TV Recap

''American Idol'': Disappointment Television

In the first night of semifinals, only four men seem like real contenders

HAIR AND NOW Jason Castro (left) and Robbie Carrico were at the head of the pack
HAIR AND NOW Jason Castro (left) and Robbie Carrico were at the head of the pack

''American Idol'' recap: The males don't deliver

How many new and different ways can you say ''disappointing''? If you tuned in to the first night of the American Idol season 7 semifinals, then your answer is no fewer than four (Colton Berry, Jason Yeager, Chikezie (not Eze), and Garrett Haley, undoubtedly) and no more than eight (feel free to add any or all of the following: David Cook, David Hernandez, Danny Noriega, and Luke Menard), depending on how generous/unforgiving you're feeling.

Then again, you might be inclined to add Nigel Lythgoe to the list, too, but I think a more accurate adjective for Idol's exec producer might be ''boneheaded,'' what with the way he forced the 12 male hopefuls to comply with a broad (but still constricting) '60s-night theme. Historically speaking, Idol's semifinals have always been fascinating because they allow contestants to choose material from any genre, in any era. And that gives us a sense of the type of artist they want to be, not just the kind of artist they have to try to be to survive the dreaded first round of cuts.

But hey, before we delve into such grim subjects, let's focus on the positive: Four guys performed well enough tonight to separate themselves from their competitors and, barring any week 2 disasters of Sundance Head-ian proportions, have probably guaranteed themselves places in the final 12.

Better still, one of those men emerged from the Invisible Four — the quartet of contestants who hadn't sung a single note on air in the first five weeks of the season and seemed destined for early exits because of their troubling lack of airtime. Yet somehow it only took a few minutes for folk-rocker Jason Castro to establish a delightful laid-back hippie-dude persona and showcase the kind of sweet, bombast-free vocals that rarely, if ever, make an appearance on the Idol stage. By the time the guy finished his performance with a look of befuddlement and a nervous chuckle — he's only sung live in front of an audience a handful of times, he noted — I could imagine a very specific internal monologue unfolding in his brain:

Dude, I had the gnarliest dream. I was in the American Idol semifinals, playing my guitar and singing the Lovin' Spoonful's ''What a Day for a Daydream,'' and it was freaky and scary and kind of awesome. And then, Paula Abdul said I was ''minimal,'' ''effortless,'' and ''joyful,'' and Simon ranked me in the top two performances of the night. Dooood!

Of course, what Simon really meant with his compliment was that Jason had scored the silver medal for the night, behind the inevitable top-five finisher David Archuleta. If I didn't know better, I'd say that a magical Idol witch concocted little David in a cauldron, using the soft, downy fur of a week-old kitten, the damp, cool nose of an innocent puppy, and the voices of a thousand angels as her main ingredients. Sure, David's voice momentarily disappeared when he reached for the growly lower notes of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' ''Shop Around,'' but his purity of tone and lack of showbiz-kid ickiness make him irresistible. Plus, the kid has the power to draw a laugh-out-loud-funny punch line from Ryan Seacrest: ''You can only vote for him. You can't actually adopt him.''

NEXT: The other top two

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