What is it about Songs of Inspiration week that produces so many uninspired song choices? Fully half of the eight selections performed by the aspiring American Idols Tuesday were seriously flawed.
Kristy Lee Cook had no business singing Martina McBride's "Anyway," although it's a moving power ballad, because anyone who's heard McBride knows she knocks it out of the park and poor Kristy Lee just doesn't have the vocal chops to hit it out of the infield. (Fortunately for Kristy Lee, most of the voting audience probably hasn't heard McBride's version.)
Brooke White picked one of the blander and more overexposed singer/songwriter standards of the '70s, Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," and delivered a somnambulent version.
Carly Smithson's choice of Queen's "The Show Must Go On" was not in itself terribly misguided (it isn't one of the tediously overplayed songs from that mysteriously revered band's catalog), but her performance was -- loud, aggressive, overblown, and all in all perhaps the longest 90 seconds (I didn't time it; maybe it was longer) I can recall trying to endure.
And Syesha Mercado made the unfathomably bad choice of a song identified with another "Idol" -- a definite verboten option, history has taught us. Not only that, it was another "Idol's" coronation song, a genre of glory-note-laden, melody-free ballads that are created to commemorate a victory and then are quickly dispatched to the trash heaps of history (sometimes not even appearing on the "Idols'" subsequent albums). She did Fantasia's "I Believe," a mediocre song that Fantasia sang much more memorably (relatively speaking).
On the other hand, there were good choices, too. David Cook maintained his penchant for the unusual by picking "Innocent" by Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace. But neither the performance nor the song were standouts, although his popularity should allow him to skate by.
David Archuleta also ventured outside the American hit parade to dig up Robbie Williams' "Angels," an enormous hit everywhere else in the world but a relative failure here (as was the cover by, of all people, Jessica Simpson). It's a solid inspirational ballad, though, and David, playing piano, sang it powerfully.
Michael Johns selected "Dream On" by Aerosmith, not a song (or group) you'd normally associate with inspirational themes, but his explanation of how this undeniably thrilling rock ballad inspires him worked, and so did his solid, sub-Steven Tyler performance.
And Jason Castro seemingly chose one of the most worn-out "Idol" options of all, "Over the Rainbow." But with the diabolical cleverness that occasionally inspires him (as with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"), he performed a low-key, charming version originated by Hawaiian star Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, complete with ukulele, and once again (as with "Hallelujah") he pulled off the night's most unlikely outstanding performance.