A couple of admissions, as we launch into the "American Idol" final five: 1) I miss Carly, and 2) I'm officially bored. Except for when Paula talks. When Paula talks, I'm very entertained. Did you catch the reactions, mid-show, as she launched into her treatise on Jason's imaginary second song? Ryan looked offstage, as if begging for guidance. Simon looked like he was going to hug somebody. Even the audience started to chuckle. "This is hard!" Paula yelled. Yes, counting to five is tough. Just ask some of our politicians.
As for Neil Diamond, he's no Andrew Lloyd Webber, as far as mentors go. He was all sunshine and happy thoughts tonight; the only concrete advice we saw was his suggestion that Brooke change "New York" to "Arizona" in "I Am...I Said." I'm not sure that was necessarily wise. But I'll get back to it in a bit...
Jason Castro. I think it's pretty clear by now that this guy, stoner-cutie that he happens to be, is not capable of anything more than he's been doing: singing flat, mellow versions of whatever song he happens to find the sheet music for. I guess you could call that "making it his own," but it's really more like "running another ditty through the bland-o-meter." Are we ready to admit that his triumphant "Hallelujah" was really about the song, and not about Jason at all?
David Cook. My favorite, he remains. And I think he was brilliant to choose a couple of lesser-known Neil Diamond songs, which he could present as modern-ish rockers without having to borrow something else from Chris Cornell. I suppose I agree with the judges that his second song was better than his first, but I liked them both. And I find that he's the only remaining contestant who truly puts it on the line when he sings - pushes his voice, pushes his emotions. (David Archuleta can sound emotional, too, but it always feel robotic to me: calculated and a little bit too perfect.)
Brooke White. Argh. "I'm A Believer" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and while I wouldn't necessarily call her version of it "a nightmare," it certainly wasn't good. Really, it showed off all of her weaknesses as an artist: She doesn't have a very big vocal range, and she absolutely cannot project anything but melancholy. Her happy songs are always near-disasters. So yes, she did a much better job with her melancholy piano version of "I Am...I Said," but how believable was it, really? After all, she kept smiling about how weird it was to sing about Arizona having a shore.
David Archuleta. Ah, America's favorite beautifully-singing little robot. I did not care at all for his soft-rock version of the Red Sox Nation Theme Song, particularly since he wasted little time before launching into the cheesetastic "hands...touching hands" part. And yes, I agree with Simon that "America" was a brilliant choice, though he doesn't need saving like Kristy Lee Cook. Also, I give him extra-super bonus points for not singing "Turn On Your Heartlight."
Syesha Mercado. As soon as she started her barefoot version "Hello Again," my heart sank: So soon, we're back to the wannabe diva stuff? But she redeemed herself with her girl-band take on "Thank the Lord for the Night Time." And, unlike Brooke, she's able to sing an upbeat song and look like she's actually having fun. Yeah, I'll agree with Simon that it wasn't transcendent. But it made Jason Castro look like the cute little amateur he is. If she goes before he does this week, I'm going to make my cat wear a little black armband.
Let's talk about it all at Wednesday's chat, at 1 p.m. on Boston.com. Meantime, as always, I look forward to the comments...