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David Archuleta back in key on ‘Idol’

Kristy Lee Cook, Amanda Overmyer, Ramiele Malubay and Michael Johns are in danger of going home on Wednesday.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Last week, the Idol hopefuls sang songs from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This week, the producers went crazy and changed the theme to Beatles tunes. No word if the money for the Beatles double-header is going straight in to Heather Mills’ bank account.

Whatever the reason, the “Idol” choice turned out to be a bad decision. The second week of the same songbook proved to be too much of a good thing, as few of the night’s performances were noteworthy.

Randy Jackson yawned right before Ryan Seacrest introduced him at the top of the show, and that proved to be a harbinger of what was to follow. Though some artists did better than others, few managed to stand out from the pack.

Archuleta back on trackThe “Idol” world is back spinning on its axis again: David Archuleta performed well. The teenager forgot his lyrics a week ago, the first sign of vulnerability he’s shown onstage. This time, he sang “The Long and Winding Road” and remembered all the words, even while getting squeals from the girls sitting by the stage that sounded fit for the Fab Four.

The judges appreciated the return to glory. “Last week was a complete mess. This week, I thought you were amazing,” Simon Cowell said. “That was a master class.”

Archuleta was the only singer to get unbridled praise from the judges, though others did well enough to at least garner more positive comments than negative.

Syesha Mercado was in the bottom three last week and said, “I needed that kick in my butt.” That’s a good spin on a bad situation, and she’ll be a bit safer this week with her version of “Yesterday.” Mercado took some liberties with the language and arrangement, and in the judges’ eyes that paid off.

“That song and that performance should keep you in the competition,” Simon predicted. Given that Mercado was so close to elimination last week, that’s hardly a given, but she did well.

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“You’re ready to go sell records,” Paula Abdul gushed. “And you know what, you chose using the voice-box in a very cool way. You could get a Geico commercial right now.” Though Cook hopes to avoid being one of the C-list celebrities doing those ads, even rambling feedback is a good sign when it’s positive.

Poor little ‘broken birds’Carly Smithson went with “Blackbird,” her first ballad on the “Idol” stage. She also showed off a new tattoo, a “7” on her knuckles representing the seventh season of “Idol”

Randy liked her performance enough to coin a new word, calling it “cool-iocious.” Simon termed it indulgent, only to have Carly smack him down by saying that she chose the song to represent the “Idol” finalists’ attempt to create careers in music despite adversity.

“Now you’ve made me feel very uncomfortable because now I feel like you’re all broken birds,” Simon said. But he didn’t feel bad enough to avoid criticizing the singers that followed.

Jason Castro chose to sing in a foreign language for part of his two minutes on stage, picking “Michelle” and taking on the challenge of the French lyrics. It skirted the fine line between soulful and lounge singer, trending more to the latter. But his personality is such that it’s hard to see him being in trouble anyway.

“Where you’re lucky is that this is a TV show and not a radio show, because your face saved that song,” Simon said. “You’re very charming and you’re not obnoxious, and it’s your very goofiness that made it work.”

Brooke White has been among the strongest of the women so far, and Ryan called her “the sweetest person alive” in her intro. The paragon of good cheer sang “Here Comes the Sun,” and though she looked the part in her bright yellow dress, the song itself was a mess as soon as she got up from the steps and started to roam the stage. She didn’t play an instrument this week, and showed that she needs to learn how to move around onstage without one. “I am awkward at moving,” she said.

All three judges thought it was far from her best performance. Brooke, always endearing, agreed with all the criticism. Odds are good that she’ll be back next week.

Chikezie will probably return as well, because while his performance was uneven, it erred on the side of being too entertaining rather than too bland. He went with “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” singing it straight up as a ballad until the halfway mark, then he broke out the harmonica and turned it into a bluegrass number.

Simon was not a fan. “It started off OK, and then you played the harmonica, which was literally atrocious, and then it turns into ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ at the end.”

It was indeed hokey and ridiculous at the finish, but also very fun.

Judges to America: Send Kristy homeFour singers left themselves in more danger than the rest.

Amanda Overmyer led off the show with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” intending to add a southern rock kick to it. She continues to do one thing — sing power rock as loud as she can — but she worked the stage well enough to get the audience involved.

She got some blowback from the judges, who complained about pitchiness and predictability. Both Paula and Simon suggested she try a ballad to change things up.

“Ballads are boring,” Amanda said. “I have a minute and a half to show America what they would see if they bought a ticket to my show.” The fact that those 90 seconds came at the start of the show won’t help her.

Speaking of boring, Ramiele Malubay had the judges yawning a week ago and hoped that picking the uptempo “I Should Have Known Better” would change that. She looked far more comfortable on stage and her confidence grew as the song progressed, but the judges still weren’t thrilled.

All three thought she was better than she was a week ago, but they all want something more. The fact that she closed the show will help her chances of coming back.

Michael Johns sang “A Day in the Life,” meaning he had to cut one of the longer and more involved Beatles songs into a 90-second arrangement.

“The long and short of it was it was a mess. It’s a long and complicated song, and it doesn’t work in a minute and a half,” Simon said.

Kristy Lee Cook talked in her intro about being close to elimination two weeks in a row and how stressful it was. She sang “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” which she said she picked because she liked the title. Her performance made her sound like a legitimate finalist for the first time in weeks.

The judges, however, weren’t thrilled. Randy and Paula called it safe and boring, and Simon likened her performance to “musical wallpaper. You notice it, but you can’t remember it.”

Cook is in danger every week, and the judges made it clear that if the decision was up to them, they wouldn’t keep her around.