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Bad song choice results in early exit on ‘Idol’

Chikezie was sent home after singing a lackluster ballad Tuesday night while Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado joined the singer in the bottom three on "American Idol."
/ Source: contributor

Entering this week, Chikezie was coming off of a couple of strong performances in a row. Though he was the last male selected to make the final 12 on “American Idol,” he hadn’t been among the bottom three vote-getters since.

That might have been the problem on Tuesday, in that it encouraged him to take an unfortunate risk. Given the choice of singing any song from his birth year, he picked “If Only For One Night” by Brenda Russell. That didn’t inspire enough of the 30 million voters to make an impact, and on Wednesday he became the third finalist voted off the show.

Going with a ballad wasn’t the best move for Chikezie, because it took away a lot of what made him appealing. He’s an energetic performer when given a fast-paced song to work with, and even a week ago when the judges thought his effort was hokey, the audience enjoyed it enough to keep him around. Viewers tend to give singers a lot of rope if they go out there with a lot of energy and race around onstage. Just look at Taylor Hicks.

Audiences also want to be entertained, and as the recently eliminated Amanda Overmyer accurately noted a week ago, “Ballads are boring.” Walking to the audience and grasping their hands isn’t as compelling as racing around stage in a frenetic display of fun, and that likely contributed to his downfall.

Syesha Mercado and Jason Castro joined Chikezie in the bottom three, and the biggest upset of the night was how Paula Abdul reacted. When asked if she had any thoughts about the trio in danger, she didn’t wail and lament that someone was going home. Instead, she calmly said, “At this stage, it’s the end of the road for someone. You all know that.” Everyone else immediately checked to see if she had accidentally spoken one of Simon’s lines on the teleprompter.

Song choice saves CookFor an illustration of the importance of song selection, Chikezie just had to turn to Kristy Lee Cook, who for the first time in a month got to sit and relax on the results show. Knowing that she was in big trouble, she chose to sing “God Bless the USA” on Tuesday, a patriotic anthem that also happened to be right in her musical wheelhouse. She gave herself every chance to succeed, and it paid off.

That’s something both Castro and Mercado are going to have to consider going forward. It was Castro’s first time in the bottom three, and he started giving a long speech to Ryan Seacrest about how he was really nervous and stressing about the possibility of being in that position, but that he was OK and handling it as well as he could … and then Ryan got bored and told him to sit down because he was safe.

Simon complained that Castro didn’t appear to be taking the competition seriously on Tuesday, so perhaps this will scare him into at least pretending to be a little more into it.

Mercado has a trickier task ahead of her, in that she hasn’t found a way to connect with the audience yet. She shouldn’t be in this position based on her talent, but sometime in the next week she needs to figure out what the problem is.

Though it’s just a small consolation, Chikezie might get at least one fringe benefit out of this experience. In response to one of the viewer questions this week, he volunteered that he is currently “very, very single.” If he’s getting the audience interested enough to ask about his marital status, that may not be the case for long.