1. David Archuleta - This was his best night in a long while. I'm not sure I liked that he included a little bit of Sean Kingston's abominal "Beautiful Girls" in his performance of "Stand By Me," but I guess he was trying to prove that he's hip with what the kids his age are listening to. On both songs, he sounded great and connected with the lyrics. I've always found his voice interesting and rich, and tonight it was again both those things.
2. Syesha Mercado - Syesha sounded very good, but unfortunately her song choices pointed out a flaw. In choosing two soul classics, she highlights the fact that she lacks soul. She tends to beautify her renditions and the same was true tonight. It sounded good, but it lacked the urgency of those classics. She proved that she can sing well, but she also proved that there's very little soul in the package.
3. David Cook - His version of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" was a miss, but I almost think the band and/or the sound was to blame. His vocals were too much in the foreground and overwhelmed the music. Even if the mix was right, though, it still sounded like karaoke. As for "Baba O'Riley," the beginning demonstrated Cook's best vocal feature, a slow-burning growl. He lost me, though, when he got to the rock n'roll part of the song. It also didn't help matters that the song was truncated. It's a damn long song with an extended instrumental section that makes the song, but we don't get any of that. He chose the songs, though.
4. Jason Castro - Awful. Awful. Awful. Not only that but his attitude made it seem like a big joke. For a sincere, singer-songwriter type, he seems to take everything as a lighthearted joke. "I Shot the Sheriff" was toothless and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was horrible. His vocals may be more understandable than Bob Dylan's bleating, but what Dylan lacked in vocal prowess he made up for in intense feeling. Castro seemed more preoccupied with finding the best place to make his voice crack so that the teenage girls would think it was cute and sincere than actually understanding the songs. I hope he goes tomorrow.