought it was just a bad shriek-y version — a bad impersonation of Tina Turner.”

Jason Castro’s rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” received even worse criticism from Simon.

“Jason, stand back,” Simon began. “That was utterly atrocious. That is a song you do not touch. The arrangement was atrocious, the performing and the singing was as bad as I ever heard. That was like a first round audition massacre. I don’t know what you were thinking.”

David Archuleta however, brought a smile to the judges’ faces, performing “Stand By Me.”

“You’re seasoned already,” Paula Abdul said referring to Archuleta’s command of the stage during the song.

Round two brought better reviews for David Cook, who sang The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.”

“I just want more, I want more, I want more Dave Cook,” Paula enthused. “I’m really humbled to sit here and watch your soul. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.”

After Syesha sang her second song, however, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke, the criticism from Randy, brought her to tears.

“So for me, the first song I loved. This one I did not love as much, here’s why: so check it out, I didn’t love the arrangement with the music… I felt you pushed out things and you were trying for things that weren’t there.”

The lone female left in the competition said she was particularly disheartened, as she had invested in the song and its message of civil rights. Simon’s comments, however, changed things around for her.

“I thought you sang that really, really well,” Simon said, disagreeing strongly with Randy.

For his final song choice, Jason Castro churned out Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” completely forgetting the words in the first verse.

“I lost some lines in there, that’s kind of bad,” Jason admitted during the judging round.

“Jason, I’d pack your suitcase,” Simon said.

Finally David Archuleta took to the stage as the show ran long, with an emotional version of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.”

“You didn’t beat the competition tonight, you crushed the competition,” Simon concluded.

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