Thursday, May 08, 2008

REV: Jason Castro Oops!

It’s down to 3 on ‘Idol’ as Jason says goodbye
Castro appeared to be in way over his head in recent weeks
COMMENTARY By Craig Berman, MSNBC contributor, updated 10:05 p.m. CT, Wed., May. 7, 2008

It’s been a tough week for “American Idol,” which made the news for its declining viewership and the unfortunate Paula Abdul comments on last week’s show stand out that much more. Fortunately, the “Idol” fans helped make things a little brighter for the show’s final two weeks by evicting the contestant who least deserved to be in the final three.

It was obvious after Tuesday night that Jason Castro was ready to go. He struggled with his first song, forgot the words to his second, and didn’t make any case for himself to stay in the post-performance interviews with Ryan Seacrest. Had he made it into the final three after a night like that, the scrutiny on both him and the show would have only increased.

Over the past few weeks, Castro has had the look of someone who entered a contest on a dare only to find himself drawn in way too deep for comfort. As the going got tougher and the demands kept increasing, Castro had a harder time keeping up with the competition.

That doesn’t mean he won’t make it in the business. His sound translates well to both radio and the stage, he has a likeable personality, and he could easily wind up with the best musical career of the remaining finalists. Kellie Pickler was the resident “Idol” doofus two seasons ago and has done just fine since, using both her personality and her voice.

On Tuesday night, however, Castro sounded much closer to Sanjaya Malakar, the finalist a year ago who made news for lasting much longer than anyone had expected. In fact, Castro’s two Tuesday performances were a lot worse than anything managed during Malakar’s time on the show. While other contestants have put up poor performances even after making the finals, Castro’s effort on Tuesday was the worst ever at this stage of the competition.

Even that might have been forgivable if Castro gave the impression that he was trying at all. Instead, he did the opposite.

‘I shot the Tambourine Man’
Nobody really knows how hard Castro worked each week. It’s very possible that he was staying up into the wee hours of the morning every day making sure his performance would be as good as it could possibly be.

On Wednesday’s show, he admitted that it was getting tougher for him and cited his inexperience as a hurdle. Each week, it seemed like he was unfamiliar with the material (not knowing that the musical “Cats” involved songs sung by characters portraying cats was a particular highlight), so he may have had to fight as hard as everyone else just to perform as well as he has.

But his stage persona gave off the opposite impression. He’d always played the happy-go-lucky dude who looked like he just woke up, grabbed his guitar, and belted out some random song. He smiled gratefully when complimented and sheepishly when criticized, but never looked like he belonged. That came through in his performances, as he always smiled and played to the audience as though they were sharing an inside joke.

On Wednesday, in response to a caller question about the contestants’ most challenging experience on “Idol,” Castro answered “Uhhh … the brain being dead.” Later, as he stood onstage in the bottom two with Syesha Mercado, he quipped “Somebody told me that I shot the Tambourine Man yesterday. I thought that was pretty funny.”

But he also said that he had followed Simon Cowell’s advice and packed his suitcase. He was ready to go, and the viewers kindly sent him on his way.

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