"American Idol" Tuesday night pulled off the rare trick of feeling frantically rushed and musically soporific at the same time.
The five contestants each sang two songs, usual procedure at this point, but host Ryan Seacrest hustled things along as if he'd be tased for going 30 seconds overtime. In an ill-considered move, the judges were restricted to just one critique per singer.
David Archuleta matched mentor Neil Diamond's original "America" and "Sweet Caroline" for sheer bombast, while Jason Castro sleepwalked through "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn." Syesha Mercado's "Hello Again" was an overwrought snoozefest, but her driving "Thank the Lord for the Night Time" was the show's highlight.
Brooke White contributed a pale "I'm a Believer" but "I Am, I Said" was more her style. David Cook sang effectively on "All I Really Need Is You," but couldn't fire up any spark in the lifeless "I'm Alive."
Judge Simon Cowell called the show "chaotic," and in its unseemly haste, it was. But worse, it was dull.