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Time to put some Ow! in this contest

May 02, 2008|Ann Powers | Times Pop Music Critic

Millions of Americans were sad Wednesday night. Brooke White made it hard to not be sad, but I never liked her, and I'm sticking to my mild, self-satisfied buzz.

I am not sad that White is gone from "Idol." She will be fine. She had the best exit song ever with "I Am . . . I Said," an awesome Neil Diamond ballad that seemed tailor-made for her unmoored state, and she got through it despite one of her trademarked attempts to restart. She wept in a telegenically broken-hearted way, then turned her back on the camera's prying gaze -- her classiest move in weeks.

It would have been even more perfectly poignant had Brooke's cherubic hubby jumped onstage and cuddled her, setting the course for their future Family Channel reality show. But all she got was a pat from the Paula Abdul-anointed next Idol, David Cook, which she pushed away.

In her mind, I'll bet, Brooke has already moved on. She had a modest independent recording career before "Idol," and she'll jump to a bigger pond now. Soon enough, she'll be a fixture in online photo galleries of angelically coiffed, wholesome ingenues, settling somewhere between Taylor Swift and Colbie Caillat.

In fact, Cook's grungy charms aside, Brooke is the one who could be the next Chris Daughtry -- the contestant whose personality was just a bit too formed to save her from the niche position that dooms semifinalists but who will succeed when she launches her mainstream recording career, precisely because she appeals to a self-styled subculture. PG-rated folk-rockers have their place; they provide the soundtrack to "Grey's Anatomy" and help us digest bistro food. Just because I'm not into Brooke's Ivory Girl image and sleepy musical vibe doesn't mean millions of others won't be.

My only regret is that two contestants weren't eliminated. I need Jason Castro out of there. Irreverent as Sanjaya Malakar -- in his own slacker way -- yet actually able to sing, Castro has added a new element to "Idol." But I don't want to wait another week for the amazing vocal throwdowns that will come if Syesha Mercado, David Cook and David Archuleta are vying for the crown.

With Brooke's exit, this season is almost poised to explode with old-fashioned showbiz, the way Neil Diamond did when he shook his AARP-qualified hips on Wednesday's episode, offering a little "Ow!" to the heavens during his featured song, "Pretty Amazing Grace."

I want that "Ow!" to become the ruling metaphor for the rest of this season. I want sparks to fly as would-be Idols push each other to new heights. I want inventiveness facing off against unbridled power, and a genuine surprise (hello again, Syesha) giving us goose bumps.

I want this Top Three to live up to last year's feisty troika of Melinda Doolittle, Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks.

Simon Cowell keeps saying this is the best season ever; then why did last season -- nobody's favorite -- have more momentum at this juncture? Maybe it was because LaKisha Jones, last year's fourth-placed Idol, actually had the guts, knowledge and universe-given gifts to scare her competition into getting better every week. She never acted sheepish. She didn't know the meaning of the word.

A few weeks ago, Jason, like Brooke, started scaring himself more than anyone else. That's human, and it clearly endears him to some fans. But it's not helping to bring the drama "Idol" needs at this point. Jason needs to pack up his Jack Johnson albums and go home. We only have a few weeks left, and we have Syesha and the Davids, three survivors who are able to hit killer notes and ham it up when it seems necessary. It's time for the serious glass-shattering and hip-shaking to begin. Ow!

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ann.powers@latimes.com

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